No matter what number draft choice teams have in the first round, no matter what year, no matter what needs they have, they almost always feel they could really get the player they want if only they had a tad higher pick in the round.
Not in this draft, they don't.
The 2013 NFL draft is said to be stocked with good players, just not top-heavy, and the lack of skill players in the first round is almost shocking.
It's possible -- not likely, but possible -- that when Thursday night's draft ends, no quarterback or running back will be taken and only two wide receivers will go. You can pick any year the draft has been held since the Philadelphia Eagles made halfback Jay Berwanger the first ever draft choice in 1936 and you will not find such lack of interest at the top in the skill positions on offense.
Quarterbacks have been the No. 1 pick in each of the past four drafts. This year, it looks as though it will be a tackle.
It's been 50 years (1963) since the NFL did not draft a running back in the first round. It appears Alabama's Eddie Lacy will go in the latter half of the first round this year to keep that streak alive.
The last time a quarterback did not go in the first round was 1996. That streak also is likely to stay intact and West Virginia's Geno Smith is projected by many to be the quarterback to extend it, perhaps as a top-10 selection. But there also are mock drafts that have him and the other quarterbacks slipping past the first round.
"It's being characterized as weak, lacking at quarterback and running back, but otherwise a fairly strong draft overall,'' said Rob Rang of CBS and NFLDraftScout.com.
It's that kind of draft, and the experts are unsure this year as to how that first round will develop Thursday.
"This draft is a very deep draft in certain positions, but it may not have those elite-type guys you usually find in every draft,'' said Tom Donahoe, the Philadelphia Eagles' senior football adviser. "There are always five, six, seven, eight guys you think can be elite players right now, and this draft may not have it.
"This draft is probably really good on the offensive line, particularly at tackle. It's good on defense at tackle and end, very good at cornerback. It's very deep at wide receiver. And there are pretty good numbers at safety compared to other years."
And its weak points?
"Again, some just at the top -- quarterback is not great, running back is OK," Donahoe said. "Linebacker I thought was a pretty average group, inside and outside; those guys will run out really, really quick."
Gil Brandt has been analyzing drafts since he joined the Dallas Cowboys personnel department in 1960, their first year of existence. He worked for them for 29 years and now analyzes drafts, among other things, for NFL.com.
"The weakness -- and I don't think it's a weakness -- but the difference in this draft and last are the quarterbacks," Brandt said. "If you and I are playing golf and I hit my drive 225 yards, that's good for me. But if you hit yours 275, all of a sudden I look bad.
"That's what happened with this draft. Last year, there were five drafted quarterbacks who started [four in the first round]. I don't think we see that in this group of quarterbacks.
"Another thing, I don't see any linebackers. There are good offensive linemen, outstanding defensive linemen. We had 39 running backs at the combine; you don't bring them unless you think they can make it.
"I don't think the draft is great from the top end, but I do think there is a lot of depth in it."
It's why there has been much speculation that many teams in the top half of the first round would love to trade down, move into the second half of the round or even lower and scoop up extra draft picks in the process. Of course, that means there must be teams willing to give up those picks to trade higher.
The talent gap, at least in this draft, between the first rounds and those in the second and third has grown tighter.
"There's going to be a lot of value in this draft in the second, third and fourth rounds,'' Donahoe said.
"There are a lot of guys, guys you like and want to have on your team and try to develop. This is probably not the year to have a top-10 pick."
Receivers and running backs -- fortunately for the Steelers, two of their biggest needs -- should be plentiful after the first round.
"We're seeing so many more receivers come into this league," Brandt said, "but the biggest thing is they're coming in ready to play. They know how to read defenses, make adjustments and so forth because the colleges are doing such a good job of passing the ball and teaching those guys how to play."
This will be a lineman's draft, too, whether teams want them on offense or defense.
"Up front on the defensive and offensive lines, we see a lot of really good players," said Eric DeCosta, Baltimore's assistant general manager. "With the amount of juniors that came out this year, that really bolstered the crop of players."
Many believe Kansas City will make Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel the first overall draft pick.
That happened only twice since the 1970 NFL merger with Orlando Pace in 1997 and Jake Long in 2008.
But those veteran scouts involved in the draft for a long time know the most predictable thing about it is its unpredictability.
"You learn every year it's a humbling job, scouting," Donahoe said, "and it's a very inexact science."
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published April 21, 2013 4:00 AM