In the NFL these days, it's all about the quarterback. And stopping the quarterback.
Hence, the concept of positional value.
The growing importance of quarterbacks and the people who disrupt them − dynamic edge pass-rushers and cornerbacks who can play press-man coverage − has skewed the NFL draft a bit. The best players on the board might be running backs, guards or nose tackles, but teams must first give a long look at the quarterbacks, outside linebackers and cornerbacks simply because those positions are so valuable in the modern game.
The Green Bay Packers have their quarterback, but their beleaguered defense needs all the help it can get. By most estimates, there are 13 can't-miss prospects in the draft and the Packers' first-round pick is No. 14, which only adds to the drama when the three-day draft begins Thursday night.
Here is one look at how the first round could go:
No. 1 − Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold
Position: Quarterback School: USC
Notes: Four top quarterbacks, one draft pick. New general manager John Dorsey goes with the surest thing.
No. 2 − New York Giants: Saquon Barkley
Position: Running back School: Penn State
Notes: General manager Dave Gettleman thinks Eli Manning has another Super Bowl run in him.
No. 3 − New York Jets: Baker Mayfield
Position: Quarterback School: Oklahoma
Notes: Heisman Trophy winner has more than a little Joe Namath-type swagger to his game.
No. 4 − Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb
Position: Defensive end School: North Carolina State
Notes: With Chubb playing opposite 2017 No. 1 Myles Garrett, Browns have pass rush covered.
No. 5 − Denver Broncos: Josh Allen
Position: Quarterback School: Wyoming
Notes: Broncos likely will trade this pick to Bills but won't pass on a quarterback of the future if they keep it.
No. 6 − Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson
Position: Guard School: Notre Dame
Notes: Here's an idea, maybe Andrew Luck will stay healthy if the Colts give him some protection.
No. 7 − Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James
Position: Safety School: Florida State
Notes: Buccaneers need help all over their secondary but James is the best available playmaker.
No. 8 − Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds
Position: Inside linebacker School: Virginia Tech
Notes: If the Brian Urlacher comparisons are correct, how can the Bears not take Edmunds?
No. 9 − San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Ward
Position: Cornerback School: Ohio State
Notes: Ward adds great speed while pairing with ex-Seattle star Richard Sherman on the corners.
No. 10 − Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith
Position: Inside linebacker School: Georgia
Notes: Latest rage in the NFL is an inside linebacker who can cover, and Smith can run with wide receivers.
No. 11 − Miami Dolphins: Josh Rosen
Position: Quarterback School: UCLA
Notes: Time for Dolphins to move on from Ryan Tannehill, who hasn't been able to stay healthy in recent years.
No. 12 − Buffalo Bills: Mike McGlinchey
Position: Offensive tackle School: Notre Dame
Notes: I'm assuming the Bills will trade up with Broncos to get Allen, making McGlinchey Denver's pick.
No. 13 − Washington Redskins: Vita Vea
Position: Defensive tackle School: Washington
Notes: NFL's worst rushing defense needs a tackle and the massive Vea is the best one in the draft.
No. 14 − Green Bay Packers: Minkah Fitzpatrick
Position: Safety School: Alabama
Notes: James, Edmunds or Ward would be preferable but Packers like Fitzpatrick's versatility. If all are gone, edge-rusher Marcus Davenport is the pick.
No. 15 − Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson
Position: Quarterback School: Louisville
Notes: Cardinals have no choice because Carson Palmer retired and injury-prone Sam Bradford can't be trusted.
No. 16 − Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley
Position: Wide receiver School: Alabama
Notes: Outgoing general manager Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama guys. Besides, Joe Flacco needs help.
No. 17 − San Diego Chargers: Da'Ron Payne
Position: Defensive tackle School: Alabama
Notes: Elite ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram need a big run-stuffer to play between them on the line.
No. 18 − Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport
Positions: Defensive end/outside linebacker School: Texas-San Antonio
Notes: Long, fast edge-rusher looks like he was born to play in Pete Carroll's defense.
No. 19 − Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch
Position: Inside linebacker School: Boise State
Notes: Yes, the Cowboys need a wide receiver. They need a three-down linebacker even more.
No. 20 − Detroit Lions: Harold Landry
Position: Outside linebacker School: Boston College
Notes: New coach Matt Patricia needs speed and versatility in his New England-style defense.
No. 21 − Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price
Position: Center School: Ohio State
Notes: Cleared of injury concerns, Price will be anchor for Bengals' rebuilt offensive line.
No. 22 − Buffalo Bills: Jaire Alexander
Position: Cornerback School: Louisville
Notes: I'm projecting the Bills will convey this pick (plus the 12th pick) to Broncos in a trade.
No. 23 − New England Patriots: Kolton Miller
Position: Offensive tackle School: UCLA
Notes: Patriots could move up for a quarterback but need a new left tackle to protect the one they have.
No. 24 − Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore
Position: Wide receiver School: Maryland
Notes: Tough, quick and elusive, Moore reminds some scouts of retired Panthers legend Steve Smith.
No. 25 − Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans
Position: Inside linebacker School: Alabama
Notes: There are four high-end inside linebackers in the draft and Titans grab one while they can.
No. 26 − Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan
Position: Defensive tackle School: Florida
Notes: Not buying the J.J. Watt comparisons, but Falcons need Bryan to plug gaping hole on their defense.
No. 27 − New Orleans Saints: Mike Gesicki
Position: Tight end School: Penn State
Notes: Drew Brees has missed Jimmy Graham in the red zone and finally gets a replacement.
No. 28 − Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Hughes
Position: Cornerback School: Central Florida
Notes: Steelers' secondary is in a state of disrepair and Hughes fills the biggest need.
No. 29 − Jacksonville Jaguars: Hayden Hurst
Position: Tight end School: South Carolina
Notes: Field-stretching tight ends are in vogue in the NFL and the Jaguars find theirs.
No. 30 − Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez
Position: Guard School: UTEP
Notes: The Vikings didn't invest all that money in Kirk Cousins to watch him scramble for his life.
No. 31 − New England Patriots: Josh Jackson
Position: Cornerback School: Iowa
Notes: You might recall some guy named Nick Foles carving up Patriots' pass defense in the Super Bowl.
No. 32 − Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice
Position: Running back School: LSU
Notes: Dealing from a position of strength, Eagles can afford luxury of taking future workhorse back.