Greenwich Time (Sunday)

NFL draft could be offensive affair

- By Rob Maaddi

The NFL draft will be offensive.

We’re not talking about hurt feelings. This draft has the potential to set a record for most offensive players selected in the first round.

No draft has seen more than 19 players on offense chosen in the first round. That happened three times, most recently in 2009.

Many draft experts are predicting more than 20 offensive players will go in the first round and some have up to 25.

The AP’s final mock draft had 22 going in the first round, including 10 offensive linemen, six wide receivers, five quarterbac­ks and one tight end.

Quarterbac­ks get the most attention, of course. Caleb Williams is ticketed for the Chicago Bears with the No. 1 pick.

Beyond him, there are plenty of questions. The Washington Commanders need a franchise QB and will choose from Jayden Daniels, the 2023 Heisman Trophy winner, and Drake Maye at No. 2. J.J. McCarthy’s stock has soared since leading Michigan to a national championsh­ip and he could end up in the top five, with some analysts even putting him ahead of Daniels and Maye.

Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix are in the second tier, but could end up drafted in the latter part of the opening round.

“The quarterbac­k position is a hard position to evaluate and I’d say with the history of the draft, there’s guys that hit and there’s guys that don’t,” Arizona Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort said. “There’s a lot of things that go into what makes a good quarterbac­k, not only on field but off the field, and I think that’s why that position is such a challengin­g evaluation for a lot of people in the game.”

The Las Vegas Raiders own the 13th pick, so they’d have to move up to secure one of the top four guys.

They enter the draft with veteran Gardner Minshew and second-year pro Aidan O’Connell and could stay put to take the best player available and still end up with Penix or Nix later.

“There’s really no consensus boards, at least since I’ve been in the league,” Raiders GM Tom Telesco said. “You’ve got 32 different teams that look at things 32 different ways. So our ranking may be different than other rankings, so I don’t know if there’s necessaril­y a top three and a next two or a next three . ... It’s going to be a little bit different for everybody, depending on what you’re looking for.”

Wide receivers are a hot commodity with Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze not only considered among the top five potential picks but the best players in the entire draft.

“I think you could make a case the three highest-graded players in this draft are the three receivers,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.

Brian Thomas Jr., Adonai Mitchell and Troy Franklin round out the six wideouts in the AP’s mock first round. Other potential first-round picks include Ladd McConkey and Xavier Legette. It’s such a deep class of receivers that teams could wait to snag an eventual starter on Day 2 or even Day 3.

Protecting the quarterbac­k is critical to a team’s success, so there’s always an emphasis on offensive linemen, especially tackles.

Joe Alt is the consensus top lineman and is expected to be a top-10 pick. J.C. Latham, Olumuyiwa Fashanu, Taliese Fuaga and Troy Fautanu could go in the top 20. Amarius Mims, Graham Barton,

Tyler Guyton and Jordan Morgan are also in the mix. Jackson Powers-Johnson is the top interior lineman in the draft.

“They’re all really talented,” Jeremiah said. “When you look at that top group of guys, really I would say you’re talking about Alt, Fashanu, Fuaga, Latham. I would think those are pretty unanimous, whatever order you have them, those are

kind of the top four guys.”

For teams looking at defense, the draft has several talented edge rushers and cornerback­s. The AP’s mock draft has four players at each of those positions going in the first round, along with two interior defensive linemen.

Edge rushers Dallas Turner, Laiatu Latu, Jared Verse and Chop Robinson, cornerback­s Quinyon Mitchell, Terrion Arnold, Nate Wiggins and Kool-Aid McKinstry, and defensive tackles Byron Murphy and Jer’Zhan Newton are among the best defensive players.

Many teams prioritize edge rushers, and Turner is expected to be the first defensive player selected — possibly by Atlanta at No. 8.

Only once in the past 57 years have the first seven picks all been offensive players. That happened in 2021.

“When you look at the history of drafts, you can look at a lot of times like, ‘OK, we really need a pressure player, so make sure you get that,’” Falcons GM Terry Fontenot said. “But we can look back at drafts where someone reached on a pressure player and left some really good football players on the board at other positions.

“It’s a strong draft. We’re going to be staring at some really good players at eight, or whether we’re up a little bit or whether we’re back a little bit, and that’s the excitement. We’re wide open.”

Every personnel boss says the same until they’re on the clock.

 ?? Ryan Sun/Associated Press ?? Southern California quarterbac­k Caleb Williams throws a pass during the second half against UCLA on Nov. 18 in Los Angeles.
Ryan Sun/Associated Press Southern California quarterbac­k Caleb Williams throws a pass during the second half against UCLA on Nov. 18 in Los Angeles.
 ?? Derick Hingle/Associated Press ?? LSU quarterbac­k Jayden Daniels runs for a touchdown against Florida during the first half in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 11.
Derick Hingle/Associated Press LSU quarterbac­k Jayden Daniels runs for a touchdown against Florida during the first half in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 11.

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