ARLINGTON, Texas – Anyone who thinks the draft pundits and even some team general managers have no clue what will happen in Thursday’s opening round of the draft should talk to the guys likely to get selected early.
You won’t get much clarity. You will get the same shrugs, the same “it’s not in my control” replies.
And you can get some perspective, too.
“It’s not where or when you get drafted,” said Wyoming’s Josh Allen, one of four quarterbacks expected to be chosen in the top half-dozen or so spots. “It’s what you do after it. I can see myself in seven different uniforms; I had seven visits.”
Said UCLA’s Josh Rosen: “My game is not where or when I go, it’s to go to the right team. If you don’t think I’m right for your team, don’t draft me. I want to go somewhere I think I’ll do well, and if that team feels I will do well, pick me.”
That team could be Cleveland at the very top. It could be the New York clubs, the Giants at No. 2 and the Jets at No. 3. Maybe Denver at No. 5, or a team desperate to get in the QB derby that trades its way up.
There is more mystery to this draft than most, and the prospects recognize it. After they tossed footballs Wednesday with youngsters and participated in some modified drills with the kids as part of the NFL’s Play Football Clinic, many of the players projected as top 10 picks assessed what might happen at AT&T Stadium.
Well, they actually mostly laughed and joked about having no clue what will occur.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty going into tomorrow,” said Southern California’s Sam Darnold, another of the quarter of highly coveted passers. “So you have to be prepared for whatever happens. I’m looking to see who was right and who was wrong (among so-called draft experts). That’s fun.”
The fun begins at 6 p.m. with the Browns, coming off a spotless season – as in zero victories – having the first and fourth choices. Not picking Allen, Rosen, Darnold or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield to start things off would be a huge shock.
Both teams that call New Jersey home come next. The Giants have a franchise quarterback in Eli Manning, but he’s 37. Do they go for a young arm, or look at the players deemed the best overall talents on each side of the ball? That would be Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb.
“I try to keep a level head and not think about it,” said Chubb, who then admitted it would be “huge” if he went fourth to Cleveland and was paired up front with last year’s top overall pick, Myles Garrett. “People think this will happen and that will happen and nobody knows what will happen.”
Perhaps. But it’s a pretty safe bet the Jets will go for a QB after trading up from sixth overall to get Indianapolis’ No. 3 spot.
“It’s all about opportunity,” GM Mike Maccagnan said. “We felt good about where we were originally picking and then we made the trade and moved ourselves to position ourselves, in our mind, to be in a position to have a good option and a good choice with that spot.”
Denver is up fifth and recently signed free agent Case Keenum, whose best pro season helped Minnesota make the NFC title game. Having Keenum aboard doesn’t rule out GM John Elway – the first pick in the renowned 1983 draft that had six first-round QBs, three making the Hall of Fame – going for a signal caller.
“We’ve stacked them, got them in order, how we think they fit, who fits us and who doesn’t,” Elway said of the current quarterback crop. “We’ve been through that process. We do that process with every position. Where they fit into our football and are they a fit for us. Even as we stack the board, we stack them talent-wise, but also if they are a fit for us.”
How it all fits together makes for an intriguing spectacle, has sparked a cottage industry and has become a traveling road show.
So how will it all get going Thursday night?
“I haven’t paid attention to a lot of drafts,” Rosen said. “It just seems nobody knows what’s going on.”
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. contributed to this report.