NFL Number 1 draft pick will be clear after combine

NFL draft pick combine
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NFL Number 1 draft pick will be clear after combine

Kayvon Thibodeaux looked like a lock to be this year’s top NFL draft pick — until Aidan Hutchinson played his way into the conversation.

Now, with eight weeks until draft night, offensive linemen Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu and Evan Neal are in the debate, too.

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This four-man race to the top has become a hot topic at this week’s annual NFL scouting combine and has rekindled a familiar question: Who’s the number 1 draft pick? With no quarterbacks likely to be selected right away, the guys in the trenches are the favorites.

“You have to take the player you think is the best fit for the organization and makes the biggest difference,” Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said earlier this week in Indianapolis. “If that’s an offensive tackle, you do it. If it’s an edge rusher, you do it. This draft has a lot of unique players. There may not be that clear No. 1, but there are a lot of good football players at the top.”

Baalke’s job is to sort it all out in a draft that comes with several unique features.

First off, Baalke is drafting first for the second straight year; no team other than Cleveland has held that distinction since 1988. The Browns picked No. 1 in 1999-2000 and 2017-18.

Plus, the Jags already have their franchise quarterback after taking Trevor Lawrence last year. Lawrence’s presence presumably gives Baalke the option of adding either a coveted pass-rushing cornerstone, a massive pass protector who can keep Lawrence upright and healthy for years to come, or a trade that could fill multiple holes.

The one seemingly virtual certainty: A seven-year run of quarterbacks going first or second will end. None is likely to even make the conversation.

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Until recently, Thibodeaux, the All-American out of Oregon, appeared to be the odds-on favorite. He had seven sacks last season despite missing 2 1/2 games with a sprained ankle that slowed him through some other games. But with his stock apparently waning amid questions about his consistency from play to play, Thibodeaux went on the offensive Friday.

“I can’t really compare it to other guys and what they do because I know that I have great teams that I went up against, and I had a lot of great opportunities to show what I can do,” he said, describing his aggressive style.

If Thibodeaux’s slide continues, Hutchinson could emerge as the best.

The former Michigan star broke the school’s single-season record with 14 sacks, led the Wolverines to a Big Ten title and their first playoff appearance while becoming the third defensive player to finish as the Heisman Trophy runner-up. He did it all after recovering from a fractured right ankle that ended his 2020 season.

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Just don’t expect Hutchinson to make the pitch. He’d rather let his play suffice.

NFL combine will help clear up battle to be No. 1 draft pick  The Associated Press – en Español


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Dean Nestor

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