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NFL Draft: 1st Round Preview

Sponsored by The NFL Network
By Tom Fink

The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft is on Thursday Night at 8 p.m. EST, but the NFL Network’s in depth coverage of draft day rumors, trades, and news has already begun. Be sure to tune in and make sure that you’re up to date on what your team might do with its picks.

Three’s a Crowd: The Top 2 selections in this year’s draft have been settled for quite some time. Even before the Indianapolis Colts announced that they were taking QB Andrew Luck (Stanford) with the No.1 overall pick, everyone knew that he and QB Robert Griffin III (Baylor) would be the first two players off the board on Thursday night. This year, the excitement is built around what the Minnesota Vikings will do out of the No. 3 spot. With upgrades necessary at countless positions, Minnesota is attempting to choose between CB Morris Claiborne (LSU), LT Matt Kalil (USC) and WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma St). Vikes General Manager Rick Spielman has confirmed that his team will select one of those three players, leaving the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams to make their selections at No. 4, 5 and 6 in response to whatever Minnesota chooses to do with the all powerful third selection.

Holding All The Cards: Despite the Vikings being ahead of them in the draft order, the Cleveland Browns are sitting pretty and will likely determine how things go for a lot of other NFL squads in the first round based on their picks. The Browns hold the No. 4, No. 22 and No. 37 overall selections and plan on using them to overhaul their anemic offense. Not only are they in a position to grab three potential starters in those spots, but the fact that they hold multiple picks in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds means that the team will finally have the draft picks necessary to rebuild most of its roster. Expect to see RB Trent Richardson (Alabama) taken at No. 4, followed by a RT, WR or QB with their other first rounder and early second round pick. The team has been linked to 28 year old QB Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma St.) as well as QB Kirk Cousins (Michigan St.), but which signal caller the Browns actually select will likely depend on what positions they were able to address with their two picks in the 1st round.

Gone But Not Forgotten: For the first time since 1962 Al Davis will not be involved with a professional football draft in any capacity, as the late Raiders owner passed away in October. Known for his win at all costs attitude and brash personnel decisions, it was always interesting to see what he would do on draft day in an attempt to improve his team. In honor of Al Davis not being a part of this year’s NFL Draft, the Raiders won’t be partaking either.  In actuality, they aren’t participating because they traded away the majority of their picks but it’s nice for their fans to think of it as a tribute to their old owner. The team’s first pick isn’t until the 5th round, so try your best not to gloat about your favorite team’s haul on draft day if any of your buddies cheer for the silver and black.

Talented and Troublesome: There are a handful of players in this year’s draft that were once projected to go higher than they currently are. Many draft analysts feel that character issues and concerns about their maturity have contributed to the plummeting draft stock of guys like CB Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama), OL Mike Adams (Ohio St.) and CB Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska). An ill-timed run in with the law or admitting to regular drug use will definitely scare some teams off, but will it result in these players getting completely overlooked? Surely their poor judgment hasn’t ruined their chances of being picked high, but mistakes like these could definitely cost them. Pay attention to how far they fall, if at all, on draft day.

Boom or Bust: There is nothing better than looking back and seeing if you were able to predict on draft day whether or not a player would turn out to be a sleeper or a bust. Will this year feature the next JaMarcus Russell (1st overall in 2007 to the Raiders) or the next Dan Marino (27th overall in 1983 to the Dolphins)? Is a team looking for offensive line help going to get Jason Smith (2nd overall in 2009 to the Rams) or Joe Thomas (3rd overall in 2007 to the Browns)?  This year’s potential busts include fast-risers like QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M), OT Riley Reiff (Iowa) and DT Dontari Poe (Memphis). Some under the radar picks who will likely turn out to be some of the better selections in the first round include OG Cordy Glenn (Georgia), DT Fletcher Cox (Mississippi St.) and OL Peter Konz (Wisconsin).

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