2012 NFL Draft: Players Worth Targeting to Trade with the Patriots

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IIApril 12, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Players Worth Targeting to Trade with the Patriots

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    You know it’s gonna happen.

    At some point, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will walk across the stage, step to the podium, and say, “We have a trade. The New England Patriots have traded their selection to…”

    The Patriots currently have the 27th and 31st selections in Round 1 and four total in the top 63 selections. What they don’t have is a lot of late draft picks.

    If the Patriots, as expected, trade one of their first-round selections, they will want either a future first- or an early second-round selection with a few late picks thrown in to sweeten the deal.

    If New England acquires an early second-round pick in the deal, they have an eye on a player they believe will still be available. Whether it’s a receiver (maybe Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu or South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery) or a hybrid pass rusher (Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, possibly), the Patriots hope the right player falls to incentivize making a deal with either pick.

    Here are five players that teams might target through a deal with the Patriots.

QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State

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    The 6'7", 240-pound Sun Devil put on a show when scouts came to Arizona State’s pro day. The pocket passer wowed scouts with his arm strength and textbook throwing motion. Osweiler can make every pass with accuracy.

    He isn’t a finished product, as he left school early with just 15 career starts. But that’s part of the appeal, as he likely hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential. That’s why coaches are drooling over Osweiler.

    The key is whether Cleveland passes on drafting a quarterback in the first round. If they take Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill with the fourth pick overall, Miami might trade down and take Osweiler. If Tannehill goes to Miami eighth overall, all eyes will be on the Browns to see if they pass on Osweiler with the 22nd pick.

    If the Browns go in another direction, it will be a feeding frenzy as QB-needy teams try to get Osweiler.

    On the Line: Kansas City, Arizona, Denver

TE Coby Fleener, Stanford

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    Teams realize they don’t have to spend a first-round pick to get a high-quality tight end, as gems have been plucked in the second round or later repeatedly. But the Indianapolis Colts have a gaping hole at the position with Jacob Tamme and Dallas Clark no longer on the team.

    If the Colts select QB Andrew Luck first overall, wouldn’t the franchise want to reunite him with one of his favorite targets at the pro level to help Luck with his transition? If another team wants Fleener, they must get back into the first round.

    On the Line: St. Louis, Kansas City, Arizona

DE Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

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    Through the evaluations it was discovered that Upshaw stood only 6'1", had average strength with 22 repetitions of 225 pounds, and ran a slow 4.81 40-yard dash. Rated as a top hybrid pass rusher before workouts, Upshaw's disappointing results could drop him out of the first round.

    Then you go back and watch Upshaw’s videos. He is not the same player in games as he is during workouts.

    Upshaw was a force for Alabama in the toughest conference in college football, which says more about him as a player than any stopwatch or tape measure.

    It only takes one team to fall in love with Upshaw. Because he’s undersized and lacks speed, his best fit might be defensive end in a 4-3 defense. There are other prospects that look the part that will go ahead of Upshaw. But a team will value Upshaw’s production over his measurables and view him as a steal late in the first.

    On the Line: Atlanta, New Orleans

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

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    Wright is another player that wasn’t the same during workouts. Wright was a big play weapon for the Bears as QB Robert Griffin’s favorite target and downfield threat. Then the pads came off, and Wright ran a 4.6 40-yard dash.

    Without explosive speed, Wright became just another receiver, because he’s only 5'10". On some draft boards Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill is now rated higher because he’s taller and faster, despite the fact that Hill isn’t nearly as polished as Wright after playing in Georgia Tech’s run-option offense.

    Even if a team believes Wright’s 40 time is accurate, he would still be an outstanding slot receiver. Wright is a sharp route-runner and can get open underneath or over the middle easily.

    Drafting a slot receiver in the first round is a luxury few teams have. But a team just has to bring Wright in. He might start as a slot receiver, but Wright’s role will grow over time.

    On the Line: Jacksonville, Carolina

ILB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama

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    One potential landing spot for Hightower was crossed off after the New York Giants traded for Cincinnati’s Keith Rivers. But Hightower would have had to fall to 32nd first, anyway.

    His fate likely is tied to where Boston College’s Luke Kuechly goes. Hightower would be a good fit for Pittsburgh or Baltimore, as he fits the defensive attitude of both franchises.

    Big, physical, and with a mean streak, Hightower would be a perfect Steeler (they recently cut James Farrior) or Raven (he could study under Ray Lewis).

    Unless both teams pass on him. If he is still on the board after the 24th pick, his heat index goes from green to yellow. If he gets by the 29th pick, the index goes to red alert, because Hightower should be gone early in the first round.

    Maybe Hightower won’t be anything more than just a two down middle/inside linebacker. For a bad run defense, two downs from Hightower might be all they need.

    On the Line: Seattle, Atlanta, Arizona