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The NFL Draft Has Shifted Hard To QB As Pick No. 1

The draft is 10 days out and the speculation to what the Cardinals will do with the No. 1 overall pick continues. GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury will hold their annual pre-draft press conference Tuesday (it can be seen live at noon Arizona time by going to, and we will see what will be said. (I am guessing not a whole lot.) Whereas it felt the national perspective all of March was that the Cardinals would no doubt take Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with that first pick, now it seems such certainty has been tempered. Mystery remains. Maybe a trade is still in play. Maybe the Cards go in a different direction.

But in working through some of the history of the draft and No. 1 overall picks (you can see our entries for the daily series "The One At 1" here), I was struck by a perhaps unsurprising fact. In the last 21 drafts -- dating back to Peyton Manning with the Colts in 1998, quarterback has been the choice 15 times as the No. 1 overall pick. It makes sense. QB is the most important position on the field.

But what really caught my attention is that in the 47 drafts (including six years of two No. 1 overall picks, when both the NFL and AFL had separate drafts) before that -- dating back to the last time the Cardinals had the No. 1 overall pick, in 1958 -- the top selection was a quarterback only 14 times. (The Cardinals actually took a QB, King Hill, in 1958.)

It makes sense, given how the late-90s was really when everything shifted in the NFL, when rules started moving toward throwing the ball a ton and Kurt Warner and the Rams made the Greatest Show on Turf not only explosive but proved it could win a Super Bowl. So quarterback just continued to rise in importance.

In those 21 drafts starting with Manning, the positions taken No. 1 overall that were not a quarterback included four defensive ends (guys who can sack those quarterbacks) and two left tackles. Given that, at this point, the Cardinals at No. 1 figure to take a pass rusher if they do not go with the quarterback, it'll fit right into recent history.

Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cam Newton.
Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cam Newton.