Last year I argued that the Seattle Seahawks were the key to how the top ten would play out.
They had expressed considerable interest in quarterback Mark Sanchez, had a greater need at offensive tackle and employed a general manager in Tim Ruskell who favored safe players like outside linebacker Aaron Curry.
The Seahawks obviously went with Curry with the fourth pick of the draft.
The ramifications of this decision, of course, were that the Browns traded their pick to the Jets, who took Sanchez and the run on offensive linemen continued in the top ten despite Seattle ignoring the position.
This year the Washington Redskins own the fourth pick. They're the team thought likely by league insiders to control what happens early in the first round.
It is possible that the Lions surprise and select OT Russell Okung second overall to protect their young quarterback Matt Stafford, but most in the league believe the three best players in the 2010 draft are Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy -- likely going in that order to the Rams, Lions and Bucs, respectively.
The Redskins have a need for a young quarterback, especially considering that Jason Campbell is a restricted free agent expected to sign a one year deal. The Redskins recently signed former first round pick Rex Grossman, but he too, is only signed through next season. There are some who believe Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen is destined for the Redskins.
Others, however, point to Washington's lack of talent at offensive tackle. The retirement of Chris Samuels opened up a gaping hole at left tackle that veteran Levi Jones struggled to fill last year when Samuels was hurt. Right tackle isn't much better with Stephon Heyer.
Still others have argued that a good Washington defense could carry the team in Mike Shanahan's first year if he were to find more playmakers in the secondary. LaRon Landry hasn't produced as expected to his point and has been outplayed by Chris Horton. Eric Berry, who many believe to the be in conversation with Bradford, Suh and McCoy as the elite players in this draft could be a tempting option.
The shoddy depth and extreme importance of the quarterback position could force Shanahan to grab Clausen. If so, you can expect the next best quarterbacks -- Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, Tony Pike, etc -- to be pushed up the board that much higher.
The same would apply at OT or S should the Redskins go in those directions. There is no denying that along with defensive linemen, offensive tackles and safeties are the strengths of this draft. Three offensive tackles went in the top ten last year. Should Washington select Okung at No. 4, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga and Oklahoma's Trent Williams may not be far behind.
The more intriguing scenario might be if Washington selects Berry. Only twice since 1993 have there been three pure safeties selected in the first round (1998, 2007). This will almost surely occur in 2010 with Berry, Texas' Earl Thomas and USC's Taylor Mays all likely to be drafted in the opening frame. Should Berry go early, however, a run on safeties could result, pushing South Florida's Nate Allen into the mix.