Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson throws a pass during an NFL football Pro Day, Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NFL Draft Preview: How The Top Five Could Play Out

Beginning April 27 at 8 p.m., the future of many NFL franchises hangs in the balance. The NFL Draft is the most important night of the offseason and many teams are gearing up to select a player that could become a cornerstone of their roster.

This is expected to be a quarterback-heavy draft at the top, with 3-to-4 out of the first five teams expected to take a passer.

In that category, there is no obvious choice; each of the top quarterbacks on the board has a flaw. For Alabama’s Bryce Young, it’s size. With Florida’s Anthony Richardson, it’s decision making in pressure situations. For Ohio State product CJ Stroud, an S-2 quarterback cognition test has spurred speculation.

It’s time to examine the needs, wants and expectations for each of the teams that are selecting early in the first round.

Rd. 1, Pick 1: Carolina Panthers

There is an overwhelming chance the Panthers will go QB with the first overall pick.

Last year, in the third round, Carolina selected Matt Corral from Ole Miss, and they have not given him a chance to prove himself on the field. However, every leak and rumor has indicated that the Panthers’ staff has been evaluating the top passers across college football.

Each quarterback offers a unique upside to the team that selects him. Panthers GM Scott Fitterer has surely completed extensive evaluations, and he will take the QB he feels gives the team the most promising future.

Rd. 1, Pick 2: Houston Texans

Many expert mock drafts disagree on what position the Texans are looking for.

In all likelihood, they will be grabbing the next-best quarterback on the board. They ran an offense behind the arm of Davis Mills last year, which was able to capture an abysmal 3-13-1 record. They need to revamp their passing attack with a more dynamic quarterback.

There are a couple of mocks, including commentator Peter Schrager’s, that say Houston may go with an edge rusher: Will Anderson or Tyree Wilson at No. 2. They would then almost certainly use their No.12 pick to take a quarterback.

Rd. 1, Pick 3: Arizona Cardinals

Most mock drafts have the Cardinals being the only team in the top five not to draft a quarterback. If Alabama’s Will Anderson is still on the board when Houston is off the clock, Arizona would have a hard time passing him up.

There are also rumors that the Cardinals will use the draft as an opportunity to make some deals with other teams regarding their current players. Star WR DeAndre Hopkins may be on the trade market during the draft.

The final main rumor surrounding the team is the potential to trade down if a team sends them an attractive offer for pick No. 3.

Rd. 1, Pick 4: Indianapolis Colts

A lot of projections have former Gator Anthony Richardson going fourth to the Colts. This would be a big risk, as Richardson is the top-projected quarterback who has proved himself the least on the field. However, the Colts have a clear need at quarterback, considering they rode the arm of veteran Matt Ryan last year to no avail.

Their offense needs an update, and a Richardson-Taylor backfield could be deadly.

The other option that has been heavily rumored is Kentucky product Will Levis. Levis statistically had a better college career, but he is less mobile than Richardson.

Who the Colts select will come down to what kind of offense new HC Shane Steichen and company are looking to run.

Rd. 1, Pick 5: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle rounds out the first five picks, and they are another team where it is difficult to nail down what to expect.

The Seahawks have a lot of needs. They have an aging quarterback in Geno Smith, so they could be looking for his understudy. They could also use some depth at wide receiver, support in their interior offensive line, or some firepower at edge rusher.

Their draft may be a best-available story, where they do not cement a pick until they see who the first four teams grab.

They, like the Cardinals, may also consider trading down if a team offers them tempting players or picks.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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