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Quarterback Remains Driver Of NFL Draft Speculation

Cardinals figure to have options at No. 4 as teams sort evaluations

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy could be the linchpin to the top of the draft, as speculation continues about if the first three or even four picks will be quarterbacks.
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy could be the linchpin to the top of the draft, as speculation continues about if the first three or even four picks will be quarterbacks.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Sean Payton needs a long-term quarterback on his team, after the Broncos moved on from Russell Wilson.

So do the Vikings. And perhaps the Raiders. Not to mention the three teams at the top of the draft: the Bears, Commanders and Patriots.

"It's good to be Monti (Ossenfort) right now," Payton said Monday morning during the AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL annual spring meeting.

The comment made the Cardinals general manager chuckle, acknowledging he had a long day previous fitting in a Disney trip with the family into his work here at the Ritz-Carlton.

"It was nice of Sean to notice the position we are in," Ossenfort said.

Ossenfort is no doubt having the conversations he acknowledged last week would be coming. But as the AFC coaches spoke – the NFC coaches, including Jonathan Gannon, meet the media Tuesday morning – the narrative continued that QBs, and the league's chase to find them, will control the night of April 25.

"It's hard to predict what that cost is (to trade up)," Payton said.

The Bears are going to take a QB. The Commanders, for now, are playing coy with an implication they could be willing to deal – although if they do, quarterback will be the pick at No. 2, whether it is Washington or some other team.

Before the Cardinals pick at No. 4, however, the Patriots are at No. 3.

Caleb Williams is considered the top QB prospect, but the perspective between Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels has been back and forth, and then there is the possibility of J.J. McCarthy sneaking into the conversation (if he isn't there already.)

The QB success rate is never 100 percent. Even if three – or four – QBs go in the top five, history says there will be at least one mistake or two. Patriots coach Jerod Mayo acknowledged the idea his team could trade out of the spot for another QB-hungry team and take, for instance, a left tackle and wide receiver that the team needs.

The idea of building up the roster first and then finding a quarterback is an option.

"I know everyone likes to think they have the special formula to picking players but honestly the guaranteed way to win is to accumulate more picks," Mayo said Monday. "So if we don't feel convicted at No. 3, we are willing to do that as well."

If there are four quarterbacks that might go, however, it indeed will be good to be Ossenfort. (It could be good for the Chargers at 5 as well, with new coach Jim Harbaugh noting that if QBs go 1-4, "that's like the No. 1 pick of the draft for teams that have a great quarterback already.)

The issue with waiting, as Mayo said, is that the QBs that find the most success are usually found at the top of the draft. That's why Payton said it was realistic his team could trade up from 12, or why the Vikings – holding picks 11 and 23 – are expected to make a move up. Because 11 or 12 isn't where you find the best QB prospect.

Four might be.

"It's a product of the teams in front of us, where everybody seems to think they are all locked in to picking quarterback, quarterback, quarterback," Ossenfort said. "Whether that manifests itself, who knows? I don't think anybody quite knows that.

"It's a product of what's in front of us, really, more than what we are trying to do."