Some teams have picks of profound consequence in first round

NEW YORK -- There are domino-effect picks in every NFL draft, and this year will be no different.

League insiders are counting on at least a few instances where what a team does will impact one or more of the decisions other teams make in the spots that follow.

The process could easily begin at the very top. If the Carolina Panthers stick with conventional wisdom and make Auburn quarterback Cam Newton the No. 1 overall choice Thursday night, the likelihood is that the next two teams -- the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills -- would go with defensive players.

But if the Panthers pass on Newton, you can expect, in the words of one club executive, "all hell to break loose, because there's no way of telling where Newton might end up after that. Is Buffalo taking him at No. 3? I'm not convinced of that. And if they don't, there's really no telling what happens after that."

The next flash point at which the draft could take a significant turn is with the Cincinnati Bengals' pick at No. 4.

With Carson Palmer holding firm to his trade-me-or-I'll-retire stance, the Bengals could very well be in the market for a quarterback. They might be ready to pounce on Newton, but most observers aren't expecting him to be there. The Bengals then would have to at least consider the possibly of "reaching" for a quarterback -- such as Missouri's Blaine Gabbert or Florida State's Christian Ponder -- who maybe shouldn't be a top-five selection but who is chosen out of fear that he won't be available later.

If that happens, other teams with a dire need at quarterback could end up scrambling as they figure out what to do with their first-round picks. Think the Arizona Cardinals at No. 5, the San Francisco 49ers at No. 7, the Tennessee Titans at No. 8, the Washington Redskins at No. 10, and the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12.

Mock Draft Central

Looking at our experts' projections, there are a number of consensus picks. In those spots, a team could really impact the first round with a surprise choice. More ...

But the player most commonly attached to the Bengals at No. 4 is Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, and although that might not be good news to the receiver-needy Cleveland Browns at No. 6, it probably would be met with tremendous joy by all of those clubs wanting quarterback help.

With two first-round picks and six of their nine choices in the first three rounds, the New England Patriots are expected to have a major influence on how the draft unfolds. Some people in the league say they could very well take control of the entire draft. And that's if they simply make their assigned picks. If Bill Belichick stays true to his reputation as one of the NFL's foremost wheeler-dealers (and why wouldn't he?), the Patriots could touch off multiple avalanches of activity, especially through the first two nights.

But the Pats aren't alone when it comes to being in a position to have a dramatic impact on what happens in the early part of the draft. The San Diego Chargers own five picks in the first three rounds, including two in the second, where they have found some outstanding players (such as offensive tackle Marcus McNeill, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and safety Eric Weddle). And Chargers general manager A.J. Smith also is known for being a very active draft trader.

When all is said and done, the draft moves of most NFL teams are likely to stem from the actions of a few.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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