That’s a rarity, but Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota both turned down invitations to be in Chicago on draft weekend, and Mariota, despite growing rumors that he could be considered as a No. 1 overall selection instead of Winston, confirmed during a Christian men’s event in Minnesota this weekend that going to the right team was more important to him than being selected first overall.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the top pick on April 30 and have long been rumored to be locked in on Winston, but Mariota is gaining momentum in the media as a possibility there now. Several other quarterback-needy teams are in the top 10, including the Tennessee Titans at No. 2, Washington Redskins at No. 5, New York Jets at No. 6 and St. Louis Rams at No. 10. Even the Chicago Bears, with the No. 7 pick, have hosted both Winston and Mariota, despite still having Jay Cutler on the roster after apparently finding no takers in the trade market.
Winston and Mariota are considered the only first-round quarterbacks, but there will be plenty of other offensive talent on hand in Chicago.
Although top-rated receiver Amari Cooper isn’t attending, the next two among the top three at the position, DeVante Parker (Louisville) and Kevin White (West Virginia), have confirmed their attendance, along with Devin Smith (Ohio State), Jaelen Strong (Arizona State) and Breshad Perriman (Stanford).
The top two running backs, Todd Gurley (Georgia) and Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), will also be present for their expected first-round selections, but they are the only two at their position.
Offensive linemen will be well-represented, with tackles Brandon Scherff (Iowa), Andrus Peat (Stanford), La’el Collins (Louisiana State), Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and D.J. Humphries (Florida), guard Laken Tomlinson (Duke) and center Cameron Erving (Florida State) in Chicago. Scherff is expected to be the first offensive lineman selected while Tomlinson and Humphries may have to wait until the second day of the draft, May 1, to hear their names called.
Defensive ends Vic Beasley (Clemson), Randy Gregory (Nebraska), Dante Fowler Jr. (Florida), Shane Ray (Missouri) and Arik Armstead (Oregon) will be there, as will defensive tackle/end Leonard Williams (USC, and Scout.com’s top-rated player) and nose tackle Danny Shelton (Washington).
At linebacker, Alvin Dupree (Kentucky) and Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State) will represent.
The defensive backfield will have its share of representative too: CBs Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Byron Jones (Connecticut) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), as well as safety Landon Collins (Alabama).
The first round of the draft starts at 7 p.m. Central April 30 and concludes at approximately 10:30. The second round starts at 6 p.m. Central May 1, with coverage including the third round that day, with the final four rounds of the draft starting at 11 a.m. Central May 2.
The draft will be televised on ESPN/ESPN2 and NFL Network.
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