The 2012 NFL draft is less than 24 hours away, and that means draft talk is buzzing louder than ever.
A lot has changed in the last few days, including draft stocks rising and falling, and trade rumors surfacing around the league.
Here are the very latest trade rumors and pre-draft hype heading into Thursday night's first round.
Dre Kirkpatrick is Dropping Down Draft Boards
According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is slipping down teams’ draft boards. More specifically, Florio notes that Kirkpatrick isn’t necessarily dropping, it’s just that he never was high on teams’ boards to begin with.
This is a world where information gets shared immediately and constantly. In addition, the NFL draft is surrounded by heavy media speculation for a long period of time before the actual event.
For these reasons, Florio points out that the process often gets young players’ hopes up based on what they hear and see, only to be let down once the truth comes out. Speculation, in other words, is a reflection of what the media thinks, not how teams actually feel.
Kirkpatrick is still a solid prospect, and some team will get a bargain on him toward the end of Round 1.
Will the Bills Trade Up for Matt Kalil?
It’s no secret that the team believes left tackle is one of its top needs. Heading into next season, last year’s fourth-rounder Chris Hairston is penciled in as the starter on the blind side. While Hairston played very well last year in his rookie campaign, the Bills want to add depth and competition at the tackle position.
Grabbing Kalil never seemed like a realistic possibility for the Bills, since most people believed he would go to Minnesota at No. 3. However, now that there’s a chance the Vikings pass on Kalil, he could drop as far as No. 7. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Bills try to move up and grab him.
But what will it cost?
GM Buddy Nix loves his picks, and Buffalo is dedicated toward building through the draft. Buffalo has 10 picks this year, so moving up three spots, potentially, is certainly doable.
Mark Barron’s Stock is Soaring
Everyone knew that Alabama safety Mark Barron would likely be a Top-20 pick, but now it appears there’s a good chance he will be a Top-10 pick.
According to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 Buffalo, the Buffalo Bills are "very high" on Alabama safety Mark Barron and are considering using their 10th overall selection on him.
Considered to be one of the safest picks in the first round, Barron could be an immediate playmaker in the pros. Buffalo is looking for playmakers in Round 1, as GM Buddy Nix stated at the team’s draft luncheon.
The reports about Barron also indicate that if the Dallas Cowboys’ interest is legitimate, they may have to move up to No. 9 to grab him. And that is certainly something that the Carolina Panthers would like.
Also, considering Buffalo’s interest in trading up for Matt Kalil, it may be using its interest in Kalil as trade bait to move back if they cannot land the left tackle.
Though it’s unclear how things will shake up, one this is for sure: Mark Barron is the hottest name in the draft right now.
Fletcher Cox a Top-5 Pick?
Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reported on Twitter that some teams are considering trading into the Top 5 to grab Mississippi State’s defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. While that might sound high, Rotoworld.com notes that defensive tackles "annually go higher in the actual drafts than the mocks."
A logical trading partner? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There’s a chance both Morris Claiborne and Trent Richardson could be gone before the Bucs pick. If they traded with Philadelphia and moved back to No. 15, they could possibly target someone like cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Jacksonville is another possible trading partner as well.
Trent Richardson to Browns Gaining Steam
Per TFY Draft Insider, it sounds like Trent Richardson is going to be the Browns’ fourth overall pick. Further, Cleveland will then look to snatch up the top wide receiver available at pick No. 22.
Both are logical moves for the Browns, whose offense is starving for playmakers to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Colt McCoy. Adding Richardson with someone like wide receiver Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill would be a pretty successful first night for the Browns’ draft.
Who should the Browns target at No. 4?
The only way the Richardson pick could fall through is if a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers makes a trade with Minnesota at No. 3 for the Alabama bruiser.
And that’s not out of the question.
Could Ryan Tannehill Really Drop to the 20s?
NFL.com revealed on Tuesday that "one high-ranking AFC personnel chief" said that not many teams have a first-round grade on the Texas A&M quarterback. The unnamed person speculated that if Miami does indeed pass on Tannehill, it could lead to a slippery slope.
If the Dolphins choose not to select him, other teams may wonder why, which, consequently, will lead to other teams passing on him in the teens.
Kansas City may not want to spend the 11th pick on him considering they have a strong enough roster to compete in the AFC West, and have much greater needs than quarterback. Seattle has Matt Flynn. Arizona has money locked up in Kolb. Dallas wants a player who can contribute now. And so on.
Tannehill may not have a first-round grade, but that’s the way it goes in the NFL with potential franchise quarterbacks. It’s difficult to see him not going to Miami—if not, some team will trade into the teens to snatch him up.
Trade Talk at Pick No. 3
There is a very realistic chance that a deal for the third overall pick could get finalized by Thursday evening before the draft. Adam Schefter reported via Twitter that "Vikings GM Rick Spielman said trade talk at No. 3 is 'heating up…. There is enough that there is potential for a trade.'"
Schefter didn’t specify which teams would be interested, but two teams that make sense are Tampa Bay and Miami.
For the Bucs, as noted above, if the Vikings take Morris Claiborne and the Browns take Trent Richardson, Tampa Bay will be left with Matt Kalil, who doesn’t really fit a need for them. As a result, they may move up a couple spots to ensure they get one of Claiborne or Richardson.
The Miami Dolphins could move up if they feel strongly about taking Tannehill and if they believe he won’t fall to them at No. 8.
Things will unfold soon enough, but for now, it seems the Vikings are desperate to acquire some extra draft picks.
Other Options for Tampa Bay?
Who would make a better fit for the Bucs at No. 5?
As previously discussed, the top two targets for the Bucs appear to be Morris Claiborne and Trent Richardson. In order to guarantee they can get one of them, they may consider trading up with Minnesota.
However, the Bucs may be content going in another direction in that scenario. The Tampa Bay Times suggests that the Bucs could take Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 5 overall if Claiborne and Richardson are off the board. Kuechly would be an upgrade and an immediate starter in the Tampa defense.
Another possibility could be cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Fifth overall may be a tad high, but Gilmore’s stock is sky high right now, and he fills a big need for the Bucs.
This kind of shakeup could mean that Matt Kalil falls to No. 7, at which point the Top 10 woud get very interesting.
New England Patriots Love Chandler Jones
Less than 24 hours before the draft, per Rotoworld.com, NFL Network’s Stacey Dales says the New England Patriots "really, really like" defensive end Chandler Jones out of Syracuse.
The Pats don’t pick until 27, but they do have two first-rounders, including pick No. 31. Depending on where they would have to move up to in order to select Jones, they could offer up one or both of their first-rounders and accumulate a few late-round picks, since they have none after the fourth round.
Jones’ stock has been rising this week, as ESPN’s draft expert Todd McShay recently had him going 16th overall to the Jets in his latest mock. He has tremendous length and could help New England’s edge pass rush.