In the early hours of Friday morning, the Cleveland Browns will make the decision on the first college player drafted into the NFL this year.
It’s nothing new for the Ohio-based outfit, who have spent years dwelling at the bottom of the league and only managed one win in the past two seasons.
Cleveland’s selection will once again kick off this year’s Draft – after they chose defensive end Myles Garrett this time last year – but there are plenty more storylines due to play out over another few dramatic days.
Here are just a few of the key ones to watch out for when you follow the Draft live on Sky Sports Action from 12.30am on Friday, April 29.
Cleveland have control
The Browns hold the power as they select from the top spot. However, they have a whole lot more ‘draft capital’ to deal with.
As well as number one, they own the fourth overall selection and have three second-round picks to their name that could be used to add talent or trade for more assets. Teams may seek to move up into the fourth spot, giving Cleveland even more to work with.
Unlike last season, when Garrett was an easy call at number one, the long-suffering franchise can’t afford to pass on a quarterback now. Or, more simply put, they can’t afford to miss on one. They’ve been searching for a top quarterback for decades.
Their decision is crucial not only for them, but it will have a ripple effect and affect the futures of many teams around the league. Which QB will new GM John Dorsey choose?
A quarterback year
As we’ve covered at length this week with Neil Reynolds’ mock draft, his six players to watch, and our rundown of the many teams who require new quarterbacks, this is a very strong group of signal-callers.
In Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson, the talents range from tall to small, lightweight to rocket-armed, and immobile to the most electrifying speedster we’ve seen at the position in decades.
Everyone is assuming the Browns will pick one of Darnold or Allen first overall. But immediately after that, it becomes murky. Do the New York Giants go with a signal-caller? They’ve argued a miss that high would cause a major setback. If they don’t, does another team make an offer too good to refuse? Who will the Jets choose at number three?
Nothing is certain – but the desperation for QBs is there and it should make for a fun first round.
Last year, all three first-round quarterbacks (Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) were acquired via trades. And all three went higher than expected. It’s already playing out in 2018, as the Jets are so desperate to get in on the action that they’ve already given up their sixth overall pick, and second-round picks this year and next, to get into the top three – without even knowing which player they’ll be left with.
It’s entirely possible quarterbacks are taken with the first four picks if Cleveland are open for business.
It may not just be rookies who will be finding new homes. Since the new league year officially opened in March, we’ve seen a flurry of moves involving veteran players. Between Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Peters, Jarvis Landry and Brandin Cooks, teams have been ultra-aggressive in acquiring players in exchange for picks.
There’s every reason to believe the trades will continue over the weekend.
Pats and Bills primed
Typically, the New England Patriots pick towards the end of the Draft every time it comes around. This time, after trading away Jimmy Garoppolo last season and Brandin Cooks earlier in this one, they are in prime position to make big moves with five picks inside the top 100.
Who will they target? If recent reports are to be believed, they are in the market for a future franchise quarterback. They may well set their sights on Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson – the two QBs most likely to slide out of the early picks.
Buffalo have undergone a complete facelift under head coach Sean McDermott, moving on from big names Sammy Watkins, Ronald Darby and Marcell Dareus last season and the quarterback-left tackle pairing of Tyrod Taylor and Cordy Glenn in 2018.
After those moves, they are armed with a pair of first, second, and third-round picks in 2018. They must acquire talent, and a top quarterback will be the number one priority.
Don’t be surprised if a team who doesn’t appear to have a large haul (for example, the Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals or Baltimore Ravens) mortgage their future to jump ahead of competitors for a player they’ve fallen in love with.
Eagles and Rams sitting out
Every team approaches the Draft differently and will change from year-to-year. This off-season, the Los Angeles Rams went all-in on veterans, moving a plethora of picks for the aforementioned Peters and Cooks, as well as Aqib Talib.
After those trades and others in prior seasons, they are left with just one of their original draft picks – their third rounder (87th overall). They do also have three fourth-round picks and five-sixth rounders, but it’s likely they won’t be very active on day one or two.
In making the move for Deshaun Watson last year, the Houston Texans don’t pick in the first two rounds. Seattle are similarly devoid of selections. After their 18th overall pick, their next choice is in round five. Some teams have to watch and wait.
Finally, the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles shipped off a number of picks to acquire Carson Wentz, Ronald Darby and Jay Ajayi, and clearly, it paid off.
However, this year they only hold six selections and after their 32nd overall selection, they won’t be on the clock until the fourth round. Look for GM Howie Roseman to make some moves to recoup some draft picks.
All three days of the NFL Draft are exclusively live on Sky Sports with opening night getting underway from 12.30am on Friday, April 27 on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Mix.
Check out our NFL Draft support programming with Neil Reynolds, Jeff Reinebold, Solomon Wilcots, the Around the NFL guys and MMQB’s Peter King who will give us their informed opinion on what to expect and what happens in Dallas next week.
You can follow all the build-up to the NFL Draft with us at www.skysports.com/nfl and on @SkySportsNFL