NFL Draft 2012: Trades to Watch out for in the First Round
It's that time of year again. NFL draft day is upon us, as representatives from all 32 NFL teams are in New York awaiting Roger Goodell's opening of the 2012 version of the biggest event of the offseason.
For some teams the draft is about replacing lost players. For others it's about finding new superstars to breathe life into their struggling franchise or adding that one last piece to propel them towards a Super Bowl. For each of them, however, it is their last big chance to improve before entering the beginning of next season.
Generally, the draft separates the best from the rest in terms of personnel managers, as those who can keep their cool often come out as the winners. Finding the right balance between patience and aggression is vital if you are going to get value when picking players.
Value is the most important thing in the draft, and it's not just about what player you pick, but when you pick him. As such, working trades is always difficult but a sometimes very rewarding process.
Here are a few trades to watch out for in the first round tonight.
In one way, the Vikings are lucky.
They have the opportunity to bring in an elite prospect at two of the most difficult positions to fill in the NFL: cornerback and left tackle. In another way, they are unlucky because the roster has a lot of holes, which is why they are picking third overall, so they need to try to pick up extra picks.
It's not been easy for the Vikings to drum up trade interest so far, seemingly because the best player available is a running back; therefore, teams won't want to invest too much in that position. It is also difficult because the Vikings don't want to lose out on an opportunity to take Matt Kalil or Morris Claiborne.
The most likely possible move right now appears to be the Rams trading down with the Buccaneers, dropping them two places. They should still be able to grab Matt Kalil at that point but run the risk of the Cleveland Browns taking Morris Claiborne at fourth overall, presuming the Buccaneers take Trent Richardson.
Everyone is expecting the Browns to go offense with their first pick, but realistically Claiborne makes a lot of sense also. The Browns' high-ranked pass defense from last year is a myth that was created by teams simply running the ball on them all day instead of passing in competitive games.
I doubt the Buccaneers would be willing to give up their second-round pick this year, because it is essentially a first, so I would expect them to offer the Vikings next year's second rounder along with this year's first to make this deal happen.
Another option floating around for the Vikings to consider is potentially trading with the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have already traded back from second overall to the sixth overall pick but could be interested in jumping back up to third to grab Richardson ahead of the Browns and Buccaneers.
The Rams already have Stephen Jackson in the backfield, but he likely isn't going to be running too well by the time the team is relevant once again. Also, Jackson's contract is huge, and he isn't likely to re-negotiate it if he is to be playing with a rebuilding team.
Moving Jackson to a contending team would give him a career boost while also returning the Rams a mid-round selection, most likely a third rounder, to help them move up for his replacement. This deal swings completely on whether the team wants to move Jackson or not.
There should be plenty of teams willing to part with a third for the proven back; the Steelers, Lions, Ravens and Giants all come to mind as suitable partners, but separating themselves from the heartbeat of the team won't be easy.
The Browns are not a team that is going to take a superstar player, or even two, like their AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals did last year to turn things around instantly. Pat Shurmur and Mike Holmgren have a roster in need of star power but also depth at multiple positions.
Drafting the best player available is a likely move for the team but, in a relatively deep draft, moving down would really be their best move. There is some talk of the team taking Ryan Tannehill to replace Colt McCoy, but realistically the Browns don't lose games because of McCoy—they lose because their roster as a whole is severely lacking.
Depending on the stock of Tannehill, the only really viable trading partner that the Browns have right now is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins pick eighth overall but are in desperate need of a quarterback, as they enter the season with Matt Moore and David Garrard competing for the starting spot.
It's not that likely that the Browns trade with the Dolphins because quarterback guru, and current Dolphins' head coach, Joe Philbin will likely believe that he can develop a later pick instead of investing so much in Tannehill.
The Dolphins are not under immediate pressure to win after the regime change—even if Jeff Ireland's collar is feeling the heat.
It's possible that the Browns could accept a similar deal to the one they made with the Atlanta Falcons last year and drop out of the first half of the draft completely. Their roster is not in such shape that they could turn down the opportunity to have two first-round picks again next year, even if they do come later in the draft.
They managed to get Phil Taylor last year, who had a fine rookie season, so if a team falls in love with the fourth best player in the draft, the Browns shouldn't shy away from dropping low.
Buddy Nix is not messing around this offseason.
After wooing Mario Williams to Buffalo and stealing Mark Anderson from the Patriots, the Bills failed to land a marquee addition to their offense despite chasing Mario Manningham.
They did re-sign Stevie Johnson but could still be looking to give Ryan Fitzpatrick another weapon to excel on offense next year.
There is very little chance of the Bills moving down from the 10th spot in the draft, but I fully expect them to move up if they think Luke Kuechly, Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon aren't going to be there. If the Bills think anything like me, they should jump ahead of the Jaguars and take Justin Blackmon to pair with Stevie Johnson.
In the Bills' spread offense, Blackmon would have loads of opportunities to pile up the yards after catch and dominate against second choice cornerbacks. A receiver, in my mind, is more valuable to the Bills right now as opposed to a stud left tackle like Kalil because of their offense's design and their mobile quarterback.
However, in the long term they may want to add Kalil to be a pillar of their offense moving forward. The potential for them to trade up with the Vikings is still there.
If they do decide to move down, then moving down for Kendall Wright out of Baylor is a great idea. Wright is a Santonio Holmes-style of receiver who would, like Blackmon, excel in the Bills' dynamic offense. With Wright, Johnson, CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick would have no excuses if he can't meet the expectations his contract places on him.
Adding an extra second- or third-round pick would be a big help to the Bills, who still have holes despite being very active in the offseason so far.
Pete Carroll is quietly building a very talented roster in Seattle with the Seahawks.
They sit in a nice spot also with multiple directions in which they can go in to improve their roster. In fact, the Seahawks are one of the few teams who make sense to trade up, down or simply sit still at 12th overall.
Despite signing Barrett Ruud, the Seahawks should be delighted to pick up Luke Kuechly and stay at 12th overall. If they feel the need to trade up for him, then that wouldn't be a bad idea either. Kuechly would be protected by Jason Jones and Brandon Mebane upfront, much like he was at Boston College while excelling in coverage on his own steam.
They should only have to jump above the Bills and Chiefs if they are to do so. Swapping picks with the Panthers at ninth overall shouldn't be too difficult a deal to work out because the Panthers are looking for multiple pieces this year to add to their defense. They could potentially still get their No. 1 player by trading down.
If the Seahawks stay still, because they are just above the Arizona Cardinals, teams looking to land Riley Reiff will be looking to swap picks with them. The San Diego Chargers in particular are a viable option to swap with the Seahawks, who would really be able to work a good deal for the Seahawks.
Because the Chargers would have to jump up quite substantially, the Cardinals could get a second-round pick out of them, while the Chargers would be delighted to add a quality pass protector to keep Philip Rivers upright. A first- and second-round pick would certainly be worth it for the Chargers to possibly give Rivers a chance at returning to MVP form with Jared Gaither already in place at left tackle.
New York Jets
There is some talk about the Jets pulling off a major deal to move into the top six to draft Trent Richardson. However, that doesn't seem realistic to me. In fact, ProFootballTalk earlier tweeted that there was no chance of it happening.
If we rule out the Richardson move, that doesn't prevent the Jets from moving up for another offensive weapon. If Michael Floyd finds his way as far as Seattle, Arizona or Dallas, at 12, 13 and 14, they will be tempted to jump above the Eagles just to guarantee that they have a shot at the Notre Dame receiver.
After Plaxico Burress failed to make an impact last year, Floyd could give the team the big receiver that they are searching for. Mark Sanchez's life would be a lot easier with a big target, while Rex Ryan would obviously love his physical style of play.
Because of the Tim Tebow trade, however, the Jets would likely want to work a deal whereby they trade a third-round pick and get a fourth back or fifth back. The team gave up its fourth and sixth round picks to add Tebow already this offseason.
Depending on how many pass rushers go early in the draft, they could also contemplate trading down into the early 20s and look to add a guy like Chandler Jones or Courtney Upshaw to revitalize a faltering front seven.
It may surprise you to know that the Steelers' general manager, Kevin Colbert, can be quite aggressive when it comes to trading in the first round. If the right player is available, Colbert is willing to give up draft picks to guarantee that he gets his man.
In the past Colbert has moved up to draft players like Santonio Holmes and Casey Hampton.
The Steelers are used to picking late in the first round come draft time. In fact, picking 24th is actually relatively high for them. However, this year there are a few players who could really entice them to jump up a few spots.
If David DeCastro falls far enough, the Steelers should be one of the teams most likely to try and grab him, because they desperately need improvements to the interior of their offensive line. Similarly, if Riley Reiff or Fletcher Cox drop as far as 16, 17 or 18, the Steelers will be candidates to move up and pick them.
Compared to most teams, the Steelers have very few holes on their roster. As Colbert put it recently, they have wants, not needs. There are pieces and players they would like to have, but the likelihood is that they will still be playoff contenders even if the draft doesn't go their way.
That situation gives them the freedom to aggressively approach the draft and try to get the best possible talent they can in the early rounds.
Cian Fahey has worked as a TNT NFL Writer at Bleacherreport, covers the NFL for the Guardian, is a lead fantasy writer for FFBLife and covers the Patriots for Irishcentral while covering the Steelers for Steelersdepot. You can follow him on twitter at @Cianaf