NFL draft stirs up speculation

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young speaks to the media at the NFL draft combine.

Photo used with permission from Google Commons

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young speaks to the media at the NFL draft combine.

The NFL draft is just around the corner and, after months of preparation by teams and prospects, hundreds of players’ dreams will come into fruition.
The draft begins Apr. 27 in Union Station, Kansas City, and lasts for three days. In the first round of the draft, teams have 10 minutes each to make their selection (though many decide far in advance) with the order of the picks being arranged chronologically by teams with the worst records the previous season to the best. However, this can be subject to change if a team were to decide to trade their pick. There are seven rounds in the NFL draft with over 200 selections. Here are the projected top three picks of the first round:

#1 Carolina Panthers – CJ Stroud, QB, Ohio State / (Pick via trade from Bears)

The Carolina Panthers recently traded star receiver DJ Moore, the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft, an additional late round pick this year and a future first and second round pick in exchange for the number one overall pick.
This offseason has been eventful thus far including major free agent signings such as running back Miles Sanders and tight end Hayden Hurst. Adding these offensive weapons in addition to not re-signing qb Sam Darnold, all signs point towards drafting a QB. With Tom Brady retiring within the division and the Saints and Falcons not having stable QB rooms, the Panthers could be looking to gain an advantage within the division.
Quarterback CJ Stroud out of Ohio St seems to be a solid choice as he has had the most stable college career statistically out of all QBs in the draft. Additionally, Stroud stands at 6 ‘3 tall while Young stands at just 5’10. Although one may argue Stroud had a plethora of weapons at his disposal such as Garret Wilson, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Chris Olave, Stroud has made the most of his opportunities and could fit the Panthers well due to his arm strength and natural pocket passing ability.
In addition Bryce Young has had injury concerns in the past while Stroud had been relatively available his entire college career. Regarding the trade the Panthers made with the Bears for the number one overall pick, Seahawks fan and senior Chris Liu said, “I think the Panthers lost the trade because even though they have a good offensive line, trading D. J. Moore leaves the Panthers with no good receivers for the quarterback to throw to and forces the quarterback to hang on to the ball for far too long, which could lead to him getting sacked a lot.”

#2 Houston Texans – Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Ever since the departure of former quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans have lacked stability at the QB position. Watson was accused of sexual assault back in March of 2021 and was forced to sit that entire season admit the accusations. After this tumultuous 2021 season, Watson was released by the Texans and later signed as free agent by the Cleveland Browns. He would then serve an 11-game suspension before being allowed to play that 2022 season.
By releasing Watson the Texans were aiming to establish an honorable team culture as well as eliminate any drama or aftermath associated with the situation. While doing this was ethically the right decision, the Texans still had a gaping hole at quarterback going into last season. Second year QB Davis Mills tried to fill the void but his performance was rather lackluster. He finished the 2022 season with a mediocre 17 touchdown passes with 15 interceptions while finishing with the worst QBR (total qb rating, which is a statistic to measure performance) of any starting quarterback in the league.
It’s clear that the Texans need to draft a quarterback heading into the 2023 season. The only question then is who will it be? The likely answer may be Bryce Young out of Alabama. His ability to improvise and move out of the pocket in addition to his overall talent makes him a prime candidate for the Texans. Young is also a former Heisman winner, which is the most prestigious collegiate football award any player can win. In addition, he is a former National Champion at Alabama so he knows how to win on the biggest stage. With all these accolades over the course of his college career some think that Young will go first overall and not second. Ravens fan and Junior Nate Riker said, “I thought Young would go first overall and that the Bears would probably trade the pick to a team like the Falcons or Colts.”

#3 Arizona Cardinals – Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama

After somewhat high expectations coming into last season compared to other teams picking early in the first round, the Cardinals finished with a record of just 4-13 leading to the firing of former head coach Kliff Kingsberry and hold the third overall selection in the 2023 draft. Heading into last season the Cardinals re-signed Kyler Murray to a five year, $230.5 million contract. Despite the high expectations and talent of the 25 year old QB, Murray was dealing with injuries most of last season.
In addition to injuries surrounding the team, most notably Murray, wide receiver Deandre Hopkins missed the first six games of the season after taking performance enhancing drugs. The absence of these two playmakers on the offensive side of the ball hindered the Cardinals’ offensive potential last season. In terms of the defensive side of the ball, three-time defensive player of the year JJ Watt announced his retirement this past offseason, which leaves a gaping hole in the D line position.
Will Anderson (Alabama) and Jalen Carter (Georgia) are the two most sought after defensive prospects in this upcoming draft class and are both D linemen. The Cardinals may choose to select Anderson not only because of his talent but also because of an incident involving Jalen Carter. Two people were found dead as a result of reckless driving and speeding on behalf of Carter. This situation could potentially lower Carter’s draft stock as teams could question his character. While both prospects are high on the draft board, Will Anderson likely has the edge for this pick.