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Barkley and Darnold among NFL draft favorites

Penn+State%27s+Saquon+Barkley+%2826%29+runs+away+from+a+Maryland+defender+last+season.
Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) runs away from a Maryland defender last season.

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) runs away from a Maryland defender last season.

TNS

TNS

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) runs away from a Maryland defender last season.

EMMETT LYNCH, Sports Writer

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The 2018 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, and many college football stars’ dreams of being on an NFL roster will soon come to fruition. This  year’s draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

This marks the first NFL draft to take place in an NFL stadium and the first to be held in the state of Texas.

Now that pro days are in the books, college players are now going on their official visits to NFL teams prior to the big day. As a player, in order to be eligible for the draft, you must be at least three years removed from high school and must have played in at least two seasons at the collegiate level.

Draft day has been one of the most anticipated events on the American sporting calendar, as 32 teams get a total of 256 player selections over the course of seven rounds. Traditionally, the worst team in the league gets the number one pick.

The team with the first selection is none other than the Cleveland Browns. This past NFL season, the Browns made history having one of the worst records in NFL history, recording a win/loss record of 0-16.

With the 16-loss season in 2017, the Browns become the first franchise in NFL history to have multiple seasons with 15 or more losses, having only one win in the 2016 season (1-15).

With their first pick in last year’s draft, Cleveland chose Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett. Fans from all over the American Football Conference (AFC) wondered why the Browns went for pass rushing instead of skill players. However, last year’s draft didn’t have many standouts in the skill positions like quarterback or running back. This year’s draft is the exact opposite.

Some of the best 2018 prospects are running backs, such as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. It will be hard for teams like the Browns to pass up that opportunity.  Barkley ran for Penn State for three seasons and racked up 3,843 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns, while adding another 1,195 receiving yards. He totaled 5,557 all-purpose yards as a Heisman finalist in his three-year collegiate career.

The second overall pick belongs to the New York Giants. Eli Manning has been the franchise quarterback for the past 15 seasons, when he was the first overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers but was immediately traded to the Giants for future Pro-Bowl quarterback, Philip Rivers.

A two-time Super Bowl champion, Manning holds the Giants’ franchise records for most passing yards, touchdown passes and completed passes in a career. He started 210 straight games from 2004-2017, which is the second-longest consecutive start streak by a quarterback in NFL history.

That may soon come to an end, as USC star Sam Darnold is on New York’s radar as a quarterback prospect. In 2016, Sam Darnold began as a backup quarterback to Max Browne but was soon named the starter in the 2016 season after a 1-2 season start with Browne.

Darnold then set the school record for most passing touchdowns by a freshman with 26, then ended the 2016 season with a historic upset victory against Saquon Barkley and Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

Darnold entered the 2017 season as an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. But with USC’s injury-plagued roster, Darnold led his team to a Pac-12 Conference championship with a hard-fought victory over rival Stanford. Darnold was awarded the game’s MVP as the Trojans received an invitation to the 2017 Cotton Bowl following the conference championship victory. Sam Darnold went on to officially declare for the 2018 NFL Draft after the matchup.

The 2018 NFL Draft will be held from April 26 to 28, starting at 7 p.m. central time and will be televised on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, Fox and the NFL Network.

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Barkley and Darnold among NFL draft favorites