NEW YORK — Get ready for an unpredictable NFL draft. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, suspended Wednesday by the NFL for up to six games, has gone from untouchable to tradable. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford is expected to be the No. 1 pick, but the Rams are being coy. Meanwhile, several top prospects are in danger of big slides, such as Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant and Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen.
For the first time, the draft will be in prime time and Thursday’s show (7:30 p.m. ET) will be loaded with intrigue. Prepare your mock drafts — but write all names in pencil.
"It has a chance to be the wildest first round in recent history," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "There are all kinds of rumors."
Here is a look at five decisions that will determine how dramatic the 2010 draft becomes:
1. What will the Rams do at No. 1?
Taking Bradford is the logical and likely move, but Rams officials will consider trade options up to that moment and beyond.
"I think St. Louis is open for business," Mayock said. "They have so many needs, if they could parley that No. 1 pick into multiple players, I think they’d be really happy. I think they’re looking for people that need a defensive tackle to come up and talk to them, as well as people who need a quarterback."
And the suspense is killing Bradford.
"My heart’s going to be going non-stop until I hear my name," Bradford said Wednesday.
Unless the Rams are offered a blockbuster deal — an unlike scenario — odds favor them keeping the pick and taking Bradford, instead one of the top two defensive tackles, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.
"Historically, it’s too expensive to go up and get No. 1, and the Rams need a quarterback," Mayock said.
2. What will the Steelers do with Roethlisberger?
Despite the suspension, the odds are against the Steelers trading a 28-year-old quarterback who has led the franchise to two Super Bowl titles.
However, several teams with high picks need a QB, like the Rams (No. 1), Browns (No. 7), Raiders (No. 8) and Bills (No. 9). During an offseason that already has seen the Eagles trade their franchise QB, Donovan McNabb, to a division rival, Roethlisberger should at least be nervous.
3. Where does Clausen go?
Most scouts rate him the second-best QB, but Clausen could go anywhere between No. 4 and No. 30.
If the Browns, Raiders and Bills all pass on Clausen in the top 10, or nobody trades up for him, it will show that there are concerns about his ability to lead a team and be a franchise quarterback, despite being coached in college by Charlie Weis, now the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.
4. What do the Raiders do at No. 8?
They shocked everybody by reaching for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 last year, and nobody can read the mind of owner/G.M. Al Davis.
A host of players could be on the Raiders’ radar, including Clausen, Idaho guard Mike Iupati, South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson. The Raiders might grab one of five offensive tackles — Russell Okung of Oklahoma State, Trent Williams of Oklahoma, Anthony Davis of Rutgers, Bryan Bulaga of Iowa or Bruce Campbell of Maryland.
"I can’t fathom they would take Campbell," Mayock said. "He’s not a first-round pick. Campbell’s a hope. But we’re dealing with a height/weight/speed thing with the Raiders. If Trent Williams or Okung slip through, I think they’d take them. But I don’t think either will."
5. What happens to Tim Tebow?
On Thursday night, we will learn if any NFL general manager really thinks Tebow is first-round worthy.
"With Tim, I’ve heard anything from first to fourth round," said Joe Haden, a Tebow teammate at Florida who might be the first cornerback drafted. "We’re all about to find out."
If Clausen goes early, it could help the chances of Tebow and/or Texas’ Colt McCoy being picked in Round 1.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the teams drafting early in the second round looked to get ahead of Minnesota (No. 30) to get a quarterback," Mayock said. "Whether it’s Tebow or McCoy, I think there’s going to be some action late in the first round on those guys."
This story appears in April 22’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only digital sports daily, sign up today.
Senior writer Clifton Brown covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.