While football is certainly a team sport, there are times when one player really can make all the difference in the world. It's for this reason that a few of last year's playoff teams would be smart to trade up in the 2014 NFL draft to land one of the up-and-coming superstars set to take the league by storm.
The quarterback situation is fuzzy this year, as there is no clear-cut, consensus No. 1 guy.
But there are some freak athletes at other positions that have scouts and analysts drooling over their pro potential, such as Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Greg Robinson and Mike Evans, to name a few.
Adding one of these prospects to an already loaded roster could be the difference between winning the Super Bowl and coming up short. With that in mind, these teams must consider making a bold move to trade up into the top of the draft to that end.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco, with 13 draft picks to work with (including one compensatory selection at the end of Round 3) is the most logical of the playoff teams to make a big move into the top of the draft.
General manager Trent Baalke has stocked up on picks like an ambitious chipmunk storing up nuts for the long winter, and this would be the perfect year for him to finally take a big risk.
The 49ers feature one of the league's most dominant rosters from top to bottom. If not for Colin Kaepernick's allergy to playing at CenturyLink Field, this team would have likely made it to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row in 2013.
The one thing the 49ers lack, however, is a superstar receiver—no offense to Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree. Adding a player like Watkins out of Clemson or Evans out of Texas A&M would be like adding jet fuel to the team's already potent offensive attack.
Baalke has shown a willingness to trade up for guys he wants, as indicated by last year's trade to land safety Eric Reid. Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee wonders if Baalke is gearing up for another move to land a top receiver:
The 49ers’ personnel at wideout in 2014 certainly will dictate how often they turn to three-receiver formations. The upcoming draft is deep at the position, and the team’s interest in players like [Desean] Jackson seems to telegraph what they will be seeking in the draft. Don’t be surprised if they trade up – like they did last season – to get the guy they want.
Even if a huge move into the top 10 is out of the question, the 49ers should consider moving up into the middle of the first round to secure one of the top receivers.
Guys like Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham and Marqise Lee are all capable of lighting up NFL defenses with speed and after-the-catch moves, which the 49ers desperately need to beat the Seahawks.
Whereas the 49ers kind of need a top receiver to compete against the top defenses next year, the Panthers will be doomed without one.
After releasing Steve Smith and losing Brandon LaFell to the New England Patriots via free agency, Carolina's cupboard of receivers is about as bare as any team's in the league.
According to OurLads.com, which is always one of the most up-to-date sites on the Internet, Carolina's top two receivers right now are Tavarres King and Jerricho Cotchery.
King, who was a fifth-round pick last year by the Denver Broncos, has never caught an NFL pass, while Cotchery's best days are clearly behind him.
Neither player is worthy of the "No. 1 receiver" moniker, though, Cotchery could potentially be a terrific complementary guy.
Will Brinson of CBS Sports put an amusing take on the team's mind-boggling moves (or lack thereof) this offseason as it pertains to the receiver position:
Many have wondered what in the world general manager Dave Gettleman was thinking—a question he addressed at the Annual League Meeting in Orlando recently, as relayed by Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, "What was I thinking? I was thinking we were doing the right thing. We had a plan. We had a philosophy. We made a decision and we were going to stick with it."
The only way to justify leaving the cupboard so desperately empty would be making a big splash in the draft.
Newton needs a dynamic playmaker on par with his own supreme athletic abilities, and as such, the Panthers must make a bold move to land one of this year's top receivers.
Chip Kelly's offense will be just fine without DeSean Jackson, but the defense is still very much a work in progress—especially on the back end.
As NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah noted in his pre-draft team-needs preview, "The Eagles added one safety in free agency (Malcolm Jenkins) but they still need another one."
Couldn't agree more.
The problem is this: The two top safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, will both likely be long gone by the time Philly makes its first selection at No. 22 overall.
While there are certainly talented safeties to be found later in the draft, none are as naturally talented and physically gifted as these two potential Pro Bowlers.
The Eagles must consider making a move into the top half of the draft to land Clinton-Dix. He's the clear-cut top cover safety in the draft, and after the team finished with the worst pass defense in the NFL last year, it certainly needs the help.
Oh, and just for good measure, the Eagles will face Jackson and the high-powered Washington squad twice a year, meaning deep safety help is all the more important going forward.
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