Draft Still Muddled

With the draft less than a month away, the views toward the top picks in the draft have been varied and greatly different - starting with the first pick. While previous drafts have seen the top picks fall into some kind of consensus order, that isn't the case this year.

Typically with a month to go until the draft, the pecking order has been pretty well established. Last year, for example, it was pretty much assumed that the Raiders would make JaMarcus Russell the first pick of the draft, but there was some question as to who would go with the next few picks – Joe Thomas, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, etc. But this year, we're four weeks away from the draft and it's difficult to find a consensus as to who the top picks will be.

The Dolphins hold the key to the top of the draft with the first overall selection and they would appear to have their mind settled on one of two players – QB Matt Ryan or DE Chris Long. Ryan is the type of franchise quarterback that struggling teams like the Dolphins can build around, but Bill Parcells has also had a history of building his teams through defense.

This is where it gets a little dicey. If the Dolphins take Ryan, Long is almost sure to go No. 2 to the Rams. If they take Long, the next likely pick would be offensive tackle Jake Long, which would push Ryan to the third pick and the Falcons. While the scenarios are limited to how the top three picks will fall, after that it gets even more muddled.

The talk of the draft thus far has been running back Darren McFadden and many believe he can be an explosive impact player that would be deserving of the first overall pick. But who will take him? The Dolphins have invested heavily in Ronnie Brown. The Rams have Steven Jackson. The Falcons paid Michael Turner big money in free agency. The Raiders gave Lamont Jordan a big contract in 2006, Dominic Rhodes a fat deal in 2007 and Justin Fargas was re-signed during this offseason. The Chiefs signed Larry Johnson to a long-term extension, which probably takes them out of consideration.

Much in the same way Peterson fell to No. 7 and the Vikings because the teams in front of them didn't have a pressing need at running back, McFadden could fall to the Jets or Patriots at Nos. 6 or 7 as a result. Somewhere in that mix is defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and perhaps offensive tackle Ryan Clady or fast-rising linebacker Vernon Gholston.

The simple fact is that, while there is talent at the top of the draft, there isn't a consensus view as to who the top pick is or who the next five or six selections will be. If nothing else, it should make the draft more exciting as the unknowns come into play. While the Vikings will have to sit and wait for 16 picks before they're on the clock, the one thing that they can count on is that someone they like a lot is going to fall to them. As the teams at the top of the draft sort themselves out, somebody will slip through the cracks much like Peterson did last year. It would be unfair to expect a player that makes an impact as much as A.D. did last year, but the waiting will likely be worth the time because no agreed-on view toward the top picks means that there will be some surprises – both who gets picked and who slides down the board.

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