Four quarterbacks are certain to go in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, all of them early.
Five might be off the board midway through the top 32 picks. And, who knows given the desperation pro teams are displaying about finding that franchise QB, we could see six of them go on opening night.
Barring trades — and there will be a few of them — here’s one attempt at a mock draft.
Once more, the Browns try to find their long-term guy at the key offensive position. There are plenty of positives and enough negatives about the top four quarterbacks to make this a crapshoot. We’ll roll with the QB with the most upside …
JOSH ALLEN, QB, WYOMING
2. New York Giants
Despite the screams from Big Blue fans to find the replacement for Eli Manning, the Giants believe he has two or three very good years left. So do we. Helping Manning recapture the glory will be the highest-rated player in the entire draft.
SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis)
They traded to this spot with one express purpose: finding the next Joe Namath. Or a reasonable facsimile.
SAM DARNOLD, QB, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
4. Cleveland (from Houston)
The Browns took a stud defensive end last year at the top in Myles Garrett. They get to bookend him with this crop’s top defensive player.
BRADLEY CHUBB, DE, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Many teams will call the Broncos when they see that two of the hyped quarterbacks remain. John Elway will listen, then will grab what he hopes will be the next, well, John Elway.
BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
6. Indianapolis (from N.Y. Jets)
If they don’t trade again — and if they’re convinced Andrew Luck will, indeed, return to Pro Bowl form — the Colts have lots of options here. They also have tons of needs.
QUENTON NELSON, G, NOTRE DAME
7. Tampa Bay
Nelson would have been on the Bucs‘ radar, but no other blocker rates in the top 10, so they turn to filling a hole on defense with …
DENZEL WARD, CB, OHIO STATE
Certainly not in the quarterback derby after their bold move for Mitchell Trubisky a year ago, the Bears can go many ways here. The most help for them to go up in the NFC North is …
TREMAINE EDMUNDS, LB, VIRGINIA TECH
9. San Francisco
With Jimmy G in the fold for years (and multi-millions), the rapidly rebuilding and improving 49ers get a stud on the defensive side reminiscent of Patrick Willis.
ROQUAN SMITH, LB, GEORGIA
Predicting what Jon Gruden ever will do — such as leaving the comfort of the broadcast booth for the Black Hole — is foolhardy. Then again, what is a mock draft?
MINKAH FITZPATRICK, S, ALABAMA
The Dolphins worked on every kind of scenario to get them into the QB derby. Guess what: Miami’s staying put was the best strategy.
JOSH ROSEN, QB, UCLA
12. Buffalo (from Cincinnati)
Lots of groaning going on in Western New York after division rival Miami takes Rosen. The Bills could reach here for a quarterback, but are better served addressing the chasm on the offensive line with …
MIKE McGLINCHY, T, Notre Dame
Other than the trade for Alex Smith, a big one of course, the Redskins have been relatively quiet this offseason. There’s a need on the defensive line and in the secondary. With such a choice, go for the pass rusher.
MARCUS DAVENPORT, DE, UTSA
14. Green Bay
This is not a top-heavy draft for receivers, but one stands out as a first-rounder. Aaron Rodgers has expressed some “differences” with the Packers on offseason moves, but will like this one.
CALVIN RIDLEY, WR, ALABAMA
Bruce Arians is gone. Carson Palmer is gone. Most significantly, Tyrann Mathieu is gone, and that’s the guy who will be replaced here.
DERWIN JAMES, S, FLORIDA STATE
Ozzie Newsome’s last draft. The GM has been spot-on so many times in his tenure, but he’s also missed recently with some high picks. Baltimore’s offense needs a boost.
DERRIUS GUICE, RB, LSU
17. L.A. Chargers
We said the Giants weren’t looking at the future replacement for Eli Manning. The Chargers, who traded Manning’s rights to New York back in 2004 and got Philip Rivers, take a different approach.
LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
Don’t you dare utter the world “rebuild” around GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. Not even in a whisper. Still, this roster needs some big-time hits in the draft. Maybe start with …
JOSH JACKSON, CB, IOWA
A receiver would seem to make sense, except no wideouts warrant this spot. Edge rusher does, as well as almost anybody on defense. Cowboys take big guy in middle.
VITA VEA, DT, WASHINGTON
Matt Patricia is a defensive coach and the Lions have enough needs there for him to skip filling the holes at tight end or running back to get an all-around stud.
HAROLD LANDRY, DE-LB, BOSTON COLLEGE
21. Cincinnati (from Buffalo)
Anyone and everyone is on the board for Cincinnati, which never shies away from character issues with its players. There aren’t such issues with …
WILL HERNANDEZ, G, UTEP
22. Buffalo (from Kansas City)
Missing on their quarterback earlier in this round, the Bills ponder whether to gamble a bit on a signal caller here. They also know the Patriots, up next, have a liking for …
MASON RUDOLPH, QB, OKLAHOMA STATE
23. New England (from L.A. Rams)
After seeing his defense torched in the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick must have been gritting his teeth for 2 months. He gets one player to help shore up the unit in …
LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, LB, BOISE STATE
Cam Newton has done some of his best work, including winning league MVP honors, when he’s had deep threats to throw to. Torrey Smith isn’t the answer, but maybe this pick will provide the guy.
CHRISTIAN KIRK, WR, TEXAS A&M
New coach Mike Vrabel, like Detroit’s Patricia, comes from the New England defensive stable. He’ll appreciate the chance to upgrade the defense with …
DA’RON PAYNE, DT, ALABAMA
Another team seeking defensive help, particularly someone inside who can occupy blockers, penetrate gaps and has enough versatility to play run and pass. That guy is …
TAVEN BRYAN, DT, FLORIDA
27. New Orleans
Coming off one of the best drafts in team history, the Saints would be thrilled to come close this time. Tight end is their biggest need and you know Drew Brees will make good use of …
HAYDEN HURST, TE, SOUTH CAROLINA
The way the Steel Curtain was torn asunder by Jacksonville in the playoffs, folks in Pittsburgh must be rabid in their desire for a return to normalcy. One pick won’t do that, but the Steelers make a good start with …
RASHAAN EVANS, LB, ALABAMA
Following a superb turnaround, the Jaguars will be a focal point team for the first time in years. A target for Blake Bortles, to whom they are committed for three more years, is an important step.
D.J. MOORE, WR, MARYLAND
After their megadeal with Kirk Cousins, it would be shocking if the Vikings don’t address his protectors. Several times.
ISAIAH WYNN, G, GEORGIA
31. New England
Belichick went defense at No. 23. Now, he goes … defense.
JAIRE ALEXANDER, CB, LSU
The Super Bowl champions — it might sound weird, but the Eagles are legit to contend again in 2018 — could go a popular route and take Penn State TE Mike Gesicki. More likely is aiding the offensive line.
CONNOR WILLIAMS, G, TEXAS