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Draft primer: How many QBs will be selected Thursday?

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The wait is finally over. While the draft rumors continue to fly, they all have an expiration date in less than 24 hours. And all those rumors will be forgotten when the 2016 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night at 8 pm ET.

This draft has been mocked, ranked and analyzed to death over the last few months. With hours left to go, here are some of the big picture topics we're focused on heading into Thursday.

The Broncos' quarterback dilemma


The news out of Denver lately has been sobering for Broncos fans hoping for an exciting replacement for Mark Sanchez, potential Week 1 starter.

We tend to think this is a case of setting expectations low so that VP of All Things Football John Elway can pull off a surprise during the week. Sam Bradford is a long shot after the Broncos showed interest this week. Colin Kaepernick has been in the Broncos building, which shows the unusual mutual interest. Logic demands that the two sides find a compromise over the weekend. And if that doesn't happen, don't be stunned if Elway gets a former Gary Kubiak quarterback on the cheap: Case Keenum.

How many quarterbacks will be drafted Thursday?


2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:

Memphis' Paxton Lynch looks like a safe pick to go in the first round although it could be very early (San Francisco at No. 7) or very late (Denver at No. 31) depending on what you believe. As the interminable wait for the draft has dragged on, the chatter about Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg sneaking into Round 1 has increased.

We aren't buying the Hackenberg heat. Cook has an outside chance to surprise people and get taken in Round 1, with the Broncos being a potential landing spot. To put it another way: A lot of folks have looked smart predicting that more quarterbacks than expected will go in Round 1.

Robert Nkemdiche is the pass rushing wild card


Perhaps no player has inspired more fascinating words written about him than Ole Miss pass rusher Robert Nkemdiche. Whether it was the excellent ESPN Magazine profile on him or the laughable criticisms lobbed at him from anonymous scouts in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

From one personnel man: "I don't know where football comes as a priority. He's worldly. He'd be a guy you give a big contract to and he'd be happy."

And another: "He's like a lot of kids from this generation. He's grown up in some privilege, and that family is involved with so many different endeavors. You're not going to get rid of that."

Yes, growing up in privilege has been a huge setback for the Manning brothers. As the draft gets closer, more folks suspect all this negative talk about Nkemdiche are from teams in the late first round hoping that he slips. Don't expect it to happen. The Vikings could be an intriguing landing spot at No. 23 if he makes it that far. There just aren't enough pass rushers in this draft, no matter how many scouts predict Nkemdiche will be a bust.

Which wide receiver will go first?


After a few loaded wide receiver classes at this top, this group will have to wait past the first ten picks before flying off the board. It's far from a poor group, though. It just depends what kind of flavor you like at the position.

TCU's Josh Doctson runs professional routes and grabs contested catches like a madman. Baylor's Corey Coleman can play inside and out with excellent after-the-catch skills. (His hands are a question mark.) For a pure burner, some like Notre Dame's Will Fuller. And Mississippi's Laquon Treadwell is the pick if you want a complete, physical receiver that will fall too far because of a slow 40 time.

It wouldn't be a shock if any one of these receivers went off the board first. Surprising picks tend to happen at wide receiver on draft day (Troy Williamson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Tavon Austin, Ted Ginn, anyone?) and almost nothing would surprise here. All four could go off the board in the first round, with a cluster of teams starting with the Jets at No. 20 that could take one. (Minnesota, Cincinnati and Houston pick 22-24.)

Treadwell is our favorite, although Doctson is a close second. But Treadwell is the type of complete talent that NFL teams routinely talk themselves out of drafting too early.

Players that could go earlier and later than expected


NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd is starting to look like a top ten pick. There just aren't enough pure pass rushers available. Tackles Ronnie Stanley and Jack Conklin could be part of an early offensive line run, with Conklin a sneaky top ten potential pick. Baylor nose tackle Andrew Billings is another name that could sneak up earlier than expected.

Some players to watch who could possibly drop: Eastern Kentucky Noah Spence and Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee. Speaking of linebackers ...

How far will Myles Jack fall?


Rapoport has been reporting that the UCLA linebacker's medical concerns were significant for a while now. Now it is widely expected Jack will fall out of the top ten. We can't imagine him falling too much further because his talent was worthy of being No. 2 overall on Daniel Jeremiah's big board, and that ranking was far from an outlier.

New Orleans, Miami, Oakland and Atlanta could all be options to pick up value with Jack outside of the top ten. Mike Mayock has the Raiders taking him. (The Giants reportedly took him off their board at No. 10.) It would be a very Ravensy move to trade down from No. 6 only to pick up a big name talent like Jack.

The beautiful thing here is that we won't have to be asking questions for much longer. On Thursday night, we get answers.

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