Hours before the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, there was no clarity on what the Arizona Cardinals will do with the No. 1 overall pick, although the consensus of a number of high-profile mock drafts is that Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray will be the man.
Meantime, plenty of national reporters speculated about which teams might be interested in first-round trades. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Steelers (No. 20) are exploring the idea of moving up to address defensive needs. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that several teams in the second half of the draft, starting with the Seahawks at No. 21, have shown interest in trading back. ESPN’s Dan Graziano suggested the Raiders (No. 4) could move up in pursuit of Nick Bosa. And NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said the Dolphins (No. 13) could be motivated to trade down. There were also continued reports that the Redskins (No. 15) could move up in pursuit of a quarterback.
Here’s a look at how a few well-known prognosticators think the top five picks will go.
1. Arizona: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
2. San Francisco 49ers: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
3. New York Jets DT: Quinnen Williams, Alabama
4. Oakland Raiders: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and Peter King of NBC and Football Morning in America see it a little differently, agreeing with Post contributor John Clayton: 1. Murray; 2. Bosa; 3. Oliver; 4. Williams and 5. LB Devin White, LSU.
Albert Breer of SI.com throws a monkey wrench into the whole shabingus with the Washington Redskins trading into the Jets’ No. 3 pick, with which they select Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Otherwise, he foresees the same top-five picks as Miller, King and Clayton.
Rotoworld’s Josh Norris has some fun things happening toward the end of the first round, with Haskins falling out of the first round entirely and Maryland safety Darnell Savage going 25th to the Eagles.
Draft prospect helps others in wake of tornado
Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson has been pressed into service helping the community of Ruston, La., in the wake of a deadly tornado.
According to ESPN, instead of spending his time watching the draft in hopes of being a first-round pick, Ferguson is out searching for survivors and delivering assistance. He also reportedly had no cellphone service.
“It speaks to this young man’s character,” his agent, Safarrah Lawson, said Thursday. “Hopefully his cell service will be restored soon so he can find out where he’s drafted."
Ferguson has been projected by some analysts as a likely second-round pick, in which case, his name would be called on Friday.
Arizona is keeping a secret
Unlike some teams with the No. 1 pick in recent years, the Cardinals have refused to reveal their choice or even to really tip their hand. Will they take Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner, or look elsewhere, perhaps at Bosa or Quinnen Williams? NFL.com’s Mike Silver reported on Thursday that the Cardinals “encouraged blunt evaluations from coaches and scouts . . . and emerged with a mind-set that three players . . . stood above the rest.”
Those three? Murray, Bosa and Williams, although Silver also wrote that “people could be surprised by the outcome.” Later Wednesday, Rapoport suggested that Arizona GM Steve Keim had reached out to Williams to let him know he’s still in the running.
Taking Murray would seem to be an acknowledgment that choosing Josh Rosen with the 10th pick overall a year ago didn’t pan out, but Kliff Kingsbury, the team’s first-year coach, gave Rosen a strong endorsement earlier this week. “I think Josh has done everything humanly possible to show what type of quarterback he is, what type of competitor he is,” Kingsbury said, via the Arizona Republic. “I’ve said it all along, I couldn’t be more impressed with his approach. He’s a great player. I mean, he was a top-10 pick for a reason. You see it out there how cerebral he is, how quickly he’s picked up our system. I was really impressed with his execution [Tuesday in an offseason workout].”
Rosen started 13 of his 14 games for the 3-13 Cardinals, completing 55 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards and 11 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. There’s a reason the Cardinals are struggling with this choice, as SI.com’s Robert Klemko points out. Arizona had the NFL’s worst offensive line last year and its receivers caught 55.6 percent of the passes thrown their way. And Larry Fitzgerald is 36.
What happens if the Cardinals don’t take Murray at No. 1 and if he slides down the draft board? Well, that could restart the debate over whether his future lies in baseball. He has an $18.66 million offer from the Oakland A’s, which, in NFL terms, would translate to a fully guaranteed, four-year deal of the type given to Josh Allen and Roquan Smith. This year, SI.com reported, $18.66 million guaranteed would be between what the 10th and 11th picks would get.
Jadeveon Clowney, Solomon Thomas available?
There are dueling reports about the status of Houston Texans linebacker Jadaveon Clowney. Despite an assurance last week by Houston Texans General Manager Brian Gaine that signing Clowney to a new contract is “still the plan,” the team is willing to listen to offers for him, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (via Pro Football Talk). Clowney has not yet signed his tender and it is believed that he and the team are not close to a deal. However, the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain reported that “Jadeveon Clowney’s not going anywhere. They want to sin him to an extension. If not, he’ll play under the franchise tag.”
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas, the third overall pick in the 2017 draft, also is the subject of trade rumors, according to Pro Football Talk. Does that mean the 49ers are leaning toward taking Bosa or Quinnen Williams?
An eye on New York (well, New Jersey)
Oliver, the defensive end out of Houston, is in a New York state of mind and you can’t really blame him. He says he’d love to play for Gregg Williams’s Jets defense or for the Giants. He’s a possibility for the Jets with the No. 3 pick, but he may well be gone by the time the Giants are on the clock with the sixth pick.
“One of the biggest markets,” Oliver said (via NorthJersey.com). “I’d love to play for New York. I enjoyed my visit to both of the New York teams. Nothing but good things were said in the meetings. Talking to those guys, they had big plans for me if they were to take me. I loved my visits out there.”
Redskins in the spotlight
The Redskins have the No. 15 pick in the first round, and Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams said the team is less likely to trade up than trade down.
“The chance of trading up is a lot slimmer than trading back,” Williams said this week. “If we got a chance to trade back, it all depends on who’s there . . . and whether you really like that guy and you want him on your football team, or you put yourself in a position to get a couple more draft picks or some other players that are out there. I’m going to go on the record and say that’s a possibility that we won’t trade up, but there’s a great possibility we’ll trade back if that opportunity came.”
And yet as national reporters churned through anonymously sourced reports in the run-up to Thursday’s first round, the Redskins were a frequent topic of discussion. Of course, the reports varied wildly and, as always, it’s worth remembering that much of the pre-draft buzz surrounding every team is hype, misdirection, baloney or some combination of the three. Still, it’s intriguing.
High praise for Quinnen Williams
The first round is loaded with Alabama players, with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams likely to be the first of Nick Saban’s players drafted. He gets high marks from London Fletcher, who thinks he’d be a good choice for the Jets with the No. 3 pick. Williams would be playing for Fletcher’s former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, in New York.
“I always thought that since I first came in and I redshirted that I was going to be a dominant player when I get on the field,” Williams said. “This time last year, no fans, no media, nobody knew who I was because I didn’t play. Now that the world sees that I was a dominant player, I have to keep going. I have to be consistent in everything I do.”
All this Williams talk brings us to the rest of the Crimson Tide. Saban had 13 players up for the taking, with offensive lineman Jonah Williams and running back Josh Jacobs likely to join Quinnen Williams as first-round selections. All three are in Nashville, but Saban won’t make an appearance. He’s recovering from hip replacement surgery.
Seattle trades Frank Clark for a first-round pick
The Seattle Seahawks made the week’s first big move Tuesday, agreeing to trade Frank Clark, their franchise-tagged defensive end, to the Kansas City Chiefs for a first-round pick this year and a second-round pick in 2020, according to multiple reports. The teams will also exchange third-round picks this year.
What of the Raiders?
The last few days before the draft are typically cloaked in mystery and misdirection, but the Oakland Raiders may have taken that to a new level. Last week, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock had sent their scouting department home because of a fear of leaks. This week, Rapoport reported that he understands the Raiders may be considering “some sort of surprise pick at number four that would necessitate absolute secrecy.”
Hmmmm. Rapoport added that while he doesn’t know what that pick might be, “I have some thoughts. Maybe that’s Devin White. Maybe it’s a quarterback like Dwayne Haskins or Kyler Murray if he’s there. Maybe it’s an offensive lineman . . . But from what I understand it is a pick that should surprise us at four.”
Cowboys sit this one out
The Dallas Cowboys aren’t regretting their decision to sit out the first round, trading their pick to the Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper. “I don’t think there is any buyer’s remorse there,” Stephen Jones, the team’s CEO and director of player personnel, said. “I think we are really pleased we made that move. But as [owner] Jerry [Jones] said, it’s painful to go through a draft without a No. 1 pick. We have looked at each other before and said we would never do that again. But certainly, after we have gone through the receivers and looked at that, I think we are very happy with where we have ended up in terms of what we could get at our pick in terms of a receiver or any other player in terms of what we ended up with with Amari.”
The Joneses will sit tight, barring a move, until Friday, when they’ll make their first selection in the second round with the 58th overall pick.
Pick-tipping is banned (for some)
Don’t look to ESPN and NFL Network to tip picks just before they are announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Their reporters have again been prohibited from doing so. If you’re looking to get a faster heads up, plenty of other reporters are not similarly restricted. It won’t take long to figure out which NFL writers are free to reveal teams’ picks the instant they’re apparent.
First-round draft order
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. New York Jets
4. Oakland Raiders
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. New York Giants
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
8. Detroit Lions
9. Buffalo Bills
10. Denver Broncos
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Green Bay Packers
13. Miami Dolphins
14. Atlanta Falcons
15. Washington Redskins
16. Carolina Panthers
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland)
18. Minnesota Vikings
19. Tennessee Titans
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
21. Seattle Seahawks
22. Baltimore Ravens
23. Houston Texans
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears)
25. Philadelphia Eagles
26. Indianapolis Colts
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys)
28. Los Angeles Chargers
29. Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City Chiefs, pending finalization of Clark trade)
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans Saints)
31. Los Angeles Rams
32. New England Patriots
How and when to watch
When: 8 p.m. Eastern Thursday; 7 p.m. Friday; and noon Saturday.
Where: Nashville. It’ll be held outdoors, moving into Schermerhorn Symphony Center if there are storms.
TV: ABC will broadcast all three days of the draft, including two nights in prime time for the first time, in a simulcast with ESPN and NFL Network.
Round 1 Thursday: ABC, ESPN/ESPN Deportes, NFL Network.
Rounds 2-3 Friday: ABC, ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, NFL Network.
Rounds 4-7, Saturday: ABC, ESPN/ESPN Deportes, NFL Network.
Read more NFL draft coverage from The Post: