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NFL draft forecast: Chandler Jones up, Courtney Upshaw down

Yogi Berra once said, "It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future." Well, that's exactly what I'm being asked to do with the 2012 NFL Draft. I'm not talking about my mock draft -- that comes Wednesday -- but rather a general overview of the three-day event.

Yogi is right: It is hard to make predictions, especially about the draft. So many teams try to hide their real intentions through deception. As much as teams love to lie, they cannot fully conceal reality. Many NFL teams' words to the media might be misleading, but their actions in free agency always tell the real story. That's the best indicator to consider come draft day. My advice is to ignore all the rhetoric and just trust your own instincts.

Here are 10 things that I believe to be true in this week's draft:

1. I believe the safest pick in the draft -- beyond Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III -- is Alabama running back Trent Richardson. He's a blue-chip player and has all the skills to quickly establish himself as a top-five player at his position. Forget the nonsense about not taking backs early -- everyone would love the chance to get this guy.

2. I believe the draft will get really interesting starting at pick No. 7. Especially if receiver Justin Blackmon is off the board, the Jacksonville Jaguars can go in so many different directions, but cornerback could be their top priority. Red-hot prospect Stephon Gilmore continues to fly up draft boards, so watch out for the South Carolina corner coming off the board in this slot. If Blackmon makes it to the Jags, that means someone (maybe the St. Louis Rams?) picked Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox in the top six.

3. I believe the Minnesota Vikings will end up making the third overall selection. Even though they have basically taken out a full-page ad in the newspaper seeking a trade partner, I can't see them pulling off a deal. Teams picking in the teens might want to swap picks with them, but that would eliminate the Vikings' chances of getting either corner Morris Claiborne or tackle Matt Kalil.

4. I believe Syracuse DE Chandler Jones is a hot commodity right now. This is nothing new for NFL teams, who have rated him highly for quite some time, but it's a noticeable development in mock drafts, many of which initially had him pegged as a second-rounder. Most of the good defensive ends/pass rushers, including Jones, should come off the board sometime between pick No. 10 (Buffalo Bills) and pick No. 20 (Tennessee Titans). Jones is not a sudden riser -- he's been a very good player for years. Watch him play two seasons ago against Anthony Castonzo -- the Indianapolis Colts' first-round pick (No. 22 overall) in 2011 -- and it's easy to rate him as a top prospect.

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5. I believe there will be many trades made in the first round. With all the pass rushers going from 10-20, there will be a lot of action in this range.

6. I believe Alabama DE/OLB Coutney Upshaw might slip out of the first round. The key team on this front is the Cincinnati Bengals. If they don't take Upshaw with either of their first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 21), he could last until Round 2 because many teams still lack a clear understanding of what position he will play in the league.

7. I believe there are more teams infatuated with Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe than any other player. He is rare -- not only in terms of size and speed, but also in his willingness to work hard on improving his skill set. His solid character is making a big difference, and many teams are willing to take a chance on developing his raw ability.

8. I believe there are more teams in the league that don't think Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is a true No. 1 receiver than do. This is not to say he's a poor player, but he is not a rare talent, not overwhelmingly special.

9. I believe the Miami Dolphins will in fact take Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick. This is not a smoke screen. The quarterback that the Dolphins want their fan base to believe in will be the quarterback for their future.

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10. I believe that everyone should expect the unexpected Thursday night. Teams must be prepared for anything, and then react accordingly. I believe the best drafting teams are the ones that never go into a draft needing one particular player. A team's love must be spread among multiple players, because there are 31 other teams out there with potentially similar feelings on a prospect.

As always, the draft will be an exciting time. It's my favorite time of the offseason for good reason.

Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi

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