Commentary

Draft drama starts at No. 3

How Vikings proceed could shake up rest of top 10; will Tannehill fall?

Originally Published: April 25, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The Colts ended any mystery about their No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft by officially announcing Tuesday that Andrew Luck would be their choice.

With the Redskins expected to select Robert Griffin III second, the real mystery starts with the Vikings. Will they stay at No. 3, or will they be able to make a trade?

In a draft loaded with wide receivers and decent cornerbacks, the three-day event could be filled with trades and interesting maneuvering.

Here are the 10 things to watch.

1. The Vikings' decision: What the Vikings do with the third pick holds a key to how the top 10 will unfold. The Vikings have said they are considering left tackle Matt Kalil of Southern Cal, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. If they choose Claiborne -- which is very possible -- things could get interesting. Kalil wouldn't go in the next two picks because the Browns have left tackle Joe Thomas and the Bucs have left tackle Donald Penn. If Kalil falls to the fifth pick, that might entice the Bills to trade up to get the left tackle they've sought since trading Jason Peters. The potential of losing out on Claiborne and not getting Alabama RB Trent Richardson might force the Bucs to consider making a trade with the Vikings to get to No. 3.

2. Opportunity knocking for Browns: With the fourth and 22nd picks in the first round as well as 11 other picks, the Browns have a chance to have the best draft of any team in the league. They probably will take Richardson over Blackmon at No. 4, but it could get interesting at No. 22. The Browns could upgrade at quarterback by taking Brandon Weeden with their second first-round pick. In a deep receiver draft, they can use some of their other picks to get offensive weapons for QB Colt McCoy and Weeden.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireCould Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill drop out of the top 20? There's a chance.

3. Ryan Tannehill's fate: The Browns are expected to pass on Tannehill of Texas A&M. The Miami Dolphins might not have that luxury. They have been pressured for more than a decade to find a replacement for Dan Marino, and they have failed. When they couldn't recruit Peyton Manning and gave a low-ball offer to Matt Flynn, the Dolphins left their fans wondering. All Miami has are Matt Moore and David Garrard. The Dolphins probably will take Tannehill at No. 8, but if they don't, he could fall. The Chiefs might consider him at No. 11. The Seahawks might do the same at No. 12. But if he slips past No. 12, Tannehill could drop a long way.

4. The Jaguars' dilemma: The Jags need a break. They have the seventh pick, but nothing really fits their desires. They would love to get Blackmon, but he'll probably be gone. Claiborne would fill a big need, but he'll be gone. The Jaguars have serious questions about the character and skills of some of the defensive linemen available. Nothing seems to fit. That's why they are shopping the pick in hopes of making a trade, but they might not find a team interested enough to trade up.

5. Trade market: Don't be surprised if there aren't many trades at the top. This is considered a deep draft, particularly in the second and third rounds. The top players in the first round might not draw as much interest. Most teams have about 20 players with first-round grades. Once teams get late into the first round and later rounds, there will be an escalation of trades so teams can get the players who fit their needs.

6. Placing the pass-rushers: Pass-rushers are always wanted, but many scouts feel that some of the top ones will be situational players early in their NFL careers. Because of that, defenders such as South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and others may fall into the middle or later parts of the first round. It's generally agreed upon that North Carolina's Quinton Coples might be the best defensive end in the draft, but his stock has dropped because he didn't play as hard in college as some scouts would have liked.

7. Fast-rising prospects: Two names who have shot up the boards are South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Gilmore could be taken as high as No. 7 by Jacksonville. Some have Cox going to the St. Louis Rams at No. 6.

8. The Barron factor: The best safety in the draft is Alabama's Mark Barron, and teams might trade up to get him. He would be a natural pick for the Dallas Cowboys at No. 14, but don't be surprised if the San Diego Chargers or another team jumps ahead of Dallas to get Barron.

9. Veteran trades: In recent years, there haven't been a lot of veterans swapped during the draft, but there could be a few more this year. The Eagles traded cornerback Asante Samuel to Atlanta. The Redskins might move wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. The Jets have shopped linebacker Bart Scott during the offseason. But don't expect the Rams to trade running back Steven Jackson. Richardson isn't expected to fall to them at No. 6.

10. The rest of the quarterback crop: Even though the Broncos signed Manning, they might be willing to take Michigan State's Kirk Cousins or Arizona State's Brock Osweiler to groom behind Manning. If the Dolphins don't take Tannehill at No. 8, they will be scrambling to get a quarterback. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson will draw a lot of interest. Even though he is only 5-foot-11, he has a strong arm and could go in the third round.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer