Following the Philadelphia Eagles’ massive trade up to the No. 2 pick in the 2016 Draft, it appears the first two selections in the draft are going to be quarterbacks.
The Rams, who traded up to the No. 1 pick a week ago, and Eagles both have their eyes on California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, according to reports — it’s just a matter of who goes first.
In general, this is a seismic shift from months ago, when the quarterbacks of this draft were considered afterthoughts.
In December, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay released a big board for the 2016 Draft. Goff and Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch made Kiper’s top 10, and Goff made McShay’s, but neither cracked the top five. Wentz didn’t make the top 10.
Four months ago, Pro Football Focus did their first mock draft. Goff was their second pick, but they didn’t rave about this year’s class, noting, “Goff is the best quarterback in a class that is deep but lacking in top-end talent.” Neither Wentz nor Lynch were listed in the rest of their first-round predictions.
PFF wasn’t alone. In late January, SB Nation’s mock draft had Goff at No. 2, with Wentz, rising to No. 13, and Lynch at No. 15.
However, it’s not as if Goff was always highly received by the NFL world. After Wentz’s strong pro day, Goff began sliding down, showing he wasn’t a surefire prospect. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had Goff at No. 7 in his early March mock draft. USA Today’s Nate Davis also had Goff at No. 7 as of March 24.
Neither quarterback was seen as a No. 1 pick in the calendar year. Now, it seems certain both will be the top two picks.
Lynch has also benefited from these blockbuster trades. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Lynch is in play with the Browns at No. 8 following the trade with the Eagles. As of Tuesday, April 19, prior to Wednesday’s trade, our consensus mock draft had Lynch going 20th to the Jets.
With the Eagles’ and Rams’ moves to the top two picks, and the quarterback-hungry Browns still in the top 10, it may force other teams to trade up. The Jets, who are still in a standoff with Ryan Fitzpatrick, could be looking to draft a quarterback. Lynch may have been an option beforehand, but with the Browns interested with the eighth pick, the Jets would need to make a drastic trade into the top seven.
This could also raise the stock of quarterbacks like Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Michigan State’s Connor Cook. Neither have seemed like first-round picks, but with the top three prospects potentially being taken in the top 10, a team like the Broncos might pull the trigger on one of them late in the first round.
This isn’t necessarily a reflection of the value of any of the prospects. Though many of them could turn out to be good players, the consensus has been that even the best will need a few years to develop. Rather, it shows that there’s a real hunger for quarterbacks in the NFL. Despite a lack of prospects who look like franchise-changing quarterbacks, teams are still scrambling to get their hands on players who could potentially turn into reliable passers.