NEW YORK — If Friday belonged to Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford -- who agreed to a six-year deal with the Detroit Lions with almost $42 million guaranteed -- then today belongs to USC's Mark Sanchez.
OK, so there are lots of prospects on the verge of realizing their dreams, but a lot of eyes are on Sanchez. Where he goes in the early part of the NFL draft could affect the rest of the first round.
Does he go No. 2 to St. Louis -- as he does in this mock draft -- or fourth to Seattle? Will the Washington Redskins trade up to snare him? How about the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or another franchise in need of a quarterback?
One thing's guaranteed: Sanchez won't be around to languish in the green room the way other quarterbacks have in recent years, namely Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart and Aaron Rodgers. Why? Because while nine other draft invitees will be watching today's proceedings from Radio City Music Hall, Sanchez will be home in Southern California -- even though he spent part of the week in New York.
Compiling a mock draft is very tricky, because one unexpected move or trade near the top of the actual draft can change the whole direction of a round. And this final version also has some offensive and defensive linemen slipping, and some receivers -- such as Darrius Heyward-Bey to the Oakland Raiders at seven -- sharply on the rise.
One of the perils of doing a mock draft is when you insert a new player into your original 32 -- in this case, defensive end Connor Barwin and receiver Brian Robiskie -- a corresponding player is, regrettably, knocked out of the 32.
For instance, Florida State defensive end Everette Brown was pushed out of the opening round in this draft, even though few would flinch (much) were he a top-10 pick. All it takes is for one team to fall in love with a player for a mock draft to disintegrate into a schlock draft.
And, as one scout put it, the deception is so thick around the draft, the blarney so abundant, that teams don't even know when they're lying to themselves.
Still, that's part of the reason the NFL draft is so entertaining, and -- although nary a pass will be thrown or tackle made -- is expected to get better TV ratings than the NBA playoffs.
On to my last of three mocks:
1. DETROIT -- QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia: His private workout with the Lions won over the coaches and scouts.
2. ST. LOUIS -- QB Mark Sanchez, USC: How about a new quarterback to go with the new coach? But the Redskins could trade up to grab a leader who fits Jim Zorn's system.
3. KANSAS CITY -- DE Tyson Jackson, Louisiana State: A lot of people don't expect Jackson to go this soon, but Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli really likes him.
4. SEATTLE -- OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest: If Sanchez isn't available, the Seahawks will set aside their need for an offensive tackle and take this playmaker.
5. CLEVELAND -- WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech: Even though the Browns have more pressing needs on defense, they might not be able to resist a receiver with far better hands than Braylon Edwards. But it could be Boston College's B.J. Raji.
6. CINCINNATI -- OT Andre Smith, Alabama: He made an early exit from the combine and looked flabby at his pro day, but Smith is the best tackle in the draft.
7. OAKLAND -- WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland: If Crabtree is gone, the Raiders will stun everybody by taking a receiver with mediocre college numbers but scorching speed.
8. JACKSONVILLE -- WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri: The Jaguars are trying like crazy to trade down. They do need a receiver, though, and Maclin makes plays.
9. GREEN BAY -- DT B.J. Raji, Boston College: The Packers need to bolster their defensive line, rather than relying on Aaron Kampman to do all the pressuring. Raji can do that.
10. SAN FRANCISCO -- OT Jason Smith, Baylor: Smith will immediately upgrade an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 55 sacks last season.
11. BUFFALO -- DE Brian Orakpo, Texas: The Bills need to ramp up their pressure up front. They like Orakpo, but Aaron Maybin might be the better rusher off the edge.
12. DENVER -- QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State: If the Broncos don't trade up for Sanchez, they can probably stay put and get the third (and final) elite quarterback.
13. WASHINGTON -- OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia: If Daniel Snyder falls for Sanchez, he'll spend the loot to get him. Otherwise, Monroe could slip this far because of knee concerns.
14. NEW ORLEANS -- RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia: Philadelphia might try to trade up for Moreno, but the Saints really like him too. USC's Brian Cushing is also a possibility here.
15. HOUSTON -- CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State: The Texans, who also like Cushing, have a more pressing need for a cornerback who can start opposite Dunta Robinson. Jenkins is big enough to play safety, if needed.
16. SAN DIEGO -- OLB Brian Cushing, USC: The Chargers would like a cornerback and running back too but can pick those up later in the draft. Cushing or Trojans teammate Rey Maualuga are fits here.