One of the reasons Gil Brandt, the godfather of the NFL Draft, thinks this one will have more "I'm shocked" moments is because of the pre-draft smokescreens by the teams picking high this year. Washington GM Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan have always been pros at disguising their draft intentions. Scott Pioli, in his second draft in Kansas City, has his front office locked down. The Seahawks, Bills and Jags have muzzles on too. With those five teams in the top 10, Brandt's theory -- which is correct, I believe -- will bear fruit this year. One or more of those teams will pull off a shocker.
It's during times like these that doing a mock draft becomes most difficult. But I've learned over the years to ignore much of what's said in April when I put the mock jigsaw together.
Take the Redskins. Washington has a crying need for a tackle, its biggest need by far. There are three or four very good ones projected as top picks. Washington has the fourth pick in the first round, its only pick in the top 100. Shanahan twice shocked the world with Denver, picking John Mobley (1996) and Jay Cutler (2006) when no one had a clue he cared about either. His son, new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, has been talking about how swell he thinks his line is, particularly tackles Stephen Heyer and Artis Hicks. Allen and Mike Shanahan have said they might take a quarterback at number four.
Well, they might. But if you just traded for a veteran passer (Donovan McNabb) with three or four years left, with no one to protect his blind side, drafting into the teeth of a top-tackle draft, with one pick in the top 100 ... I mean, would your pick be Jimmy Clausen?
Mine wouldn't be either. So here's my mock draft, finalized last weekend in time for the magazine's deadline, with a tackle to Washington and two trades I project in the top half of the round. Trades -- always stupid to project. But I know Denver and Miami are talking about moving down, and I'm rolling some dice. In, as Brandt says, a very dicey first round. (Click players' names for complete profiles)
1. St. Louis Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Rams need a face of the franchise -- and an accurate deep arm. Bradford's both.
2. Detroit Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Coach Jim Schwartz had Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee. He thinks Suh's better.
3. Tampa Bay Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Easiest pick in the draft. For Bucs, value of McCoy is twice any other player left.
4. Washington Trent Williams, T, Oklahoma
Got a sick feeling Shanahan wants to deal down, pick a QB. Crazy, but that's him.
5. Kansas City Bryan Bulaga, T, Iowa
Sinking on most boards, but GM Pioli sees meat-and-potatoes left tackle for a decade.
6. Seattle Russell Okung, T, Oklahoma State
'Hawks rejoice. A month ago, Okung was top tackle on most NFL draft boards.
7. Cleveland Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
But if Williams or Okung's around, this will be a very tough call for GM Tom Heckert.
8. Oakland Anthony Davis, T, Rutgers
Chalk pick -- big, athletic OT -- but since when do Raiders make the chalk pick?
9. Buffalo Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
Chan Gailey gets the only top nose tackle in draft to anchor his 3-4 defense.
10. Jacksonville C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
I know he has Maurice Jones-Drew ... but Jack Del Rio thinks Spiller can be the next Chris Johnson.
11.* Giants (from Den.) Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
TRADE: G-men desperate to get long-term middle linebacker. Figure they can't wait until 15th pick.
12.^ Philadelphia (from Miami) Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
TRADE: Eagles lost out on two free-agent gems -- Julius Peppers and Aaron Kampman -- and need a defensive end.
13. San Francisco Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Lucky Niner night, getting the best corner in the draft in the middle of the first round.
14. Seattle Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
It doesn't fit after Charlie Whitehurst deal, but 'Hawks think he's a top-5 player in draft.
15.* Denver Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan
Broncos would be happy with Kyle Wilson, Dez Bryant or Maurkice Pouncey here.
16. Tennessee Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
Titan task: Replenishing the defensive line one pass-rusher at a time, with a Jevon Kearse clone.
17. San Francisco Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho
I came very close to putting Dez Bryant here. Imagine a Bryant/Michael Crabtree combo. Scary.
18. Pittsburgh Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
The Pouncey fan club is growing. Six mid-first-round teams could take him by early 20s.
19. Atlanta Earl Thomas, S, Texas
No one thought he'd fall this far. I'm still not sure he will. But Falcons have to pounce.
20. Houston Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Texans steal Wilson, a physical force with good closing speed, this low in the round.
21. Cincinnati Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Watch Oklahoma on tape. Gresham's so athletic you'll think you're watching a wideout.
22. New England Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
"Coach Belichick? Dez Bryant's babysitter on line two.'' I don't care. I love the pick.
23. Green Bay Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas
Bookend for Clay Matthews had 34.5 tackles for loss his last two years at Texas.
24.^ Miami Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
I know Dolphins love Mathews and would settle for him ... but like others here too.
25. Baltimore DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Anquan Boldin. Donte' Stallworth. Thomas. Talk about rebuilding the weakest point of a playoff team.
26. Arizona Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
Cards begin to rebuild the defense that got laid waste this off-season with pass-rusher.
27. Dallas Taylor Mays, S, USC
I say they rue the day they don't take tackle of the future, but Dallas likes speedy safety.
28. San Diego Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
Ideal draft for Chargers is Dan Williams in first, Stanford RB Toby Gerhart down the line.
29. New York Jets Jahvid Best, RB, Cal
This pick makes no sense -- unless you think Leon Washington and LaDainian Tomlinson are short-timers.
30. Minnesota Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
A hunch. Nothing more. Brett Favre lasts another year (two at the outside) while Tebow grows.
31. Indianapolis Rodger Saffold, T, Indiana
Colts tab an athletic left tackle candidate to fill a position they've been longing to cement for years.
32. New Orleans Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
Watch for pass-rush help too, like TCU outside linebacker Daryl Washington. But they need CB relief.
* Broncos trade 11th pick to Giants for 15th pick and New York's third-round choice.
^ Dolphins trade 12th pick to Eagles for 24th pick and Philadelphia's first of two second-round picks (37th overall).
-- Read Don Banks' final mock draft Thursday on SI.com and his mock draft of the second round on Friday.