Now that the regular season is over and we know the order for the first 20 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, we can begin to make some observations about what could occur on draft day.
Now, we won't know the full makeup of the 2018 class until later this month -- underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to apply for early draft eligibility -- but given some time to review the potential prospects in the class and the positioning of teams on the board, here are my five takeaways.
1. The desire to find the next generation of QB1s could result in four quarterbacks coming off the board within the first 10 picks.
Despite the questions surrounding the 2018 quarterback class, I'm expecting the shoddy play at the position at the NFL level will lead several teams to take a chance on a young QB1 early in the draft. Evaluators will gamble on potential over polish in hopes of finding the next Jared Goff or Carson Wentz to lead their respective franchises out of the doldrums.
With teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Denver Broncos and New York Jets hunting for immediate answers at the position and others like the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills in the mix for upgrades or successors, the draft could see a number of intriguing quarterbacks come off the board in the top 10 whether the prospects are graded that highly or not.
With the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks, Dorsey could land a franchise QB and an explosive player ... or he could select a pair of dynamic playmakers if he picks up a veteran quarterback via trade or free agency. Considering the kind of impact a skill-position player can have on an offense, the Browns could be sitting pretty at the end of the 2018 season if they make the right picks on draft day.
3. A team will use a top-five pick on a running back for the third straight season.
After no RBs were selected in the first round in 2013 and 2014, we've seen RBs selected in the first round in each of the past three drafts. Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette were selected in the top five in consecutive years and immediately propelled their teams into playoff contention as impact rookies.
It's possible that a playmaker-needy team could turn to the running back spot to upgrade an offense that needs a little juice. With several intriguing options potentially available in the 2018 class, the streak could extend another year with teams like the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers searching for explosive runners in the draft.
4. Pass rushers will dominate the first round. As the NFL continues to evolve into a passing league, we will see more pass rushers come off the board early in the first round. Edge rushers have always been the priority, but teams are increasingly looking for defensive tackles with pass-rush skills to anchor their front line.
In 2018, the supply and demand could lead to as many as seven pass rushers hearing their names called within the first 20 picks. Scouts are excited about some of the young edge players that could dot the class. Considering the number of teams positioned between picks 10 and 20 that need disruptive defenders, I would expect to see a run on ultra-athletic pass-rush specialists at that point.
5. The sweet spot for offensive tackles could fall between picks 10 and 20. Teams attempting to peg the potential run on offensive tackles should expect blindside protectors to start flying off the board right outside the top 10. The teams in need of pass protectors fall in line with where the top-rated tackle prospects should rank at the end of the process. That means teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals could make moves to secure OTs when they are on the clock in the middle of the first round. In addition, there are teams like the New York Giants and New York Jets that could move into position to nab a potential franchise player at the position.