But, just as last year, don’t expect all 23 of the players invited to hear their name called during the first round. In the latest CFU mock draft, 21 players invited to Radio City Music Hall are projected to go in the first round. One player who isn’t on the CFU mock draft, but is projected on other mock drafts to hear his name called among the first 32 picks is Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson. Some draftniks are high on Watson, who CFU has rated 76th overall. If that projection holds, Watson wouldn’t go until the third round, but his stock appears to be climbing and he could go in the second.
Watson is one of four Florida State players invited to New York, along with defensive end Bjoern Werner, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and quarterback E.J. Manuel. Werner and Rhodes should be locks to go in the first round, but Manuel will likely have to spend the night before he hears his name called. He might be the fourth quarterback selected after West Virginia’s Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, but he is the second quarterback on the CFU Big Board.
Several NFL teams needing quarterbacks have already made moves to acquire a veteran. The Oakland Raiders got Matt Flynn, the Arizona Cardinals traded for Carson Palmer, the Buffalo Bills signed Kevin Kolb and the Kansas City Chiefs acquired Alex Smith from San Francisco. Each team could draft a quarterback, but only Buffalo appears to be in a position to take one in the first round after signing Kolb to a backup contract.
The Philadelphia Eagles could make a move on a quarterback, but they already have five on the roster and it’s doubtful they’d add a sixth with a first-round pick when they have other more pressing needs. After restructuring his contract with an incentive-laden one-year deal, Michael Vick appears ready to compete with Nick Foles for the starting job. Philadelphia might look at spending a high draft pick on a quarterback next year, but it won’t be this year.
The Cleveland Browns, and new general manager Michael Lombardi, are another team rumored to be interested in a quarterback. Lombardi may not be enamored with Brandon Weeden, but it seems rather shortsighted to give up on a first-round pick after just one season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who own the second overall pick, could be another team interested in a quarterback. But the Jags used the 10th overall pick in 2011 on quarterback Blaine Gabbert and will likely give him a third season to turn things around after two disappointing years before they go looking to take another quarterback in the first round.
The New York Jets own the ninth pick and are undecided on the futures of starter Mark Sanchez and backups Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy. They signed veteran David Garrard this offseason to push Sanchez for the starting job. It seems the Jets are content with what they have and will use that first-round pick to upgrade another area.
After the ninth pick, there are no other teams in need of a quarterback. Should no quarterback go in the first nine picks, and there are definitely reasons to think that might happen, we might not see a single quarterback selected in the first round.
If Buffalo passes on a quarterback in the first round, look for new coach Doug Marrone to grab his former quarterback at Syracuse, Nassib, in the second round.
The NFL invited a record 26 players to the draft last year for its Thursday “primetime” event, but several had to wait another day to hear their name called. Stanford tight end Coby Fleener, Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn, Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, LSU receiver Rueben Randle, Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still and Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw were all selected in the second round. A year earlier, Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams, UCLA safety Rahim Moore and UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers sat through the first night of the draft before hearing their names called in the second round.
The NFL wants to have the drama for its second night of primetime draft coverage, but it is really unfair to give these players the expectation of getting selected in the first round only to have them sit there, tormented by hearing other names called before their own.
This is the same dilemma that will likely face Manuel, and possibly Watson, this year. But, if Manuel and Watson are the two invited players not selected, at least the former teammates have a shoulder to lean on as they wait until Friday.
Players Confirmed to Attend the NFL Draft
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
Barkevious Mingo, DE, Louisiana State
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Eric Reid, S, Louisiana State
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama