Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs selected offensive tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall selection in the NFL draft when tackle Luke Joeckel was a far more popular mock selection at No. 1.
The Miami Dolphins then traded up with the Oakland Raiders to No. 3 overall. They needed a tackle, and they drafted a pass-rusher in Dion Jordan.
Meanwhile, the Raiders used the Dolphins' 12th pick to select corner D.J. Hayden, whom many didn't even have pegged for a first-round selection.
My point is that mock drafts tend to get thrown off track quickly. One thing leads to another and all of a sudden Leon Sandcastle is going off the board at No. 13 or, even more unbelievably, the Minnesota Vikings don't pick anyone at all in their draft slot.
At any rate, I'm going to attempt to predict the unpredictable and pinpoint the selections that will throw all the months of predictions violently off course.
No. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
It is widely assumed that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take a quarterback with the third selection in the draft. That makes sense. This team needs its quarterback of the future.
Still, there are a few talents at the top of the defensive-prospect list that will be hard to pass on—especially considering that the Jaguars are coached by Gus Bradley, who helped shape the Seahawks' defense that just led Seattle to the Super Bowl.
I believe Jadeveon Clowney will be off the board in the first two selections, but that every other defensive player will be available.
This will lead the Jaguars to the supremely impressive talents of Khalil Mack.
Mack has such a rare blend of speed and power that NFL Network's draft guru Mike Mayock would make him his No. 1 overall selection. Former NFL receiver Torry Holt passes along that news:
Mack has the talent to be a complete player, but it is his ability coming off the edge that will mean the Jaguars don't pass on him.
No. 5 Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Oakland Raiders have a big need at quarterback. That makes quarterback a popular mock option for the Raiders. The other popular selection, as two of the four mock drafts posted by CBS Sports display, is wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
That would also fill a big need for the Raiders, but I still think the Raiders will go in a different direction.
Instead, Oakland will look to fill a spot that is not as big of a need: left tackle.
The Raiders have Jared Veldheer, but he is a free agent and will be looking for a big payday. He was already expressing frustration to 95.7 The Game, as this tweet by Pro Football Talk tells us in early February:
At any rate, Veldheer missed most of last season with injury, and while he's overachieved expectations as a third-round pick, he's far from perfect. Also, he's already missed significant time with injury.
The Raiders have plenty of cap space, more than any other team, but general manager Reggie McKenzie isn't going to let that lead to him overpaying for anyone.
I wouldn't put it past the Raiders to apply the franchise tag on Veldheer and follow a similar strategy to the Kansas City Chiefs last year when they franchised tackle Branden Albert and then drafted Fisher.
The Raiders then could select Matthews, or Auburn tackle Greg Robinson if he's still on the board, and let Veldheer play under the franchise tag and explore free agency the following season.
Trades are the most exciting part of the draft, and I expect several first-round moves this year. For instance, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wants the Atlanta Falcons to trade up to draft him, as he told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (h/t Pro Football Talk):
This move wouldn't be a shock—especially considering the St. Louis Rams are sitting at No. 2 in the draft. The Rams aren't desperate for a quarterback, and the defensive end position is one of their strengths.
I'm not certain the Falcons will make this trade, but I do expect the Rams to trade down. As Peter King of MMQB notes, the Rams "will be very interested in doing so" and appear ready to wheel and deal.
Think about that. The Rams have that No. 2 selection from the Washington Redskins. It is the last pick from the trade that allowed Washington to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 selection in the 2012 draft.
The Rams sent Washington that pick and in return got three first-round picks and a second.
They are not going to get anywhere near the haul they did for the Griffin pick, but they will turn it into extra picks.
For instance, that trade mentioned in the intro had the Dolphins send the Raiders the 12th and 42nd picks in the 2013 draft for the third selection.
With either Clowney or every single quarterback on the board at No. 2 this year, the Rams' pick will have more value than that. It isn't out of the question the St. Louis could turn this into a first this year and one next year.
The Rams' trade with the Redskins is turning into one of the NFL's all-time greatest coups.
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