At No. 2, the Detroit Lions could potentially take a cornerback, which would be the highest slot that position has ever been drafted. Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, known as Sauce, who did not allow a receiving touchdown in his collegiate career, seems to be the likely choice.
Only two quarterbacks — Liberty’s Malik Willis and Mississippi’s Matt Corral — will be on hand.
Potential first-round picks who declined the N.F.L.’s invitation and will participate in the draft remotely include Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and Louisiana State cornerback Derek Stingley.
Why are there so few quarterbacks in attendance?
Because this year’s group — unlike last year, when five teams selected quarterbacks within the first 15 picks — is considered weak by evaluators. The Athletic’s most recent mock draft projects only three quarterbacks will be taken in the first round.
The Carolina Panthers, who currently hold the No. 6 overall pick, are considered the earliest team that could select a quarterback and the Pittsburgh Steelers, drafting at No. 20, could also choose a quarterback as they rebuild after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement in January and the death of Dwayne Haskins this month.
Each of the top passing prospects in this year’s draft has a notable knock against him. Pickett reportedly has small hands. Willis’s strong arm and mobility haven’t negated concerns over his accuracy and decision-making ability. Corral, who won 10 games last season in the competitive Southeastern Conference, injured his ankle during a bowl game and did not participate in the scouting combine. Questions about his health have lingered, though he threw for N.F.L. scouts at Mississippi’s pro day workout.
Which position groups are the strongest, then?
Defensive lineman, by far. The Athletic’s mock draft predicts that eight defensive linemen and edge rushers will be taken in the first round, including three — Hutchinson, Walker and Thibodeaux — in the first five picks.
The demand for those players atop the draft demonstrates the league’s renewed emphasis on pass rushers after successive Super Bowl wins by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams, teams whose defenses dominated the line of scrimmage. Offensively, teams will look to protect their quarterbacks and give them passing targets, as seven offensive linemen and six wide receivers are projected as first-round picks.