With all the general managers, coaches and scouts in attendance for the Senior Bowl there is a lot of chatter going around. Here are some of the highlights from around the league on day three of the 2018 Senior Bowl week.
In speaking with a few general managers and sources at other teams, including some directors of college scouting, they all felt that there would probably be three quarterbacks who are chosen in the top 10 picks of the 2018 NFL Draft. Those three signal-callers are UCLA's Josh Rosen, USC's Sam Darnold, and Wyoming's Josh Allen. After that trio, they thought two more quarterbacks would go in the first round, with those being Louisville's Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. They expect Jackson and Mayfield to be mid-to-late first-rounders.
Of course, it is very early in the process, and prospects could get hot to rise high or cold to drop low. The combine and pre-draft interviews always push some players up, with others going down. A big market of free agent quarterbacks will also shake up the draft and which teams will be selecting signal-callers in the first round. However, at this early point in the process, it sounds like there will be three quarterbacks who get selected in the top 10 and five total in the first round.
The New York Jets are one of the teams that will figure heavily into the quarterback discussion. Earlier this week, we reported how the Jets plan on being active in free agency. Jets sources indicate that the quarterback need is more likely to be filled in the draft. Sources with the New York are being very tight-lipped on their thoughts about the first-round quarterbacks. That being said, after speaking with top evaluators at the team, my gut feeling is telling me that Wyoming's Josh Allen is their favorite among the quarterback prospects. General manager Mike Maccagnan has preferred big quarterbacks, and Allen certainly fits that description. New York also has ammo to move up for the quarterback they want with two second-round picks and four total selections in top 72.
Two years ago, speaking to sources at the Jets and reading their reactions led to me nailing them taking Christian Hackenberg in the 2016 NFL Draft. Last year, I listened to them, and that led me having them pass on Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. While it is still early in the process, right now I feel that Allen seems to be the Jets' guy.
Sources with a few teams have told me that the Senior Bowl quarterbacks prospects have interviewed well overall with impressive sessions in front of the top evaluators at each team. The quarterbacks who were specifically named as interviewing well were Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Luke Falk and Tanner Lee. A few team sources said that Rudolph is very smart. Allen is said to be a great kid as well. Baker Mayfield wasn't included in that feedback because of his late arrival to Senior Bowl. Teams are eager to see how the underclassmen quarterbacks interview at the combine in comparison to the strong group at the Senior Bowl.
The Redskins are another team that could be aggressive to move up for a quarterback, assuming they don't re-sign Kirk Cousins or acquire another veteran starter. If Washington misses out on the quarterbacks or doesn't need to take one, the Redskins have a variety of options to consider in the first round. The Redskins could use more defensive line help next to impressive rookie Jonathan Allen. Alabama nose tackle Da'Ron Payne is a favorite of sources with Washington, and they love the idea of reuniting Payne and Allen. The team is not as high on Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.
Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is another favorite of Redskins' sources, but they don't believe Fitzpatrick will get to their pick (though they thought the same thing about Jonathan Allen last year). The Redskins have high hopes for second-year safety Montae Nicholson and think he could turn into an excellent pro. D.J. Swearinger also played well for Washington, so safety isn't a critical need for Washington.
Offensively, the Redskins would like to add more talent at wide receiver and running back this offseason. They also are planning on adding a guard in free agency or the draft.
The quarterback position is the top priority, but if the Redskins aren't taking a signal-caller, it sounds like the defensive front seven is the next priority.
While high up in the Arizona Cardinals' front office, Jason Licht was part of a front office that took a guard with the seventh-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Now, as general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Licht could be using the seventh-overall pick five years later on a guard in Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson. In my Monday Morning Draft column at the conclusion of Week 3 last fall, I revealed how sources with the Bucs already had taken a huge liking to Nelson. As the season played out, Tampa Bay did not have an adequate running game or pass protection for Jameis Winston. Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter need a big season out of Winston to maintain their positions beyond this season.
Guard is a real need for Tampa Bay, and Nelson is a plug-and-play starter who will immediately improve the Buccaneers' rushing offense and protection for Winston. The Buccaneers would love it if Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb fell to their pick, but Tampa Bay believes that both will be long gone when the team is on the clock. Still, sources with the Buccaneers believe that Nelson could become the best guard in the NFL in short order and has Hall of Fame potential. While taking a guard isn't the sexiest of picks, Nelson could be a perfect fit for Tampa Bay.