The 2013 NFL draft kicks off at 8PM ET on Thursday night. Last year's No. 32 overall pick -- Giants running back David Wilson -- came off the board at 11:06PM ET. So, give or take, expect the first round to last about three hours.
The draft is arguably the most compelling, and definitely the least predictable event on the annual NFL calendar.
Each year, The Huddle Report scores mock drafts from across the nation. Last year's winner -- Ben Standig of CSN Washington -- matched 12 players correctly with their selecting teams. The nation's best hit rate was 37.5 percent. The most plugged-in football writers and journalists have little to no idea what's going to happen in the draft. The NFL teams barely know, and keep each other guessing by spreading pre-draft misinformation to keep other clubs on their toes.
Here's my best attempt to weed through the smokescreens:
1. Chiefs -- Texas A&M LT Luke Joeckel
New GM John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid aren't necessarily making organizational strides by swapping out Branden Albert for Joeckel. Albert was a good left tackle. They're simply saving some money and, in exchange for Albert, attempting to recoup the 2013 second-rounder lost in the Alex Smith trade. While Kansas City strongly considered Central Michigan's Eric Fisher for the past several months, it's become clear as the draft approaches that they have settled on Joeckel. Perhaps because Joeckel blocked superior SEC pass rushers, while Fisher played in the MAC.
2. Jaguars -- Central Michigan LT Eric Fisher
Word surfaced last weekend that Jacksonville was seriously considering a tackle at No. 2. My initial reaction was skepticism, seeing as the Jags already have an elite left tackle in Eugene Monroe and NFL teams don't draft right tackles in top five. But this is rookie GM Dave Caldwell's first-ever draft, and he may err on the "safe" side with his first-ever pick. The Jaguars should also know they'll have their choice of several quarterbacks at No. 33, perhaps including Geno Smith. It can't hurt Fisher's chances that the Jaguars face Texans left end J.J. Watt twice per year. With Fisher bookending Monroe, the Jaguars could regularly block Watt with a left tackle on each side.
3. Raiders -- Utah DT Star Lotulelei
I spoke to a high-ranking Raiders official two weeks ago, and he was adamant Oakland would select the highest-graded player on its draft board. I don't doubt him for a second. GM Reggie McKenzie is attempting to rebuild the league's worst roster, and has a need at virtually every position. While Sharrif Floyd warrants consideration, ultimately the Raiders will lean toward the first-team All-American and team captain senior. With elite run-stopping ability and some pocket-pushing tools, Lotulelei draws Haloti Ngata comparisons for his athleticism on a wide-body frame.
4. Eagles -- Oklahoma LT Lane Johnson
NFL Network's Mike Mayock suggested Tuesday that the Raiders might select Johnson at the third pick. I just don't think they'll have Johnson highly rated because Oakland is transitioning to a power-run scheme and Johnson is more of an athlete than mauling run blocker at this stage. The Eagles could really use Johnson's quick-twitch athleticism and second-level movement skills in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense. His addition would allow Philly to move Todd Herremans to right guard, with Jason Kelce at center, Evan Mathis at left guard, and Jason Peters back at left tackle.
5. Lions -- BYU DE Ziggy Ansah
I think the Lions really want Fisher and I think they'd probably take Johnson before Ansah, too. But neither of those left tackles is going to make it to the fifth pick. GM Martin Mayhew is a BPA drafter, and the coaching staff can feel very good about Ansah's boom-or-bust aura after coaching him every day at the Senior Bowl. Mayhew's roster is also incredibly needy at defensive end.
6. Browns -- Oregon OLB Dion Jordan
There is only one draft scenario in which I think Browns GM Mike Lombardi would resist making every effort to trade down. And that's if Jordan made it to the sixth overall pick. Drawing Jason Taylor comparisons, Jordan possesses special movement skills as pass rusher and coverage linebacker. He can rush with his hand in the dirt, cover tight ends and slot receivers, and affect offensive action from a two-point stance. He has a real chance to be the best player in this draft.
7. Cardinals -- LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo
Like the Lions, the Cardinals are praying one of the top-three left tackles falls to their first-round slot. It won't happen. Beyond left tackle, outside-edge rusher is Arizona's most glaring weakness after first-team rush linebackers O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho combined for a mere eight sacks across 25 starts in 2012. Mingo may be the draft's most naturally explosive defender.
8. Bills -- Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib
This seemingly inevitable pick will be widely criticized as a reach, but so was Miami's selection of Ryan Tannehill in the No. 8 spot last year. And that worked out pretty well. Bills personnel chiefs Buddy Nix and Doug Whaley might more strongly consider a trade back into the 20s for Nassib if they were working with more than six picks. Their best bet is to take Nassib at eight and go best-player-available the rest of the way. If Buffalo found a trade-down partner, that'd be even better.
9. Jets -- West Virginia WR Tavon Austin
Assuming rookie GM John Idzik doesn't deem a quarterback worthy of the ninth pick -- and I don't believe he will -- next on New York's lengthy priority list should be touchdown scorers and QB sackers. While the Jets will have a good idea about Jarvis Jones' availability at No. 13, they'll be less confident Austin gets by the Titans, Chargers, and Dolphins. Division-rival Miami might be the biggest threat to take him. Securing Austin at No. 9 would give new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg a sorely-needed versatile offensive weapon capable of both moving the chains and hitting pay dirt.
10. Titans -- North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper
Cooper is a picturesque fit for Tennessee's offense because he is highly athletic and effective on the hoof, capable of washing second-level defenders out of run plays. The Titans are a zone-blocking team. Recent reports have the Cardinals, Bills, and Jets all giving consideration to Cooper, so it's entirely possible he won't be there. If he is, expect Mike Munchak to snap him up.
11. Chargers -- Alabama RT D.J. Fluker
The Chargers are thankful the season doesn't start today, because if it did they'd have the worst offensive line in the NFL. Every front-five position is a major question mark aside from perhaps center, where Nick Hardwick is going on 32 years old. In order to give Philip Rivers any chance at playing competitive 2013 football, rookie GM Tom Telesco must attack the line in the draft, coming away with multiple starters. Able to start at either right guard or right tackle from day one, Fluker offers more value at this draft position than college teammate Chance Warmack.
12. Dolphins -- Houston CB D.J. Hayden
The Dolphins don't like the No. 12 slot. They've tried to move both up and down over the past 48 hours, hinting a draft-day trade may be forthcoming. Regardless of whether he pulls off a deal, admitted needs drafter Jeff Ireland will inevitably select a player at a roster weakness. Ireland is on the hotseat in a contract year, evidenced by his desperate free-agent spending spree. He's sure to cave into the Chiefs' demands for Branden Albert. Corner would then become Miami's greatest need position, and healthy Hayden is a stronger pick than surgery-riddled Dee Milliner.
13. Jets -- Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones
Although he may not be quite as stout in run defense, Jones' best NFL player comparison is Terrell Suggs for his non-stop motor, wide array of pass-rush moves, and sack production. Despite poor pre-draft measurables in 2003 -- Suggs couldn't crack 4.85 in the forty at two separate workouts -- the Ravens made then-alleged "faller" Suggs the No. 10 pick. Rex Ryan reaped the benefits, as Suggs racked up 30.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles with Ryan coordinating Baltimore's 2005-2008 defenses. Edge rusher is now a glaring need in New York. Antonio Cromartie excelled in the Revis Island role last season, but could use help up front.
14. Panthers -- Florida DT Sharrif Floyd
Giants GM Jerry Reese is an ardent proponent of the best-player-available method, and new Panthers GM Dave Gettleman worked under Reese for the past six years. The strategy has paid great dividends for the Giants. Not only would Floyd likely be atop Gettleman's draft board at this pick, he would fill a major void as Carolina's defensive tackle situation is annually problematic. Floyd would give the Panthers an interior up-field penetrator with immediate 5-8 sack potential.
15. Saints -- Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes
Under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Saints are transitioning to a press-heavy scheme in the secondary with an emphasis on big, long-armed DBs capable of matching up physically with Julio Jones and Vincent Jackson in the NFC South. Rhodes was the fourth tallest corner at the Combine, second heaviest, and had the third longest arms. With Rhodes and Keenan Lewis on the outside and Jabari Greer in the slot, New Orleans could field a formidable nickel package.
16. Rams -- Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins
There's been so much smoke on the Hopkins-St. Louis front since the weekend that it's become impossible to ignore. Plugged-in Yahoo reporter Jason Cole reported Sunday that the Rams would decide between Tavon Austin and Hopkins at the 16th pick. (Austin won't be there.) On Monday evening, the Rams sent multiple assistants to Clemson to put Hopkins through a private workout. A Roddy White-type receiver, Hopkins is a pro-ready route runner with impressive pass-plucking ability in traffic. GM Les Snead has devoted this offseason to helping Sam Bradford.