Mock drafts have been finalized. Chicago has rolled out the red carpet. The 2015 NFL Draft is just about to blow up in the Windy City.
But before we get to the big night, PFW wants to warm you up for the 32-pick party with a few predictions as to exactly how the draft might come together with an emphasis on all things Patriots.
PFW's pre-Draft predictions are a tradition as rich in history as the game itself. Of course a look back at past picks shows that months of preparation, film study and scouting reports did little to help us project much at all.
Hey, it's still fun to throw a few fantastic ideas out there. Maybe Bill Belichick will even click on Patriots.com and utilize some of our advice leading up to tonight's much-anticipated action.
Regardless, enjoy our thoughts on the Draft as the football world winds down the hours to the big night that's so important that multiple TV networks must cover it live!
What do you consider to be the Patriots biggest need heading into the 2015 NFL Draft?
Fred Kirsch: How can it be anything but cornerback? Interior offensive line and linebacker depth are close seconds.
Erik Scalavino: Cornerback, followed closely by D-line (particularly tackle) and interior O-line.
Paul Perillo: Cornerback. Losing two starters makes this the biggest need.
Andy Hart: Is this a trick question? Cornerback, by far.
Will the Patriots trade up, trade down or stick and pick at No. 32 in the first round?
FK: They will stick and pick only because they can't find a trade down partner willing to make the right deal.
ES: I believe there's a good chance they'll actually trade UP and get a quality player on defense who's fallen to the mid-20s range. More likely, though, they'll stay put and pick at 32.
PP: I believe they will trade down and look for picks early in the second and maybe fourth rounds.
AH: I'm going to answer this with my heart rather than my head. So I'll say they trade up into the 20s somewhere to land the impact defensive player they so badly need.
Regardless of where he is drafted, who will be the Patriots top pick in this year's draft?
FK:My dart landed on Kevin Johnson, cornerback out of Wake Forest.
ES: I'm sticking with my prediction of FSU d-tackle Eddie Goldman. He can instantly contribute to the front two-thirds of the New England defense, which is currently closer to being its strength than the secondary. Goldman is huge, but quick and athletic, not unlike Vince Wilfork.
PP: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
AH: I'll stick with my trade scenario and say the move up is to land Washington cornerback Marcus Peters. Fingers crossed.
Which positions will the Patriots target, in order, with their first three draft selections?
FK: CB, OG, LB
ES: DL, CB, OL
PP: OL, DL, WR
AH: CB, OG, DT
What will be the most surprising pick/development of the weekend for the Patriots?
FK: Inability to trade out of the first round.
ES: Under Belichick, the Patriots often leave the draft with more picks than they started with, but this year, the opposite will be true. They have nine picks at the moment, but with trades (to move up), they'll select only seven.
PP:They won't draft a cornerback until Day 3.
AH: New England will both add and ship out a veteran player via separate trades over the course of draft weekend. It's also trade weekend in Foxborough.
Hypothetically, if the Patriots could get any player in this year's draft class, who would be the best fit?
FK: Trae Waynes the cornerback from Michigan State or Leonard Williams the DT from USC.
ES: I already predicted a DT would be the team's choice, but also said corner was New England's biggest need. Therefore, Michigan State CB Trae Waynes would be an ideal choice to replace Darrelle Revis.
PP: Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker. Wide receiver is not exactly the team's biggest need but Parker's size, speed and big-play ability would represent the one missing element to the Patriots offense.
AH:I'm tempted to stick with my overall theme and say Peters, but I'll switch it up at go with USC's Leonard Williams. The guy is a beast on the defensive line with the versatility that Belichick would love.
Which projected first-round pick will be the biggest bust in this year's draft class?
FK: With no prospect really being touted as a sure thing it's a thin pool from which to pick a bust. If he's picked in the first round I'll say Melvin Gordon only because it's hard for a running back to live up to first round status in today's NFL.
ES: Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon. The Badgers have a dubious history of producing fantastic college running backs who flop in the NFL.
PP: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma, and not just due to the off-field issues. He has all the measurable but he's a body-catcher who doesn't run great routes and wasn't always open.
AH:Randy Gregory, the pass rusher out of Nebraska. Undersized and not good enough at the thing he does well. Will get killed in the run and be a situational pass rusher, at best. Probably much less than that.
Name a sleeper pick you love and explain why.
FK: I've been touting Zach Vigil from Utah State. He's an inside 'backer who has played well against good competition. Can take on bigger linemen and hold his ground. Good sideline to sideline player, football IQ. Would be a perfect low round, depth pick for the Patriots. They need guys like him.
ES:Not a lot of people are talking about the Patriots' needs at WR. There's still a spot open for a big, stretch-the-field playmaker on the outside. Someone like USC's Nelson Agholor intrigues me as a potential option for New England in the second or third round area. While not the fastest or biggest receiver in the draft, he has pro-quality skills and can return punts. He might be a nice complement to Brandon LaFell on the other side of the formation.
PP: Brandon Bridge, QB, South Alabama – He's extremely raw but reminds me of Cam Newton with his size, speed and arm. A nice developmental prospect.
AH: Jeremy Langford, the running back out of Michigan State. He has the ability to be a three-down star in the NFL.
Which first-round pick will have the best NFL career?
FK:Jameis Winston. He'll get his head on straight and realize what's in front of him. He knows how to play the position and he knows how to win. He won't be the next Tom Brady by a long shot but he'll succeed in this league and that means a lot for this position.
ES: A lot of these college talents are boom-or-bust when they get to the NFL, but one thing I've always liked about Iowa is its ability to produce solid O-linemen. Brandon Scherff is the latest blue-chip Hawkeye blocker. My guess is he'll have a nice NFL career that lasts at least a dozen years.
PP: I think Leonard Williams is the best player in the draft. His size, speed and versatility separate him from the pack.
AH: Florida DE/OLB Dante Fowler. I think he has a chance to be an absolute superstar at the next level and could be a true game-changing, impact defender. Watch out.
In three years Jameis Winston will … ?
FK: … be a quarterback on the rise in the NFL who has quieted his doubters.
ES: … be a mediocre starting QB for Tampa Bay.
PP: … be in the midst of a solid yet unspectacular NFL career. He'll show flashes of brilliance and maddening inconsistency but his off-field issues will be behind him.
AH: … continue to be going down the Cam Newton path he's already on. Meaning he'll have made some plays, been inconsistent and still have a lot to learn on and off the field.