As of now, it looks like what happens in the NFL Draft’s first round hinges on a quarterback with one year of college starting experience.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes Mitchell Trubisky is the key to what happens up top on draft day – and draft weekend, for that matter. The Cleveland Browns want Trubisky, football’s Mr. Ohio in 2012 and a Browns fan who once told his college offensive coordinator he wanted to put a stop to the revolving door at the franchise’s top position. However, if they truly want to take the Mentor, Ohio native, the Browns will have to fight some stiff competition to get him as it is becoming increasingly clear that the North Carolina product won’t be available when the Browns make their second first-round pick, which is 12th overall.
Enter the Chicago Bears, a team that owns the third overall pick but covets the value of trading down and adding multiple picks in a deep draft at positions of need – needs that exist even after a free agent spending spree. Chicago could take Trubisky for itself and allow him to develop under Mike Glennon until he is ready to take the reins. A more likely scenario might be the Bears and Browns working out a deal for the third pick that involves general manager Ryan Pace extracting Cleveland’s 12th, 33rd, and 52nd picks for the right to move up to the third spot to take Trubisky.
If the Browns want to trade up from the 12th overall pick to snag their quarterback, it will be costly. Unfortunately, the Bears aren’t the only team that can offer the Browns a chance at Trubisky. The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints own the fourth, sixth, seventh, 10th and 11th picks in the draft. Each of those teams picks ahead of Cleveland, and each can make a case for taking Trubisky, causing the Browns to make a move (at what might be at a lesser cost than dealing with the Bears) to prevent them from doing so.
- The Jets can plug him in as a starter immediately, or after a friendly competition with old friend Josh McCown.
- The Jaguars make Trubisky part of a camp competition with returning starters Blake Bortles, the team’s first-round pick in 2014 who regressed in 2016 after throwing for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015.
- A similar scenario could unfold in Buffalo where quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been a surprisingly efficient quarterback for the Bills, who seemed unwilling to commit to him and nearly allowed him to hit free agency before his contract was restructured.
- The Chargers and Saints could each pluck Trubisky as their quarterback-of-the-future, allowing him time to develop behind entrenched, but aging starters Philip Rivers (Los Angeles) and Drew Brees (New Orleans).
Then, of course, there are the 49ers, who themselves might want to take Trubisky at two, or trade out of that spot for the same reason, leaving the Bears without the option.
Trading out of the third pick doesn’t happen often. As Biggs notes, it has happened only three times since 2000. Washington dealt two first-rounders (Nos. 12 and 24) to San Francisco to acquire offensive lineman Chris Samuels in 2000. It happened again 12 years later when the Cleveland (see, it has a history here!) made a deal with Minnesota (in which the Vikings acquired the 4th, 118th, 139th, and 211th picks) to take running back Trent Richardson. A year later, Miami executed a trade with Oakland to take defensive lineman Dion Jordan third, with the Raiders acquiring the 12th and 42nd picks.
If the Bears stick with the third pick, Biggs hears the team will be choosing between Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, LSU safety Jamal Adams, and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Each of these three players are regarded as some of the best at their respective positions and would fit some of the Bears’ needs. And yet, it would be another year that passes since the Bears have taken a quarterback in the first round during an era in which the team is searching for a long-term solution for a long-time problem.