Cleveland Browns Sitting on a Gold Mine with 6th Overall Pick, Could Trade Down
The way the 2013 NFL draft order worked out, picks seven and eight are crucial to the way that this year's class shakes out.
The Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills hold picks seven and eight, respectively. Both teams are in need of help along the offensive line. Right before those picks, at No. 6, the Browns are sitting on a true gold mine in terms of trade value.
The prevailing theory is that Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel will go with the first overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs. By that same token, it's hard to see Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher getting drafted too long after Joeckel. Both tackles could be off of the board before Cleveland picks sixth.
Without any elite quarterbacks in this year's draft, the group that has captured the attention of many NFL executives is a trifecta of left tackles.
With Joeckel and Fisher receiving a lot of attention leading up to the draft, Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson has slipped under the radar in the draft community. The same can't be said in NFL war rooms.
On Tuesday, Palm Beach Post reporter Ben Volin reported that he keeps hearing Lane Johnson and the Dolphins linked to one another, but that the team would have to trade up to acquire the offensive lineman.
By that same token, the Chargers also have a well-documented need at the left tackle position and could use a game-changer like Johnson, who played quarterback in high school before transitioning to the offensive line.
Where would Lane Johnson be the best fit?
It seems as though the Dolphins have the biggest need here. After letting go of left tackle Jake Long and bringing in marquee free agent Mike Wallace, Miami has put the pressure on second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill to deliver a playoff berth. Projected 2013 left tackle Jonathan Martin was okay in spot duty at the position last season, but he's no cornerstone.
The Dolphins need to provide Tannehill with real protection on his blindside and start to treat him like the franchise quarterback he's going to end up being in the NFL. Though Miami picks high, it may not be high enough to get Johnson.
That said, both teams have high picks as the Chargers will select 11th and the Dolphins have the 12th overall pick, so a trade up isn't out of the realm of possibility. If either team wants to make a serious run at Johnson, it's understood that they'd need to leapfrog both the offensive-line lacking Bills and the tackle-deprived Cardinals.
The Browns could stage a bidding war between San Diego, Miami and any other team that needs a franchise left tackle. With Joe Thomas entrenched as the starter in Cleveland, the team doesn't have to act with the same desperation that some other teams do.
Cleveland could use another pass-rusher (then again, who couldn't). But they don't urgently need any of the players that figure to be available sixth overall. The team would be wise to move down the board and coup a few extra picks.
Per the NFL draft pick trade value chart, which has become a benchmark value determinant for NFL teams, the closest the Dolphins could come to matching the value of Cleveland's sixth overall pick would be to offer up their first round pick (12 overall), second round pick (54 overall, via the Colts) and fifth round pick (146 overall).
With an extra second-round pick at their disposal, the Dolphins are a prime candidate to move up. Cleveland would pick up an extra second and extra fifth rounder while the Dolphins can guarantee that they get 'their guy'.
Offers out of San Diego could drive up the price and force Miami to offer up the 42nd overall pick instead of picks 54 and 146, but it's somewhat unlikely.
Still, Cleveland has a very unique opportunity to trade out of a pick that isn't as valuable as it has been in years past.
Lane Johnson has made things significantly better for the Browns without playing one snap in the NFL; such is how draft season works.
Make sure to shoot me a follow on Twitter for more opinions and updates this NFL offseason @EliNachmany!
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