1. The first trade happens at the No. 5 overall pick. Tennessee will happily slide back for a team picking 10-18 looking to move way up for either a QB or Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles, who the NFL likes a lot more than the draft media lets on. The Titans will take a safety and a wide receiver with their two first-round picks.
2. Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson will be the No. 2 and No. 3 overall picks. You’ll see a major shift in the more prominent mock drafts to reflect this position in the final days leading into the draft.
3. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey will both be top 10 overall picks, and the teams which select each will take an offensive lineman in either the second or third round to help them.
4. Myles Garrett will be the No. 1 pick, and the Cleveland Browns will make the pick. This shouldn’t be a bold take but there are some, notably in the Cleveland media, who are trying to convince themselves this will not happen.
5. Cleveland doesn’t draft at either No. 12 or No. 33, their second and third current slots. They will take a QB in the first round, and Browns fans better hope it’s not Davis Webb.
6. Two teams will trade out of the first round entirely: the Houston Texans at No. 25 and the Atlanta Falcons at No. 31. Houston is desperately trying to recoup the 2018 second-round pick lost in the Brock Osweiler trade, while Atlanta goes for value and selects either Kansas State DE Jordan Willis or Ohio DE Tarell Basham with its first pick.
7. I like waffles. Who doesn’t like waffles? So here’s a prediction with a waffle in it: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook will either be the No. 19 pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or else he’s not going to be drafted in the first round. NFL teams can live with either injury or character concerns, but not both.
8. Even though most in the draft media tout him as the No. 1 wideout (I’m firmly in this group too), Western Michigan WR Corey Davis winds up being the third WR off the board. Clemson’s Mike Williams and Washington’s John Ross both go before Davis.
9. One of the surprise draft risers is Western Kentucky OL Forrest Lamp, who winds up being a top-15 overall pick. The analysts on the set of NFL Network’s draft coverage will trip over themselves claiming to live him more than anyone else.
10. The first player not at the NFL Scouting Combine drafted will be Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon. The controversial Mixon will be Cincinnati’s pick in the second round.
11. Although they’ve traded both their first and second round picks already, the New England Patriots will make at least one selection in the top 50 picks. They’ll move up to draft a cornerback.
12. The New York Jets will trade one of their current QBs, either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg, during the draft. The long-range fearless predictions here: With the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft after a 1-15 disaster this fall, the New York Jets select USC QB Sam Darnold.
13. Pairing the non-first round QBs with teams who will draft them, in the order they will be drafted:
Davis Webb - Jacksonville
Josh Dobbs - Denver
Nathan Peterman - Houston
Jerod Evans - Seattle
Brad Kaaya - LA Chargers
Chad Kelly - Buffalo
Alek Torgersen - Atlanta
14. The first FCS-level player drafted will be Youngstown State pass rusher Derek Rivers. Both he and Ashland TE Adam Shaheen, a D-II prospect, will be second-round picks.
15. Kickers are people too. Arizona State kicker Zane Gonzalez is the first specialist off the board, in the first five picks of the fifth round. Memphis’s Jake Elliott will also be a fifth-rounder.
16. I’m a proud Ohio Bobcat alum, and this will be the first year since 1972--the year of my birth--that two Bobcats are drafted in the same year. Edge Tarell Basham and LB Blair Brown will both be drafted higher than the first Bobcat back in ’72, Al Benton as the 25th pick in the fourth round.
17. Jimmy Garoppolo remains with the New England Patriots. The celebrated backup QB’s trade potential will be mentioned no fewer than 19 times between the No. 2 and No. 25 overall picks are made.
18. Just as with last year in Chicago, one day of unseasonably cold and miserable weather will drive the NFL from having the draft in Philadelphia in 2018. As one of the huddled, wet, frozen masses who survived the windy, rainy, 40-degree Saturday in Chicago, I’d like to suggest Houston or Dallas for 2018. Dallas is the early front-runner, FYI.
19. My own personal final mock draft (which publishes by 6 AM the morning of April 27) will have exactly 6 first-round players and teams correctly matched. However, I’ll have 28 of the 32 first-round players correct. That will be more than average. I’ll also beat the average by having 82 of the first 100 players picked correctly identified.
20. Injured players typically fall on draft weekend. Last year both Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack fell from potential top-10 picks into the second round. This year the most prominent injured players are Jack’s former UCLA teammate Takk McKinley and Washington CB Sidney Jones. McKinley will wind up being selected in the 40s, while Jones falls to Detroit’s selection in the second round at No. 53.
21. One protestor filled with liquid courage will attempt to rush the stage while Commissioner Roger Goodell is talking. The protestor will get louder cheers from the Philly crowd than the Eagles’ first-round pick.
22. When North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer is drafted sometime in the fifth round, the only names mentioned as comparable players will be Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Such is the fate of a 5-foot-9, quicker-than-fast white receiver and return man…
23. Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner was touted as a first-round pick by ESPN’s Todd McShay over the summer. Leidner will go undrafted but nobody will call him out on it on-air. Imagining what McShay ever saw in Leidner to even contemplate that as a possibility is somewhere at the bottom of an empty, shattered bottle of bootleg moonshine.
24. Both Canadian college products at the Shrine Game will be drafted this year. Laval TE Antony Auclair and Manitoba OL Geoff Gray will both hear their names called “oot” in the sixth round. I’m a big fan of Auclair, who reminds me of Houston starter C.J. Fiedorowicz.
25. Only one defensive tackle will be drafted in the first round. Alabama’s Jonathan Allen goes in the top 15, and then no other DT is called to the stage before Michigan State’s Malik McDowell sometime in the late 30’s overall.
26. Three players who will be drafted a lot higher than expected:
USC cornerback Adoree Jackson, in the top 30
Texas RB D’Onta Foreman, in the first five picks of the third round
Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson, by the end of the second round
27. The flip side…three players who will wind up waiting a lot longer than generally predicted before being drafted:
Florida CB Teez Tabor, from “top 20 lock” in January to not being one of the first 200 players selected
Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp, the Senior Bowl golden boy falls to the late fifth round
Ohio State WR Noah Brown, a surprise early entrant who won’t be drafted before the compensatory picks in the seventh round
28. A potential Tony Romo comeback will be mentioned at least twice during the ESPN broadcast, as the four-letter network attempts to get him back on the field and out of the hold of CBS’s No. 1 broadcast team. It won’t happen, Romo is done playing football.
29. A total of 14 of the first 40 picks will be traded, and there will be 39 total trades from beginning to end of the draft. Cleveland will be involved in five of them.
30. Number of times the Chargers will be referred to as “San Diego”--6
Number of times the Rams will be referred to as “St. Louis”--2
Number of times the Raiders will be referred to as “Las Vegas”--once, when they make their first pick…which will be Washington CB Kevin King
31. More people will watch or listen to the first night of the NFL Draft than any other sporting event between now and the opening weekend of the 2017 NFL season.
32. My Mr. Irrelevant prediction is Middle Tennessee State RB I’Tavius Mathers