The NFL draft finally begins tonight. You can check out all our draft coverage this year in the category link, but as it begins we wanted to identify the key turning points in the first round tonight. These are the places where the draft can veer off in various directions. While we can’t list (or even anticipate) every twist and turn, these are a few of the places where we expect some craziness to happen.
Pick 4 (Redskins) – The Redskins face a choice between OTs Russell Okung and Trent Williams, and that choice will affect the Chiefs at 5 and the Seahawks at 6. But if the Redskins are able to trade down and gain a second-round pick, and someone like Eric Berry or Jimmy Clausen goes 4, things will get crazy quickly.
Pick 7 (Browns) – It seems like the first six players are set – Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Okung, Berry, and Williams. If those players come off the board as expected, then the seventh pick is the first turning point. Do the Browns pull the trigger on Clausen? Do they take C.J. Spiller? Do they start a defensive end run with Derrick Morgan? Or do they trade out? The Browns could get stuck in this spot, and that could lead to a surprise.
Picks 10-11 (Jaguars and Broncos) – The draft buzz tells us that both Jacksonville and Denver are looking to trade out of their draft spots. The Eagles, among others, seem to be teams likely to jump up to take defensive studs like Morgan, Jason Pierre-Paul, or Earl Thomas. These two spots are the most likely to switch hands, at least in the first half of the first round.
Picks 13-14 (49ers and Seahawks) – Both the Niners and the Seahawks have two picks in the first round, and that makes it easier for them to take a risky pick with one of them. So this could be Clausen’s landing spot, or it could be where Dez Bryant finds a home. But expect a boom-or-bust scenario with at least one of these two picks as these teams look to add big-time talent.
Pick 20 (Texans) – Houston can either get a cornerback run moving by taking Kyle Wilson or Kareem Jackson, or they can hold it off by taking Ryan Mathews. It’ll be interesting to see which way the Texans go, but if they take one cornerback, teams will start moving around to make sure they don’t miss out on the top-level cover guys.
Pick 22 (Patriots) – If recent history is any indication, the Patriots will move back to try to pick up additional picks. So this pick could be a target for a team looking to employ the flawed draft strategy of trading back into the first round to take a quarterback like Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy. But since the Pats already have three second-rounders this year, and an extra first-rounder next year, they could actually move up instead of down to take a prospect they really like.