CHICAGO — Jared Goff thoroughly enjoyed the pre-draft preparation period, but at this point, enough’s enough.
“It’s been fun. It’s been a good process, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it,” said the star quarterback out of Cal-Berkeley, who is expected to be the first overall pick in Thursday’s first round. “But I’m looking forward to getting it behind me. Just try and get it over with.”
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All the hype, all the speculation, and all the drama comes to a head beginning Thursday evening at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University near the shores of Lake Michigan. And not a moment too soon for Goff and several other highly touted prospects, who have been through months of training and buildup leading to the moment when they’ll finally learn their NFL destinations.Big BoardNewsday's Big Board: Top 100 NFL draft prospects
Goff is the consensus choice to have his name mentioned first by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Two weeks before the draft, the Rams pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Titans to move up to first from No. 15 overall. The Rams, who returned to Los Angeles after leaving for St. Louis in 1995, apparently are smitten by Goff, who totaled 78 touchdown passes in his last two seasons at Cal.
The Rams have started their return to the West Coast with a bang. The Eagles also took a huge gamble with future picks, first moving up to No. 8 in a deal with the Dolphins and then pulling off a stunner last week by moving into No. 2 overall. The widely held assumption is that they’ll select North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, barely a blip on the radar screen before last season. Wentz skyrocketed to prominence at the Senior Bowl, then continued to rise at the Scouting Combine, his pro day and individual workouts.
The Eagles have been interested in him for months, and it appears they’ll get their shot at Wentz.
“It was exciting when I first heard about the trade,” Wentz said of last week’s Eagles-Browns deal for the No. 2 choice. “You’re aware of what the teams need, and I was filled in on that. Any time there’s movement in the draft, it’s always fun. It was exciting, and hey, you’re just excited to find out where you go.”
Wentz is expected to join a crowded — and potentially contentious — Eagles quarterback room. The team signed Sam Bradford to a two-year contract, added former Chiefs backup Chase Daniel and appear to be locked in on Wentz. Bradford this week demanded a trade and said he wouldn’t show up to offseason workouts. The Eagles have said Bradford remains their starter.
Many Eagles fans are skeptical that the team is making the right choice, flooding the airwaves with critical comments about the quarterbacks and the direction of management.
Welcome to the NFL, Carson.
“I feel like I spent all week talking the Philadelphia people off the ledge on radio shows,” NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said. “The bottom line is if you don’t have a franchise quarterback in the NFL, it doesn’t matter. Your coach is just on his way to getting fired. If you don’t believe Sam Bradford is the long-term answer, you have to go get somebody. And I’m kind of surprised more people in Philadelphia aren’t more appreciative of the fact that they’re swinging for the fences here.”
Mayock is a big believer in Wentz.
“I can bang the table for two reasons with Wentz,” he said. “We can look at his size and his arm, but it goes beyond that. I would bang the table for this kids’ intangibles. He’s never gotten a ‘B’ in school. He works his tail off, will be the first guy in every morning. I’m all in for Carson Wentz.”
With Goff and Wentz likely to go 1-2, it leaves Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, who has been linked to the Jets at No. 20, as the other quarterback with the best chance of getting into the first round. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg is a possibility, but there has been plenty of debate about whether he’s a true first-round talent. Michigan State’s Connor Cook is also a potential high-round pick, but not likely in the first.
The draft is deep at the top at offensive tackle, with Laremy Tunsil of LSU and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley leading the way. Several defensive stars figure to go early, including cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey (Florida State) and Vernon Hargreaves (Florida), defensive ends Joey Bosa (Ohio State), DeForest Buckner (Oregon) and Shaq Lawson (Clemson), and linebackers Myles Jack of UCLA (although a knee condition may cause him to fall a few spots) and Leonard Floyd of Georgia.