Anticipation grows ahead of NFL Draft: What to know

The NFL never really stops, so the offseason continues with the draft starting Thursday night.

The Carolina Panthers have the No. 1 overall pick and, as usual, a lot of the hype surrounds the quarterbacks. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are among the coveted prospects.

The draft is a three-day extravaganza in Kansas City, Missouri, starting Thursday night.

The first round begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time. The second and third rounds are on Friday starting at 7 p.m. The fourth through seventh rounds are on Saturday starting at 12 p.m.

The Panthers have the No. 1 pick in the draft after making a trade with the Chicago Bears.

After that, the Houston Texans select at No. 2, while the Arizona Cardinals are No. 3. The Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks round out the top 5, respectively.

The Panthers are expected to take a quarterback with the top selection. The candidates include Young, Stroud, Levis and Richardson.

While most NFL experts have the Panthers selecting either Young or Stroud, in his latest mock draft Wednesday, CBS Sports senior writer Pete Prisco went out on a limb and argued that the Panthers should, instead, take Levis No. 1 overall.

“His situation was terrible at Kentucky last year,” Prisco argued. “But the disdain for his game has gone over the top and Carolina would be getting a future star if they took him.”

In his own mock draft of what NFL teams are most likely to do, however, CBS News senior NFL reporter and insider Jonathan Jones took a more conventional approach, projecting the Panthers will take Young first overall. Jones then projects the Texans bypassing a quarterback and going with Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. with the second pick. Jones has Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. going to the Cardinals at No. 3, Levis to the Colts at No. 4, and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter to the Seahawks at No. 5.

It’s yet to be known if Carter’s draft stock will be affected by a January crash in which a Georgia teammate and a team staff member were killed. Carter, who was behind the wheel of the vehicle, pleaded no contest last month to misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to 12 months of probation. 

Not every team has a draft pick in the first round. The Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers will sit the first night out unless they make a trade.

Four of the five teams are out of the first round because of trades. The one exception is the Dolphins. The NFL punished the franchise by taking away its 2023 first-round and 2024 third-round pick after a probe found the team tampered with quarterback Tom Brady and coach Sean Payton.

The most loaded position in this draft might just be at tight end. The record for tight ends drafted in the first round is three, most recently done in 2017. There is a chance that gets broken and more tight ends go in the first round than wideouts.

Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, Georgia’s Darnell Washington and Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave all have their fans and could be among those selected Thursday night.

The draft could also be a semi-renaissance for the running back spot. Texas’ Bijan Robinson is one of the most coveted prospects at his position in the past decade. Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, Texas A&M’s Devon Achane, UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet and Tulane’s Tyjae Spears are also talented prospects.

In his mock draft, Jones has the Atlanta Falcons taking Robinson at No. 8.  

At least one team has already decided to address their quarterback situation by adding a veteran via trade. The New York Jets acquired veteran Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers earlier this week in a long-expected blockbuster deal that also has draft implications.

The Jets received Rodgers, the No. 15 overall pick and a fifth-rounder this year from the Packers. In exchange, Green Bay will get the 13th overall selection, a second-rounder (No. 42) and a sixth-rounder this year, and a conditional 2024 second-round pick that can become a first-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% of plays for New York this season.

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