The rumors, speculation and guesses end tonight when the 2013 NFL Draft kicks off inside Radio City Music Hall. For teams and draftniks alike, it’s the culmination of a yearlong process. » What makes tonight so fascinating is that, unlike in recent years, there is no consensus for the No. 1 overall pick. There’s no guarantee the Kansas City Chiefs will even be the team making it, as General Manager John Dorsey has indicated he’ll take calls to trade down right up until his team’s pick is due. » At least one running back has been drafted in the first round in the past 50 years. As you’ll see below, the expectation here is that streak will end tonight. At least at the top, a common theme in this draft is the lack of skill-position players. Of the first seven picks, three are pass protectors and four are pass rushers. » In another change from the last mock, there are seven trades projected here. That’s far short of matching the number of 19 from a year ago. » “You learn every year it’s a humbling job, scouting,” former Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “and it’s a very inexact science.” » The same could be said of mock drafting. » Here is The News’ fourth and final try at sorting out how tonight’s first round will look:
1. Kansas City Chiefs. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M. Chiefs stay put, as does this pick for the fourth straight year. Joeckel can start for a decade. Last pick: same.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars. Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon. Take your pick of the needs on the Jags’ roster, but Jacksonville finished with just 20 sacks last season – last in the NFL. Last pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia.
3. Detroit Lions. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan. Projected trade: Lions move up from No. 5 with Oakland by giving up that pick and their third-rounder (65th overall) this year and next year to stay in state with the athletic Fisher. Fisher fills a huge need created by the retirement of Jeff Backus. Last pick (made by Oakland): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida.
4. Philadelphia Eagles. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU. Philadelphia is changing from a 4-3 to a 3-4, and Ansah is good, athletic clay that new coach Chip Kelly can mold to the scheme. Last pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan.
5. Oakland Raiders. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. Raiders want to get a second-round pick, but settle for a high third rounder. Floyd solidifies the defensive line. Last pick (made by Detroit): Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon.
6. San Diego Chargers. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. Projected trade: Chargers swap first-round picks, giving up No. 11 and their second rounder (No. 45 overall), with Cleveland. St. Francis graduate Tom Telesco makes a bold move running his first draft, trading to get the third left tackle in the first six picks. San Diego has parted ways with three starters on the offensive line this season and needs to get some help for Philip Rivers. Last pick (made by Cleveland): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama.
7. Arizona Cardinals. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU. Left tackle run is over, and the Cardinals are getting Levi Brown back from injury, so that should help the offensive line. Potentially elite pass rushers like Mingo don’t last long. Last pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma.
8. Buffalo Bills. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. With the New York Jets having three picks before the Bills’ turn in the second round comes up, they can’t afford to wait on their quarterback. Nassib just makes sense. Last pick: same.
9. New York Jets. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. Jets averaged just 17.6 points per game last season. They’re in need of a spark, and Austin’s athleticism can provide that. Last pick: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU.
10. Tennessee Titans. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. Tennessee spent big money on 12 free agents – more than $100 million – but one position they didn’t upgrade was cornerback. Milliner would do that nicely. Last pick: Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU.
11. Cleveland Browns. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. Tough call here. The Browns could use another pass rusher, but Warmack would be an instant starter and give them one of the game’s better offensive lines. Last pick (made by San Diego): same.
12. Miami Dolphins. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State. The thinking here is the Dolphins will swing a trade with Kansas City for left tackle Branden Albert. Miami has the ammunition with 11 picks. By doing so, they fill the biggest need on the roster and can upgrade the defense with Rhodes. Last pick: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina.
13. New York Jets. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Jets use the pick acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for cornerback Darrelle Revis to snag the quarterback they’ve studied extensively. Last pick (made by Tampa Bay): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia. Projected trade: Steelers move up three spots from No. 17 and give Carolina their third-round pick (No. 79 overall) to secure the player they hope can be the next dominant outside ’backer in their 3-4 scheme. Last pick (made by Carolina): Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri.
15. New Orleans Saints. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina. Williams, a 313-pounder, has the versatility to play a traditional “nose” in Rob Ryan’s 3-4, but can also be a Kyle Williams-like penetrator. Last pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia.
16. St. Louis Rams. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee. Coach Jeff Fisher’s not afraid of a project player (see his pick of cornerback Janoris Jenkins last year). The Rams also have another first-round pick, so they can gamble a little bit on a boom-or-bust player. Last pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia.
17. Carolina Panthers. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah. With just five picks, Panthers are another team open to trading down. But if Lotulelei’s on the board, it’ll be easier to stay put. Last pick (made by Pittsburgh): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee.
18. Dallas Cowboys. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. Despite spending a lot of money along the line in recent seasons, the Cowboys still need an upgrade there. Cooper provides that. Some have him ranked ahead of Warmack. Last pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas.
19. Minnesota Vikings. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Projected trade: The Vikings move up from No. 23 by sending that pick and a third rounder (No. 83 overall) to the Giants. This gets them ahead of the division-rival Bears. Minnesota GM Rick Spielman has three Fighting Irish players on the roster, and has done a lot of homework on Te’o. Last pick (made by New York Giants): Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State.
20. Chicago Bears. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Trufant provides needed support for a defense that sees Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford four times a year. Last pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah.
21. Cincinnati Bengals. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. Vaccaro has the versatility to play either safety spot and should be a Day One starter for the Bengals. Last pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama.
22. St. Louis Rams. Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International. A big-time hitter, Cyprien’s got an NFL-ready frame. He’s a tough guy who seems to fit the Jeff Fisher mold. Last pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Florida.
23. New York Giants. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State. Giants need to rebuild their linebacker corps and start with Brown, who’s got the quickness to stay with running backs in coverage and shows good instincts as a blitzer. Last pick (made by Minnesota): Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina.
24. San Francisco 49ers. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri. Projected trade: San Francisco moves up from No. 31 by giving up that pick and No. 74 overall (third round) to Indianapolis. Niners then grab a player who can eventually replace Justin Smith. Last pick (made by Indianapolis): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA.
25. Minnesota Vikings. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee. Pairing Hunter with Greg Jennings gives Christian Ponder some legitimate weapons. Hunter’s got the size (6-foot-4) teams crave at receiver. Last pick: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame.
26. Green Bay Packers. Matt Elam, S, Florida. Another big hitter at the safety position, Elam’s style should endear him to Cheeseheads. Last pick: Eric Reid, S, LSU.
27. Houston Texans. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson. Andre Johnson is begging for some help. Some scouts feel Hopkins has the best hands in this draft. Last pick: same.
28. Atlanta Falcons. D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston: Projected trade: Atlanta leapfrogs the Patriots in the draft order by giving up the 30th pick and a fourth rounder (No. 127) to Denver to ensure they get their cornerback. Hayden, who nearly died this past season because of a freak injury in which he tore a vein in his heart in practice (he’s 100 percent now), is one of the feel-good stories of the draft. Last pick (made by Denver): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State.
29. Arizona Cardinals. Matt Barkley, QB, USC. Projected trade: Cardinals move up from No. 38 in the second round by giving up that pick and their third rounder (No. 69 overall) to the always-willing-to-deal Patriots. Barkley won’t have to play right away with Carson Palmer in place for the Cardinals. Last pick (made by New England): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington.
30. Denver Broncos. Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State. A late riser in the draft process after running the 40 in less than 5 seconds recently, only five months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL. A lot of chatter that Carradine could be a steal. Last pick (made by Atlanta): Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State.
31. Indianapolis Colts. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State. Colts will have their pick of Taylor or stud UCLA defender Datone Jones in this scenario. Taylor compares to former Bills cornerback Drayton Florence in that they both have a nasty streak. Last pick (made by San Francisco): Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn.
32. Baltimore Ravens. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU. Along with Joeckel, the only other pick to stay consistent through four mock drafts. Which almost guarantees it will be wrong. Last pick: same.