The folks at ESPN must be delighted at all of the intrigue surrounding this year's NFL Draft, which it will be televising wall-to-wall for the 28th year.
What we know is the Miami Dolphins will make Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long the first player chosen. What we think we know are which five players will come off the board next. What we have no idea about are where these guys are going.
There's always a lot of predraft talk about teams trading down to accumulate more choices. That always remains a possibility if a player targeted by an organization falls off the board before its pick, prompting it to turn to Plan B.
Wednesday's trade by the Kansas City Chiefs of Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings for three draft choices has made things much more interesting. The Chiefs, who pick at No. 5, were widely expected to go for one of the many blue-chip offensive linemen available in this year's class, though there was growing sentiment among some so-called experts that Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan might be the guy.
But with the Chiefs getting Minnesota's first-round pick (No. 17) in the Allen deal, all bets are off. With Allen gone, the Chiefs — a team in need of a massive overhaul at several positions — have to figure out how they're going to make up many of his NFL-best 15 1/2 sacks in 2007. That would seem to indicate they might use the No. 5 pick on one of the stud defensive linemen expected to go early in the first round. But like the TV audience that will be tuned to ESPN, they're going to have to wait a while to see who's still available.
It would be a mild upset if these players didn't follow Long off the board in no particular order: LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Ohio State defensive end/linebacker Vernon Gholston, Virginia defensive end Chris Long, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Boston College's Ryan. Where they'll end up is anyone's guess. The teams picking ahead of the Chiefs — the St. Louis Rams, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders — aren't tipping their hands.
No mock draft is safe this year, making the weekend's festivities all the more alluring. And when it's over, it'll be time to turn our attention to June's NBA Draft, where the talent entering that league is the best in years. That, too, has to have ESPN anticipating ratings gold.
ESPN's coverage of the 2008 NFL Draft begins at 3 p.m. ET Saturday from New York. Sunday's coverage kicks off at 10 a.m. ET.