The first round of the NFL draft often turns in an unexpected way after a surprising selection or a big trade that renders all mock drafts obsolete. Those dramatic events are what make the draft the most interesting offseason event in sports in the United States.
When are the pivot points most likely to come in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft, which is set to kick off on April 27 in Kansas City? Below, I've scoped out five picks where the story of the draft will be written:
A fracas has apparently broken out between teams wanting to acquire this selection from Arizona, which would allow someone to leapfrog quarterback-hungry Indianapolis at No. 4 overall and snag the best QB remaining after the Panthers (No. 1) and Texans (No. 2) have presumably picked theirs. General manager Monti Ossenfort's phone must be burning up. There's also the possibility that the Colts themselves will try to move one spot in an attempt to box out the interlopers. Whoever wins this battle will change the direction of the draft.
As for the Cardinals, they could still throw another wrench in the works later in Round 1 even after trading this pick away by selecting star running back Bijan Robinson if the pass rushers they prefer are off the board by the time their turn comes up again.
Seattle could trade into the Cardinals' No. 3 slot for a QB; yes, they signed veteran Geno Smith to an extension, but it includes some wiggle room for the team to move on relatively soon. If the Seahawks (who also own the 20th overall choice) do not take a passer early, their selection process becomes murky. Do they go with a cornerback (like Christian Gonzalez or Joey Porter Jr.) to pair with Tariq Woolen, a fifth-rounder who emerged as a Defensive Rookie of the Year finalist last year? Does GM John Schneider pick an edge rusher or take a chance on the potential of Jalen Carter (provided the team is not dissuaded by his off-field issues) as a game-wrecker up front? Between the Seahawks here and the Raiders -- who also have a possible short-timer at quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo and potential interest in cornerbacks and defensive linemen -- at No. 7, there will be intrigue within the first few choices.
The defending NFC champions landed this choice as part of their pre-draft trade with the Saints last year. The Eagles (who also own the 30th overall pick) could trade out so Minnesota or Tampa Bay could grab their future quarterback (Will Levis?) ahead of Tennessee at No. 11. If Philly GM Howie Roseman decides to stay put, he could take an offensive playmaker (Bijan Robinson), a versatile offensive lineman (Paris Johnson Jr.) or a front-seven defender (Nolan Smith or Jalen Carter). The Eagles' penchant for making trades and maintaining a deep roster gives them many options, making this pick one of the most interesting in the first round.
Since Tom Brady departed following the 2019 season, the Patriots have gone 25-26 (including a loss to Buffalo in the 2021 playoffs) and now stand at an apparent quarterback crossroads. They can draft a prospect like Will Levis or Hendon Hooker if they think they would be upgrading over Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe. If they feel Jones and Zappe can do the job, then improving their offensive line with left tackle Broderick Jones, picking up an elite running back in Bijan Robinson or snagging a receiver like Jordan Addison or Jaxon Smith-Njigba would make sense. New England has traded down in the first round twice in the last three years, so another deal could be in the works if the team stands pat at quarterback.
Late first-round selections do not often change the direction of the draft, but this Ravens pick might be an exception, given the uncertainty surrounding Lamar Jackson's future. If the Ravens honor the franchise-tagged star's trade request, quarterbacks would be squarely on the team's radar here, or at whichever selection they might receive in a potential deal. If Jackson remains in Baltimore, the Ravens could take a cornerback or a promising young receiver like Jordan Addison or Zay Flowers, even after signing Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor. The Ravens are also known for trading down in the first (something they've done four times in the past five years, including twice in 2018), so look for something interesting to happen at this spot.