After many weeks of analysis, interviews, groupthink and then some, Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich revealed earlier this week that there is indeed consensus regarding the No. 1 pick in the draft.
What a tease.
Reich didn’t confirm the widespread expectation that Carolina will select Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at the top of the draft. Nor did he shock the world and declare that he and GM Scott Fitterer (with team owner David Tepper’s blessing) have someone else in mind for the honor.
Instead, Reich promised this: “We’ll announce that Thursday at about 8 o’clock.”
This could also be viewed as an exercise in prolonging suspense. Or maybe milking the drama. Despite the typical practice of leaking the pick or outright announcing the intention, the Panthers are seemingly playing it by the official draft rule book.
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Reich maintained that the Panthers haven’t even told Young – or the other three quarterbacks they visited with during the draft process – that he will be the pick.
Shoot, a prospect’s ability to keep a secret should factor into the grade, too.
Young, though, insisted while appearing at an NFL community event on Wednesday in Kansas City, that he has no inside info to spread.
“Nothing – I don’t know anything,” Young told reporters, as relayed by NFL.com. “I don’t think or expect anything. I’m kind of just along for the ride. And you know, I feel like whatever happens, wherever I end up, you know, I think that’s where God wants me to be.”
That’s all rather modest. But just along for the ride? Yeah, right.
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In any event, the Aaron Rodgers Darkness Retreat approach is rather fitting for this draft.
Quick, take a look at your mock draft. Halfway through the first round on Thursday night, you can best believe it will be corrected beyond recognition.
The mystery starts when pondering the destinations for the top-rated prospects at the game’s most important position. In addition to Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis are projected to go high in the first round.
Are all four quarterbacks worthy of being top-10 picks? Maybe not, by some accounts. Yet there’s a premium on the position which not only makes the top-10 projections real, but also drives the possibility of draft-day trades that could be fueled by teams desperate for throwers.
Additional mystery comes with the dilemma that some teams high in the draft – including the Seahawks with the fifth pick and the Raiders with the seventh choice – could face in perhaps weighing the third or fourth quarterback against a more proven prospect for the trenches.
That’s the intrigue of the draft in a nutshell. Three years from now we may look back and wonder how so-and-so blew it (you know, the whole Mitchell Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes thing).
And maybe this year’s big swing factor won’t even be a quarterback as Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter has sparked so much boom-or-bust debate.
Still, we love the draft – which has grown into its own industry, drawing well over 10 million prime-time viewers – because of that intrigue.
Just don’t believe the hype that some are selling with the “logical” picks in the mock drafts. Turns out that the information (and misinformation) floated during the NFL’s “lying season” typically has sleight-of-hand connotations.
“Everybody has an ‘inside source’ who is giving them information of what’s going to be done,” Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard told reporters. “I think as you all know, just look at the mock drafts and tell me how accurate they are after the draft. Nobody knows. Nobody is giving out information.”
Several NFL decision-makers – who conduct their internal mock drafts as part of their preparation – have said that this year’s draft is one of the toughest to predict in years. I’m guessing they were shooting straight.
One thing’s for certain: The phone lines will be buzzing. Trade action can surely be ignited if a targeted prospect slides down the board or if there’s a run on a certain position. And just as there are teams eager to move up, there’s also an attraction for moving down and collecting extra picks.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have an interesting scenario. Pittsburgh has the 17th pick in the first round, plus the first pick in the second round (32nd overall) that was obtained last year from the Chicago Bears in the trade of Chase Claypool. Omar Khan, the new Pittsburgh GM, said during his pre-draft press conference this week that he fully expects to talk to each of the other 31 teams during the draft.
“That’s natural,” Khan said. “People are calling whether we’re interested in moving up or moving down. You know, a lot of times just fishing for information.”
Hey, it wouldn’t be the draft without it.
Levis, whose stock among the top QBs has seemingly fluctuated, was undoubtedly telling the truth when asked during the community event on Wednesday about where he’ll wind up.
“I really, truly have no idea,” he said. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Which just might be the essence of another NFL draft.