The NFL draft is a year-round event for our staff. We began studying these players a year ago, before their final college seasons, and by now we have a pretty good idea of who can play and who can't. But what makes this year's draft so unusual is the hierarchical structure. The absence of an elite class combined with a strong middle class has generated one of the biggest buyer's market scenarios in NFL draft history.
Teams at the top understandably want to bail out, but good luck finding a trading partner. Furthermore, with so many prospects carrying similar grades throughout the first two rounds, there is no clear-cut order to be seen at this point. That's why nearly every mock draft you see will be different.
By now, we've mocked out the entire seven-round process by trying to balance team needs with player value. But in a talent pool this wide open, it's hard to account for the individual preferences of all 32 personnel decision makers. Nevertheless, here is our final crack at mapping out the 2005 NFL draft, including other possible scenarios for each team.
Note: Updated with information obtained through 11 p.m. ET Friday.
Rounds 1-3 | Rounds 4-7
* = underclassman
1. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Alex Smith* | QB | Utah
There isn't a lot that separates Aaron Rodgers from Smith. There are concerns about the schemes in which both prospects played at the college level. Rodgers has the better arm, but Smith has the bigger frame. What it all comes down to, though, is that new head coach Mike Nolan seems to have fallen in love with Smith's intelligence, charisma and overall intangibles and who can blame him. The 49ers haven't made a final decision yet, but we are getting the strong sense that Smith will be their final choice. They will work hard to have a deal in place by the time they pick, but contrary to popular belief, we're hearing the team will consider drafting him even if he's unsigned. Stay tuned.
• The 49ers are still trying to get a deal done for Smith, but his agent, Tom Condon, who also did the deal last year for Eli Manning (Giants), is understandably not budging. He wants the deal for Smith to follow traditional slotting procedure, which means he's looking for at least a small percentage more than what Manning got from the Giants. Due to the 49ers' concern that they won't get a deal done for Smith, they've also contacted several teams about a trade-down possibility. The most likely scenario is with the Buccaneers at No. 5. That would allow them to acquire extra picks and still get a future starting QB in Rodgers with the fifth selection.
• If they can't get a deal done with Smith and can't trade down, Rodgers or WR Braylon Edwards become possibilities.