Quarterback is by far the most important position on the field and if you don’t have a franchise guy under center in the NFL, you’re certainly left searching for one in the draft. While signs have pointed to Arizona taking Kyler Murray No. 1 overall for months, what if that interest was just a ruse? And further, what if those signal-callers that everybody was thought to be in love with, wind up pulling an Aaron Rodgers in the draft room?
Here’s a look at how the draft could play out if QBs are graded a little harsher than the media reports would have you believe.
So who is going where? Here’s a stab at how the draft could wind up shaking out:
1. Arizona Cardinals — Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
Bypassing on Murray means the team is keeping Josh Rosen, who’s ceiling is still that of a quality franchise quarterback. But protecting him will be critical for the Cardinals going forward and doubly so with Kliff Kingsbury’s system in place. Enter Dillard, who is the best pass-blocker in the draft and can provide an immediate boost to a sub-par offensive line. Not a pick that sells tickets but can win games.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
The team added Dee Ford this offseason but still need a ton of help getting after the QB, especially in a division with passers galore. Enter baby Bosa, who does have an injury risk but can turn into the equal or better than his Pro Bowl sibling.
3. New York Jets — Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
You can never have too many pass rushers and especially not with blitz-happy Gregg Williams calling shots on defense. Adam Gase and Sam Darnold will get additional weapons and protection later on but the front office finds elite defensive talent is hard to pass up first.
4. Oakland Raiders — Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
The new brain trust may like Kyler Murray but building a quality defense is still a top priority for the Raiders’ final push in Oakland. Sweat is a quintessential franchise pick too given his off the charts athleticism and ability.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan
Opinions on Gary vary depending on which scouts you ask but there’s no question he has the potential to be a superstar in the league if he puts everything together consistently. Learning under the wings of veterans like Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul could be just the trick.
6. New York Giants — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Dave Gettleman loves his big linemen and will be delighted to see Williams fall this far. The team needs a little more help off the edge but this Crimson Tide star is a top-three talent who can help in the short and long term up front on defense.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
After ponying up way too much for Nick Foles, the Jags know they need to protect their big investment with a high pick to become their next right tackle.
8. Detroit Lions — T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Matthew Stafford did already add Jesse James as an option in the passing game but the Patriots-raised front office and coaching staff know the benefits of utilizing two-tight end sets. Hockenson can be a boost to both the run game with his blocking and develop into a middle of the field threat.
9. Buffalo Bills — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
An early run of edge rushers benefits the Bills, who get one of the most talked-about defensive players out of college since Ndamukong Suh. With Kyle Williams’ retirement, the team instead gets a ready-made replacement who can provide push up the middle.
10. Denver Broncos — Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
Joe Flacco won’t like pressure in his face up the middle and you can bet that John Elway will want to help re-tool the interior of the Broncos’ line. Enter Williams, who was a top tackle in college but could kick inside or play right tackle and provide a much-needed boost of athleticism.
11. Cincinnati Bengals — Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Bengals probably can’t believe their luck. Murray does fall but it’s not too far down in the first round and the Heisman winner can replace fellow Texan Andy Dalton down the road. Zac Taylor was brought into to provide some life to the offense and he’ll do just that for years to come with the Sooners star.
12. Green Bay Packers — Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
The Packers have the ultimate luxury of being able to look ahead to 2020 and beyond with this pick, as Fant can be the new go-to for Aaron Rodgers when the team ultimately moves on from Jimmy Graham (and Marcedes Lewis).
13. Miami Dolphins — Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Ferrell has the size, power and polish to step in right away for the new coaching staff, especially given the holes off the edge following the Cam Wake/Robert Quinn departures. There are still issues along the offensive line but this might be a safer pick for a Miami squad aiming to rebuild in 2019.
14. Atlanta Falcons — Devin White, LB, LSU
Dan Quinn will be pumping his fist when White’s name is called for the Falcons, as the team solidifies their linebacker position for years to come between him and Deion Jones.
15. Washington Redskins — Garrett Bradbury, OL, NC State
Washington can go any number of directions here — especially with a local product like Dwayne Haskins available — but opt to punt on the QB question until later on and instead shore up the interior of the offensive line by getting a stellar center in Bradbury and allowing Chase Roullier to kick back to guard.
16. Carolina Panthers — Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Finding an eventual replacement for Greg Olsen at tight end might prove tempting here but there’s value to be had in finding another guy to come off the edge and replace some of Julius Peppers’ production. Burns has tremendous upside and can learn from Bruce Irvin in the near term.
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland) — Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
The re-tooling of the Giants defense continues with the instinctive Bush, who might be a tad undersized but does everything so well. He can turn into a leader that the coaching staff wants at linebacker while helping the youth movement on that side of the ball continue.
18. Minnesota Vikings — Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
Yes the team wants to run the ball more as part of their offensive makeover but that also means more play-action passes in OC Kevin Stefanski’s system. Kyle Rudolph has been very solid as Kirk Cousins’ go-to underneath but an option to stretch the field in two-tight end sets makes the athletic Smith a great choice while providing the flexibility to, well, flex outside when needed too.
19. Tennessee Titans — Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
Tide x2 in the backfield down in Nashville? It makes plenty of sense with Derrick Henry entering the last year of his rookie contract and his lack of value in the passing game opening the door for the team to get his long-term replacement in Jacobs, who has far fewer miles on him and can do so much more to complement Marcus Mariota.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Steelers didn’t go in expecting Metcalf to still be around but will have no issues taking him to help flush out the rest of the receiving corps that is a little thinner in the wake of the Antonio Brown trade. Big Ben knows that JuJu Smith-Schuster is a great No. 1 to have but that will only open things up for the rookie who checks every box.
21. Seattle Seahawks — Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
The Seahawks don’t have to go far to find their first-rounder in Murphy, who should be able to slide in from day one as Justin Coleman’s replacement while potentially being a longer-term option on the outside as he gets older and bigger.
22. Baltimore Ravens — N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Lamar Jackson needs weapons and few have the kind of catch radius that helps a QB out quite like the former Sun Devil. The team has been searching for a top option in the passing game for a while and could have one in the new front office’s first draft in charge.
23. Houston Texans — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Protecting Deshaun Watson is still a priority but finding DeAndre Hopkins a true running mate has been pressing in Houston for sometime and it appears Will Fuller is not going to be counted on. Brown’s foot injury is concerning for the franchise but the upside is an All-Pro wideout.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago) — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
With excess first-rounders, Oakland can afford to use one of their late picks on the high-upside Bulldog defensive tackle. Simmons probably won’t play until 2020 but that’s still fine with the team’s timetable.
25. Philadelphia Eagles — Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
As Jason Peters’ career winds down, the team has to be looking ahead to a future without the mainstay left tackle. Ford isn’t quite suited to playing on that side but he can be the swing tackle in 2019 before eventually taking Lane Johnson’s spot on the right.
26. Indianapolis Colts — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
The Colts’ defensive turnaround last year was one of the top storylines in the league under coordinator Matt Eberflus but there are still holes to address. Enter Wilkins, who can slide in at the three-technique and provide a nice interior push.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas) — Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Mike Mayock certainly knows the inside scoop on the Boston College kids and will love the athleticism that Lindstrom can bring as a guard to any line in the league. He’ll fit in well in Jon Gruden’s zone scheme and lead a heck of a makeover for the left side of the line in Oakland.
28. Los Angeles Chargers — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Philip Rivers gets his heir apparent as Haskins pulls a bit of an Aaron Rodgers with a draft day slide but lands in a perfect spot. The strong-armed Buckeye has a chance to learn from one of the best before being the guy in LA.
29. Kansas City Chiefs — Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
The changes in the secondary don’t stop at Tyrann Mathieu coming to Kansas City. There are other corners with more upside than Baker but few as ready to play now as the Thorpe Award winner is for a team built to win now.
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans) — Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The Pack have had no issues spending high picks on the back end and do so again in Abram, who complements free-agent addition Adrian Amos nicely and moves Josh Jones inside in oft-used nickel situations.
31. Los Angeles Rams — Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Lawrence is a top-10 talent with one-of-a-kind athleticism at defensive tackle. Pairing him next to Aaron Donald is going to delight Wade Phillips and allow the departure of Ndamukong Suh to pass with no issue.
32. New England Patriots — Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
With numerous top-100 picks, pressing needs for the defending champions can be addressed later on — if the team even stays put at No. 32. As good as Tom Brady is, his successor has to be found at some point and the Blue Devils signal-caller ticks all the boxes in what New England could be looking for.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.