2008 NFL Draft Primer

After the annual fireworks in the opening hour, what in the name of yard work is going to keep you from queuing up the TiVo and tackling some overgrown foliage between your team's picks this weekend?

We know Jake Long is headed to South Florida, and that some combination of Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, Vernon Gholston, Chris Long, Darren McFadden and Matt Ryan are likely to fill out the top seven. The order depends on a potential whirlwind of deals being discussed among teams.

But there promises to be plenty of drama throughout the weekend, from a slew of trades to the inevitable and excruciating train wreck of watching big-name players slide down the board.

NFLDraftScout.com has compiled a list of compelling storylines to keep tabs on this weekend:

Five surprises to not be surprised by:
1. Quarterbacks Are Always the Story: The top four signal-callers could be off the board within the top 40 picks.
2. No Tight Ends in First: Several teams in the first round need tight ends, but value lies in the 2nd-3rd round at this position.
3. Jerry Jones Makes His Presence Felt: With two first-round picks (Nos. 22, 28) the Cowboys are in excellent position to trade up, and have also explored trading back.
4. Less Time for Picks Equals More Time for Trades? With the time allotted for first-round picks dropping from 15 minutes to 10, teams are talking trade now, meaning there could more trades than normal this year.
5. Focus on the linemen: Nearly half of the 31 first-round picks this year will be offensive or defensive linemen.

Five prospects likely to slip:
1. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas: Undeniable talent, but hard for any team to justify spending a first-round pick on a player who has admitted to failing at least four drug tests during his career.
2. Dan Connor, ILB, Penn State: Good, but not great middle linebacker = second round.
3. Calais Campbell, DE, Miami: Imposing size (6-8, 290), but viewed by some as a bit of a 'tweener. Lacks the burst to generate a consistent pass rush outside and loses leverage inside.
4. Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan: Lying to teams at the Combine about failing at least one drug test could push this first-round talent out of the first day.
5. Tommy Blake, DE, TCU: Entered the year as a Top 20 prospect, but depression, other off-field concerns will drop Blake out of the draft entirely.

Five prospects likely to go earlier than expected:
1. Sedrick Ellis, DT, Southern California: If he were two or three inches taller, he would have been in consideration for No. 1 overall.
2. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon: In a strong draft for runners, Stewart is the rarest combination of power and speed.
3. Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech: Don't let the slow 40 fool you, Flowers can play.
4. John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame: Lacks the upside of other tight ends, but is the most NFL-ready of the class.
5. Kevin Smith, RB, Central Florida: Creeping up the board as more teams acknowledge his dominant junior season and rare combination of vision, patience and burst.

Five NFL players likely to be traded (or not):
1. Lito Sheppard, CB, Eagles: It's no secret Sheppard has been on the market since Asante Samuel signed as a free agent. It would be a fairly big surprise if he's still on the Eagles' roster come Sunday.
2. Jason Taylor, DE, Dolphins: Bill Parcells is reportedly open to dealing Taylor for more draft picks to aid in the rebuilding process. And Taylor is apparently more than open to changing addresses. Question is, what can Miami get for a 33-year-old pass rusher with a huge salary cap figure?
3. Jeremy Shockey, TE, Giants: GM Jerry Reese insists Shockey is the team's starting tight end. But Kevin Boss emerged as a playmaker as a rookie, and doesn't bring the divisive presence to the huddle that Shockey is infamous for.
4. Jammal Brown, LT, Saints: New Orleans has been rumored to be trying to move from No. 10 to as high as No. 2 so it can grab LSU DT Glenn Dorsey. With only six draft picks to play with this year, Brown's name has surfaced as additional bait.
5. J.P. Losman, QB, Bills: The team claims it doesn't intend to trade him, but Losman has repeatedly said he would like to be dealt. Buffalo might be wise to grant his wish. WR Lee Evans lobbied for Losman all last season, and the Bills could prevent an uncomfortable situation should Trent Edwards stumble out of the gate next season.
6. WRs Anquan Boldin (Cardinals), Chad Johnson (Bengals), Roy Williams (Lions): We break our top-five theme only because you'll hear these names bandied about ad nauseum this weekend. The Redskins are desperate for a big receiver to fit in coach Jim Zorn's West Coast Offense, but an offer of two high-round picks hasn't been enough to entice Arizona or Cincinnati. The Cowboys are also in the market for a playmaker at the position, and would be interested in landing the former Longhorn Williams. So far, there has been no crack in Detroit's insistence that Williams isn't available.

Five draft picks likely to be dealt:
1. Kansas City trades up with Rams (No. 2) for DE Vernon Gholston.
2. New Orleans trades up with Rams (No. 2) or Patriots (No. 7) for DTs Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis.
3. Baltimore trades up with Kansas City (No. 5) for QB Matt Ryan.
4. Atlanta trades up with San Diego (No. 27) for QB Brian Brohm.
5. Miami trades up with Dallas (No. 28) for QB Chad Henne.

Five small-school prospects to watch:
1. Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy: Ascending cover corner with seven touchdowns as a returner. Strong performance during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl.
2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State: Listed as a first-round talent by NFLDraftScout.com since August; rest of the world caught up at Senior Bowl, Combine.
3. Tyrell Johnson, S, Arkansas State: Three-time all-conference selection characterized as instinctive, but not athletic -- until he dominated position at the Combine.
4. Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware: Former Pitt Panther possesses rare size (6-7, 236) and the draft's strongest arm.
5. Jerome Simpson, WR, Coastal Carolina: Best small-school prospect that no one seems to be talking about. More dominant at this level and possessing better overall athleticism than Marques Colston.

Five versatile prospects to watch:
1. Chris Long, DL/OLB, Virginia: Draft's most versatile defender -- best as a 4-3 end or outside linebacker in the 3-4, but can also play inside in a pinch due to his hand play and overall strength.
2. Mike Jenkins, DB, South Florida: Experienced at corner and safety, and averaged 30-plus yards as a kick returner in 2007.
3. Phillip Merling, DL, Clemson: Emerged as one of the ACC's top defensive ends as a junior, but has the frame to add an additional 20 pounds to his 6-4, 276 pounds and may grow into a tackle.
4. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina: Size, speed and agility to make an immediate impact as a runner, receiver and returner. Led the nation with 227.69 all-purpose yards per game in 2007.
5. Mike McGlynn, OL, Pittsburgh: Capable of playing any of the five positions along the o-line, including long-snapper.

Rob Rang is a Senior Editor for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange. Visit www.nfldraftscout.com for a special discount available only for draft weekend!

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