The NFL Draft is less than a week away. As we prepare for the draft, it’s time to consider which teams could see major shifts. Over the next few pieces, I’ll be looking at QB, RB, and WR groups that figure to change thanks to the draft, highlighting three in each category. Today that begins with QB Rooms.
On the Roster: Sam Darnold and PJ Walker
About: Darnold was a big acquisition for the Panthers last off-season. The team was so hopeful that they picked up his Fifth-Year option without seeing him play a game. The Panthers got off to a hot start, which gave fans hope. But it didn’t last, and Darnold didn’t appear to be the answer for Matt Rhule. Darnold finished 4-7 in 11 starts, completing 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, 9 touchdowns and 13 INTs. This off-season, it’s been clear that while Darnold is still a Panther, he’s not viewed as The Guy. Neither is Walker, who showed out some in the last iteration of the XFL but hasn’t seemed like a solid NFL starter. The Panthers hold the No. 6 overall pick in the draft and seem to be the team most likely to want a change at quarterback.
The rumblings are that it’s possible the team could look at former Browns’ starter Baker Mayfield or 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Both are available for trade. Or the Panthers could use their pick to snag a quarterback—likely having their pick of the Class of ’22. Either way, I expect the Panthers to change their current quarterback room before the end of the draft.
Prediction: I think the Panthers take a quarterback at No. 6 overall. While he wouldn’t be my No. 1 quarterback, I think the Panthers end up with Kenny Pickett out of Pitt.
On the Roster: Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph
About: The Ben Roethlisberger era has ended as the long-time starting quarterback retired. The Steelers still have Rudolph, once a Third-Round pick who has started at times over the past three seasons. As a rookie, he started eight games, going 5-3. But the team made alternate plans, signing Trubisky this off-season. Trubisky was once the No. 2 overall pick by the Bears. He went 29-21 in four seasons in Chicago, completing 64 percent of his passes for 10,609 yards, 64 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. The numbers aren’t bad but Trubisky never felt like a good fit with Matt Nagy in Chicago. The team didn’t pick up his Fifth-Year option, so he spent 2021 as a backup in Buffalo. Now, he’s ready for a second chance. It seemed like an interesting signing for a solid Pittsburgh Steelers team. But are they done?
The Steelers hold the No. 20 overall pick, which has led to speculation Trubisky is nothing more than a bridge option. That’s possibly true, though I want to see what Trubisky can do away from Nagy and the Bears’ dysfunctional offense. Regardless, I think the Steelers’ still have moves to make at quarterback.
Prediction: The Steelers are a patient franchise, one that hasn’t had a losing season in some time. The team has other needs to remain competitive which is why I think they eschew taking a quarterback at No. 20 overall. But I think the Steelers will wait and snag one of the Top 5 QB candidates that falls to them in the Second Round, content to let the prospect develop on the bench as they may move on from Rudolph when his contract expires at the end of the 2022 season. My prediction is Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.
On the Roster: Jared Goff, David Blough, Tim Boyle, and Steven Montez
About: The Lions are in the midst of a re-build. While the team only won three games in 2021, Dan Campbell brought some fight and fun intensity to Detroit. Last season the team played with Goff, who was traded from the Rams for Matthew Stafford. While Stafford and the Rams won the Super Bowl, Goff played solidly and the Lions earned the No. 2 overall pick. Since the trade speculation has been that Goff is just a placeholder, but when does that time in the starters’ seat end?
The Lions have a pair of First-Round picks, at No. 2 and No. 32 overall. Some have speculated the Lions will use the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. I’m skeptical. The team is still building something and has a number of needs. Goff was far from the Lions’ biggest problem. In 2021, despite a makeshift receiver group and a building team, Goff completed more than 67 percent of his passes, throwing for 3,245 yards, 19 TDs and eight INTs. He’s a competent starter, meaning the team doesn’t need someone for Week 1. That doesn’t mean they will stand pat in the draft.
Prediction: I think the Lions will grab an elite player at No. 2 overall and snag a potential future franchise quarterback late in the draft. My pick is that North Carolina’s Sam Howell ends up a Lion by the end of Thursday night.
Matthew Fox is a member of the FSWA. He’s a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ Homer. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.