NFL Draft 2012: Predicting 5 Trades to Completely Shake Up the First Round
The NFL owners and NFL Players Association should slip their lawyers a little extra something this April for hammering out the Collective Bargaining Agreement this year.
When the largest media event of the last two months involves what amounts to each team hiring seven new guys, you're producing something that's pure gold; if the lockout had lasted much longer, it could have killed the goose this all came from.
Other professional sports gain attention with their annual draft, but nothing that presents the full frenzy of analysis and speculation leading up to the NFL's glorified job fair.
The excitement around the NFL Draft starts as early as December. Google Trends show "NFL Mock Draft" at least doubling in searches as early as December. Sportswriters and fans post mock drafts for their teams, first-round projections or a guess at the first 100 picks. There are even those that try predicting all 253 selections of the draft.
But the one thing often missing from these mock drafts are the trades. Teams lock in on the players they want and decide they must have a specific player. Teams moving down were either beat to the punch or their top guy or think they can still get him later on and bank draft picks in the process.
So this isn't a mock draft. This is a prediction of how teams are going to blow everyone else's predictions out of the water. These five trades will throw months of analysis and guesswork into disarray and leave at least some people shaking their heads in wonder.
Jacksonville Jaguars Trade with Cleveland Browns, Select Justin Blackmon
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Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars jumped up in the draft to select Blaine Gabbert 10th overall. With meager talent at the skill positions other than Maurice Jones-Drew, Gabbert faltered while his 2011 NFL draft contemporaries Cam Newton and Andy Dalton excelled.
Regardless of the change in ownership and coaching, the Jaguars will do their best to surround Gabbert with quality players this year, and that means making another jump in the draft.
The Jaguars should find a willing partner in the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland should be confident that Trent Richardson will still be available at No. 7 overall. So the Browns move down three picks and still land their guy.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars take the surest thing at wide receiver. With Blackmon, Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis, Gabbert will find himself without any excuses for a poor performance in 2012. This selection will solidify the core of Jacksonville's offensive roster and let them compete in a wide-open AFC South.
Arizona Cardinals Trade with Miami Dolphins, Select Michael Floyd
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The Miami Dolphins shouldn't sweat Ryan Tannehill's availability later in the first round. Few teams have a genuine need to spend a first-round pick on a quarterback, so the Dolphins should feel flexible about their options in the first round.
The Arizona Cardinals don't have that luxury. With a number of teams like the Panthers and Jets needing additional receiver support, the race is on for Michael Floyd, the No. 2 receiver in this year's draft.
The Panthers have the top pick of those three teams, but sitting right behind the Dolphins leaves them in the weak position. The Jets might be willing to offer more, but trades between division rivals are almost unheard of.
That gives the Cardinals the inside track. Floyd's enjoying a rise in his draft stock, and it'll pay off when he'd drafted in the top 10.
That same situation will cost Tannehilll as he drops to 13th overall, though come draft day, he should be thankful the Dolphins don't trade further down.
Cincinnati Bengals Trade with Kansas City Chiefs, Select Stephon Gilmore
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The Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in the driver's seat with the 11th pick of the draft.
With fewer restrictions on contracts and plenty of quality players on the board, Scott Pioli will likely spend his entire allotted time fielding calls with trade offers. The Dallas Cowboys could try moving up for Mark Barron, as could the Philadelphia Eagles who need help on defensive line and at cornerback.
In the end, the Cincinnati Bengals will likely put together the best trade package; the Chiefs would be crazy not to accept.
Cincy will use the pick to land the athletic Stephon Gilmore. With all the physical tools needed to excel in the NFL, Gilmore will replace Jonathan Joseph to pair with Leon Hall. The two will return the Bengals' cornerback tandem to one of the best in the league.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs move down to No. 17 and should still land offensive guard David DeCastro. Plus, a move like that should cost the Bengals a second-round pick; the Jaguars paid the same price last year to select Blaine Gabbert No. 10 overall.
Cleveland Browns Trade with Philadelphia Eagles, Select Stephen Hill
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The Cleveland Browns took a huge step forward on offense selecting Trent Richardson. The Crimson Tide standout should take a good amount of pressure off Colt McCoy's shoulders.
Now the Browns move in the other direction to give McCoy someone else to work with.
The Philadelphia Eagles decide to move down in the draft after watching a number of top defensive prospects taken in the first round. That gives the Brown a pick to leap past the receiver-needy New York Jets and select Stephen Hill.
Hill's stock went on the rise after solid performances at the combine and Georgia Tech's Pro Day. He might still need some development, but at 6'4" he represents what's fast becoming the NFL's picture of a prototypical receiver.
If McCoy's ever to get a fair shake, this year's draft needs to be all about giving him the tools he needs to succeed. Richardson and Hill are just that.
As icing on the cake, Cleveland should still come out ahead on draft picks between the two first-round trades. Even Philadelphia makes out well on this trade, by landing Cordy Glenn for offensive line help with a later pick.
St. Louis Rams Trade with New England Patriots, Select Jonathan Martin
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The New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams probably each have more quality picks to leverage in this year's draft than any two other teams combined. The Rams hold the best chips with a top 10 pick in the first round and two in the second.
Draft picks don't do a team any good if they can't get the people they need on the roster. For the Rams, that means getting better protection for Sam Bradford. So rather than watch as the New York Giants draft Jonathan Martin to replace Kareem McKenzie at right tackle, they use some of their draft assets to move back into the first round and select the Stanford offensive tackle.
Martin's stock dropped steadily the last couple months to where he rates as a late first-round pick, but his play on Stanford's offensive line helped keep Andrew Luck on his feet.
St. Louis' offensive line needs support across the board and Martin is the best available. The cost of moving up three slots will be well worth it.
The Patriots will continue banking pics for the future and still land their main target, Harrison Smith. The Notre Dame safety put out a great produce at the combine and should help plug the holes in their porous secondary.