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NFL Draft Nuggets: Let's start with the Drake Maye and JJ McCarthy crossover and go from there

NFL Draft Nuggets: Let's start with the Drake Maye and JJ McCarthy crossover and go from there

For months, the NFL Draft began after the Chicago Bears selected USC quarterback Caleb Williams No. 1 overall. As the selection process began on Thursday, nothing had changed. If anything, it has come full circle, defying a relentless mill of speculation that has produced nothing more than a marathon of aspirin, temple-rubbing and enough mock drafts to challenge the infinite empty space of the Internet.

With only a few ticks of the clock left this week, the draft still starts behind Williams. Neither does anyone in the league completely Sure what will happen.

[Full Yahoo Sports NFL Draft coverage]

There is certainly informed speculation that runs deeper than just an army of “insiders.” The personnel departments and coaching staff were on the road, communicating at the crossroads between the NFL scouting combine, league meetings and numerous pro days. Dinner or drinks were shared at shared hotel or restaurant locations. Old friends settled into the booths to say hello and gossip about the players. And within it all, the team tried to come up with some hidden math for March and April, picking and tapping into conversations as they tried to shape conflicting needs and infatuations.

With that in mind, we took a final pass in recent days with a group of front office and coaching staffs, as well as some ancillary league staff who can offer some final insight they may have on what's to come later this week.

Here are some of the most interesting nuggets…

First things first: Williams is going to the Bears. So let's move on from that to LSU's Daniels and the Washington leaders.

Undoubtedly, the leaders have done a masterful job of tarnishing the image of second place overall. At various points over the past two months, we heard they were measuring between Daniels or North Carolina's Maye. Then came late March and early April, when rumors started swirling that Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy was in the lineup as well. So much so that after I wrote an article about a month ago urging everyone to relax about the relationship between McCarthy and Washington, a source I implicitly trusted reached out to me to say “it's true.”

Over time, Daniels has emerged as the most used and polished player of the “Next Three,” with a much more consistent end to his college career than Maye, and a much larger bank of film showing what he did versus show. What McCarthy might be able to do.

This does not mean that there are no fans of McCarthy or May inside Washington. there. But for now, Daniels offers a solidly high ceiling with special attributes, as well as a higher floor than Maye and McCarthy — who are younger, but whose futures are also reinforced against speculation. Even this projection reveals that they are both moving away from where Daniels is now as an athlete and passer. Barring some eventual contributions from Commanders owner Josh Harris that could turn things around (and he was very involved along the way), there is a strong belief around the league that Daniels has become a hot spot at No. 2 overall.

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This brings us to where things can get hairy.

The NFL Draft really begins when we know where Drake Maye and JJ McCarthy ended up, not Caleb Williams.  (Tylar Seifert/Yahoo Sports)

The NFL Draft really begins when we know where Drake Maye and JJ McCarthy ended up, not Caleb Williams. (Tylar Seifert/Yahoo Sports)

Contrary to a great deal of speculation since March 15 — when the Minnesota Vikings dealt the No. 23 overall pick to the Houston Texans — there is a growing consensus among NFL teams that McCarthy is not the primary target in a potential trade for the team. Vikings. Instead, he believes Minnesota's main target is May. He has a relationship with quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, who coached Maye in high school. A potential complication for the Vikings is how the quarterback pile falls at the top of the draft.

Assuming Daniels is the Commanders' pick at No. 2, all eyes will be on the New England Patriots at No. 3 and what they choose to do in the slot. While an outside trade is certainly an option, it's telling that team owner Robert Kraft publicly said in one breath that he would let the team “make the decision,” but then in the next breath said, “One way or another, I'd like to see us get a player.” A top-notch young quarterback.” Achieving that goal suggests the Patriots are holding on to the No. 3 pick and selecting that player. If that's Maye, the pick could turn the draft on its ears for two franchises.

The first will be the Vikings, who will have their top quarterback target removed from the board. The second would be the New York Giants, who have been carefully working on league communications to see how their quarterback will shake out on Thursday. Undoubtedly, there are other front offices who believe the quarterback plays straight for the Giants. The unknown is whether or not McCarthy — who made a special visit to the franchise in March — is the player they target with the No. 6 pick.

This is where the Giants and Vikings will likely intersect for the Arizona Cardinals' No. 4 overall pick. If the Giants believe the Vikings view McCarthy as their top option after Maye… and if Maye comes off the board at No. 3 to New England… it creates a potential sprint to pick the Cardinals at No. 4. And New York would have an advantage over the Vikings in one important respect: Slipping Arizona down just two slots in the draft is a simpler move that leaves the Cardinals in a straight play to land one of their wide receivers at No. 6 (likely a pick between LSU's Malik Nabers) and Washington's Roma Udonzi. ). That doesn't mean the Cardinals wouldn't enjoy moving up to the Vikings' pick at No. 11 — a trade that is expected to net the No. 23 overall pick plus additional compensation. But the move will have more moving parts, as the Cardinals will then have to try to replicate last year's “bottom-up” maneuver, which saw them trade from the No. 3 spot to the Houston Texans' No. 12 pick, and then saw the Cardinals move back to Detroit. The Lions are at No. 6, selecting offensive tackle Parris Johnson.

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Could the Cardinals make a similar move again? Yes. But it's still full of risks, as they could be locked out and miss out on all the top receivers in the draft, or face a bidding war with another team targeting their receiver needs. The likely outcome of any Arizona trade, if it happens to the Giants or Vikings, is where the compensation is. Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort will ask for the a lot – Especially from the Vikings, who created a huge need at quarterback after letting Kirk Cousins ​​go and signing Sam Darnold to a one-year bridge deal. Ossenfort also knows Minnesota wants to expand Justin Jefferson into a lucrative long-term deal. This is much more plausible by building a rookie quarterback's contract into future plans. This isn't great for the Vikings, but it's certainly good for trade partners who want to push them to the trade table.

There's also a twist to all of this. A closely-connected league source told Yahoo Sports they firmly believe that if the Patriots acquire Maye, the Vikings would be comfortable abandoning trade talks and using one of their first-round picks — either No. 11 or No. 23 — to win select Oregon State quarterback B.O. Nix. It's worth noting here that the Knicks held a private workout for the Vikings earlier this month.

Whatever the case, be in your seat for the draft no later than the second pick on the clock. After that, it will go wild.

  • Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. It will be very interesting. There is still some insistence that he is a focus for the Las Vegas Raiders and is squarely in the mix for the first round. Despite an impressive pro day and an overall positive draft process, there are still too many teams that have a high grade in the second round or lower. This doesn't mean he won't be selected in the first round, as teams often only assign 14 to 18 first-round grades on their board (suggesting that players with a second-round grade are selected in the top tier). Some of Penix's medical history remains discreet, but some of it is due to his struggles with touch and accuracy in the short-to-intermediate passing game. And also how he struggled tremendously against pressure in the national title game against Michigan. But the Penix is ​​the classic “it only takes one team to love it.” It may go first and it may reach the heights of first place, but there are quite a few teams that have a lower score than people might think.

  • The closer we get to the draft and the more I hear evaluations of the running back class, the more I think there's a chance the bulk of the class comes off the board in the third round. I wrote a more comprehensive article on linebackers last week, but I have some new data after a recent dive into the calls. Although there are some considerations about the “first” suddenly falling off the board, I'm more confident now that either will happen Texas Jonathan Brooks or Florida State Trey Benson. This isn't exactly a revelation as they both play at the top of the back pack, but they now seem to be more of a layer in their own right, with the next layer being a mix of Michigan's Blake Corum, Wisconsin's Braylon Allen And Tennessee's Jaylen Wright.

  • unless Georgia Ladd McConkey or South Carolina's Xavier Leggett If the party goes down, I think the wide receiver pool in the first round will be capped at a minimum of five and a maximum of six. Consisting of Ohio State Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU Malik Nabers And Brian Thomas Jr, Washington Roma Udonzi And Texas Xavier Worthy. A swinging player is Texas Adonai Mitchellwho has more deeply divided opinions than the other five.

  • with Texas ja tavion sanders After having a tough time in the draft process, it seems clear he has been traded as the No. 2 tight end at running back Georgia Brooke Powers. He now appears to be the No. 2 tight end for a number of teams Penn State Theo Johnson.

  • The offensive tackle in the first round is going to be wild. There is a possibility that seven tackles will be made in the first 32 picks: Notre Dame Joe Alt, Penn State's Olu Fashanu, Alabama J.C. Latham, Oregon Talis Voaga, Washington Troy Votano, Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton And Georgia Amarius Mims. As you can see some difference BYU Kingsley Swamataya As a potential late first-round pick as well. The three interesting players from this group to keep an eye on are Fashanu, Latham and Mims. There are divided opinions about all three. I wouldn't be surprised if Fashanu and Latham aren't the second and third tackles off the board behind Alt (a slot in which they're often mocked), or if Mims potentially slides from first to the top of the second round. Bottom line: Getting to grips with the system is going to be a little messier than people might think.

  • The interior defensive line may just see Texas Byron Murphy II He was drafted in the first round, but there is some interest within the top 10 picks. And while there was talk of Murphy potentially being the starting defensive back, the consensus I got from teams was that Alabama's Dallas Turner It was the best and cleanest defensive evaluation of the draft.