Collaboration by Shield Staff
Article by Jordan Deane
When the month of April hits every year, an excitement begins to manifest in the NFL world, because it means the NFL Draft is coming up. This ultimately leads to the start of NFL football season being upon us once again. Sports radio shows, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit all have NFL football fans calling, posting, tweeting and commenting on who their favorite teams should pick after watching the NFL Combine, highlight tapes and film breakdown.
The entire premise as an NFL organization come draft day is to fill team needs that they believe will help them complete their ultimate goal: winning a Super Bowl. The anticipation is high with less than three weeks remaining until the big day in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium, home of the NFC East Dallas Cowboys that currently stand at the 19th pick out of 32 in the first round of the draft coming off a 9-7 regular season record. This is the first time in NFL Draft history that it is being held inside a football stadium.
The 2018 NFL off-season has been very active with many talented players around the league being traded or signed as free agents to new ball clubs. If the NFL trades have been followed closely around the league, there often have been draft picks gained, swapped or lost for this year as well as the 2019 draft as part of the deal to bring a player a specific team wants. The ability as a front office to decipher the needs of their football team through trade, free agency and the draft is paramount in creating a Super Bowl caliber team each year.
Like most years, there is hype surrounding the quarterback class coming into the 2018 draft. The NFL has been (and will continue to be) a quarterback driven league. Just look at the most recent big time deals that QB’s got paid: Kirk Cousins, the now quarterback for the MN Vikings, signed the highest guaranteed money contract in NFL football history when he signed a three-year, $84 million contract. Besides Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, former backup quarterback to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, got traded for draft picks to the San Francisco 49ers, played in six games, and received a new five-year, $137.5 million contract as the new franchise quarterback for 49ers. NFL organizations want a franchise QB who will be the face of their franchise and productive for many years.
These young NFL draft prospect quarterbacks such as Sam Darnold from University of Southern California, Baker Mayfield the Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma University, Josh Rosen from University of California and Josh Allen who played at Wyoming University, pay close attention to these contracts that other quarterbacks get hoping a team will give them that type of opportunity, especially with the newer trend in the NFL of taking risks on spending a lot of money on quarterbacks that have not even played a full season as an NFL starter, won a playoff game or a division title. In a recent anonymous survey done by RC’s community about what quarterback will be taken first, there is a split tie of 35.3% believe that Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield will go first, followed by Josh Allen at 17.6% and Josh Rosen at 11.8%.
Besides the quarterback position, there is a lot of talk surrounding the running back class like last year. Two running backs were taken in the first 10 picks: Leonard Fournette at number 4 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Christian McCaffrey at number 8 by the Carolina Panthers. Both of them had exceptional rookie seasons. The player that analysts and football fans everywhere want to see drafted is Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who won the Paul Hornung Award: College football’s most versatile player. A lot of football analysts have him going number 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns now because of the trade for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the former starter for the Buffalo Bills. The Browns have numerous offensive weapons with Wide Receivers Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman.There is a lot of size, strength and speed at that position. Like in any offense, the offense only improves if they have a home run threat in the backfield. Saquon Barkley fits that mold. Oddly enough, the last time a running back was taken first overall in the NFL draft was back in 1995 when the Cincinnati Bengals chose Ki-Jana Carter out of Penn State University.
Outside of the quarterback and running back positions in the draft, there is a lot of excellent talent all across the board in every position. The draft goes about three to four rounds deep that have day one impact starters for NFL organizations. The quest towards a Super Bowl starts on April 26, 2018, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.