After months of empty nonsense, the NFL’s 32 organizations will actually make 256 draft picks over the next three days, starting with the first 32 selections in prime time tonight. Everyone has been ready for this draft for weeks now, and yet there still might not be a surefire match of team and player at any single spot in the first round. Any of the teams in the top five could very well trade their pick or take one of several different players. It’s going to be a fascinating opener.
Let’s set the stage for tonight’s event. Here are the things you should be watching for and the unsettled questions that will be answered during the first round of the NFL draft:
Amazingly, the fate of the draft’s opening selection remains up in the air. The last time Houston had the first overall pick was in 2006, when it waited until the evening before to make the shocking announcement that it had come to terms on a contract with Mario Williams (instead of Reggie Bush, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and presumptive top pick). That was under the old CBA. The new CBA offers little contractual negotiating room regardless of draft position, so even if the Texans have made up their mind, they can afford to leave their announcement until tonight.
My suspicion is still that they will end up holding on to the first pick and drafting Jadeveon Clowney. For all the talk over the past few days about how great Khalil Mack is, Clowney has been ahead of him on just about every draft board every step of the way for a reason. When you find a pass-rusher whose playing style roughly approximates an At the Drive-In song, you should take him and ask questions later.