For those avid football fans awaiting your annual September relapse, your appetizer is almost under way—the 2016 NFL draft. Here are five things you want to know going into Friday, other than the obvious questions about what kind of shameless humans are actually watching all the way through round seven on NFL network.
How will Jared Goff handle the pressure of being the first Los Angeles quarterback in 12 years?
If this ends up being a trigger-happy question, I apologize. But I’ll also be shocked. The decision seems to be as transparent as they come—the Rams, after just moving to Los Angeles, decided to cook the Titans an all-you-can-draft buffet in exchange for the first pick, while the most high profile quarterback in the draft is a California alum. It’s a surefire way to garner some fan support and give the franchise a legitimate shot at future contention if it pans out.
The former Golden Bear will be the starter in L.A. come week one, and the weight on his shoulders won’t just be that of the win columns but of the revenue. Quarterbacks sell jerseys, tickets, and fan optimism like no other position, so you’ll need one if you want to compete with the other large markets. Goff has to be that guy from the start, a promising young player who is skilled at playing behind the offensive line and also in front of the cameras. The fate of L.A. football could depend on it, and that might be the biggest pressure a rookie quarterback has ever faced.
Will any running backs receive first round honors?
It’s no secret that the old school NFL has been torn down at its roots. Our icons from this era will always be, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, not guys like Walter Payton or Barry Sanders. The position is still of great value, but the days of building an offense around a solid rushing attack are all but over.
With that said, it may still be worth it for some teams to make a charge at a halfback this year, in particular the Miami Dolphins. With the departure of Lamar Miller, they’ll be looking to fill in a big empty space. Given the shaky run blocking, it might not be the best news for loyal Ezekiel Elliot fans, but the Dolphins are in a prime position to land him with the thirteenth pick and add some spark to their offense immediately.
Where will the Chicago Bears look to improve?
Now for my personal point to look out for. My Bears have made it clear that it’s time to rebuild—partly by snubbing some of their greatest franchise players from respectable contract offers every summer—but there was so very little done well last year that the draft plan isn’t clear. If there is any sense left in the front office, it should be a defensive player—someone who can hopefully become a premier player at their position and lead the Sleeping Monsters of the Midway out of the abyss they’re in now. Shaq Lawson of Clemson comes to mind.
Will the Panthers attempt to replace Josh Norman?
The Panthers may have taken a big gamble on Norman’s 2015 success being an isolated pro bowl campaign, because the defending NFC champions are now missing one of their signature players. Failed contract negotiations aren’t uncommon with surging stars, especially when they’re already 28. But that won’t matter to the fans and doesn’t take any pressure off of the front office in Carolina. Eli Apple and William Jackson II are two names that could be available as secondary options by the time the Panthers pick.
Who gets the big pick?
The best pick in the draft and the Rookie of the Year can be two different things—Rookie of the Year is normally a quarterback, and often a pretty obvious early first round pick. It’s the likes of Tom Brady and Deacon Jones that make for captivating stories. This year, those dedicated fans slogging through the entire draft are bound to see at least one Pro Bowl level player go unnoticed for several rounds. It makes it exciting for fans of every team, that’s for certain.