The largest television audience ever to watch an NFL Draft should get used to hearing these eight words on loop: “The Miami Dolphins are now on the clock.”
The draft set a record in 2019 with 6.1 million viewers across all networks and platforms – up 11 percent from the previous high set in 2018, according to the league. Those numbers could be smashed April 23-25 under the stay-at-home government directives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are five teams whose fans could be especially entertained — their activity will drive the draft:
1. Miami Dolphins
Total picks: 14
The Dolphins’ so-called “tank” in 2019 didn’t produce the No. 1 overall pick.
But the plan to trade starters – even rookie-contract bargains such as Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick – produced a record-tying draft haul. The 1997 Dolphins and 2016 Cleveland Browns are tied for the most selections (14) since the league dropped to a seven-round draft in 1994.
General manager Chris Grier didn’t play the long game to idly sit back at No. 5 and watch another quarterback-needy team move up and steal his target. If the Dolphins don’t strike a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals for No. 1 to get Joe Burrow, a trade with the Detroit Lions (No. 3) or Giants (No. 4) is a must to secure the choice of Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert.
Three first-round picks is enough capital to make just about anything happen if they act decisively. Tom Brady’s exit from the AFC East is a reason to accelerate plans.
2. New England Patriots
Total picks: 12
Safest bet out there. The Patriots always are one of the most active teams moving around the board. Now add in the need to restock after the defection of five starters, including Brady, in free agency.
It is not the Bill Belichick way to trade up from No. 23 overall, even if one of the top four quarterbacks slips. With only one pick in the top 86, the Patriots are likely to package mid- and late-rounders to get into the second round or higher in the third round.
Keep an eye on quarterback Jalen Hurts if he is within range.
“You have the connection with (Alabama coach) Nick Saban to get insight into the kid,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah told The Post. “He is all-business, which kind of matches the Patriots’ vibe.”
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Total picks: 12
This franchise is a mess. Maybe the draft will reveal a direction, which could be tanking for Trevor Lawrence and the No. 1 pick in 2021.
One play from the Super Bowl just 27 months ago, the Jaguars are early in a seemingly never-ending rebuild, but strangely kept coach Doug Marrone after firing his front-office ally Tom Coughlin. Only three of the Jaguars’ top 12 defensive players remain from that AFC Championship Game.
Nick Foles went from the overdue answer at quarterback to shipped out after one season, leaving 2019 sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew as the starter unless the Jaguars add a free agent such as Jameis Winston or Cam Newton.
Or … they could surprisingly trade up from No. 9 overall in the first round with an eye on Jordan Love, using an extra first-rounder and three fourth-rounders.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Total picks: 9
Masters of the NFL compensatory draft picks formula, the Ravens own two picks apiece in the second, third and fourth rounds, after No. 28 overall.
General manager Eric DeCosta has proven in his short time on the job to be a dealer. Whether leading up to or during the 2019 draft, the Ravens were involved in a trade in six of the seven rounds.
The Ravens were ominously quiet in free agency.
“If there is somebody they want in the first round,” Jeremiah said, “they have a lot of ammunition to go get him.”
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Total picks: 10
It’s win-now time.
Overthecap.com projects the Eagles to be $25 million over the cap in 2021 – all other teams are at least $14 million under – which will mean dumping veterans and restructuring quarterback Carson Wentz’s $34 million hit. Getting a head start on finding younger, cheaper alternatives around Wentz will soften the blow.
General manager Howie Roseman is a shrewd card-reader – he deftly jumped the Dallas Cowboys for would-be Jason Witten replacement Dallas Goedert in the second round in 2018 – and has a combined seven picks in the third, fourth and fifth rounds to package.
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