By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi
The NFL Draft will commence Thursday, but instead of in the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it is online. Never thought I would be saying those words in my lifetime. Anyways, this year’s draft presents a lot of compelling storylines, such as finding quarterbacks that could be Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s successor, the Justin Herbert and Tua debate, Chase Young to the Redskins, and the plethora of veterans that could be traded for draft picks. Here are the storylines to watch out for in this year’s NFL Draft:
Saransh’s Storyline: Herbert or Tua? Who’s the First QB After Joe Burrow?
Joe Burrow being the Number 1 overall pick is something that has been established for quite a while now, but the quarterback contention after him is what really gets interesting. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama was the obvious Number 1 overall choice until Joe Burrow and LSU beat them back in November, and then Tua’s chances were completely thrown out the window when he hurt his hip and his season was over for good. Since then, Tua has been fully recovered since February, and had been doing workouts and drills with teams, and was at the Combine. Despite that, scouts and analysts, including myself, still wonder how he will be able to prevent another major injury that could derail his career, as this one nearly did.
The other big-name quarterback heading into this year’s draft is Justin Herbert out of Oregon, whom many thought would have entered the draft last year and could have been a first-round pick. He has now upped his stock and could potentially be a top-5 pick in the draft. While he could not lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he led them to a Pac-12 Championship victory, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Having had his best season yet as a college quarterback and winning so many big games after a very rough season for the team the year prior, that along with his Combine and Pro Day showings are having people put Herbert ahead of Tua in their draft boards.
In the top 6 picks of this draft, 3 teams, those being the Detroit Lions at Number 3, the Miami Dolphins at Number 5, and the LA Chargers at Number 6, they all need a quarterback, and Herbert and Tua will be the first guys looked at. While I believe the reports that the Lions are trading down and believe they will trade down, I see Herbert going first over Tua, and going to South Beach and quarterbacking the Dolphins and their young yet exciting offense for the next few years, and Tua going to LA. If the Lions do not trade, however, I expect Herbert in Detroit, Tua in Miami, and then Jordan Love in LA, although speaking of Love, the soft-spoken quarterback of Utah State is someone worth mentioning in this conversation. Love could potentially go higher than both Herbert and Tua, but he could also end up as a late first-rounder, or even early second-rounder, depending on how teams judge him, much like Josh Allen did in 2018, going to the Bills, yet many even thought he could surpass Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and go first in the draft. Keep an eye out for Love, but Tua and Herbert will be the ones getting all the attention.
Rohan’s Storyline: Where Will Trent Williams Finally Be Traded to and What For?
Trent Williams has still yet to be traded by the Redskins despite publicly demanding a trade in late March, but it could happen in this year’s draft. NBC’s Peter King recently reported that Trent Williams is the most likely player to get traded during the draft. Even though the Trent Williams holdout saga has been going on since June of last year, the Redskins still hold all of the leverage in a potential trade. Under the new CBA, if Trent sits out another year, he will not be able to enter free agency and remain a Redskin. He can either play this upcoming season and show his worth, or sit out and incur a ton of fines. Furthermore, Trent is an All-Pro Left Tackle and is still one of the best offensive lineman in the league, so Washington can still get a decent return. Now, which teams in the league make the most sense to acquire Williams? I am going to go with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Minnesota Vikings, with Cleveland being the most likely destination.
ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this morning that Trent Williams is “still on the table” for Cleveland. If the Browns miss out on or elect to not draft one of the top tackles who include Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas, then I think this significantly boosts the chances of a deal that sends Trent to Cleveland. Baker Mayfield took 40 sacks in 2019, and adding a top tier tackle would shore up the left side of the line for the Browns. The Browns also have offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who worked with Trent his whole career in Washington. I predict the Browns will trade for Trent since they have been the team showing interest for a while now, but as mentioned Los Angeles and Minnesota could trade for him too. I expect the Redskins to start fielding calls after the top 4 tackles in this draft are taken. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Redskins will only trade him for a package of comparable value, but what would that package consist of? I think they are asking for at least a 2nd-rounder, but at this point it seems at least a 3rd-round pick is more reasonable. If a trade with Cleveland were to happen, my prediction is that Washington will receive Pick #74 (3rd-rounder) and Pick #187 (6th-rounder) in this year’s draft.
Pranav’s Storyline: Should New England Stick with Stidham, or Find a New QB?
Tom Brady leaving New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest storyline of the offseason, leaving the Patriots with a huge problem: filling Brady’s shoes. After a 20 year run, Bill Belichick has to look for a new quarterback in a league with not many options. During the Brady era in New England, the coaching staff had great quarterbacks on the roster to help out when Brady was unavailable, from the 2009 season with Matt Cassel who went 10-6 (somehow missing the playoffs), to the 2016 season where Brady’s suspension from the year before came into effect, giving both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the opportunity to perform for New England. Both quarterbacks played well under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s coaching scheme, but due to the threat that they would likely take Brady’s spot as a starter later, owner Robert Kraft shipped them out to other teams.
The 2020 Patriots are now left with Jarrett Stidham, a young quarterback from LSU, who showed promising features through various training camp meetings, practices, and mostly during the pre season games. The Patriots also hold 12 draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft (4 compensatory picks), including the 23rd pick. Since this draft has only a few stellar quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert), who will be taken very early, the New England Patriots would be left with quarterback picks like Jordan Love, who is an above average quarterback from Utah State. If I was Bill Belichick, I would put my money on Jarrett Stidham, giving him a year under center, and letting the first round pick in the draft go to another position in need, such as safety or defensive end. The Patriots have had a lot of success in trusting a no name quarterback to lead the team in the most difficult situations, so maybe Stidham can outperform initial expectations and prove that he was the right choice. You never know, Jarrett Stidham could be the next Tom Brady…