The 2013 NFL draft may just be hours away, but that doesn't mean the rumor mill has stopped churning out a constant stream of up-to-the-second speculation.
It's quite the opposite, in fact. Though each of the NFL's 32 teams has its draft strategy firmly in place for the weekend, the leaks of information reach their apex in the hours prior to the festivities beginning at Radio City Music Hall.
Though the rumblings have been on a slow crescendo throughout April, it's rare to see a big move happen until the last minute. Last year's Robert Griffin III trade got done early enough that we could all process his impending trip to Washington, but that is more of an anomaly than the rule.
Trades happen when teams get desperate—and the desperation market is bullish heading into Thursday night. Never in recent memory has there been a draft board with more possibilities in the opening rounds, with the No. 1 overall pick not reportedly being cemented until earlier Thursday.
The Kansas City Chiefs' impending selection of Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher (h/t Charean Williams of Fort Worth Star-Telegram) sent shockwaves throughout the NFL, resulting in some increasingly interesting rumblings around the league.
With that in mind, here is a quick look in at all the latest trade rumors prior to Thursday night's first round.
Three Teams Trying to Trade Back into 1st Round for QB?
It's beginning to look more and more as if names like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib will have to wait to hear their names called—at least longer than initially expected. In his final mock draft prior to Thursday night's festivities, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. failed to place any quarterback inside the first 32 picks.
And he didn't forget them. The Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets—the trio of teams considered most quarterback-needy inside the top half of the first round—were all heading in different directions; Cleveland with cornerback Dee Milliner, Buffalo with offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and New York with Barkevious Mingo at No. 9 and Tavon Austin at No. 13.
Who will be the best QB in the 2013 NFL draft?
Though going through one pundit's mock draft isn't the most prudent thing to do at this juncture, it's an indication of just how wildly this first round can vary.
What's notable from Kiper's perspective—you know, other than the historical anomaly of a quarterback not being taken in the first round—is that his mock doesn't take into account trades. He uses the stock 32 picks where we know when and where each team will be on the clock.
And based on the latest rumblings ESPN's Adam Schefter is hearing, trade prices are likely to determine how this first round falls. According to Schefter, the Jets, Browns and Bills have all inquired about trading into the back half of the first round, ostensibly to take their quarterback of choice:
CLEV, BUF, NYJ all have made inquiries about moving back into back portion of 1st round. 1st-rd QBs get 5-yr deals; 2nd-rd QBs 4-yr deals.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 25, 2013
Drafting a quarterback means a paradigm shift for each of the three aforementioned franchises. The Jets would be marking the end of an era for the last quarterback they traded up to grab, Mark Sanchez. The Browns would be doing the same just 12 months after acquiring Brandon Weeden.
As for the Bills, their new era has already begun. Ryan Fitzpatrick was released this offseason, left in the discard pile along with just about every non-Jim Kelly quarterback in franchise history.
Will Nassib or Barkley be these teams' answer? That remains to be seen. But the interest from each seems palpable.
Branden Albert to Dolphins Won't Happen Until After 1st Round?
With news breaking of the Kansas City Chiefs' impending selection of Eric Fisher with the top overall pick, the writing continues to be on the wall for incumbent left tackle Branden Albert. His name has been on the trade block almost from the moment the Chiefs placed the franchise tag on him, with the only question being his ultimate destination.
An early favorite before the talks died down, it seems the Miami Dolphins have emerged as far and away the most likely to land Albert. Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole reported Wednesday that the Dolphins were pushing hard for Albert, who will almost certainly look to land a long-term deal with his new team.
There is also the matter of compensation heading Kansas City's way. Cole reported that a high second-round pick was the asking price from the Chiefs, and the Dolphins have two second-rounders (Nos. 42 and 54) on Friday night.
The problem comes with leverage. Miami desperately needs a left tackle to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Kansas City is equally (if not more) eager to rid itself of Albert. And with the top of the first round in flux, it's possible the Dolphins could land their coveted left tackle without having to pay that exorbitant sum.
It's a risk, but one the Dolphins seem willing to take—at least for now. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the teams have tabled their Albert for now and won't continue the talks until the first round ends:
Dolphins-Chiefs won't further discuss Branden Albert trade until both teams pick in first round _ assuming Dolphins haven't picked an OT— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 25, 2013
If Dolphins trade up for Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel or Lane Johnson, the Chiefs might have to keep Branden Albert for $9.8M this year— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 25, 2013
With the draft being split into three nights, there's no need to panic for the Dolphins.
Miami can take a look at how the top five to seven picks fall and simply pull the trigger on a different trade if a left tackle of the future like Oklahoma's Lane Johnson or Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel is still available. And if the board falls as expected with Johnson and Joeckel being top-five picks, then the Dolphins can ring Kansas City up and land Albert—the trade is always going to be there.
As for the Chiefs, they'll desperately be hoping to see all top-flight tackles get selected early. They don't want to pay Albert's salary for next season or lose him for nothing next summer. But that may be the situation Kansas City finds itself in after Thursday night.
Raiders Getting Flooded With Calls About Trade Back?
With the entire top 10 in flux and little about any of those selections set in stone, the Oakland Raiders have suddenly become the prettiest team on the block. Sitting at pick No. 3 with a bevy of roster needs, Oakland has long been thought as the most likely top-five team to trade back on Thursday night.
Much like the remainder of the draft, there's little tangible evidence of that happening. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie talked to Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News and acknowledged conversations with other teams. But he also said the team was not actively shopping the selection.
“We’re just feeling around right now,” McKenzie said. “Nothing is concrete…just peripheral conversations.”
Despite those claims, rumors of a team trading up to No. 3 persist. Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith followed up on a television report from Albert Breer and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, noting that several teams have been in contact with Oakland about its top pick.
The Cleveland Browns were floated as a possible suitor who would ostensibly look for a pass-rusher with a pick. But according to Breer, Cleveland has no interest in trading up, but Oakland's pick is now characterized as "for sale":
As PFT said, Browns aren't planning to trade up from 6. Trade back, of course, remains very possible. Oakland's pick, at 3, still for sale.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 25, 2013
As for why the pick has suddenly become very much for sale, it seems Oakland has become smitten with cornerback D.J. Hayden (h/t CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora). The Houston product has a first-round grade for most, but taking him at No. 3 is a massive value reach based on everything we know at this juncture.
Though La Canfora notes it's possible Hayden goes No. 3, the Raiders' motivation seems pretty clear at this point. They want Hayden, just not at a place where they would be over-drafting him. Trading back in the first round and landing him in a more comfortable spot value-wise would not only avoid criticism for McKenzie but also land Oakland some extra draft picks.