Five things to watch as the NFL draft gets under way with the first round Thursday:
Gettleman getting defensive
In his first draft as the Panthers general manager, Dave Gettleman said he expects to find starters with the first two picks. If his history with the Giants is any guide, expect one, and maybe both, of those picks to be defensive players. In 14 drafts after Gettleman became New Yorks pro personnel director in 1999, the Giants took seven defensive linemen and six defensive backs among 27 first- and second-round picks. The Panthers biggest needs are at defensive tackle and in the secondary, which happen to be two of the deepest positions in the draft. Carolina should be able to make the most of its five picks.
Tracking the NFC South
Atlanta and Tampa Bay were big players this offseason, with the Falcons signing running back Steven Jackson and the Bucs acquiring cornerback Darrelle Revis. But the Falcons have major holes on defense, where they have released three of their top five cornerbacks. Atlanta is hoping someone such as Desmond Trufant falls to them at 30. The Saints have more defensive needs than Atlanta after allowing more yards than any team in NFL history last season. They could use a pass rusher, maybe Georgias Jarvis Jones. The Bucs, who gave the Jets the 13th pick for Revis, will look for an offensive tackle in the second round.
Draft day trades
Last year there were eight trades on the first day of the draft. This year there are about as many teams hopeful to trade down, but seemingly not many takers willing to go up. San Francisco, with 13 picks, seems the only team willing to make a jump from its spot at 31. At least six teams in the top 12 are reportedly making calls to trade down. The Panthers would like to trade down to replace the third-round pick they sent to San Francisco last year to draft defensive end Frank Alexander. A team that covets Tavon Austin, such as St. Louis, could switch spots with Carolina.
Move over, quarterbacks
In 10 of the past 12 years, a quarterback has been picked first overall. But this year that honor is expected to go to one of two guys charged with protecting the quarterbacks blind side. Offensive tackles Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan are the favorites for Kansas Citys No. 1 pick. Since 1967, only three offensive linemen have been the first pick, and all were tackles Hall-of-Famer Ron Yary (1968), Orlando Pace (1997) and Jake Long (2008).
Who will be this drafts DaQuan Bowers?
Remember 2011, when Clemsons defensive end was invited to Radio City Music Hall with the thought he would be one of the first names announced by commissioner Roger Goodell? Yes, his offseason knee surgery hurt his stock, but no one expected him to fall to the second round. This year the NFL invited 23 players to New York City, and its inevitable not everyone will be chosen Thursday night. Though hes one of the top dual-threat QBs in this class, Florida States E.J. Manuel may be the one sticking around Manhattan another day.
Joseph Person and Jonathan Jones