So Manti T’eo goes in the first round, but USC’s Matt Barkley doesn’t?
With less than three weeks to go before the NFL draft, that’s a distinct possibility. The Times projects four safeties, two guards and the controversial Notre Dame linebacker to go in the opening round, but only one quarterback.
A look at how the first round could unfold:
1. CHIEFS — Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M;: If they don’t sign Branden Albert to a long-term deal, the Chiefs need a capable blind-side bodyguard for newly acquired quarterback Alex Smith. Joeckel and Eric Fisher are the best in this class.
2. JAGUARS — Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: Floyd, the best defensive tackle in the draft, would be a welcome addition to a team that finished 30th in total defense last season and last in sacks.
3. RAIDERS — Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: Even though they signed Tracy Porter to a one-year deal, the Raiders still need a lot of help at corner. Milliner ran a scorching 4.31-second 40 at the combine.
4. EAGLES — Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Philadelphia isn’t going to spend all that money to hire Chip Kelly, then leave the cupboard bare at quarterback. Michael Vick is at best a short-term solution.
5. LIONS — Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan: Fisher has more of a mean streak than Joeckel, and some evaluators like him better. With the retirement of Jeff Backus and the departure of Gosder Cherilus to Indianapolis, the Lions need tackles.
6. BROWNS — Ziggy Ansah, DE, Brigham Young: The raw but gifted Ansah would further upgrade an improved Browns pass rush, essential in a division featuring quarterbacks Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton.
7. CARDINALS — Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma: If Bruce Arians is going to turn around the league’s last-ranked offense with Carson Palmer, he needs to keep the quarterback upright. The Cardinals badly need a top-shelf tackle.
8. BILLS — Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Louisiana State: The Bills will consider a quarterback here, but Kevin Kolb buys them some time, and they can pick one up later in the second round. After all the money they spent on their defensive front last season, they still need pass-rush help.
9. JETS — Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon: In five of the last six drafts, the Jets have selected a defensive player with their top pick. The law of averages might say they’ll go offense, but their pass rush remains well below par.
10. TITANS — Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina: The Titans started five different offensive line combinations in the second half of last season and have an acute need at guard. A Hall of Fame guard himself, Coach Mike Munchak knows just what he wants.
11. CHARGERS — Chance Warmack, G, Alabama: Opinions vary on who is the best guard in this class, Cooper or Warmack. Protection breakdowns played a big role in Philip Rivers’ performance meltdowns over the last two seasons. Warmack could develop into the next Kris Dielman.
12. DOLPHINS — Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: The Dolphins filled so many needs in free agency, they have the luxury of taking the best player available. The big, rangy Rhodes would be a good pick here, providing they don’t trade up to grab Johnson.
13. BUCCANEERS — Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame: The Buccaneers need a lot of help on defense — they finished with a No. 31 ranking last season — but a pass-catching tight end could be too tempting for a franchise that opted not to re-sign Dallas Clark.
14. PANTHERS — Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Lotulelei might be the best player in this draft, but his heart scare is giving teams pause. He’s gotten the medical go-ahead so far, and if he can put teams at ease he should rocket back into the top five.
15. SAINTS — Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Jones’ once sky-high stock has dropped because of spinal stenosis and possibly because of his decision not to work out at the combine. Still, he could be a bargain at this spot and a good addition to a wobbly defense that Rob Ryan aims to fix.
16. RAMS — Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: With Danny Amendola gone, the Rams could use help at receiver. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin is a safer pick here, but the 6-foot-3 Patterson, who played just one season of big-time college football, has greater upside.
17. STEELERS — Matt Elam, SS, Florida: With Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark in their early 30s, the Steelers need to develop replacements. Elam’s build is similar to Polamalu’s, and the Florida prospect is a hammering hitter and playmaker.
18. COWBOYS — Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas: Dallas released starting safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and Vaccaro could be a ballhawk on the back end of Monte Kiffin’s defense. The Longhorns haven’t had a player selected in the first round since safety Earl Thomas in 2010.
19. GIANTS — Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: With Justin Tuck on the back end of his career, and Osi Umenyiora now in Atlanta, the Giants need to look to the future of their pass rush. They have more pressing needs, but Werner would be a steal here.
20. BEARS — Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: The Bears addressed their need for a left tackle by signing Jermon Bushrod in free agency. That gives them the luxury to improve at receiver, and Austin, an excellent slot receiver, would help Jay Cutler in a big way.
21. BENGALS — Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama: BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a solid first season with the Bengals, but the franchise is still looking for a back with explosive speed. Lacy has been unable to work out for scouts lately because of a hamstring problem. That could cause him to drop.
22. RAMS (from Washington) — Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Yes, the Rams already have three first-rounders on the defensive line, and they have other needs. Should Richardson be around at this point, though, he would be good value for St. Louis.
23. VIKINGS — Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: Antoine Winfield is 35, and the oft-injured Chris Cook has yet to play more than 10 games in a season. It’s a good bet that if the Vikings keep their two first-round picks, one will be used on a corner.
24. COLTS — D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama: The Colts locked down their left tackle spot by signing Cherilus in free agency, and Fluker could step in and start at right tackle. There are other needs, of course, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to further beef up protection for that franchise quarterback.
25. VIKINGS (from Seattle) — Robert Woods, WR, USC: No receiver is making more of a move up draft boards than Woods, who has shined in stepping out of Marqise Lee’s shadow. At USC’s pro day, Vikings receivers coach George Stewart not only spent extra time with Woods but also with the player’s parents.
26. PACKERS — Eric Reid, FS, LSU: If Lacy is around, the Packers might go running back with their first pick (it could be a little early for UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin). But scouts think highly of Reid, who could secure the job that M.D. Jennings held down last season.
27. TEXANS — Keenan Allen, WR, Cal: The Texans need to rebuild the right side of their offensive line, so Florida State’s Menelik Watson would be tempting here. But Houston also needs a speedy sidekick to receiver Andre Johnson, and the 6-foot-3 Allen fills the bill.
28. BRONCOS — Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: If the elite corners are off the board, and there’s a big running back to be had later in the draft, Denver likely will look to bolster its defensive front. Jack Del Rio likes his interior linemen huge, and the 320-pound “Big Hank” is that.
29. PATRIOTS — Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State: “Tank” Carradine is coming off a torn ACL, so that is a concern. But that’s the kind of risk that Bill Belichick will take if he believes a player has talent that sets him apart. Carradine averaged a sack per game last season.
30. FALCONS — Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: With future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez coming back for one more season, it’s the ideal situation for a young tight end to learn from one of the best ever before being handed the baton.
31. 49ERS — Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International: With 13 picks in this draft and few pressing needs, the 49ers can afford to go with the best player. Cyprien would be an interesting addition to a secondary that lost safety Dashon Goldson to free agency.
32. RAVENS — Manti T’eo, ILB, Notre Dame: Yes, there was the “catfish” controversy, the slow 40 times, the lousy performance in the BCS championship game . . . but T’eo remains highly regarded by many NFL teams. The Ravens, who need an inside linebacker, can afford the dice roll.