Before posting my mock draft for this year, I thought it would be good to do a run down of the potential story lines that will develop out of this years drafts.

Quarterbacks

I cannot remember a draft so devoid of top talent at the quarterback position, and yet I also am suspecting that there will be a large number of them taken on Thursday, more than most would suspect.

Let’s break down my reasons.

Firstly, the new CBA provides all first round draft picks with potentially a 5 year contract which is not renegotiable. This means that any player taken in the first is good for 5 years “on the cheap”. Look at teams like San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, and the Colts. These are teams that can put money into resigning vets and free agent acquisitions because they know they don’t have a $100 million quarterback on their roster. Meanwhile, teams like Atlanta, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are struggling to work around the cap, strapped by big deals that will get even bigger down the road. Having 5 years of maneuverability could be very important for teams who think they’re only one signal caller away.

Secondly, there are no teams in the bottom half of the draft who are really looking for a quarterback, much less a developmental one. Houston and maybe New England come to mind, but Houston has very pressing needs and a limited window, while New England has already selected Ryan Mallett. This means that there will likely be teams willing to move back for equal talent at less of a price for high drafting teams looking to move back into the first. It’s a common draft practice that should be even easier this year with the flat talent level that is perceived by most draft-niks.

Essentially, I’m guessing between 3 and 5 quarterbacks will be selected in this first round. Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley, E.J. Manuel, Mike Glennon and maybe even a Landry Jones, if Bill Polian is to be believed, could wind up being called Thursday.

Falling Injuries

 I’ve been hearing reports of players potentially falling farther than expected due to injuries that have not been released to the public. Only NFL teams have access to the combine medical check and re-check, so it’s hard to speculate who those could be.

Jarvis Jones has the well documented spinal fusion, but it seems most teams are open to selecting him without reservation.

Star Lotulelei reportedly checked out, but the heart scare could be enough to scare teams off longer than his talent demands.

D.J. Hayden had a ‘freak’ injury that nearly killed him (and reportedly does kill 95% – 99% of individuals that would suffer it), and has had limited time to showcase his skills since. Teams might be worried about his ability to handle NFL level hits if something like this occurred in practice.

Darius Slay, it was reported this morning, tore his meniscus during his pro day. This could cause teams to hold off a little longer on him if they’re worried he won’t be able to start week 1.

Manti Te’o

How much explanation do you need here? Kiper and McShay have him going before 20, and not falling out of the first, while several other respected evaluators rate him as a mid to late 2nd prospect. I find it hard to see him falling that far, but also have no idea how the quarterbacks will finally play out. Maybe a big surge pushes him into the 2nd.

Who is the best Wideout?

There are about 5 first round talent level wide receivers in this class. I say first round because they are probably in part of the top 35 players in this class more than they are elite prospects, but it will be interesting to see how teams evaluate Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen. Throw a Quinton Patton in the mix and you could see 6.

The Death of the Running Back

It has been a long, long time since a draft occurred without a running back selected in the first round. This year could be such a year. Eddie Lacy is generally regarded as the top player at that position with Marcus Lattimore widely viewed as a potential sleeping pro bowl player, but the needs don’t quite line up. The Rams pick late and could use a replacement to Steven Jackson, while Green Bay and Cincinnati both would like a work horse like Lacy. With so many other players on the board perceived as more talented, it will be hard to say if Lacy will make the cut.

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