The 2023 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and I can't wait. There's nothing like it.
And in the thick of roster-rebuilding season, the league is rife with fascinating subplots, draft-related and otherwise. With that in mind ...
Let's examine some burning questions across the NFL, Schein Nine style.
1) Which QB should get paid next?
No surprise that the great Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles were out in front on the Jalen Hurts contract. Hurts became a certified star last year, finishing second in MVP voting and then proceeding to match the genius of Patrick Mahomes with a truly remarkable performance on the Super Bowl stage. Two months later, he received a five-year, $255 million extension with $179.304 million in total guarantees. And he's worth every penny.
Now, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are poised to cash in next. In fact, in the wake of Hurts' record-breaking deal, both should receive an even bigger bag. Why? Well, let's start with the Cincinnati Bengals signal-caller.
While Hurts is fresh off a breakout season, Burrow has more of a track record of sustained excellence -- shoot, going back to his Heisman Trophy/national championship senior season at LSU, which catapulted him into being the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. Burrow showed plenty of promise in his rookie campaign prior to a season-ending knee injury, but he has lifted his game -- and the Bengals -- to another level over the past two years. Posting sparkling individual numbers, Burrow has guided Cincinnati to back-to-back AFC North titles. Burrow's Bengals have logged five playoff victories -- equaling the postseason win total from the franchise's first 53 years of existence -- while making consecutive AFC Championship Games and nearly winning Super Bowl LVI. Cincy would be wise to lock up Burrow before Herbert gets his money, which could definitely eclipse Hurts' haul.
Herbert has yet to log a playoff win. In fact, in his lone postseason appearance, the Chargers suffered an historic defeat, shockingly blowing a 27-0 lead to the Jaguars. So, why do I believe that Herbert could -- and should -- get more dough than Hurts? Well, to be clear, I'm not talking about a massive financial chasm between the two. Part of it is just that contracts for similar players continue to increase in chronological order. But also, like Burrow, Herbert has just been a more consistent performer than Hurts over the three years since these three quarterbacks entered the league. Herbert was the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 and just turned in another fine season in '22. Yes, Hurts produced at a higher level this past season, but he was also surrounded by a clearly superior roster. And I believe new Bolts offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is going to do a better job of maximizing Herbert's dreamy arm talent going forward.
At the end of the day, Hurts, Burrow and Herbert are all top-10 quarterbacks and deserve to be paid accordingly. Meanwhile, another elite signal-caller remains in limbo ...
2) How does Odell's arrival in Baltimore change Lamar's situation?
Unless I'm missing something, Odell Beckham Jr.'s signing doesn't really change anything. And it shouldn't.
From the outside looking in, it appears that Lamar Jackson remains hung up on the fully guaranteed $230 million contract Deshaun Watson received last offseason. And in a vacuum, I understand where he's coming from. Even putting aside Watson's off-field issues and resulting suspension, Jackson is more deserving. He's achieved greater individual success (SEE: 2019 NFL MVP) and boasts a far superior win-loss record (45-16, compared to Watson's 31-28 mark).
But here's the problem: Watson didn't deserve that gargantuan guarantee in the first place. And everyone knows it.
Hurts didn't come close to that figure in guarantees. And that's just not in the cards for Jackson, either, whether he wants to accept that or not. I think that if Lamar had an agent -- if Lamar had Hurts' agent -- a deal would be done. Pure speculation on my part, sure, but it doesn't seem like Jackson has an accurate grasp on his current market. Consequently, everything remains in a holding pattern.
Lamar's Ravens return isn't about OBJ; it's about cash money. Can the quarterback and the team find middle ground? I hope so. This is one of the game's most electric players and one of the league's most stable franchises.
3) What should the Aaron Rodgers trade compensation look like?
Speaking of holding patterns, the Packers and Jets continue their staredown over Aaron Rodgers. Sure seems like a deal's inevitable, but the compensation remains a contentious issue. I have a (pretty) straightforward proposal, with Green Bay receiving a pair of picks from New York:
- A 2023 second-round pick: The Jets own back-to-back selections (Nos. 42 and 43) in this month's second round. Maybe GM Joe Douglas can grease the skids a bit by generously offering the higher one.
- A conditional 2024 second-round pick that can turn into a first-rounder: Not gonna lay out the exact conditions here -- it's not my responsibility to get this deal done -- but if Rodgers and the Jets enjoy a successful 2023 campaign, the 2 becomes a 1.
That's fair for both teams, with the conditional aspect covering the unknown of how Rodgers will perform in a season that will see him turn 40 years old.
While I admittedly don't know the specifics of these negotiations, I feel like Green Bay has to chill on its demands for a quarterback Packers brass has already talked about in the past tense. Green Bay wants to surround Jordan Love with premium young talent, right? As soon as possible? Well, the Packers can add a top-50 pick to their 2023 roster with the deal I proposed above.
With the draft just around the corner, logic says this trade happens very soon.
4) Which prospect should the Panthers draft at No. 1 overall?
It's Bryce Young. It's always been Bryce Young.
Sure, the small stature is relatively concerning. But quarterbacks in today's NFL are more protected than ever before. And from a performance perspective, Young certainly hasn't been affected by his size limitations thus far. He was a five-star recruit coming out of Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei High School; he shredded the SEC for two years and won a Heisman Trophy at Alabama; and he should be the No. 1 overall pick for Carolina.
Young is an excellent processor and an elite playmaker. He's cool as a cucumber in the biggest moments -- no stage is too big. He's a tough, battle-tested leader. Turn the card in right now, Panthers.
5) What's up in Houston? Should the Texans trade out of No. 2?
In response to rumors that he could be on his way out, Texans GM Nick Caserio went all Leo DiCaprio during his pre-draft news conference on Monday, citing the actor's famous "I'm not leaving" speech from "The Wolf of Wall Street." I don't really know what that's about. But frankly, at least from my vantage point, I'm not sure it even matters. It sure feels like this is new head coach DeMeco Ryans' show, and it's awesome. I think this sentiment also could provide some insight into Houston's thinking at No. 2.
Sure, Houston could select whoever's still available between Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. But I just don't believe this is a quarterback-or-bust draft for the Texans. In his first year in the big chair, Ryans will want Houston to say true to its board. The Texans don't have to go quarterback if they have defensive players rated higher or have the opportunity to trade down. The latter is a particularly enticing hypothetical: accumulate more picks for a roster that needs a significant overhaul.
And while I generally loathe thinking ahead to next year's draft this far in advance -- because you never know how NFL teams and college prospects will perform in the coming season -- the Texans could definitely be in position to snag a signal-caller from what might be a star-studded draft class in 2024.
6) Do the Giants have a Saquon Barkley problem?
Honestly, I'm surprised that anyone is surprised Saquon Barkley hasn't signed his franchise tag and isn't attending voluntary workouts this week. I do not think his absence is at all newsworthy. Barkley isn't signing that tag anytime soon. That's OK. I'm pretty confident this athletic specimen will keep himself in tip-top shape. And I think he's pretty familiar with the offense. Breathe, everyone.
The Giants actually have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with the former No. 2 overall pick. But given Barkley's injury history, position and Big Blue's financial commitments elsewhere (remember, Dexter Lawrence, who's also skipping these workouts, still needs a long-term deal), that doesn't seem likely. Barkley knows this. I don't foresee him sitting out the season, which is really all that matters. Barkley missing the offseason -- even missing training camp -- isn't the end of the world for Brian Daboll and Co.
7) Is RB Bijan Robinson worth a top-10 selection?
Oh, hell yeah! It's well-documented that I am very pro running back in Round 1 as a cherry on top for a great team. And Bijan Robinson -- an Edgerrin James clone, if you ask me -- has the kind of elite all-around game that could fit in any system. So in this case, I wouldn't even limit his potentially high selection to the cherry-on-top sort.
Atlanta at No. 8? I'd love to see him in Arthur Smith's offense. Philadelphia at No. 10? Dreamy for Eagles fans ... and a nightmare for the rest of the league. Which team couldn't use a multifaceted offensive weapon like this 21-year-old? This cat is special -- so special that he could definitely be a trade-up target.
8) Which team should be making the biggest push for DeAndre Hopkins?
It should be Buffalo. General manager Brandon Beane is never afraid, which is why I love him. At age 30, DeAndre Hopkins still has a ton of gas left in the tank. Limited to nine games by suspension and injury last season, Nuk still caught 64 passes for 717 yards and three touchdowns. And that was on a disastrous Cardinals team!
9) Which team faces the most pressure in this draft?
It's the Colts, on the heels of last year's debacle of a season. Chris Ballard has never won the AFC South. Think about that: He's been Indianapolis' general manager since 2017, and this hasn't exactly been a glorious stretch for the division. The Colts own nine picks in this draft, and Ballard needs to maximize his returns.
Truthfully, I was stunned Indy wasn't the team to trade up for the No. 1 pick to secure Bryce Young's services. The Colts, currently set to pick at No. 4, cannot sit back and wait. If C.J. Stroud is their answer at quarterback, and Young is indeed the first player off the board, Ballard and Co. must move up to No. 2 to get their guy. Or ... pay Lamar Jackson and make a trade with Baltimore. One way or another, Indy needs a legit answer at the game's most important position. It's only everything.