It was 13 months ago. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah was at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. D.J. was a guest on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein On Sports," and I started off the interview by asking him about the buzz in Indy. Jeremiah chuckled and then offered up a half-joking answer:
That great response has stayed with me since. I'm obsessed with this year's draft. Obsessed with the quarterbacks, the freakishly gifted running back, the impact defenders, the generational talent at offensive guard.
On Saturday morning, the Jets jumped up three slots in the first round to No. 3 overall by giving the Colts three second-round picks: Nos. 37 and 49 in this year's draft and another in 2019. This is a great deal for both teams -- and one that has a major ripple effect on the rest of the NFL.
1) New York Jets
This is a fantastic no-brainer deal for the Jets. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if you disagree, you are wrong. In recent decades, a handful of Jets quarterbacks have enjoyed a handful of moments. But let's be honest: This organization has been searching for its franchise QB since Joe Namath's expansive injury history caught up with him. There are two types of teams in the NFL: those that have a quarterback and those that don't. The Jets have been in that latter category for quite some time now.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago in my "QB forecaster" piece, Kirk Cousins to the Vikings was beyond logical. It just wasn't going to happen for the Jets. I knew it, you knew it -- shoot, I'm sure Gang Green brass knew it. But those power brokers have proceeded wisely in the ensuing time. The Jets signed a pair of veteran QBs -- Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown -- and put themselves in much better position to get their man in next month's draft. It would've been classic, old-school Jets to sit back and watch the quarterbacks fly off the board before reaching the podium themselves. But with this draft and this draft class, you have to assume it goes quarterback-quarterback-quarterback at the top. Great job by GM Mike Maccagnan in getting this deal done.
Already armed with a freshly bolstered roster following a strong effort early in free agency -- in addition to Bridgewater and McCown, the Jets also signed CB Trumaine Johnson, LB Avery Williamson and RB Isaiah Crowell and retained CB Morris Claiborne -- Big Mac needed to swing for the fences to assure the acquisition of a potential franchise gunslinger like Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen. This is what the Rams and Eagles did two years ago, trading up in the draft to eventually nab Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively. There's a reason why Chicago, Kansas City and Houston all moved up in last year's first round. It's wise. I've been calling for the Jets to do it. And they nailed the process. Finally. Jets fans should be excited.
2) Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis has its quarterback in Andrew Luck. For the Colts, who are still feeling the effects of former general manager Ryan Grigson running this roster into the ground, overall depth and talent is paramount. Indy now has three second-round selections to go along with the No. 6 pick in the draft.
Despite moving down to that six slot, second-year GM Chris Ballard can still nab a defensive stud or maybe uber-hyped guard Quenton Nelson. (One GM recently told me he rates Nelson as "HOF," as in Hall of Fame.) Given how many teams will be going quarterback early in Round 1, the Colts might well end up getting the player at 6 they would've taken at 3. Or, if Ballard is feeling extra frisky, he might be able to move down again and accumulate even more draft currency. If Baker Mayfield is still available when the Colts go on the clock, some QB-desperate team could be willing to give up the farm to get to No. 6.
3) Cleveland Browns
Don't get lost in the smoke screen: Cleveland's taking a quarterback at No. 1. Browns GM John Dorsey legitimately has his job because Sashi Brown passed on Carson Wentz (a trade-down that was beyond foolish and an easy first-guess) and Deshaun Watson over the past two drafts. Dorsey MUST address the game's most important position with this draft's first pick. We've been screaming this. Everyone in the NFL believes it. And that's why the Jets had to move up -- these QBs are going to be the hottest of hot commodities on draft night.
I think Cleveland is taking Darnold, though Allen apparently remains in the mix. Saquon Barkley was never going to be the No. 1 overall pick. But now, if the Giants go QB at No. 2 -- or trade the pick to a QB-needy team -- the Browns could come away from Round 1 with their QB of the future and Barkley. How amazing would that be? Or Cleveland could pluck pass rusher Bradley Chubb and team him with Myles Garrett. Even the Browns can't mess this up. Right?
Cleveland has already added a bunch of nice pieces this offseason -- and the long-suffering franchise can own the 2018 draft. The goal should be to make the playoffs by the 2019 season. These Brownies are beautifully on track at the moment.
4) New York Giants
I long believed the Giants, who hold the No. 2 overall pick, were eyeing Saquon Barkley. And rightfully so -- the guy's a stud. But is the plan changing? At the combine, GM Dave Gettleman said the Giants would listen to offers for the No. 2 pick. And New York just got additional leverage with the QB-starved Jets trading into the No. 3 spot. Now, if you want to trade up for the quarterback, you have to offer a haul to the Giants. Big Blue's void of talent at running back, along the offensive line and on the defensive side of the ball, too. The G-Men were a mess last year. Snagging an offensive lineman like Nelson later in the top 10 would be great.
5) Buffalo Bills
The Jets beat the Bills to the punch. Buffalo entered this month with the Nos. 21 and 22 picks in the first round. Then last week, the Bills moved up from 21 to 12 by trading Cordy Glenn to the Bengals. With five selections in the first 65 picks, Buffalo is in prime position to take another leap up the board. But the Jets just made that more difficult.
The Bills have been searching for their franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly hung 'em up. They could stockpile picks into a deal with the Giants -- and hey, Bills GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott are quite familiar with Gettleman from the four years they all spent together in Carolina. (Gettleman is Beane's old boss.) One way or another, I believe the Bills have to do what it takes to acquire one of the Big Four QBs in this class: Darnold, Allen, Rosen and Mayfield.
Buffalo just snapped a 17-year playoff drought. But the Bills won't get back to the playoffs with AJ McCarron.
6) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals were so close to getting Patrick Mahomes last year, but the Chiefs leapfrogged them with a trade and scooped up the cannon-armed signal-caller. Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon are now Cardinals. They are also Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.
Arizona holds the No. 15 pick in April's draft. Would the Cards be willing to give up next year's first-rounder to slide into the No. 2 slot and snag Josh Allen? They should be. If not, this could be the team for Nick Foles -- well, if Philly's asking price ever becomes realistic.
7) Denver Broncos
Denver signed Case Keenum and John Elway gushed. I'd pick Quenton Nelson at No. 5. But is Elway fully content with his QB room?
This is, of course, rampant rumor season -- and some are speculating that Elway could trade up for Allen or Rosen, or maybe just take Mayfield at No. 5. I don't know ... Personally, I think Denver would probably be best served using the pick on a major O-line upgrade, a defensive stud or Barkley. But it's John Elway. And this class of quarterbacks is nothing if not intriguing.
8) Teams drafting in the 7-10 slots that DON'T need a QB
There's a realistic chance four quarterbacks come off the board in the first six picks -- along with a running back and an offensive guard. Could the Bucs get the best defensive player in the draft at No. 7? Could Nelson fall to his old Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and the Bears at No. 8? Chicago could also be in position to complement its awesome free agency period with a stud defensive prospect. Neither team will draft a quarterback. Obviously, the 49ers (picking ninth) and Raiders (10th), both thinking playoffs in 2018, won't, either.
9) Mason Rudolph
I've stated consistently that Lamar Jackson is a first-round quarterback. The more people I talk to, the more I believe Rudolph is coming off the board on Thursday night, too. He could be the guy for Buffalo or Arizona, if those teams stay put. Rudolph might be the future in New Orleans or Pittsburgh. He could be the present in Jacksonville. A quarterback-needy team could trade into the bottom portion of Round 1 late on the draft's opening night to secure Rudolph's services.
The early run on quarterbacks could make a guy like Rudolph more of a necessity for those who miss out on the big names early.