NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Bradford chucked footballs to Pop Warner players. Ndamukong Suh posed for dozens of cameras. Gerald McCoy surveyed the Central Park landscape.
While the top prospects enjoyed New York on Wednesday, general managers and personnel directors throughout the NFL pondered the most unique draft in years.
Not only is this year's crop stocked with players such as Nebraska defensive tackle Suh, Oklahoma quarterback Bradford and Sooners teammate Gerald McCoy, but the three-day setup is new. The draft kicks off Thursday night in prime-time for the first time. The second and third rounds are Friday night, with the final four rounds on Saturday.
Bradford, Suh and McCoy figure to go 1-2-3 overall. No wonder they were all smiles during a variety of league-staged events.
"It's fun and it's important," Suh said as he watched dozens of youth players scramble around a makeshift artificial turf field.
The real scramble begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and the All-American considered the best defensive tackle coming out of college in more than a decade has no clue where he will land.
"I have no idea what's going to happen," he said. "I haven't had anyone tell me that they want to draft me. There could be a lot of trades. There could be someone a team really wants."
They pretty much all want Suh. And Bradford. And McCoy.
"I hope so," McCoy said.
"If I walk into the room having no idea, my heart's going to be going," 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Bradford admitted.
Bradford is projected to go No. 1 to St. Louis, which released incumbent Marc Bulger and comes off a 1-15 season in which it managed all of 175 points.
"I hope Sam goes one," McCoy said. "That's a statement you can write down and pencil it in. I hope Sam goes one. Sam is my boy."
And then McCoy can sack him when they meet in the pros?
"After he gets picked, then I'm (going to) kill him. That's how it goes."
Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams, another likely high pick, also believes Bradford is the wise choice for the Rams.
"Sam? You know, the question is what doesn't he do well," Williams said. "I'm his teammate and I've really rarely seen a mistake out of Sam."
Making a mistake in the first round of a draft can damage a franchise for years. This time, though, the collection of talent is so deep that many players ranked by some teams as opening-round quality could be on the board Friday. And with as many as 18 hours to analyze them even more closely, the second round just might be wild.
Suppose quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow, consummate winners in college, are around. Or Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose off-field issues could scare away suitors on Thursday. Or a slew of running backs, from Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech to Jahvid Best of Cal to Ryan Mathews of Fresno State to Toby Gerhart of Stanford.
It all could lead to lots of trades — or paralysis by analysis.
"Again, because this is a strong draft and there are some very good picks, we feel, in that 19 to 32 area as well as definitely into the second and third round, it's definitely worthy of discussion," Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said of moving up or down.
"It's a slow process," new Bills GM Buddy Nix said of rebuilding through the draft. "We've got nine picks. We need to hit on all nine, and that's hard to do sometimes. We've got holes to fill."
Filling holes this year could be easier than in most in such a loaded draft.
"Every team is going to improve by next weekend," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "Whatever teams draft and whatever moves they make they will be a better team than they were right now. That's obvious."
Get live coverage of the NFL draft tonight on BET.com's Playa Hater blog.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.