The presence of top-flight quarterbacks in this draft class is already creating more conversation. Has Jared Goff done enough to stave off the franchise's inclination to take a quarterback? Will these quarterbacks inspire teams to move around for the right to select one? Is Carolina just desperate enough to take any quarterback, regardless of who that ends up being? In today's thought exercise, we explore some of those ways of thinking.
The draft order below is now the official order based on team records and tiebreakers. There is not a No. 23 pick here, as that's the pick the Dolphins forfeited due to tampering violations.
Without further ado, let's kick this off!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • Jr • 5'10" / 204 lbs
The NFL Draft order may shake up on a weekly basis, but not at the top. Houston once again has the No. 1 overall selection, and the choice is Young.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • Jr • 6'3" / 314 lbs
The phone is ringing off the hook in Chicago as quarterback-needy teams are exploring what it would cost to move up for the right to take a quarterback. The Bears send them all to voicemail and draft Carter. General manager Ryan Poles comes from Kansas City and has seen the impact Chris Jones has had on the game. There is no quicker path to the quarterback than an over-the-ball alignment.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • Sr • 6'4" / 229 lbs
Seattle has a golden ticket as part of the Russell Wilson trade with Denver. The Broncos would probably rather have whichever quarterback they could take at No. 3 overall than Wilson and his contract moving forward; and that was only part of the trade package.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • Jr • 6'4" / 253 lbs
With Jared Goff manning a surging Lions offense, Detroit punts on the idea of taking a quarterback and sticks with the 28-year-old. In doing so, the Lions are gifted the chance to take a very gifted edge rusher. Anderson lined up opposite Aidan Hutchinson is going to be problematic for the NFC North.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Kelee Ringo CB
Georgia • Soph • 6'2" / 207 lbs
This season has exposed multiple needs on the Arizona roster, which has to be frustrating considering the all-in approach the franchise took last offseason. The Cardinals fill one of those holes with a traits-y cornerback.
Round 1 - Pick 6
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • Jr • 6'3" / 214 lbs
Detroit's decision to bypass a quarterback is Indianapolis' gain. It is able to stay put and still land one of the top options. Stroud has certainly come under fire this season, but Justin Fields is putting to bed the idea that an Ohio State quarterback can't have success in the NFL.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • Jr • 6'5" / 268 lbs
I like how Arnold Ebiketie has played this season, and I like his presence even more knowing Murphy would be rushing opposite him. From a size and athleticism standpoint, the ex-Tiger is in the neighborhood of last year's No. 1 overall selection, Travon Walker. No. 7 overall is more in line with where an unfinished prospect with that profile should be drafted.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Northwestern • Jr • 6'4" / 313 lbs
Carolina has taken swings at the quarterback position, although I have not necessarily agreed with all of those decisions. However, the juice is not worth the squeeze at No. 8 overall, so the franchise makes a sound decision by upgrading the offensive line with a five-position flexible offensive lineman.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 9
Texas • Jr • 5'11" / 215 lbs
Robinson is the best running back prospect to come out since Saquon Barkley. He is going to go higher than fans of most franchises are comfortable taking a running back. Although Miles Sanders has looked good this season, he's a free agent this offseason and general manager Howie Roseman has to have a plan for how he wants to build this roster from a financial perspective.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Oregon • Soph • 6'1" / 197 lbs
Las Vegas has reached to fill a need at cornerback and it has not panned out. The Raiders may be gun shy to return to the well, but Gonzalez represents a clear upgrade over what they have on the roster.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Penn State • Jr • 6'3" / 193 lbs
The theme of this first-round projection seems to be teams that made bad decisions at one specific position are now trying to fix the problem. Jacksonville threw A LOT of resources at the cornerback position over a two-year period, and yet the future is no more clear at the position.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • Sr • 6'6" / 271 lbs
Wilson can continue his development in the state of Texas as Houston tags the edge rusher to wreak havoc on the opposition.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Ohio State • Jr • 6'6" / 313 lbs
Johnson is a work in progress considering he essentially has one season at the left tackle position. Pittsburgh needs to upgrade protection for Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris -- the franchise's past two first-round picks -- and accomplishes that here with the selection of Johnson.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • Jr • 6'7" / 264 lbs
Christian Watson is really settling in for Green Bay. He needed to improve as a route runner, but his comfort with Aaron Rodgers is evident on a weekly basis as he works open for his quarterback. That's the quickest way to endear yourself to Rodgers, much like Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson before him.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Jared Verse EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'4" / 248 lbs
While Boye Mafe continues to develop, Seattle adds another pass rusher log to throw on the fire. The Albany transfer has already shown that a step up in competition has not been too much for him already, so there is no reason why he is not ready to take another step.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Clemson • Jr • 6'2" / 235 lbs
Bill Belichick was creative in addressing the linebacker position this offseason, but a long-term answer is still in doubt. Simpson is very athletic and gives the Patriots flexibility to deploy him in coverage and as a pass rusher on occasion.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
New York may need to address both tackle positions this offseason, so it takes its first cut at No. 17 overall. In his third year as general manager, Joe Douglas traded up for Alijah Vera-Tucker because that is the player he targeted to fill a critical need. It is not out of the question that he may do the same this year with a tackle prospect whom he likes higher up the board.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Notre Dame • Jr • 6'5" / 249 lbs
Speed and reliability are what Detroit has already added to its receiver room with Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Lions add Mayer to their list of pass catchers. It is easy to see the Notre Dame tight end as a player head coach Dan Campbell would covet.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Florida • Soph • 6'4" / 244 lbs
Tampa Bay drafted Kyle Trask out of Florida a few years ago, but he has not seen the field. The Buccaneers return to Gainesville for another signal-caller as Richardson is earmarked as the heir apparent to Tom Brady.
Round 1 - Pick 20
TCU • Jr • 6'3" / 208 lbs
I do not believe Tennessee's trade of A.J. Brown suggests that it does not value the wide receiver position. I think it suggests that the Titans do not value the position at that cost. The Titans are able to be more financially prudent with the second selection of a first-round wide receiver in as many years.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Cam Smith CB
South Carolina • Jr • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Washington addresses a longtime need at the cornerback position with the selection of Smith.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • Soph • 6'6" / 298 lbs
Los Angeles identified the interior defensive line as a problem point last offseason and addressed it with multiple free agent signings. Bresee represents a more viable long-term plan at the position.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Ohio State • Jr • 6'1" / 196 lbs
New York's struggles at wide receiver have been well-documented. There were a few weeks I slept with my phone ringer on in case it needed help and called. While I think Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins have done some good things, and Wan'Dale Robinson has looked like an impact player when healthy, the team could use more. My concern with this selection would be fit, but Smith-Njigba is the best remaining.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Jahmyr Gibbs RB
Alabama • Jr • 5'9" / 199 lbs
Is Gibbs the type of running back Baltimore wants for its scheme? The Ravens line up in shotgun on 86.6% of offensive players. Alabama was in shotgun on 98.9% of offensive plays. Gibbs is an explosive player who has to be respected as both a runner and a receiver.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 26
Texas A&M • Jr • 6'2" / 198 lbs
Denver adds an enforcer on the back half of the secondary to play next to Justin Simmons.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Brian Branch CB
Alabama • Jr • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Dallas gets a smart, unique defender to add to the secondary. He has the versatility to play nickle, safety and could probably play the boundary in a pinch.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Florida • Jr • 6'5" / 330 lbs
Cincinnati still has a leak in its water line. It should continue throwing resources at the unit because keeping Joe Burrow upright and giving him time to make plays is imperative.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • Sr • 6'2" / 238 lbs
Kansas City drafted George Karlaftis in the first round last year, but Smith is an entirely different player. He gives the Chiefs more juice off the edge.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Illinois • Jr • 6'0" / 181 lbs
Minnesota has exceeded expectations this season regardless of the comments one wants to make about its luck in one-score games. Witherspoon puts the Vikings one step closer to this success being sustainable.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Dawand Jones OT
Ohio State • Sr • 6'8" / 374 lbs
Spencer Brown has struggled at right tackle this season, and Jones may be a better fit for that offense.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Felix Anudike-Uzomah EDGE
Kansas State • Jr • 6'3" / 255 lbs
Philadelphia has one of the deepest defensive line rotations in the NFL, and general manager Howie Roseman would not have it any other way. The Eagles will be able to keep guys fresh and mix pre-snap looks while creating some long-term financial flexibility at the position.