Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Stage

The comprehensive scouting process of college players for Thursday's NFL Draft is largely complete, and franchises have assembled their draft boards. A variety of scouts, assistant coaches, head coaches and executives have weighed in on the rankings. The final call as to whom a team selects in each round may be exercised by a general manager, team president or head coach, depending on each team's power structure. One year the Raiders had everyone in their draft room vote on which player the team should select. Eight people voted for a kicker, one voted for a quarterback. The one vote was Al Davis. They selected the quarterback.

Teams identify and prioritize their needs by position. Some teams follow the theory of drafting the highest ranked player available when their turn comes, regardless of position. This theory argues that by taking the best talent year after year a team may have a significantly more gifted roster and can deal in other ways for team needs. Other teams draft for their highest prioritized position needs, knowing that position upgrade is vital.

NFL Draft Stage

Teams then can run through computer simulations, which will project every possible combination of players that may be available on each of their seven picks. They can then think through what they would do in each decision-making situation.

For example, it is rumored that the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, the team that possesses the first overall pick in this years draft, wants to select DE Myles Garrett, while the front office wants to pick QB Mitchell Trubisky. This should be settled before draft time, as on-the-clock internecine warfare is rare.

The great variable is the ability to trade pick positions. Years ago storied coach Bill Walsh developed a trade chart that assigned a value to each of the picks in the seven rounds of the draft. This allowed teams to rationally figure out what a move up or down to a different draft position should equate to in gaining or losing draft picks.

Teams in the first round are each allocated 10 minutes per choice. Draft time is not real time, and for draftees and their families, it is like water torture time. Drip, drip, drip. Seconds seem like minutes, minutes seem like hours. Drip, drip, drip. Viewers may ask themselves how teams can need that much time to make decisions after months to consider prospects.

What teams are actually doing in that time is fielding trade offers. A team that covets a player who will be available later in the round will try and trade down with a team worried that its choice won't be available when their turn comes. The team trading up swaps picks and gives up an additional later pick or picks. A successful team may be only a player or two away from the Super Bowl, while a rebuilding team may need as many draft picks as possible to upgrade.

First-round draft picks are heavily scrutinized by the public, press and ownership. Choosing a player who is a "bust" can detract from the reputation of the drafter, and too many bad picks can result in that individual being fired. There is an especially high risk in choosing a quarterback. The league is quarterback-centric, and it is difficult to get to the Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback. Quarterback play is very visible to even the most casual fan, and everyone has an opinion as to how the quarterback is faring.

It is not only first- and second-round draft picks that are the key to building a team. The salary cap creates pay structures, which has a few players paid massive packages while many more sit at minimum salaries. Therefore third- through seventh-round draft picks have become more important than ever, and teams need them to make the roster.

Patrick Mahomes

Draft prognosticators heavily influence public perception as to how players are rated, but remember they do not have teams. Their predictions are interesting and entertaining, but teams do not generally share their true intentions with the press and public. They are trying to keep their strategy a secret. There is a generalized amnesty for misleading the public by executives in pre-draft statements.

Prognosticators originally grouped three top quarterbacks ahead of the pack this year, with our client Patrick Mahomes seen as a cut below, a probable second-rounder. But the draft is individual teams drafting individually, and Mahomes has had productive visits in late scouting. It is more important for a player to have a few teams absolutely in love with him and the rest not interested than be considered good by all 32. If it were possible to compare team draft boards there would be wide variance on how different teams rate the same player. Watch and see whether the prognosticators were correct.

One of the intriguing aspects of the draft is that the teams are all separated. If a player is predicted to go in a certain position in the draft and is not selected, it can result in a "plummeting draft pick." Teams don't know why the player is slipping and begin fearing that there is some physical or behavioral problem that they are not aware of. There is no time to check out the problem so teams pass and down the player slides.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.