By Scott Benson

After weeks of anticipation, the annual NFL Draft is now only hours away.

Though a football won’t be kicked, thrown or lugged in anger today, the draft has become one of the premier events on the NFL calendar. I have come to look forward to this weekend nearly as much as opening day, or the playoffs. Even with the well earned knowledge that some, or all, of today’s picks may end us as mere road apples on the road to the Super Bowls of the future. It’s still a bit like Christmas in April. And I happen to root for a good team – imagine if you’re an Arizona Cardinals fan? These next two days have got to be the only two days of the year worth getting out of bed for.

That’s what this is all about – as sage Taylor Hicks instructs us, it’s the possibilities. Today, your team may catch lightning in a bottle. Your team, anchored to the NFL’s ocean floor by it’s homemade concrete overshoes, may at once be transformed.

Hey, it happens. AHEM. It happens.
It happens, in ways great (see above) and small, which is what makes these next two days so much fun. I’m looking forward to sharing a few thoughts about the weekend’s events, of which there are sure to be many. For example, I wake up this morning to find out that the Patriots may be involved in a draft day trade for – wait for it – Randy Moss.

I don’t think we should let that ruin our day. So, from our home office in Our Mother’s Basement, here’s a Top Ten List of Players I’ll Be Watching Today.

15. Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska – I lied, there’s more than ten. You can read profiles for months and still not know who has hip swivel and who has quick muscle twitch, but the comparisons to current NFL players, you remember. Someone compared Carriker to Richard Seymour. That’s all I needed. But he may be a top ten pick. If he’s a Patriot today, it’ll be a majah shockah.

14. Joe Staley, OT, Central Michigan – He’s risen up the board to a spot in the early 20’s, according to the mocks. The Giants may take him at 20. Big, fast, athletic tackle, but like Randy Jackson, I’m not feelin’ it tonight, dawg. I don’t know – it was weird for me, man.

13. Lawrence Timmons, LB, Florida State – The Pats need linebackers, and this guy is a linebacker. Pretty simple. One of those big gazelles that always seem to be in play on day one of the draft. They say he’d bring some pass rush, anyway, but as I recall, he’s a tad inexperienced. He could go as high as 15 to Pittsburgh, but the mocks say it’s almost even that he’ll be on the board at 24.

12. Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida – Another rush linebacker candidate with the usual question marks (position change, inexperience and so on). Still, it’s a need, Moss has some ability, and the mocks say there’s a 40% chance he’ll be on the board when the Pats pick.

11. Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi – The Pats’ greatest need and the draft’s most prototypical fit. Alas, it was not to be. Willis is certain to be off the board by the mid-teens, perhaps to division rival Buffalo at 12. There’s a curiousity factor at 11, too, if you can believe what you hear on the radio (see next player).

10. Reggie Nelson, S, Florida – Grizzled draft veteran Dave Te Thomas was apparently on the radio this week claiming the Pats have targeted Nelson as The Guy in the draft. Yeah, we’ve heard that before (Sean Taylor). Anyway, Thomas is said to have claimed that the Pats and Niners would swap first round picks if the Niners could not get Patrick Willis at 11. The Pats would swoop in and take Nelson at 11. I love draft rumors, even if they’re crazy, or made up, even. All I know about Nelson is that he has one wicked highlight video. Oh, and that some people think he’ll be a little ‘slow’ to pick up the game, if you get my drift. The video argued otherwise.

9. Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State – One thing I have accomplished in this draft; I can now type Posluszny pretty fast. I feel like the Pats are kind of being set up with Posluszny by some friends – “no, you’d really like him. I really think you two would hit it off. You’ve got so much in common!” Yet it’s what the friends aren’t saying that really matters. He’s a 50/50 shot to be there at 24, the mocks claim. Well rounded player coming off a pretty good college career, and would certainly upgrade the linebacker group.

8. Lamarr Woodley, DE, Michigan – Woodley actually shows up much farther down the board, in the latter stages of the second round. But here we will apply the Mankins Rule – namely, the Patriots don’t respect my mock spreadsheets. They actually have the gall to pick a guy 28th that I have rated no better than 50th. It’s crazy. I have an alterna-theory that the interest in David Harris masks true affection for Woodley. No reason, except he’s supposed to be one hell of a pass rusher. There’s little question he’d be there at 28, if the Pats really wanted to stick it to my charts.

7. Josh Wilson, CB, Maryland – Speaking of….I liked Wilson as much as I liked anybody that I read about. He fits – I surprised he’s not on the team already. Sadly, he rates too far down the board to be considered. I’m sorry, there’s really nothing we can do. Except to invoke – The Mankins Rule.

6. Jon Beason, LB, Miami – One profile called Beason ‘NFL ready’, and I’ve been stuck on that thought ever since. Lately, I’m told that he is not a precise fit for the Pats, especially in terms of filling the inside need. I’m not sure I care. If he can play – and it seems like a given that he can play – and there seems to be every indication that he can – they can find a way to use him. One thing – in the film clips I saw recently, he just looked kind of small. He was all over the place, but there was nothing there that made you say wow, and it was a freaking highlight film. I’m talking myself right out of this.

5. Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas – I feel like the Asante Samuel situation is far from resolved, and even if it was, the Patriots would still need cornerbacks. Houston has a rep for stepping up against elite receivers, but you know how the profiles are: no cornerback is ever well rounded enough. In Houston’s case, he’s not physical enough. I believe in the Pats ability to get the most out of their defensive backs, so Houston remains a Person of Interst at Game Day HQ today. Damn good chance he’ll be there at either pick.

4. Brandon Meriweather, S, Miami – There’s some character concerns that he’s seemingly overcome, but he’s sliding downward as the draft nears just the same. It seems like lately, people are just generally underwhelmed when it comes to Meriweather. But he’s an experienced player that can play two secondary positions, and is almost certain to be on the board when the Pats go on the clock. If they pick him, I’ll allay fears by remembering another safety from Miami, old friend Fred Marion, the best-ever Pats safety not named Rodney Harrison. Thoughts of the wispy Hurricane with the knack for the big play will assuredly tide us over for a few months. Just ask my BSMW message board pal ‘Gamere’. He’ll tell you.

3. Michael Griffin, S, Texas – More and more I find myself thinking this guy would be great, and hit the spot. Tough, athletic, special teams demon. Young safety with some ability and smarts that could develop into a starter and leader. I saw an Internet clip on him, and he came across as a football and family kid all the way. I nearly had to stop the clip to compose myself. All the blocked punts and big hits didn’t hurt, I guess. This is one of those “awwwwww…shit” guys if he goes to anyone else today.

2. David Harris, LB, Michigan – All of a sudden on Monday, we get a rumor saying that the Pats will take Harris, another mid-second round rated player, with the 28th pick in the draft. Which (I hesitate to invoke this) makes sense, because he’s said to be the prototypical run stuffing linebacker. Has all the intangibles too, and suffers only from being sort of an (comparatively speaking) average athlete in the passing game. Even if he has to come off the field on third down, Harris can help right away. That rumor, though – since when do you get something that specific?

1. Aaron Ross, CB, Texas – Another BSMW board colleague, the poster known as ‘Ed Hillel’, has been all over Ross for weeks. I’m thinking he may be right. The best cornerback in the nation last year looks to be the best cornerback on the board when the Pats pick at 24. The addition of a player like Ross, who may have the ability and savvy to start very soon, will give the Pats protection in the Samuel situation, be it this fall or next. And he is one whale of a punt returner. This just seems like the kind of player you should get at pick 24. Which they would have to do, as it seems unlikely he’d be there at 28.

One last thing. As I do on every game day, I offer links to the best thing the newspapers have done in ages – the football blogs. The standard-setter, Reiss’s Pieces, and its friendly rival, The Point After. Albert Breer and John Tomase have combined to do the best Patriots coverage of my lifetime in the run up to this draft. It ain’t easy to edge Mike Reiss is the hustle department, but the Herald guys have done it this time. In matching Reiss’s enthusiasm and curiousity for their subject, they have created such a refereshing approach to football reporting that it makes me wonder why anybody ever thought the boozy, self-important ruminations of a populist insider, or the wise-ass, self-loathing snark of a bitter outsider, was preferrable to an honest, straight-forward love for the sport.

Have a blast today. I’ll be here, so stop in when you can.