The NFL Draft is just days away, signaling the beginning of the end to this year’s offseason. This draft is said to be one of high quality and depth at many positions, particularly with prospects at quarterback and defensive line. With Carolina having the No. 1 overall selection following a trade with Chicago, the tone is set for a trade-heavy first round.
#1: Carolina Panthers (via Chicago): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
While C.J. Stroud appeared to be the guy that the Panthers were going to target initially, the tide has shifted considerably. Young appears to be a lock to go No. 1 overall, and there is ample reason for it. He’s easily a year-one starter, and his ability throwing the ball has been given its respect by scouts in the NFL. The issue comes with his size, which raises concerns about his durability and consistency with deep balls. Combining that with the fact he has room to improve with his movement in the pocket presents a situation that could become dangerous.
The Panthers do not look like they will be in contention for quite a while, even if Young entered at peak performance. His weapons are a bit worrying now without DJ Moore, with a lot of pressure being put on two guys with questionable production in DJ Chark and Adam Thielen. Adding Miles Sanders will likely help with sharing the workload, but it might be a rough transition for the Panthers and Young.
#2: Houston Texans: Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
The Texans have been gunning for Young for some time, and Houston definitely still needs a quarterback. But it’s said that they’re undecided on Stroud, who I personally think might be even better than Young, and will just settle on the best defensive prospect available. It’s worth mentioning that the top four defensive lineman in this draft are all similarly graded and on the same tier, so we might see some differences in order. Houston could even go with Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson, and neither of which would be bad choices.
Anderson could genuinely arrive in the NFL and become a Pro Bowler immediately given the right situation. In Houston he definitely has a shot at achieving such an accomplishment, and more. With over 27 sacks in the last two seasons, Anderson specializes at getting to the quarterback. This is where he’ll excel most, though he is strong against the run when necessary and even can carry himself dropping back when absolutely necessary.
#3: *TRADE* Las Vegas Raiders(Via Arizona): C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
If things play out the way it’s expected to, the Raiders will very likely trade up with the Cardinals at No. 3 to select a quarterback. The Cardinals have been looking to trade down for a while, and with Stroud falling to three it makes sense for both parties to pull the trigger. What’s great about Stroud is he has a shot at being ready enough to be a year-one guy, which will allow him to compete and push Garoppolo for the starting role.
Stroud was second in touchdown passes in Division I, only to Caleb Williams of USC (42 to 41). With only six interceptions, everything combined to give him the best passer rating in the country. His amazing footwork, technique, and accuracy is why many analysts give him such a high floor, higher than Young’s, though his ceiling doesn’t quite reach that of the projected No. 1 overall pick.
#4 Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
The Colts have had a relatively consistent and talented(enough) roster over the past few years, though they have always been struggling at quarterback. With the No. 4 selection in the draft they hope to finally solve that problem. Richardson is seen as the most likely option, and for good reason. He’s very raw, and hasn’t put up the numbers that Young and Stroud have, but the tools are there.
So unlike the first two quarterbacks taken, Richardson will likely need a few years in the NFL to find his groove. But his athleticism is off the charts, and when you combine that with his superb arm strength and natural instincts, the Colts might find a real gem. If he can improve his accuracy and decision making, that is. The Colts might opt for someone like Will Levis instead, though with such a smaller ceiling I find that doubtful.
#5 Seattle Seahawks (Via Denver): Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Seattle had a surprisingly impressive season last year, carried by Geno Smith’s emergence after nearly a decade of obscurity. With management confident in Smith and the weapons around him, defense becomes the focus for this pick. And with the aforementioned abundance of talent coming off the edge in this draft, they’re in a perfect spot to draft both for best available and for need.
Wilson is a truly special player, with just as much, if not more, upside than an Anderson or Carter. He’s a powerful pass rusher, and is very effective against the run. The former of which there are questions about just how he could be, but overall his game will undoubtedly be something special to watch thanks to his unmatched versatility. He’s a day-one starter, though Wilson is not as NFL-ready as Carter would be if the Seahawks instead go with him.