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The best NFL draft story lines not involving Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As the first round of the draft unfolds tonight, so, too, will some key story lines. Five reasons this draft could be fascinating, fun and surprising:

Ryan Tannehill

We think Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be scooped up by the Dolphins at No. 8, but what if that popular assumption is wrong?

In 2005, Aaron Rodgers almost went No. 1 overall to the 49ers, who instead took Alex Smith. Rodgers fell all the way to No. 24 and the Packers.

There are a couple of theoretical landing spots for Tannehill beyond Miami, including Seattle at No. 12. But don't forget, there has been disagreement about Tannehill's ability to be a franchise quarterback. If enough teams also have doubts, Tannehill might have a bit of a wait.

The fate of quarterbacks not taken among the top five is difficult to project. Of course, it worked out okay for Rodgers and the Packers. The Bucs, who picked No. 5 that year, were among the teams that lived to regret not picking Rodgers as then-coach Jon Gruden told Rodgers the team would do. (They instead took running back Cadillac Williams.)

Alabama's big night

Nick Saban is not warm and fuzzy, but the Alabama coach knows a good player when he sees one.

That will be underscored tonight when as many as five Crimson Tide players could hear their names called. Running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower are widely projected as first-rounders, making it little wonder Alabama won last season's BCS national title.

Miami set the record for first-round picks, six, in 2004: current Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, safety Sean Taylor, offensive tackle Vernon Carey and linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams.

Remaking the Bengals

The Bengals made the playoffs in 2011, and with a pair of first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 21), they have a chance to build on that success.

Do they solidify a defense that ranked seventh at 316.2 yards per game last season? Or do they look for an additional playmaker for quarterback Andy Dalton?

The beauty of having two picks is the opportunity to do both.

A surprise deal

We don't know who it will involve or when it will come. But rest assured, someone will make a bold decision.

Two years ago, the Broncos shook up the draft, trading back into the first round to grab quarterback Tim Tebow, top left. It made for an exciting sequence. Last year, the Falcons moved up 21 spots to grab receiver Julio Jones.

It's wise to eye teams with multiple first-round picks; in tonight's case the Bengals, Browns and Patriots. New England is a master at draft-day trades, and with Picks 27 and 31, it will look to field calls. If there's an elite player sliding, someone might be willing to include a second-round pick in a package to take advantage.

The Jets aren't serious — are they?

Speaking of trades, much of Wednesday's buzz surrounded rumors the Jets are exploring trading up to get Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Richardson telling reporters that the Jets contacted him on Sunday — double checking his contact information — only added fuel to the fire.

Let's make something clear. The Jets, currently at No. 16, would have to part with a king's ransom to get high enough to draft Richardson — likely to No. 3. That makes this very unlikely.

But because it's the Jets we're talking about, you cannot dismiss this. This is the same team that traded up for quarterback Mark Sanchez, cornerback Darrelle Revis and tight end Dustin Keller.

The best NFL draft story lines not involving Tampa Bay Buccaneers 04/25/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 10:13pm]
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