Most intriguing part of draft's first round might happen late

You might consider having that extra cup of coffee or perhaps downing an energy drink before settling in to watch the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Because as fascinating as the first few picks are going to be, the choices made during the latter part of the round should prove very interesting in their own right. This will be when we find out whether the NFL's traditionally strong teams -- the ones picking in the bottom third of Round 1 -- are able to maintain the same level of strength in acquiring talent that has prevented them from choosing higher.

Among the more intriguing decisions figures to be made by the Indianapolis Colts at No. 22. Many league observers suspect that this is where the Colts will give strong consideration to selecting their eventual replacement for Peyton Manning. The Colts might very well be more inclined to make that pick here if, as some NFL general managers and draft prognosticators predict, there is a run on quarterbacks that prompt a half-dozen to be chosen in the first round.

Others will argue that it would be much sounder for them to go with a more immediate need such as offensive tackle, arguing that a good one would be available because of the draft's tremendous defensive line depth and the fact that quarterback and other skill-position choices will push such a player to them.

Also meriting close attention in the bottom third are the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and the Super Bowl XLV competitors: the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.

Here's a snapshot of how the bottom of the first round could unfold, not taking into account any trades that could reshuffle the deck:

» Colts, No. 22: If they don't go with a quarterback, they could be looking at an offensive tackle, such as Colorado's Nate Solder or Wisconsin's Gabe Carmini, or maybe even a defensive tackle, such as Illinois' Corey Liuget.

» Eagles, No. 23: This could be a perfect spot for an offensive tackle. Will Solder or Carimi be there? Would they be tempted to take Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith if he slips down this far?

» Saints, No. 24: Defensive line help figures to be a priority, and this is a good year to have such a need while still owning a lower pick in the first round. The possibilities include Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn.

» Ravens, No. 26: They don't have one glaring need, so that should allow for some flexibility for them to go with the best player on their board. The expectation of many defensive front-seven players being taken in the first round could push a decent offensive tackle, such as Solder, down this far. Otherwise, the Ravens could consider an outside linebacker, such as Arizona's Brooks Reed.

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» Falcons, No. 27: Like the Ravens, the Falcons don't have any areas they are desperate to address. That leaves them wide open for a tight end to eventually replace Tony Gonzalez (Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph?) or perhaps a defensive end or maybe a cornerback.

» Patriots, No. 28: This is the second of their first-round choices, so whatever the Pats don't address with their pick at No. 17, they have the option to do so here. Conventional wisdom has the Pats selecting an end or outside linebacker to beef up their pass rush at No. 17, and then going with an offensive player (Alabama running back Mark Ingram?) or a guard (Baylor's Danny Watkins?) at No. 28.

» Bears, No. 29: It seems fairly obvious that the Bears need to do something to improve their pass protection, and this might be the perfect spot for them to get a solid player such as Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod.

» Jets, No. 30: Rex Ryan needs to bolster his front seven, so look for the Jets to go with a tackle, such as Baylor's Phil Taylor, or maybe an end, such as Pittsburgh's Jaball Sheard.

» Steelers, No. 31: Director of football operations Kevin Colbert could go in multiple directions here, and, as usual, he is likely to let the draft come to him. The possibilities include defensive end (Wisconsin's J.J. Watt?), offensive tackle (TCU's Marcus Cannon?), and cornerback (Texas' Aaron Williams?).

» Packers, No. 32: GM Ted Thompson has rightfully put himself among the best in the player-personnel business, and he, too, has the luxury of going various ways with his pick. He might consider running back, especially (only?) if Ingram is still on the board. He might look at an outside linebacker, such as Arizona's Reed. Or he might go with a defensive end, such as Ohio State's Cam Heyward.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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