The identity of the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NFL draft is clear, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess as teams prepare for an intense wheeling-and-dealing session on Thursday.
The Indianapolis Colts will select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick, and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III will go to the Washington Redskins with pick two.
Matt Kalil, the Southern California offensive tackle has been forecast by many to go third overall to Minnesota. But that wasn’t a sure thing just 24 hours before the draft kicked off at Radio City Music Hall.
“No one really has a clue,” Kalil said Wednesday. “Unless you’re the GM of a team, you don’t really know who a team is going to pick, so you just let it all play out.
“There’s nothing guaranteed, so I try not to focus on that. I guess it would be nice to know where you’re going, but I have confidence I won’t slip too far, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
The new rookie wage scale, which replaces outrageous salaries for top picks with a compensation plan, means teams could be gearing up to pull off more trades than ever before. That means draft boards could change all through the night while potential picks wonder where they’ll end up.
Kalil isn’t alone in all the uncertainty. Rumors swirled about possible trades — could a team move up to take Alabama running back Trent Richardson? How about teams moving from the top half to acquire more picks? It’s all got most of the 26 players who’ll be in the green room at Radio City scratching their heads.
“For Luck and RGIII, they know what’s going on and they know where they’re going to live and all that kind of stuff,” Alabama safety Mark Barron said. “A lot of us other guys, we’re still wondering where we’re going to be living for the next however many years.”
That’s not a worry for Luck or Griffin, who are the only players heading into the draft knowing when Commissioner Roger Goodell will call their name.
“It kind of puts yourself at ease, but it does rob you of that natural draftee experience where you don’t know where you’re going and you’re in limbo,” Griffin said. “I know I’ll be in Washington D.C., and I guess that’s great. I’m excited about the opportunity and you just have to move on from there and not worry about the fact you don’t have that normal draftee experience.”
Griffin and Luck are hardly normal draftees, though. They’re both considered the cream of this year’s crop, and they’ll both be walking into starting quarterback jobs after it all becomes official a few minutes into the draft.
And they’ll be doing it with very different styles. Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner for Baylor, is a speedy and athletic quarterback who makes up for his lack of size with incredible elusiveness. He’s always smiling and good for a joke or two.
“I just try to keep the atmosphere light and laugh,” he said. “If you laugh everyday, you’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, Luck has the bigger size scouts love. He also comes from a pro-style offense at Stanford and projects as a precise and decisive quarterback in the NFL, which is exactly what Indianapolis is hoping for after choosing to release four-time MVP Peyton Manning.
Luck is polished, showing the traits of a guy who grew up with a father — Oliver Luck — who once played in the NFL. Asked about stepping in and starting for the Colts, Luck deftly sidestepped the question.
“I guess it’s nice, but there’s always competition in football and if I go out there and lay an egg and I’m not the best quarterback out there, I hope they don’t start me,” Luck said. “I’m excited, though. I’m going to go out there and hopefully play and put my best foot forward and enjoy all the guys.”
Luck acknowledged that it was a “relief” to know he’ll be going to the Colts — even if they’re starting from scratch.
“The slate has been wiped somewhat clean with some new coaches and some players who have gone or left, but I’ll try to come in there and work as hard as I can,” Luck said. “If that means it’s a rebuilding process, I guess you can label it as that. The guys I’m sure are working very hard and I just want to get out there and join them.”
After Luck and Griffin, Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill is expected to be the next quarterback taken — possibly eighth overall by Miami, where he’d be reunited with Mike Sherman. The new Dolphins offensive coordinator was Tannehill’s head coach the last four years.
“If I did happen to go there, it would be good,” said Tannehill, who would compete with starter Matt Moore. “It would give me some familiarity with the offense, so it would help ease the transition a little bit.”
Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon will likely be the first wide receiver picked, possibly as high as No. 4 by Cleveland. Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and Baylor’s Kendall Wright are other receivers who might go in the opening round.
“It’s a great time to come into the league if you are a receiver,” said Blackmon, a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver. “More teams are throwing the ball a lot more. It’s more wide open than ever on offense.”
Other players who could be top-10 picks are South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.
After winning college’s national championship in January, Alabama could be a big winner in the opening round. Crimson Tide teammates Barron, Richardson, linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick could all hear their names called Thursday.
“This is a great experience, especially when you have a team where we came from,” Richardson said. “All these guys are going to the draft and we’re all going to be in the first round. Alabama set the bar high last year when they had four come out and all four went in the first round. Hopefully we can break that record and have five.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press