"I can't remember a year that less was known at this time," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said on air Tuesday after arriving in Philadelphia.
The No. 1 overall pick appears to be decided, with Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett expected to go to Cleveland, but anything goes after that. If you are among the dark souls who root against the accuracy of all mock drafts, this should be a banner year for you. With hours left to go before the draft starts -- OUTSIDE!! -- in Philly on Thursday, here's a look at some of the big-picture topics to focus on.
What do the 49ers do?
The first draft pick made by a new regime is a tone-setter, the equivalent of the first play-call in a coach's career. (The all-time great opening statement came from current Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who, in his initial year as Baltimore's vice president of player personnel, selected Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis with his first two picks of the 1996 NFL Draft.)
The 49ers' selection at No. 2 will signal, in some ways, how new GM John Lynch and new coach Kyle Shanahan see the future of this franchise after signing tandem six-year contracts in February.
Let's assume that the Browns select Garrett at No. 1. San Francisco will then go on the clock with the chance to take one of roughly 10 different options awarded to them in mock drafts over the last month. Give Lynch and his staff credit for not tipping their hand while playing the usual pre-draft trade games.
NFL Network's Steve Wyche said Tuesday that if the Browns -- who also hold the 12th overall pick -- want to trade up for a quarterback, they had "better call the San Francisco 49ers, because the possibility is [that San Francisco] could take a quarterback at No. 2, and all signs indicate it would be Mitchell Trubisky."
How the North Carolina product became the belle of the ball after making only 13 starts without demonstrating standout arm strength is another question. Still, it would be surprising if a quarterback went as high as No. 2.
The 49ers could make LSU's Jamal Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker the first safety selected second overall since Eric Turner was drafted by Cleveland in 1991. Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas has gained steam as a possibility in recent days, while another Buckeye, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, is an option. Not so long ago, Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen was the consensus pick.
In short: San Francisco could go in a number of directions without shocking anyone. Drafting LSU running back Leonard Fournette would be the boldest statement of purpose possible and likely provide the first wow moment of the draft. And Shanahan didn't get this far without being bold.
The repercussions of recent red flags
In the buildup to the draft, most news is bad news. That was especially true for Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, a top-20 talent who is being investigated by police after he was accused of rape by a woman earlier this month. Cleveland police confirmed to NFL.com that Conley has yet to be interviewed by police and has not been charged with any crime, but the Cleveland Police Dept.'s sex crimes and child abuse units are investigating.
The timing is reminiscent of 2015, when teams learned two days before the draft that current Cowboys guard La'el Collins -- considered a first-round talent -- was being questioned in connection with a murder investigation. While Collins was never a suspect in the case, he went undrafted because of the uncertainty of the situation.
Conley is not the only prospect raising concerns. Caleb Brantley, the Florida prospect once ranked second among Mike Mayock's interior defensive line prospects, could see his stock suffer after a recent charge on suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Even before those charges, some -- like Jeremiah -- believed Brantley was an overvalued prospect.
The red flags for Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster are not nearly so serious. Both players had a positivedrug test at the NFL Scouting Combine after providing a sample that tested as a dilute. Peppers' bigger issue may be teams struggling to figure out which position he plays. He could wind up sliding to the second round, while Foster's talent and explosive hitting ability could still keep him in the top 15 picks despite the positive test.
How many quarterbacks go on Thursday?
Teams have tried to love this quarterback class for months, even though there is no logical Week 1 starter among the top four options: Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes. The varying opinions -- and the typical desperation at the position -- could lead to many teams pushing back into the first round to try to get their man.
Logically, that predicted total matches up with the number of teams most likely to take a quarterback in the first round or soon thereafter. The Browns, Bills and Jaguars should be the teams most desperate for a quarterback. The Saints, Jets, Cardinals and Chiefs are all in the market to find their quarterback of the future. Add it all up, and the low supply of options and high demand could result in a flurry of action late in the first round.
The teams most likely to trade
At least one team looks like a candidate to trade up early in the first round. NFL Network's Mike Silver reported that the Brownshave spoken to at least four teams about moving up from the No. 12 overall position. That would presumably be to select Mitchell Trubisky. With the Bills and Saints both potentially looking at quarterbacks and sitting in the two spots ahead of that No. 12 selection, the Browns might feel it's better to be safe than sorry and make a move.
This is high-stakes guesswork, because the Browns could very well sit at No. 12 and still see Trubisky fall into their laps. Jeremiah suggested that the Titans might look to move down from No. 5 overall, and GM Jon Robinson said Tuesday there's a "50/50" shot of the team making a first-round swap. So Tennessee could be a trading partner if Cleveland believes it's necessary to get ahead of the QB-needy Jets, who pick sixth overall. Then again, the Jets are another team that could be looking to trade down and pick up extra trade assets.
New Orleans is another team to watch. With three picks in the top 42 and two more in the third round, shadow general manager Sean Payton has the ammunition to go after whatever the Saints' hearts desire. Years after they reportedly wanted to draft Jimmy Garoppolo, perhaps the Saints package some of their picks to move up and take Drew Brees' eventual successor. Then again, perhaps they use one of those picks in a move for a veteran ...
Potential veteran trades
Wednesday's agreement between the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks on terms of a Marshawn Lynch trade wraps up one big hanging story before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium in Philadelphia to kick the draft off Thursday night. There could still be other veteran trades pulled off during the three-day event.
The Patriots sending cornerback Malcolm Butler to the Saints remains a possibility. Discussions between Butler, who was a restricted free agent, and the Saints were so involved that they had agreed to the basic parameters of a contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in football. In the meantime, while the Patriots and Saints struggled to decide on trade compensation, Butler signed his one-year, $3.91 million tender with the Patriots. Now that the draft is here, conventional wisdom says a deal is improbable. The Saints are reportedly not willing to give up one of their three early picks for Butler, and the Patriots are happy to keep him for one year. Perhaps New Orleans' stance changes if cornerbacks start flying off the board.
Other potential trade targets include Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson, Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks and Jets wideout Eric Decker. After weeks of speculation and conflicting reports, the odds are against the Patriots moving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo or Seattle trading cornerback Richard Sherman. But the draft is always good for a few surprises, especially in this year, when no one knows a thing.