Although the first two picks of the 2012 NFL Draft are already decided with the Indianapolis Colts planning to take Andrew Luck and the Washington Redskins expected to go with Robert Griffin III, there is quite a bit of intrigue surrounding the rest of the first round. It seems like even more so than the last few years, there could be several surprises, perhaps some even involving our very own Detroit Lions. There are a lot of things to keep an eye, and I've picked out five storylines that are especially worth keying in on during the first round of the draft.
1. What will the Minnesota Vikings do with the third overall pick?
It seemed like for the longest time USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil was a lock to be the third pick, but lately there has been a lot of talk about LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne potentially going in this slot. At the same time, there has also been talk of the Vikings potentially making a trade with a team that wants to move up to get Alabama running back Trent Richardson. To say the least, there is no lock for what will happen with this pick, but whatever Minnesota does decide to do should have a big impact on how the rest of the top 10 shapes up.
2. Will Ryan Tannehill actually be taken in the first half of the first round?
In similar fashion to the Vikings and Kalil, for the longest time it seemed like most people were pegging Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be a top-10 pick. I never really understood why aside from the fact that he is considered the third-best quarterback in the draft. He doesn't seem to be a top-10 type of player, and lately the idea has been thrown out there that Tannehill could experience a Brady Quinn-esque slide if teams like the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs pass on him. If that were to happen, it's anyone's guess as to how far he will drop.
3. Which defensive players will go off the board first?
One of the more interesting things to follow in mock drafts the past few months has been the random changes among defensive players. While Claiborne has almost always been predicted to be the first defensive player selected, as of late there has been a lot of speculation about South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore going in the top 10, and players like Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Alabama safety Mark Barron have suddenly entered the top-10 discussion. Heck, even Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones has jumped into this discussion, as Mike Mayock ranked him as the top defensive end in the draft. I'm interested to see which rumors turn out to be true, because right now it seems like the pundits out there are all over the place when it comes to the top five or so defensive players in this year's draft.
4. Just how many trades will take place on Thursday night?
With a new CBA in place, the expectation for the first round is that the trade frenzy commonly seen in past years will return. I'm talking a double-digit amount of trades and in general just a ton of movement from a lot of teams. With contracts for rookies being lower than in the past, there is less of a risk to move up. Also, with how much misinformation has been spread in recent weeks, teams may feel pressured to jump up to a certain spot to get a guy they want. The Lions may do that if a guy they like starts falling, as Martin Mayhew has shown in the past that he isn't afraid to make a move for a player he wants (see Jahvid Best in 2010 and Mikel Leshoure last year).
5. What will the Lions end up doing with the 23rd overall pick?
Of course, the thing I'm most interested in seeing on Thursday night is what will happen with the Lions' first-round pick. With them toward the end of the first round, it's tough to really predict what will happen. That was really the case last year with the 13th overall pick, and the Lions did end up surprising people by taking Nick Fairley. Even though most predictions were wrong, at least going into the draft last year people seemed to expect the pick to be one or two particular players. This year, everybody seems to have a different opinion. The Lions could go cornerback, defensive end, offensive line or even running back. They also could make a trade up or down. It all depends on who you ask, as opinions are differing quite a bit this year.
What this all makes for is a tough time when it comes to predictions but a lot of excitement in general about the pick. I honestly have no clue what direction the Lions will go in, and although the 23rd pick is supposed to be less exciting than a top-five selection, I'm already on the edge of my seat for it.
What are you planning to keep an eye on during the first round of the draft?
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