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Posted at 12:14 PM ET, 04/24/2012

2012 NFL draft: The intrigue begins with the third pick

The intrigue in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft centers on the picks of the Minnesota Vikings and the Cleveland Browns, and where quarterback Ryan Tannehill will end up.

The draft promises to get off to a suspense-free start, with the Indianapolis Colts expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall and the Washington Redskins poised to choose Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, second. The Colts informed Luck last week that he would be the top pick, and the Redskins traded up with the St. Louis Rams last month with Griffin as the anticipated target.

The Vikings have the third overall selection and the Browns have the fourth, and that’s when the real draft maneuvering begins. For weeks, the consensus league-wide was that the Vikings were likely to take Southern Cal offensive tackle Matt Kalil and the Browns probably would select Alabama tailback Trent Richardson.

But that conventional wisdom has been called into question in recent days, with media reports of other possibilities under consideration by each team. As with practically all draft-related information in the final days before the opening round, it’s not clear what is a smokescreen and what isn’t. The Vikings and Browns might be reconsidering their options. Or teams may be engaged in typical pre-draft subterfuge in the hope of enticing a team to trade up in the first-round draft order.

There has been speculation that the Vikings might pick Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon instead of Kalil third. The reasoning cited by some draft observers is that, while each of the three is considered the best available player at his position, a wide receiver or a cornerback might have a greater impact for a team than an offensive tackle in today’s pass-happy NFL.

However, many coaches and front-office executives consider a high-caliber left tackle a must in today’s game. Kalil would give the Vikings a reliable blind-side pass protector for young quarterback Christian Ponder. An executive with another NFL team said Monday he thinks the Vikings would like to trade the pick but are more likely than not to take Kalil if they stay put.

There have been reports that the Browns are considering taking Blackmon or Tannehill, the Texas A&M product expected to be the third quarterback taken, with the fourth pick. The Browns tried but failed to trade for the Rams’ pick to get Griffin, and could select Tannehill as their fall-back option.

But two people in the league said Monday they don’t expect the Browns to use the fourth pick on Tannehill. They said they expect Tannehill to be chosen later in the top 10--by the Browns if Cleveland is able to trade down, or perhaps by the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins, who were unable to land a veteran quarterback in free agency, have the eighth overall choice. That would seem to be a logical spot for Tannehill, but it’s possible that the Vikings, Browns and other teams are trying to get the Dolphins to trade up to ensure they get Tannehill.

By  |  12:14 PM ET, 04/24/2012

 
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