The biggest event of the NFL offseason is almost upon us as the NFL Draft will take place in Kansas City from Thursday April 27 to Saturday April 29. It is the time of year when the leading college players from across the United States hear their names called and their NFL dreams realised. It is also a time of great hope as all 32 NFL teams go about adding fresh and exciting talent to their rosters ahead of the 2023 season.
Here are five storylines to follow as the NFL's annual selection process draws closer.
1. Quarterback Drama!
Last year's NFL Draft saw just one quarterback taken in the first round (Kenny Pickett went to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 20th pick) but it should be a lot different this time around. There will definitely be four quarterbacks taken in round one and it could be as many as five. And for just the fourth time in the modern era of the NFL Draft, passers could go one, two and three overall. The last time that happened was in 2021 when Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville), Zach Wilson (New York Jets) and Trey Lance (San Francisco) came off the board at the top. But that trio should serve as a warning to Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Florida's Anthony Richardson. Being taken at the top is no guarantee of NFL success – the Jets have already relegated Wilson to a reserve role and the Niners appear intent on going with seventh-round selection from 2022 in Brock Purdy over the expensive (in terms of NFL Draft capital) Lance.
2. Who will grab the number three pick?
The Arizona Cardinals are currently the owners of the third pick in the NFL Draft, but they are very much open for business and they should answer any calls that come in from quarterback-needy teams. The Cardinals already have their long-term quarterback on board in Kyler Murray and they have multiple needs (defensive line, offensive line and cornerback to name a few) as they come off a four-win season that ended with seven straight defeats and the firing of head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Cardinals have reportedly been fielding calls from six teams desperate to leapfrog others to get their hands on the third quarterback in this class, likely the aforementioned Richardson. The Cards could collect quite the haul of Draft picks by dealing down the board in round one. If they haven't moved this pick by the night of the first round, this will be one of the biggest moments of intrigue across the entire weekend. Who will get the deal done and get themselves in position to grab their franchise quarterback?
3. Pass catchers in demand
The NFL is so often labelled as a passing league and those who impact the aerial game are targeted as a high priority – quarterbacks, pass-blocking tackles, defensive ends, cornerbacks and, of course, those who catch the footballs. This is not a class that features an ideal number one wide receiver in the Justin Jefferson (2020), Ja'Marr Chase (2021) and Garrett Wilson (2022) mold. But there are a bunch of productive wideouts – particularly those who are strong in the slot – and when coupled with a good tight end group, we could see as many as six pass-catchers go in round one. The league-wide need to find receivers and tight ends remains high, particularly among some serious Super Bowl contenders such as Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas and Kansas City. Can they land a serious contributor to get them all the way to Las Vegas in February?
4. The back stories
Watching the NFL Draft offers up a great opportunity to learn more about the young men about to enter the league. Some of the back stories make you immediately want to root for them to succeed at the next level. Take Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, for example, who has overcome a tough single-parent upbringing to be one of the top prospects in his class. Things were so tough for Stroud as a youngster that he once played a game at quarterback while wearing one contact lens. He had lost the other and could not afford to replace it. Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid has gone from earning zero stars as an unheralded high school prospect to being a potential first-rounder at the end of the month. There are stories galore in this class, from the inspirational to eyebrow-raisers. Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave was a champion skier in high school, Texas running back Bijan Robinson is a big Real Madrid fan and friends with actor Matthew McConaughey; while Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones will be asked to leave his pet at home upon entry to the NFL. Few of his teammates will want his python in the locker room!
5. Veteran moves
Last year's NFL Draft featured a seismic trade in the middle of round one as the Tennessee Titans sent Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the headline veteran move on a day when it was heavily reported that the New York Jets were also making a major play for San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowler Deebo Samuel. That deal never came to fruition, but we should always be on guard for such moves this year and in future NFL Drafts. General managers across the league are more aggressive than ever and, at the time of writing, the future of two former NFL Most Valuable Player quarterbacks remains cloudy. Is Lamar Jackson going to garner interest elsewhere or is he going to need to come to terms with returning to the Baltimore Ravens? Are the New York Jets going to get the Aaron Rodgers deal across the line? And who else could be on the move? Rest assured… the headlines over Draft weekend are not going to be solely limited to the young rookies about to enter the league.