Even though it’s probably the most impactful segment of the NFL Draft, the last nine or so picks of the first round never seem to get much media love. All of the flashy, glitzy selections have usually been made by this point, so the last fourth of the proceedings are largely just the league’s best teams filling key needs.
That pattern will continue to hold true this year, as the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants will all be picking here.
There are a number of fascinating team-related storylines to watch for, but none moreso than what the Denver Broncos will do.
Over the course of last season, Denver found out that it had a pretty solid defensive unit in place. A little bit of tinkering could turn the group that the Broncos currently trot out into one of the NFL’s best. Of course, the acquisition of Peyton Manning may sort of constrict the team’s options with that first round pick. While Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are solid, neither guy is Reggie Wayne. And that lack of a franchise wide receiver may end up forcing John Elway and Co. to have to appease their new quarterback with a legitimate receiver he will be able to comfortably throw to.
It’ll also be worth paying attention to what the Steelers, Texans and Ravens do to improve themselves. An unfortunate series of injuries and/or plays cost each of those teams a shot at playing for the Super Bowl on the last go-around, so the right selection at the tail end of the first round could drastically change any of those teams’ fortunes. Along the same lines, the Patriots, Packers and 49ers are legitimate contenders even as presently constructed, so if they were to add a key difference-maker, any one of those teams could spring up to the top as favorites to win it all next season.
In terms of player-specific storylines to watch for: will any running backs be taken at this point in the draft, or will teams wait until the second round? What impact will the bevy of talented defensive players available have on guys who will probably still be on the board at this point like Devon Still and Dont’a Hightower? Which team will nab Mark Barron?
Check out our attempt to answer all those questions and more as we break down picks nos. 24-32 here.