2014 DRAFT GUIDE
What to watch for in NFL draft

By BARRY WILNER - AP Pro Football Writer
    2012-04-25 03:09

NEW YORK (AP) - The NFL draft begins Thursday night with the first round, continues Friday night with the second and third rounds, and runs through Saturday, when the final four rounds will be held at Radio City Music Hall. The Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams both went 2-14 last season and had the top two picks, but the Rams traded the second spot to Washington.

Some things to look for in this year's draft:

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AT THE TOP

The first two picks will be quarterbacks: Andrew Luck of Stanford, who will go to the Colts, followed by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor, who is headed to the Redskins.

Luck is considered the most NFL-ready quarterback since Peyton Manning left Tennessee in 1998 for the Colts. Oddly, he will wind up as Manning's replacement in Indy after the four-time MVP was released by the Colts and signed with Denver. Rarely do college quarterbacks call their own plays or have total freedom behind center. Luck did.

RGIII is more of a running threat than Luck and has a stronger arm. He did not play in a prostyle offense the way Luck did in college, but Griffin's skill set and intelligence make him just as attractive as Luck.

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A CRIMSON FIRST ROUND

From national champions to first-round draft picks.

Five members of the Alabama Crimson Tide could have their names called Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall, four from the outstanding defense.

Safety Mark Barron and linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and running back Trent Richardson all are highly touted. Richardson is expected to go in the first six picks.

``We want to help them develop as a football player, which means have a great career here, win a championship and see if you can play at the next level,'' Tide coach Nick Saban said.

Alabama has eight players likely to be drafted. The others are nose tackle Josh Chapman, cornerback DeQuan Menzie and wide receiver/kick returner Marquis Maze.

Roll Tide.

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TOP JUNIORS

The first round will be packed with players who had eligibility remaining, including top choices Luck and Griffin. Richardson, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon and Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, all projected to go in top 10, are underclassmen.

A total of 65 underclassmen, the most ever, applied for the draft. Not all of them will get picked, but some will earn big bucks. Look for other non-seniors to go in the first round, such as Alabama's Hightower and Kirkpatrick, linebackers Luke Kuechly of Boston College and Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, defensive linemen Nick Perry of Southern California and Michael Brockers of LSU, and guard David DeCastro of Stanford.

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STRONGEST POSITION

Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and defensive ends who pile up sacks are the glamour positions. They are not always the deepest positions in the draft.

This year, only three quarterbacks are expected to go in the opening round: Luck, Griffin and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M. The strength in this grab bag of a draft is at cornerback and on the defensive line.

It's possible that four cornerbacks will come off the board in the first 32 picks, beginning with Claiborne. Others to watch for at that position are Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina, Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jackson of North Alabama. Crimson Tide safety Mark Barron is another defensive back almost certain to go early.

Defensive lineman likely destined to disappear in the first round are Perry, Brockers, Cox, Quinton Coples of North Carolina, Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, Kendell Reyes of Connecticut, Jerel Worthy of Michigan State, Devon Still of Penn State, and Upshaw, who can play linebacker or end.

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SLEEPERS

Five players who could sneak into the first round:

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis - At 6-foot-4, 346 pounds, he can clog the middle by himself, but he is incredibly streaky. His workouts showed more talent than his game tapes.

Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor - Experienced receiver with lots of speed and the moves to be a factor from the slot. Excels after the catch.

Cordy Glenn, OT-G, Georgia - Started as a freshman in the SEC, which is impressive. Versatile and durable, outstanding in the run game.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State - A 28-year-old who played minor league baseball before college football. Brings maturity, accuracy and NFL-caliber arm strength and size.

Shea McClellin, LB, Boise State - Has the size to play inside or outside, and he never backs down. Could also be a factor on special teams.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Jamarca SanfordMar 6 01:33p

New Orleans Saints SS Jamarca Sanford re-signed to a one-year contract Friday, March 6. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Brandon MarshallMar 6 01:23p

Chicago Bears WR Brandon Marshall was traded to the New York Jets in exchange for a fifth-round pick, pending a physical, per a league source.

Niles PaulMar 6 12:33p

Washington Redskins TE Niles Paul re-signed Friday, March 6. Paul could earn up to a little under $10 million with the new contract.

Matt PraterMar 6 12:13p

Detroit Lions PK Matt Prater signed a three-year, $9 million contract extension Friday, March 6.

Marques ColstonMar 6 10:43a

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston restructured his contract Friday, March 6, and will return in 2015.

Reggie WayneMar 6 10:43a

Indianapolis Colts impending free-agent WR Reggie Wayne will not be re-signed for 2015, the team announced Friday, March 6.

Jerome SimpsonMar 5 05:33p

Free-agent WR Jerome Simpson (Vikings) signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers Thursday, March 5.

LaMarr WoodleyMar 5 05:13p

Oakland Raiders LB LaMarr Woodley was officially released Thursday, March 5.

Vince WilforkMar 5 01:23p

Free-agent DT Vince Wilfork (Patriots) said he still plans to play in 2015, and he could return to the New England Patriots. 'Can I still play football? Hell yea! [ More ]

Adrian PetersonMar 5 01:03p

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson's meeting with head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman Wednesday, March 4, went well after the parties spent more than four hours [ More ]

Peyton ManningMar 5 12:53p

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning officially passed his physical and will return for the 2015 season.

Dwayne BoweMar 5 11:53a

Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe my be cut if the team can not trade him.

Vince WilforkMar 5 09:53a

New England Patriots DT Vince Wilfork announced that the Patriots will not pick up his option for the 2015 season, which makes him a free agent.

Darnell DockettMar 5 09:53a

Free-agent DE Darnell Dockett (Cardinals) agreed with the San Francisco 49ers Thursday, March 5, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Keith RiversMar 4 08:23p

Free-agent LB Keith Rivers (Bills) signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday, March 4. Rivers will add depth to the team's linebacking group. He has plenty of [ More ]

Matt CasselMar 4 07:53p

Minnesota Vikings QB Matt Cassel was traded to the Buffalo Bills Wednesday, March 4. The Bills swapped their 2015 fifth-round pick for the Vikings 2015 sixth-round draft pick. Minnesota [ More ]

Pierre ThomasMar 4 07:53p

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas was released Wednesday, March 4.

Trent ColeMar 4 04:13p

Philadelphia Eagles LB Trent Cole was officially cut Wednesday, March 4.

DeMeco RyansMar 4 01:03p

Philadelphia Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans (Achilles'), who tore his Achilles' halfway through the 2014 season, probably won't be back with the team after they acquired LB Kiko Alonso from [ More ]

Andre JohnsonMar 4 11:23a

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson has asked the team to release him this offseason.

LeSean McCoyMar 3 06:43p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy will reportedly be traded for Buffalo Bills LB Kiko Alonso.

Kiko AlonsoMar 3 06:43p

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy will reportedly be traded for Buffalo Bills LB Kiko Alonso.

Tyvon BranchMar 3 05:23p

Oakland Raiders SS Tyvon Branch was officially released, as expected, Tuesday, March 3.

DeMarco MurrayMar 3 01:43p

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent RB DeMarco Murray would likely re-sign with the Cowboys if the offer they make him is equal or similar financially to offers he receives from [ More ]

Cole BeasleyMar 3 01:13p

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $13.1 million. The extension could be worth as much as $15.1 million.

Andre JohnsonMar 2 11:03p

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson was asked to accept a reduced role, but he declined and asked to be traded or cut, according to people familiar with the situation.

Bernard PollardMar 2 07:23p

Tennessee Titans SS Bernard Pollard has been informed that he will be released, according to sources familiar with the situation. Pollard asked the Titans to release him last month. [ More ]

Le'Veon BellMar 2 04:33p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell could be suspended up to four games, according to the NFL's new substance-abuse policy. A two-game suspension is standard for a DUI resulting from [ More ]

J.D. WaltonMar 2 04:13p

New York Giants C J.D. Walton was released Monday, March 2.

Lance MooreMar 2 04:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Lance Moore was released Monday, March 2.

Brad JonesMar 2 03:53p

Free-agent LB Brad Jones (Packers) signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, March 2. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Charles ClayMar 2 03:12p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay received the transition tag Monday, March 2, according to a source. The transition tag for tight ends is worth $7.071 million.

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