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NFL Draft 2013: Top 9 storylines to follow

Kevin C. Cox

Every year the NFL Draft is packed with twists, turns and storylines aplenty. Here are some of the major ones to follow over the next few days.

The year of the offensive tackle

By most accounts, three of the first five picks in the draft will be offensive tackles. That includes Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson. Joeckel and Fisher are in the running for the top pick, and could end up being the first two picks of the draft. If that happens, it will be the first time in NFL Draft history where tackles go first and second. With the top three tackles going so high, it could suck other offensive tackles higher in the draft. That includes D.J. Fluker, who the Arizona Cardinals reportedly like a lot, Menelik Watson, Kyle Long and Justin Pugh.

Quarterback apathy

At least one quarterback will go in the first round of the draft. Possibly two or three. Wherever those quarterbacks fall, the fan base may not be happy. The quarterback group this year is bad. Sure, someone could develop into a good starting quarterback, but there's just not that franchise signal caller. Because of that, the order the quarterbacks get drafted could be much different than how you think.

A day of trades

Last year, 16 picks in the first round changed teams. There could be a similar amount tonight as teams wheel and deal for the player they want. The teams with two first-round picks – the Jets, Rams and Vikings – could look to move up or down because they have the ammo to make a big splash. Most expect the 49ers to make several trades. Look for the 49ers to move up at some point, and to add a 2014 pick or two.

Where does Tyrann Mathieu land?

Tyrann Mathieu hasn't played football since 2011. When we last saw him, he was a superstar on LSU's star-studded defense. But Mathieu was more interested in being the Honey Badger before getting dismissed from school. Wherever Mathieu goes in the draft (possibly the fourth round), he'll be the overarching story for that team's draft class.

The D.J. Hayden story

There is no better story in the draft this year than Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden. Following a freak practice injury in November, Hayden nearly bled to death. Now he's on the verge of being a first-round pick. The humble Hayden is the antithesis of Mathieu. He's also a pretty good football player. According to most reports, NFL scouts are giddy about Hayden. His draft ceiling could be Tennessee, with Miami being another top 15 team that could pick him.

No 1st round running backs

Every draft since 1963 has featured a running back in the first round. Unless a team like the Cincinnati Bengals or Green Bay Packers bite on a running back, it's hard to see a team taking a runner. That could lead to several going off the board in second and third rounds.

Injury come backs

Had he not been injured, Marcus Lattimore would unquestionably have been the first running back picked this year. But multiple knee injuries are pushing him down the draft, and likely off some teams' board completely. But if Lattimore can come back from his latest set back, he could be a lead runner in the NFL. He has the size, shiftiness and good enough speed to regularly gain positive yardage. We left Lattimore as the third-rated running back in the draft because it's impossible to bet against him.

Defensive end Tank Carradine of Florida State made a rapid recovery from a torn ACL. Running just 135 days after his surgery, Carradine is a relentless pass rusher who closes on the quarterback in a hurry. He's likely going in the first round. Western Kentucky's Quanterus Smith also had knee surgery, but isn't as far along in his recovery. Smith is highly athletic and still likely a second-round pick. There is even some discussion that he could slip into the back of the first round.

Manti Te'o

The buzz around Te'o has cooled since the NFL Combine. Te'o has stayed out of the spotlight while preparing for the draft and that's a good thing. There are several teams in the back-half of the first round that need a middle linebacker. It's hard to see where Te'o doesn't get picked in the first round.

Mr. Irrelevant

Any guesses? Leave it in the comments. The Colts have the final pick in the draft. Based on nothing at all, my choice is Nigel Malone of Kansas State.


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