Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rough Drafts

As you can imagine, teams are under an enormous amount of pressure to get things right during each year’s draft.  This is particularly true on the first day, and the first round, when the stakes are the highest:  the biggest talent is up for grabs, with the biggest salaries to boot.  For the teams at the bottom of the standings, the draft is the chance to build for the future; for the more dominant clubs, it’s an opportunity to wheel and deal to maximize their chances for continuing success. 

Of course, for the players waiting to be drafted, every minute that goes by without your name being called is a fresh cup of cold water threatening to drown your dreams.  With so much at stake, you’d better believe there’s always a good chance for fireworks—and smoldering duds.  So, in anticipation of the start of the 2012 NFL draft tonight, I thought we'd take a look at some less-than-stellar moments in recent draft history.


With so much riding on the early moments of the draft, you’d think that each club’s management team would be a well-oiled machine on the first day—ready for anything and leaving no room for error.  For the most part, that’s the case.  There have been a few “oops” moments in draft history, however, and today we’ll look at one of the most notorious—and entertaining.

Thankfully, the teams have a set amount of time in which they must make each draft selection.  Current rules provide for the following time limits for each pick:  ten minutes for Round 1; seven minutes for Round 2 and five minutes for Rounds 3-7.  What happens when a team’s time runs out before it’s made a selection?  The Minnesota Vikings found out in 2003, when the time limit on first round picks was fifteen minutes.

In the 2003 draft, Minnesota had the seventh overall pick, and had their eyes on a defensive tackle from Oklahoma State, Kevin Williams.  As their turn neared, management realized that Williams was still going to be available a few picks later.  So, they started shopping their seventh pick, hoping to find a team that was willing to pay to move up in the draft order.  When deals with two other teams didn’t pan out, the Vikings agreed to a deal with the Baltimore Ravens:  in exchange for Minnesota’s No. 7 pick, Baltimore would give them its first round pick (at No. 10), as well as fourth- and sixth- round picks.  

Even with the clock ticking, all deals have to be submitted to the league for approval before they’re official.  The Vikings got their submission in, but the Ravens didn’t before the Vikings 15-minute clock ran out.  So, when no one from the Vikings submitted the team’s selection, the two teams at the 8 and 9 spots (Jacksonville and Carolina) ran to the commissioner’s podium with their draft selections before the Vikings were able to recover and turn in theirs—which still turned out to be Kevin Williams.  The Vikings head coach at the time, Mike Tice, insisted that they got the player they wanted all along, so no harm done. 

NFL officials wait for the selection from Vikings director of pro personnel Frank Acevedo

Minnesota’s fans should have brushed this off as just one of those things—if only another blunder hadn’t happened the year before.  Ironically, the blunder then was the Vikings’ inability to take advantage of another team’s failure to get its pick submitted in time.  In 2002, the Vikings once again had the seventh pick.  The Dallas Cowboys had the No. 6 pick and the Kansas City Chiefs had the eighth pick.  Dallas and KC made a deal to swap picks so that Kansas City could grab defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who they knew was the Vikings’ top choice.

However, before Kansas City could pass the trade on to league officials for approval, their time ran out.  As the Vikings approached the podium with Sims’ name on their draft card, their guy was blocked by an assistant equipment manager for the Chiefs.  The Vikings were foiled, and ended up drafting offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who had a decent career (on the field anyway; his off the field antics were less than admirable), playing for the team for nine years.

And what happened to Kevin Williams?  Whether he was really the Vikings’ guy or not, he has turned out to be a great pick.  He still plays for the Vikings, so far earning six Pro Bowl selections and five All Pro designations; he has over 400 tackles and 54.5 sacks to his credit.


Every year, the NFL invites the top draft prospects to Radio City Music Hall for the draft.  These (presumed) future stars are treated like royalty in the Big Apple for the week leading up to Draft Day—public appearances, photo ops, glad-handing with advertisers, and plenty of wining and dining.  This year, a staggering 26 players have accepted the NFL’s invitation to attend.

Dolphins center Mike Pouncey's bling on Draft Day
On the first day of the draft these players, dressed in their best suits and newly-purchased pricey watches, take up residence in the draft “green room,” a curtained-off area behind the main stage.  Each player gets a table with his entourage—family, friends, “advisors” and, of course, his agent.  As each player’s name is called, teary hugs and handshakes abound and a grinning mass of man strolls to the stage, wearing a cap with his drafter’s logo; he then holds up his new club’s jersey as he smiles for pictures with the NFL commissioner.

Cam Newton, 2011's No. 1, with the Commish

For a few players over the years, however, the green room experience has been less than ideal.  Every few years it happens—a player who was projected to be selected in the top ten, or even at Number 1, somehow slips through the cracks and falls like a stone through the draft.  Recent memory calls to mind two such victims to gravity:  Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn.

2005:  Aaron Rodgers Plummets

NFL scouts were drooling over Aaron Rodgers after his junior year at Cal (University of California, Berkeley), citing his arm strength and excellent throwing mechanics.  The San Francisco 49ers, coming off an embarrassing 2-14 season, had the Number 1 pick in the draft.  Having had a void at quarterback since Jerry Garcia left in 2003, it was widely anticipated that the Niners would select Aaron Rodgers.  However, newly hired coach Mike Nolan was concerned that Rodgers’ personality wouldn’t mesh with his and San Francisco ended up taking Alex Smith (who is still with the team) instead.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be an issue for a star player like Rodgers.  Unfortunately for him, the next several teams had more pressing needs than quarterback.  So, down he went—out of the top ten, then through the top twenty, until finally being rescued by the Green Bay Packers as the 24th overall pick.  All things considered, Aaron landed in a great situation.  He learned much from shadowing Brett Favre over the years, and has led the Packers to a championship and set several records.

Here's a video with Aaron's own perspective on his draft experience:

2007:  Brady Quinn Tumbles

Even though he failed to lead the Fighting Irish to a national title, Brady Quinn had a stellar career at the University of Notre Dame, accomplishing notable personal achievements.  The Sporting News even rated Quinn the top quarterback in college football in 2006.  His impressive stats in his final year at Notre Dame (3,426 yards, 61.9% completion percentage, 37 touchdowns and only seven interceptions) earned him a top-ten draft projection and an invitation to attend the draft. 

Thomas has had a Pro Bowl career in Cleveland
Many believed the Cleveland Browns would select Quinn with their third overall pick.  As a young boy growing up in Ohio, Brady was a big Browns fan and being drafted by the Browns would be a dream come true.  To everyone’s surprise, however, especially Brady’s, the Browns passed on him at the #3 spot, picking up offensive tackle Joe Thomas instead.  As several teams in the market for a QB continued to pass him by (though not drafting any other quarterback), memories of Aaron Rodgers two years earlier began to settle over Radio City like a fog. 

Not wanting to repeat the awkward situation of a top prospect alone in the green room, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell invited Quinn to wait in his private suite after the tenth selection had been made.  Quinn accepted the invitation.  Turns out he still had a while to wait.  Eventually, the Dallas Cowboys began to look for buyers for their 22nd overall pick.  The Browns bit, and as soon as the league approved the trade, they snapped up Brady Quinn.

"Um, Mr. Commissioner, your suite's out of Funyuns."

Unfortunately,  Brady’s career hasn’t quite met expectations.  In Cleveland, he was involved in an awkward, never-ending quarterback battle with Derek Anderson.  He was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2010, where he remained a backup behind Kyle Orton, then Tim Tebow in 2011.  He was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs this past March.


Of course, the vast majority of players coming out of college are not top ten prospects, and wait out the draft in the comforts of home.  For these NFL hopefuls, the draft is all about waiting for the phone to ring.  One way to pass the time, I’m sure, is to speculate on when they’ll be picked (if at all), and even if they’ll earn the title of “Mr. Irrelevant.”

The moniker of “Mr. Irrelevant” has been awarded to the last pick of every NFL Draft since 1976.  In that year, Paul Salata, a former NFL receiver, founded “Irrelevant Week” in Newport Beach, California.  The summer after his draft, Mr. Irrelevant and his family go to Newport Beach for a week, where they are feted with a golf tournament, regatta and a roast, among other events.  The player is also awarded the “Lowsman Trophy”; intended as a spoof of the Heisman Trophy, it depicts a player fumbling the ball.

One of the more successful Mr. Irrelevants has been Ryan Succop, who is the starting kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs.  In 2009, his rookie year, Succop tied the NFL record for the highest field goal percentage for a rookie, with 86.2%, and set the record for the most field goals made by a rookie in team history.  He was also the highest scoring rookie in the NFL, with 104 points.

"Call me 'Irrelevant,' huh?  Boo-yah!"

So, should we feel sorry for Mr. Irrelevant?  Why?  He gets a week’s vacation, events in his honor, and a sweet trophy.  Besides, you know what’s worse than being drafted last?  Not being drafted at all.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 Retiree Update: Papa Smurf and Wolverine

With several significant retirements announced in the last several weeks, I figured it was time for another update on the big names that have decided to hang up their cleats (click here and here for other posts on this year's retirees).  We'll have to see if any of these retirements will impact the draft strategies of their respective teams.  Will they use the draft to fill these voids, or do they have more pressing needs?

Hines Ward (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers):  Hines Ward was born in Seoul, South Korea to an African American father and Korean mother.  He attended the University of Georgia and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 1998 draft.  Hines played his entire career with the Steelers, earning team MVP honors three times, and four NFL Pro Bowl selections.  Over his 14-year career, he amassed an incredible 1,000 receptions for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns.  Though known for his trademark smile, Ward actually had a reputation for making dirty blocks against opponents.  With a tendency to hit defensive backs from their blind sides, Hines was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2009, based on a Sports Illustrated poll of NFL players.

Ward's trademark smile, visible even behind the face mask

Off the field, Ward has become an advocate in Korea for the acceptance of multiracial children.  Another pet project of Hines is Positive Athlete, which encourages kids to develop “positivity” and good sportsmanship when engaging in athletic competition and as productive members of their community.  Despite his reputation for hard hitting on the field, Hines is a great role model for positivism; his nickname among his teammates is “Papa Smurf” for his ability to keep them looking up, while staying grounded.  Dancing With the Stars fans will remember Hines as the champion of the show’s twelfth season.

Though he had many memorable performances in his career, his most notable is his showing in Super Bowl XL, for which he won Super Bowl MVP.  One of the stand-out highlights from the Steelers victory is this touchdown pass he caught from fellow receiver Antwaan Randle-El:

Look familiar?  Loyal Naptime Huddle readers should remember this clip from the Super Bowl Game Changers series.

Marion Barber (RB, Dallas Cowboys, 2005-2010; Chicago Bears, 2011):  Marion Barber attended the University of Minnesota and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2005 draft.  Despite his strength and running ability, a toe injury and the “running back by committee” scheme implemented by the Cowboys kept Barber designated as a backup until 2008.  His role as running leader was short-lived, however, as injuries plagued him in 2009, allowing Tashard Choice and Felix Jones to take bites out of his total carries.  After being released by the Cowboys in July 2011, Barber was quickly snapped up by the Chicago Bears, who signed him to a two-year, $5 million contract.  With the Cowboys, he was selected to one Pro Bowl and ran for nearly 4,000 yards for 43 touchdowns; he also caught 163 passed for 1,231 yards and 6 touchdowns. 

Ryan Diem (Offensive Lineman, Indianapolis Colts): Ryan Diem attended Northern Illinois University and was drafted by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. Over the 11-year career with the Colts, he started 150 of the 158 games he played in and was part of their win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

Diem ready to rumble with the Pats' Rodney Harrison

Light at his mountain-manny best
Matt Light (OT, New England Patriots):  Matt Light attended Purdue University and was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2001 draft.  He made his presence known right away, starting 12 of 14 games played in his rookie season; he was even on the starting lineup for the Patriots victory in Super Bowl XXXVI that year.  The Patriots earned another championship two years later, in a Super Bowl in which Light and the rest of the offensive line did not allow a single sack of Tom Brady.  Over his eleven-year career, Light was selected to three Pro Bowls, won three Super Bowls and started in 153 of the 155 games he played.  He was also named to the Patriots’ All-2000s and 50th Anniversary teams.

Brian Dawkins (Safety, Philadelphia Eagles):  Brian Dawkins attended Clemson University and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of the 1996 draft.  Dawkins has enjoyed a long career and has consistently performed at a level that’s put him among the best in the league at the safety position.  Known for his hard-hitting, passionate approach to the game, Dawkins adopted the on-field alter ego, “Wolverine.”  In his rookie season, Brian replaced a veteran as starter and never looked back.  He soon became the anchor of the Eagles secondary, starting 182 of 183 games.  After the 2008 season, Dawkins joined the Denver Broncos; he played in every game that season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.  Unfortunately, injuries held Dawkins back in the next two seasons, even though he was still able to make it to another Pro Bowl this year.  Over his 16-year career, Brian Dawkins earned nine Pro Bowl selections and was named an All Pro six times.  He had a total of 1,131 tackles, 26 sacks and 37 interceptions.

Mark Brunell (QB, Jacksonville Jaguars):  Mark Brunell isn’t one of those quarterbacks that you’ll hear mentioned in conversations about the greats like Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Steve Young and Tom Brady.  However, he was a consummate professional, quite leader and work horse, playing in the league for 19 seasons.  He attended the University of Washington and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft.  With Brett Favre firmly in the starting position at QB, Brunell didn’t become a starter until he was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995, the club’s first season.  He remained in Jacksonville for nine years, during which he earned three Pro Bowl selections.  Under Brunell’s leadership, the Jaguars became the first NFL expansion team to make the playoffs in three of their first four seasons. 

Brunell joined the Washington Redskins in 2004.  His first season with the ‘Skins was forgettable:  he suffered a hamstring injury and was benched midseason.  He was named the backup going into the 2005 season, but took the reins when starter Patrick Ramsey suffered an injury early in the season.  That year, he led the Redskins to the playoffs.  Brunell’s comeback was short-lived, however, as he was benched late in the 2006 season in favor of Jason Campbell.  He moved on to the Saints in 2008, where he didn’t enter a game until the next year.  He appeared in every game that season—as the holder on field goal attempts.  His most recent stop in the league was the New York Jets, for whom he has played only two games.  Though he hasn’t officially declared his retirement, the Jets recent acquisition of Tim Tebow and Brunell’s stated desire to spend more time watching his young sons play football, make an official declaration a mere formality.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Making Sense of Compensatory Picks

"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else"

Ralph Waldo Emerson

As we learned in our last lesson, the NFL Draft was created so that each team had an equal chance to add quality players.  Before the draft, the teams with the deepest pockets were able to sign the best players, making for a decidedly uneven playing field.  The draft system has endured over the years as a delicate balance of parity (with the worst teams from the previous year getting the first picks) and the free market system (as teams are able to make deals among themselves to move around in the draft order).

Wanting to ensure that parity prevails, however, the NFL in 1994 introduced the mysterious concept of “compensatory picks,” which many people notice on draft day scrolling by at the bottom of the TV screen, but have no idea what they are.  

In short, these extra picks are intended to compensate those teams who have experienced a net loss in the value of their personnel.  How does this happen?  They lose players that are more highly valued compared with the players they gained during free agency.  More on this below...

Each year, a total of 32 compensatory draft picks are distributed, with no one team receiving more than four.  Oh, and compensatory picks can not be traded.  The compensatory picks are selected during Rounds 3 through 7.  Not all teams get these additional draft picks—this they were allocated to a total of 15 teams. 

Also, there is a good chance that not all compensatory picks will be distributed; those that are not are given out to the clubs that would have the earliest selections if there were an additional round at the end of the final round of the draft.  As such, these so-called “supplemental compensatory selections” are picked after the seventh round of the draft. This year, 30 of the 32 compensatory picks were distributed.  The last two were awarded to Indianapolis and St. Louis, which will make their compensatory selections after the end of the seventh round. 

So, how does the NFL determine which teams get these extra draft picks, how many each team gets, and when they use them?  Glad you asked.  Compensatory picks are awarded at the NFL’s annual meeting in late March.  The League takes a look at each team and which players they lost—and gained—during free agency.  Pertinent information for each player is run through a formula, developed by the NFL Management Council*, to determine whether he should be considered a “compensatory free agent.”  The result of those calculations also determines in what round the compensatory pick may be chosen.

The formula used to make this determination for each player includes salary, playing time and postseason honors with his new club.  Let’s take the Minnesota Vikings as an illustration.  In 2011, they lost four players to free agency:  Tavaris Jackson, Sidney Rice, Ray Edwards and Ben Leber; and they signed two new players, Remi Ayodele and Charlie Johnson.  Below are the relevant stats for each of these six players in 2011:

Minnesota Players Lost

 Tavaris Jackson (quarterback, lost to Seattle Seahawks, pictured below):  2-year, $8 million contract ($3.25 million total with bonuses in 2011); 3,091 yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs, 79.2 Passer Rating

"I'm worth more than a tackle that got released! Woo hoo!"
 Sidney Rice (wide receiver, also lost to Seattle):  5-year, $43 million contract ($4 million total in 2011); 32 receptions for 484 yards and 2 TDs (only played 9 games)
 Ray Edwards (defensive end, lost to Atlanta Falcons):  5-year, $30 million contract ($2.7 million total in 2011); 24 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 recovered fumbles
 Ben Leber:  linebacker, currently not with any team
Minnesota Players Signed:
 Remi Ayodele  (defensive tackle):  released by Vikings in March; paid $1.75 million in 2011
 Charlie Johnson  (offensive tackle):  paid $2 million total in 2011 (no relevant performance stats)

So, just by looking at the raw data, you can see that the Vikings suffered a net loss of personnel value in 2011’s free agency period.  Three of the players they lost received multi-year contracts for respectable sums from their new teams.  On the other side of the coin, they released one of the players they signed and the other got a decent salary, but no real quantifiable statistics.  By crunching the numbers, the NFL determined that Minnesota was eligible for two compensatory draft picks, both of which they will select in the fourth round.

Now let’s contrast Minnesota’s situation with San Diego.  The Chargers lost Darren Sproles and Kevin Burnett to free agency and gained Takeo Spikes and Travis LaBoy.  Here are the stats for these players:

SD Players Lost:

Darren Sproles (running back, lost to New Orleans Saints):  4-year, $14 million contract ($3.5 million for 2011); set regular season record for all-purpose yards (i.e., rushing, receiving and special teams) with 2,696 (a 168.5 yards per game average)

 Kevin Burnett (linebacker, lost to Miami Dolphins):  4-year, $21 million contract; 84 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one interception and one TD

SD Players Signed:

Takeo Spikes (linebacker):  3-year, $9 million contract ($2.25 million total for 2011); 64 tackles, one sack and one TD

 Travis LaBoy (defensive tackle):  2-year, $2.9 million contract ($1.2 million total for 2011); 30 tackles, one sack

With the exception of LaBoy, each of these players had decent season and earned respectable salaries.  Running these numbers through its formula, the NFL determined that the Chargers should have one compensatory pick, which it will use in the seventh round (250th overall).

Here are a few factoids about this year’s compensatory picks:  

 This year’s big winners with four compensatory picks each are Cleveland, Green Bay and the New York Jets. 

 Since the compensatory draft system began in 1994, the Baltimore Ravens have received 33, the most in the league (they have two this year).

 Houston has only received four in the same span, and Cleveland is actually near the bottom with only six (including the four it received this year).

The Ravens draft table stays busy thanks to their compensatory picks

Oh, and the most famous compensatory pick ever?  Experts would have to agree that it would be future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.  Brady was selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft—that’s pick #199 overall.  Quite a steal!

*The NFL’s Management Council is the most powerful NFL committee, as it plays a key role in labor relations, particularly in negotiating the collective bargaining agreement.  The chairman of the Management Council is New York Giants owner John Mara.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Do You Feel a Draft?

As we gear up for the biggest event of the football offseason—the NFL Draft—I thought we should brush up on the basics of the draft:  how it began, how it works, and what the first round of this year’s draft will look like.

Draft Beginnings

Bert Bell
Before the NFL draft, teams could go after any players they could afford, and players were free to join any team that passed good checks.  As you might imagine, the result was disparity in strength between the bigger, wealthy teams and the smaller, cash-poor teams.  The NFL draft became an attempt to level the playing field in the player market.  The main advocate for creating a draft of college players was Bert Bell, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles (he would later become NFL commissioner). 

The first draft was held in a Philadelphia hotel on May 19, 1935.  The first player to be drafted, Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwanger, ultimately chose not to play professional football (not an unusual choice at the time).  Therefore, the player who had the distinction of being the first drafted player to play in the NFL is Riley Smith, who was chosen second by the Boston Redskins.

The draft is now held at Radio City Music Hall in NYC

How it works

There are seven total rounds of the NFL draft, which begins on Thursday, April 26, and ends on Saturday, April 28th.  Teams select players in inverse order from how they finished the previous season.  In other words, the team that finished dead last in the league gets the first overall selection in the ensuing draft.  This year, the Indianapolis Colts, who finished with a 2-win, 14-loss record, will make the first selection.  The New York Giants, who were the 2012 champions, will make the last selection of the first round (32nd overall).

It is important to understand, however, that final standing in the league is only the starting point for determining the order in which teams select players.  How might the order change?  Through trades that have taken place either before the draft begins (starting one to three years prior right up to draft day) or after it starts (which can make for some exciting moments). 

In previous years, you didn’t see much trade activity involving first round draft picks.  This was because of the (in)famously high salaries that first-round rookies get.  Unless it was absolutely desperate to grab that unproven rookie who is destined to be its savior, a team wasn’t likely to be banging down doors (or ringing phones) to trade up.  Since no one knows how a college superstar will fare in the pros, it was just too much financial risk for an unknown reward.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) reached last summer, however, much of the risk that comes with making high draft picks has been minimized.  The new CBA provides for a rookie “wage scale,” which lowers the value of their contracts, particularly those drafted in the first round.  First round picks will have four-year contracts with the team having a fifth-year option.  The end result is that first round players will be less expensive.  Therefore, teams will be more willing to make trades to get higher picks, and teams that have high picks—say in the top five— and aren’t interested in the top prospects that are expected to be chosen early will have more a greater chance to trade down, for a higher value selection that they really need.

For example, last month the Washington Redskins gave the St. Louis Rams their first-round and second-round picks from this year’s draft, and two first-round picks from next year’s draft, in return for the Rams’ first-round pick (second overall).  The Redskins are expected to select Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III (left); the Rams, who believe that Sam Bradford is still their franchise quarterback, weren’t going to be interested in RG3, and the Redskins didn’t want to take the chance that one of the other teams picking ahead of them in the first round would take him.

The 2012 NFL Draft

So, with trades accounted for, here is the draft order for the first round of this year’s draft:

1.     Indianapolis Colts
2.     Washington Redskins (from Rams trade)
3.     Minnesota Vikings
4.     Cleveland Browns
5.     Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6.     St. Louis Rams (from Redskins trade)
7.     Jacksonville Jaguars
8.     Miami Dolphins
9.     Carolina Panthers
10.   Buffalo Bills
11.   Kansas City Chiefs
12.   Seattle Seahawks
13.   Arizona Cardinals
14.   Dallas Cowboys
15.   Philadelphia Eagles
16.   New York Jets
17.   Cincinnati Bengals (from trade with Raiders)
18.   San Diego Chargers
19.   Chicago Bears
20.   Tennessee Titans
21.   Cincinnati Bengals
22.   Cleveland Browns
23.   Detroit Lions
24.   Pittsburgh Steelers
25.   Denver Broncos
26.   Houston Texans
27.   New England Patriots (from trade with Saints)
28.   Green Bay Packers
29.   Baltimore Ravens
30.   San Francisco 49ers
31.   New England Patriots
32.   New York Giants

Keep in mind that this could still change between now and draft day, and even on the first day of the draft.  For now, though, notice two things:  (1) there are a few teams with multiple picks in the first round (like Cleveland and Cincinnati); and (2) there are a few teams with no picks in the first round (like Atlanta and New Orleans).

The Oakland and New Orleans war rooms on Day 1
Draft pick trades mean that the order is not the same in every round, and the teams don’t all get the same number of picks in the same draft.  This year, Cleveland and Green Bay have the most picks in the draft, with twelve each.  Oakland and New Orleans will have the least to do during the long weekend, especially on the first day; they only have five picks each, and neither team has a pick in the first two rounds.  Oakland lost its picks to trades and its use of a selection in the 2011 Supplemental Draft (picking former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor).  New Orleans gave their first round pick to New England last year so the Saints could move up in the 2011 draft, and lost their pick in the second round as part of their sanctions in the bounty scandal.

Our look at the NFL Draft isn’t over yet!  Tune in next time, when we’ll:  learn how teams get “compensatory” draft picks; meet Mr. Irrelevant; and find out what happened in past years when things didn’t go exactly as planned…