By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
CHICAGO (AP) - 3:51 p.m. (4:51 EDT)
Let's boil it down to the basics: A group of executives at 32 multimillion-dollar companies are about to spend several of those millions and risk their company's future on a 21-year-old college kid.
Welcome to the NFL draft.
Character issues are always on the front burner this time of year - and that's never more true than tonight, where NFL executives will take all their data and make life-changing decisions about a number of players who are flawed in different ways that have nothing to do with throwing, running or catching.
Scott Minto, director of the San Diego State Sports Business MBA program, says no amount of vetting, psychological profiling and background checking can ensure a team of making the right pick.
"You see these players who have transgressions in their past and how do you decide if this player's going to be a good employee or not?" Minto asks. "It's a lot of money to invest into someone who's 22 or 23 years old."
1:05 p.m. (2:05 p.m. EDT)
Well, it's not exactly March Madness. Then again, it wouldn't be a true sporting event if you didn't have a chance to win something based on the outcome, right?
As part of its never-ending and generally successful quest to make every date on its calendar an Event, the NFL has created a contest challenging fans to predict the top 32 picks in this year's draft. Winner gets an all-expense-paid trip to the season-opening game, Steelers at Patriots, on Sept. 10.
Much like the gazillions of bracket-filling contests that make the NCAA Tournament what it is, this contest offers chances to form leagues with your buddies, play against strangers and, of course, compete for the grand prize valued at around $4,800. This way, your future and your happiness as an NFL fan can hinge on every pick during tonight's four-hour extravaganza, not simply the one your favorite team makes.
Need help? Vegas is here for ya. The over-under on Alabama receiver Amari Cooper's draft position has been set at 4 1/2, per the Bovada website. Bovada has also set 1 1/2 as the over-under for number of running backs - an increasingly unpopular position in NFL-land - to be selected in the first round.
11:50 a.m. (12:50 p.m. EDT)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock. The Tennessee Titans are under the microscope.
With the hours ticking down until the start of the NFL draft in Chicago, the Bucs will surprise everyone if they don't use the top pick to take Jameis Winston, the troubled, talented quarterback out of Florida State. That surprise will turn to shock if they pass on both Winston and this year's other top quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon.
What the Titans will do is less certain. The smart money says they'll take Mariota (or Winston if Tampa Bay unexpectedly passes), but Tennessee likes its current QB, Zach Mettenberger, and if the price is right, the Titans could trade that pick away.
Those potentially in the market for the Heisman winner: San Diego, which can't get an extension done with Philip Rivers; Philadelphia, whose coach, Chip Kelly, worked with Mariota at Oregon; and, yes, the Cleveland Browns, who have two first-round picks and aren't quite sure what they've got with last year's glamour pick, quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Only a little more than seven hours to go.
And, by the way, neither Winston nor Mariota will be on hand to shake Commissioner Roger Goodell's hand after they're selected. Winston will be watching from Alabama and Mariota is in Hawaii.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
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