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Five NFL draft surprise predictions

The Around The League crew is not laden with "draft experts," but sometimes we play them on our podcast.

After an enlightening conversation last week with draft maven Greg Cosell, we felt emboldened enough to start making some irresponsible predictions with the draft arriving next week.

Here are five predictions for draft surprises from the gang:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft a quarterback at No. 7 overall

Sammy Watkins is the best match for a Bucs team that desperately needs a second fiddle to Vincent Jackson after trading Mike Williams to Buffalo. This is a deep wide receiver class, though, which means Tampa Bay can pick up a potential starter such as Penn State's Allen Robinson in the second round. The new regime essentially has washed its hands of draft-weekend trade baitMike Glennon. The new face of the franchise might soon be Johnny Manziel.

  • -- Chris Wesseling*

New England Patriots draft their next starting quarterback

The dirty secret about Ryan Mallett: He hasn't developed as the Patriots have hoped. They haven't been able to trade him, in part, because no one is convinced he's improved as a pro. Mallett's contract expires after this season, and the Patriots should get value out of him as their backup quarterback this year. And then we'd expect him to leave via free agency.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, is signed through 2017 on a fully guaranteed contract. He should be New England's starter for at least two more years, but this is the first time the Patriots could draft a quarterback that could legitimately still be on his rookie contract when Brady retires. The Patriots need a backup for next year. They could look at developing a future starter for when Brady gets closer to 40. In a deep draft for quarterbacks, the Patriots could invest a second- or third-round pick and see what happens.

  • -- Gregg Rosenthal*

JFF lands in Big D

There's a case to be made -- a strong one at that -- that the Dallas Cowboys have no business even thinking about using their first pick on a quarterback. Tony Romo is under contract and has been incredibly productive (if not successful) during his nine-year run as starter. Then there's the Dallas roster, forever top-heavy and in dire need of reinforcements.

But Johnny Football starring at Jerrah World for the next decade? The thought alone has to be catnip for Jerry Jones, who wants nothing more than to return the Cowboys to the center of the football universe. Jones is 71. He knows he can't run the show forever. If he buys into the hype of Manziel as a unique and charasmatic star, a bold franchise rebranding must be tempting.

  • -- Dan Hanzus*

Carolina Panthers trade up to No. 10 to get their starting left tackle

Cam Newton needs a blindside blocker, badly. The Panthers aren't going to get that plug-and-play left tackle by sitting at No. 28. Short of trading up, Dave Gettleman stares at entering the 2014 with a huge question mark in front of a quarterback coming off ankle surgery. Gettleman won't like parting with assets, but he'll do it to protect his Pro Bowl signal-caller.

After failing to move up in the draft, the Lions could make the perfect trade partner for Gettleman. With the top two pass rushers and top two receivers off the board, Detroit could move back in the first round, grab additional picks and still get a receiver or cornerback -- in a draft deep at both positions. With one of the top three offensive tackles left on the board -- and no glaring need at the position -- Detroit could sell to the highest bidder.

  • -- Kevin Patra *

Lions trade up for Sammy Watkins

Is wide receiver a burning need for Detroit? No, but that might not stop the Lions from grabbing the draft's most alluring pass-catcher in Clemson's Sammy Watkins.

The team has heaped attention on the wideout for months and went so far as to bring in Watkins for a high-octane visit with Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Detroit's receiving duo of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.

There's no way Watkins gets anywhere near Detroit at No. 10, but Rapoport was told the Lions loom as candidates to trade into the top five, a move that takes guts.

New coach Jim Caldwell was brought to town to develop Matthew Stafford and turn Detroit's offense into a machine that wipes away teams through the air. The Lions have plenty of other holes, but this isn't about drafting for need -- it's about adding a potential once-in-a-decade weapon to the mix.

-- Marc Sessler

We talked about all these potential surprises ball and kicked around the latest draft news on "The Around The League Podcast."

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