On the heels of one of the most unpredictable NFL drafts since the common draft era began in 1967, the No. 1 overall pick has become an unknown over the past five years. It wasn’t until a week before the 2022 draft that it became clear Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker was the front-runner to be the top pick. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was a consensus top selection in 2021, but in the three years prior, unlikely quarterbacks made monumental leaps to the top of the board.
In 2020, Joe Burrow was known as a solid backup quarterback at Ohio State prior to his magical national title season at LSU. Baker Mayfield (2018) and Kyler Murray (2019) continued an impressive Oklahoma quarterback pipeline on their way to become the first name announced on draft night, but neither were seen as Round 1 picks in the summer before their final college seasons.
Could the same happen ahead of the 2023 NFL draft? There have been only three positions selected with the top pick since 2000: quarterback (16 times), defensive end (five) and offensive tackle (two). Considering that each is considered to be a premium position, it’s fair to say that the top pick in 2023 likely will come from one of those spots.
Let’s take a run through the most likely candidates, with a look at why each could make the leap and a way-too-early projected percentage chance that each could land at No. 1:
The serious contenders
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Predicted chance of going No. 1 overall: 20%
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