The 2014 NFL draft is ripe for making trades to move up or down in the opening round because the view of individual prospects ranges widely between teams. The lack of overall certainty should lead to a very active first day of the event.
For general managers, it means they should have an opportunity to stockpile more picks if they haven't fallen in love with any one player. Those front offices that do have a particular name in mind should have a couple trade partners available to make things happen.
In other words, there's a good chance just about every team could emerge from Round 1 very happy with how things worked out. With that in mind, let's check out a trio of teams that should strongly consider moving up to fill a particular void in their lineup.
The Falcons should have one goal heading into the draft: Do whatever it takes to walk away from the opening round with either Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack. It would go a long way in revitalizing a pass rush that finished 29th in sacks last season.
Clowney is the prospect with the most upside in the class while Mack is probably the most NFL-ready player in the entire group thanks to his all-around ability. Wide receiver Roddy White has been driving the bandwagon for the team to draft the South Carolina defensive end since January:
I would love for us to draft clowney if he is available but if he isn't we should trade out and stockpile players got a lot of holes to fill— Roddy White (@roddywhiteTV) January 9, 2014
Atlanta has far more talent on its roster than last season's 4-12 record would suggest. If the Falcons can have some better injury luck, most notably when it comes to Julio Jones, then add a potential defensive superstar like Clowney or Mack, they immediately return to the NFC title conversation.
It's unlikely either of those players will still be available at No. 6. But the fact they are that high should limit the other pieces necessary to get a deal done, and they are definitely in a position where going for the home run makes sense.
If the Bills stay at No. 9, it's increasingly likely they will end up taking an offensive tackle. Solidifying the front five is definitely important after an injury-plagued rookie season from quarterback EJ Manuel, but it doesn't qualify as the team's biggest need.
What Buffalo should be shooting for is a marquee playmaker in the passing game such as Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans. Drafting a tackle would be settling, and when you settle too much you end up missing the playoffs for 14 straight years.
Targeting Evans represents the less costly option for the Bills. Moving up three spots to get ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would probably do the trick. He sports an impressive combination of size and athleticism, which he attributes to his basketball background, as he told Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated:
It's helped a lot. I think a lot of other basketball players should play football. We have the qualities. If there's a jump ball in the air, treat it like a rebound. It helps me get off the press, use my quickness like when I used to dribble. Everything just incorporates into football.
The Bills have a couple solid possession receivers in Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods as well as somebody who can stretch the field in Marquise Goodwin. What they don't have is an elite playmaker like Evans who's capable of dominating in the red zone. He's worth trading up to secure.
New Orleans Saints
Another team that should trade up in search of upgrading their passing game is the Saints. The system in place around Drew Brees has allowed the team to post some monster numbers in recent years, but it needs to make sure that talent around him doesn't fall off too much.
Which of these teams is most likely to move up in Round 1?
That's starting to become the case as there's limited options beyond Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. Players like Kenny Stills, Robert Meachem and Nick Toon are solid depth options, but not the type of players who should start in one of the NFL's most high-powered passing attacks.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the first wave of wideout prospects are very likely to be gone by the time it is scheduled to pick at No. 27. If it wants somebody like Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr. or Marqise Lee, it will have to come through a trade.
Much like Atlanta, the Saints are in a position where they can feel confident it making some serious noise in the NFC if they can fill their few holes. Sacrificing some future picks outside the first round to get a receiver ready to help the offense right now would be worth the investment.