Rarely ever is the NFL Draft an exercise of the top 32 players available having their names heard in a quick and timely fashion.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the process is a bit of a beauty contest, and there is a different draft board in every war room. The various schemes teams run on offense and defense will also alter the rankings.
Most teams will agree on one key issue: They believe that there are only 15 to 17 players with a true first-round grade and picks 18-45 have about the same mark. That sort of demarcation of talent could cause some movement among teams during the first round as well as into the second round.
There are linchpin teams who can control how the draft unfolds, and here are seven scenarios to keep in mind as the first-round approaches (starting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network).
The Seahawks have already demonstrated a propensity to make moves this offseason, and could deal that second first-round selection to move into a spot later in the draft where they believe they can get a player they like. The 49ers, meanwhile, have enough firepower with those two first-round picks to package them and move up as high as No. 4 overall.
The Redskins need more picks as they attempt to rebuild the franchise under the leadership of new general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan. Washington needs a left tackle, and there are around five players at the position with a first-round grade. If the Redskins would like to draft any one of those players, then they can afford to move down, acquire a desirable player and get extra choices.
3. Teams without a first-round pick. Enduring that first day of the draft will be a strenuous experience for those teams without a top 32 pick. These organizations still put together a complete draft board and might really want certain players. The Bears and Carolina Panthers each have to sit on the sidelines, watch the other 30 teams make first-round picks and see talented players come off the board.
The Panthers won't be on the clock until the 48th overall selection, but might not trade the future away for the present. Carolina hasn't been very active in the free-agent market and will have to wait to fill a variety of needs.
The Bears don't have a selection until pick No. 75. Even though they have been very aggressive in free agency, they could conclude that the much-needed right tackle or wide receiver won't be available that late in the process.
4. Teams with a deal-maker running the draft. It always takes a guy who knows how to make a move for a trade to occur, especially in the first round. Teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs all have decision-makers from the same background from their days with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, which means picking up the phone and getting a deal done is much easier.
One thing to keep in mind without a salary cap, there are a lot less restrictions when it comes to moving veteran players. During the salary cap era, teams needed cap space to absorb the acceleration of a signing bonus. This year, teams can move veteran players without those ramifications.
5. A position with significant lack of depth. Any time a certain position doesn't have enough quality, or there's a special prospect at the top of the list, that can cause teams to make a move in the first round to acquire that player. Interested teams will be fearful that the drop in talent to the next-best player will be too steep.
One player who has been mentioned as "special" is Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain. He fits in any defensive scheme, and is significantly better than the other options at his position. A team such as the Giants, who pick 15th, might be interested in moving up to take McClain. They could have to move ahead of the Broncos, who own the 11th choice, in order to do so. The Jaguars select 10th and are considering moving down. Is it worth the Giants giving up their third-round pick (No. 76) to get the best middle linebacker in the draft?
6. A coach who has to win now. For the most part, first- and second-year coaches are still in the honeymoon period with their respective teams and don't feel the pressure to "win now." Any coach or general manager who could be on the hot seat, or are in their fourth or fifth year, need results this season and will consider using future picks to get players and more selections now.
Bradford could one day be a great player, but taking a quarterback at the top of the draft has a ripple effect through the top 10 picks, which is a problem for certain teams. Any organization that struggles to sell tickets and is facing blackouts isn't interested in spending the kind of money these top unproven talents will command. At least four teams in the top 10 have problems filling their stadiums, and that can play a factor in their draft decisions. It is a sensitive subject not often discussed publicly, but it is real.
Expect the top three picks to come right off the board in St. Louis, Detroit and Tampa Bay, but after that anything could happen. If your favorite team qualifies in more than one of the aforementioned seven categories, then there is a real chance that franchise will be moving around in this draft. There have already been more than 20 players traded this offseason, and a few more could be moved before Thursday.
During the draft, look for even more players in deals that could bring additional picks. For years, teams have asked, "What players do I think will be available when we draft?" This year, it's more of, "Where do we have to move to get a certain player?"
Finally, there are a few intriguing prospects who could set the tone for the first round. Where does Jimmy Clausen factor in as the second quarterback taken? What is the risk tolerance for Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant? How high will a team take a guard such as Mike Iupati or a center like Maurkice Pouncey?