Watch D dominate in the first round

I can hardly contain my excitement as we approach the April 25 NFL Draft. I have watched film, read most everything I could find from all the talking heads, and even studied up on results from the NFL Combine. Of course, I've laid the groundwork with a mock draft of my own, but for the sake of today's column, I'll skip my mock draft and just give you a few storylines to follow.

1) Watch out for a slew of "up-front" defenders who will be drafted early and often.

When I'm speaking of "up-front" guys, I'm referring to guys who play in the trenches, linebackers who can rush the passer, or a combination of the two. By my count, we could see anywhere from 10-12 impact "up-front defenders" in the first round. Kyler Murray may have stolen most of the pre-draft headlines, but Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams appear to be can’t-miss prospects. I expect both guys to go in the Top 5. Josh Allen may be the most explosive pass-rusher in the draft and he too seems to be a Top 5 talent. There are even rumors swirling that the Jets (third pick overall) are locked in on Ed Oliver who is another one of the many talented defenders in this draft. That still leaves the likes of Montez Sweat, Brian Burns, Rashaan Gary, Clelin Ferrell and many more. With so many quality pass rushing options, GMs are going to have a tough time deciding.

2) Wide receiver depth is also impressive this year.

I usually don't advocate for drafting a wide receiver at the top of a draft. This year may be the exception to that rule. By my count, there are at least five receivers worthy of being selected in the first round. D.K. Metcalf may be the most physically imposing receiver since Calvin Johnson. He appears as though he could be special. And yet, he is being ranked as the 3rd or 4th best WR by some draft experts whose opinions I highly respect. Just to clarify, I don't think we'll see a single one of these guys in the Top 10. However, I'm predicting a run on receivers that should start sometime around or after No. 12. The middle to back end of the 1st round will see these guys being snapped up.

3) There will be no more than one running back taken in the 1st round.

In recent memory we've seen the likes of Zeke Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Saquon Barkley all being taken early in the first round. Despite the success of Elliott and Barkley, that trend will not continue. I believe that Josh Jacobs of Alabama is worthy of a selection on Thursday. That said, I don't see a definitive match for him. And beyond Jacobs...I don't see a single other back who should be considered on Day One of the draft. Ultimately I could see the Raiders serving as a nice landing spot at No. 24 or No. 27 for Jacobs.

4) Look for value at the QB position in the second round.

We have become accustomed to quarterbacks stealing the headlines. This year, it seems that Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins will be all the rage in the first round. Some team will probably reach a little too early for a Daniel Jones and/or Drew Lock as well. I do like Murray, and to a lesser extent, Jones too. However, teams are going to pay a premium for those guys. If you're looking for sneaky value at the QB position, look to the second round. I believe that Ryan Finley (NC State) and Will Grier (West Virginia) both have a shot to be starting QB's in the league. Look for the Patriots and Chargers to consider both signal callers as potential replacements for their aging QB's.

5) While Josh Rosen isn't draft eligible, he may control the draft.

If a team steps up and is willing to offer Arizona a proper return, then expect them to jump and go all-in on Kyler Murray. What will happen though, if no team steps up with a significant offer? Would Arizona trade the No. 1 pick? Perhaps they'd keep the pick and draft Nick Bosa. Who knows what the Cardinals will do? This team wants Murray. They must first rid themselves of Rosen though.


Tom Hoggard is sports director/media consultant at East Carolina Radio. He hosts the Outer Banks Sports Report on 98.1 The Score Monday through Friday from 7 to 9 a.m.

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