One of the many things that makes the NFL draft so exciting is the fact that a major trade could happen at any moment. While your favorite team might not be scheduled to make a selection until the end of the round, you always have to be ready for a quick change.
Last season, 11 of the 32 first-round picks were made after trades either before or during the draft. This year should feature even more moves with organizations having their eyes on a few key players who could end up making a huge impact right away.
While it is difficult to get inside the head of 32 different general managers, here is a look at the latest mock draft complete with a number of trades that make sense for both sides.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans can do whatever they want with the top pick, but it seems like they are down to three options: trade it, draft a quarterback or take Jadeveon Clowney.
While all three have their own merits, it is hard to pass up on a player who could be one of the best in the league at his position before long. Putting him on the defensive line opposite J.J. Watt would immediately give Houston one of the best defenses in the league.
2. Atlanta Falcons (Trade with St. Louis Rams): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
(ATL gets No. 2 pick; STL gets No. 6, No. 37 and 2015 second-round pick)
There are rumors that the Falcons want to trade all the way up to No. 1 to grab Clowney, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports:
There are no shortage of execs in the league who believe the Texans best odds of trading out of 1st overall is w/ Atlanta to get Clowney— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 24, 2014
However, the Falcons can pay a little less in a move to the No. 2 spot to bring in another elite pass-rusher in Khalil Mack. According to Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, the linebacker will not be on the board for too long:
The Khalil Mack "hype" is real. I've heard he won't fall past no. 3.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) April 11, 2014
Mack is one of the most versatile players in the draft with the ability to get to the quarterback or drop back in coverage while also proving the skill to handle the run. This will be a dramatic improvement to a defense that lacked playmakers last season.
While there are pass-rushers available later in the first round, there is a huge drop after these first two, and the Falcons have to make sure they get one of them.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
There might be more talented players at other positions, but the Jaguars need a quarterback. They cannot consistently put off upgrading the position while giving their fans more losing seasons.
Johnny Manziel knows how to win games on his own with a knack for making plays with his arm or legs. He is a unique talent who will help Jacksonville immediately and will be a thrill to watch in each game.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Cleveland also needs a quarterback, but the good news is the squad has a second first-round pick to use for that. Instead, the squad will bring in an elite talent in Sammy Watkins who could help out whoever is under center for the Browns.
Watkins is one of the best receiving prospects in years thanks to his breakaway ability after the catch, and he can pair with Josh Gordon to make one of the best duos in the NFL.
5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Although the Raiders need a new face of the franchise at quarterback, they believe they have a legitimate starter in Matt Schaub. You can still expect the squad to draft someone over the course of seven rounds, but it is no longer a priority in the first.
Instead, Oakland will find a way to protect him with the best offensive lineman in the class. Greg Robinson is a mauling run-blocker who is still improving on pass plays. If he can reach his potential, he could be one of the best in the league before long.
6. St. Louis Rams (Trade with Atlanta Falcons): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Although the Rams are not getting the King's Ransom for trading the No. 2 pick that they did in 2012, they still add a nice haul to a team that still needs help in a few positions.
One of those spots is at offensive tackle, which leads St. Louis to draft one of the top two players on the board in Jake Matthews. The experienced player has proved himself on both sides of the offensive line and should succeed right away where he ends up.
After Sammy Watkins, who is the best receiver in the draft?
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
While Vincent Jackson had a great season for Tampa Bay in 2013, he was relied upon too much, earning more than twice as many targets as anyone else on the roster.
Adding Mike Evans gives the Buccaneers a second big target as well as a complete mismatch for any team to defend in the red zone. The young receiver excels at going up and getting jump balls in the air, and this is something that will not change at the next level.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Minnesota does not want to reach for a quarterback, but the fact remains that one is needed. Blake Bortles has the size, arm strength and pocket mobility to turn himself into a quality starter in the NFL.
Most importantly, Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel being on the roster can ensure that Bortles does not have to start right away, and he can be brought along slowly. Considering how raw the UCF star is at the moment, this would be the best-case scenario to reach his potential.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Taylor Lewan stands at 6'7", 309 pounds and ran the fastest 40-yard dash among offensive linemen at the combine in 4.87 seconds, per NFL.com. This combination of size and explosiveness ensures that he can be a successful blocker in the NFL.
Buffalo could bring him onto the roster and help protect last year's first-round pick EJ Manuel as the quarterback looks to take a big jump next season.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
A great defensive line was wasted last year due to the secondary's inability to stick with its receivers in coverage. The Lions do not only need to add a cornerback; they need to bring in someone they can trust to come in right away and handle coverage duties.
This is what separates Darqueze Dennard from the rest of the cornerbacks in the class. While others might be faster or more athletic, the Thorpe Award winner has the physicality necessary to handle NFL wideouts and would be a great addition to Detroit's secondary.
11. Chicago Bears (Trade with Tennessee Titans): Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
(CHI gets No. 11 pick; TEN gets picks No. 14 and No. 82)
Last year, the Bears had the worst run defense in the NFL once Henry Melton went down with an injury. With the defensive tackle now off the roster, Chicago needs to find someone to replace him.
Instead of waiting for someone to fall, the Bears need to trade up to get the best player in the class in Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle dominated competition at Pittsburgh last season and plays bigger than his size (6'1", 285 pounds) would indicate.
As Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times indicates, Donald is a big part of the team's draft plans:
The organization must be aggressive to draft the best fit in the entire class.
12. New York Jets (Trade with New York Giants): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
(NYJ gets No. 12 pick; NYG gets picks No. 18, No. 80 and No. 104)
The best pick for the Giants in this class is Donald as someone who can replace Linval Joseph on the defensive line. With him off the board, the team will stock up on draft picks to help an aging squad get younger.
Meanwhile, the Jets will make a deal with their stadium roommates in an effort to get an impact player on offense. This is something the squad lacked last season while Geno Smith struggled under center, and even the addition of Eric Decker is not enough.
Eric Ebron has the potential to be a star at tight end with his combination of size, speed and athletic ability. No matter who is throwing passes this season, the Jets could use a matchup nightmare like this to boost an offense that needs help.
13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
There are receivers available later in the draft, but there are few players with the ability of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix anywhere but the first round. The Alabama star is excellent against the pass with his ability to cover almost the entire field from sideline to sideline.
St. Louis can use this addition to help solidify an already strong defense to help compete with the rest of the NFC West.
14. Tennessee Titans (Trade with Chicago Bears): Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Tennessee can go a few different directions in the first round, but moving back allows the squad to add another pick and still have similar choices.
Anthony Barr would be the best pick at this point thanks to his pure athleticism and ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. Teams might be scared off due to his lack of experience at the position, but the former running back has plenty of upside and is worth the risk for this improving young defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Last season, the Steelers defense hardly resembled what we are used to seeing. The aging players looked slow, indicating that there needs to be upgrades at all levels.
Justin Gilbert brings in some much-needed speed and athleticism as well as the ability to make game-changing plays on either defense or special teams. Although he is a bit raw for the position, he can learn from knowledgeable veterans already on the roster.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Cowboys struggled against both the pass and the run last season, but Timmy Jernigan can help in both areas. The defensive tackle has the agility to get into the backfield and bring down the quarterback. He can also take on multiple blockers and free up teammates to make plays against the run.
If one player can make this much improvement, Dallas would be insane to pass this up.
17. San Francisco 49ers (Trade with Baltimore Ravens): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
(SF gets No. 17 pick; BAL gets picks No. 30 and No. 56)
There is no team more prepared to move up in the first round than the San Francisco 49ers. The squad has six of the first 100 picks in the draft and not a lot of room on the roster to keep all of the players.
As a result, ESPN's Chris Mortensen has reported that the team is likely to be aggressive on draft day, via Evan Silva of Rotoworld:
ESPN's Chris Mortensen suggested Mike Evans as a trade-up target for #49ers. Mort hearing Niners "could be very aggressive in this draft."— Evan Silva (@evansilva) April 25, 2014
Although trading up to get Mike Evans seems like too big of a move in this scenario, the 49ers can still make a deal to get another stud receiver in Odell Beckham Jr.
The LSU product is one of the most dynamic players in the class and brings some excitement to what has become a stagnant, run-heavy offense.
18. New York Giants (Trade with New York Jets): Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Giants fans certainly would not like seeing their team trade a pick to the Jets, but this would be the smartest move to help the franchise going forward. There were a lot of problems with the team a year ago, and many of those issues did not go away in the offseason.
Louis Nix III could help clog the middle of the defense and solidify a remade defensive line. Afterward, New York could use the rest of the picks to add depth to the offensive line and secondary and likely another linebacker.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Zack Martin is listed as an offensive tackle after playing the position throughout the majority of his career at Notre Dame, but he could potentially be even better if moved inside to offensive guard.
This would be perfect for the Dolphins, who need a replacement for Richie Incognito. Pairing him alongside Branden Albert would turn one of the worst offensive lines in the league into a possible strength.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Carson Palmer proved last season that he still has plenty left in the tank, but it would be a mistake for the Cardinals to not plan for the future at the position. While some teams are souring on Teddy Bridgewater, there is no denying that he still has the tools and composure necessary to be a star in the NFL.
Arizona would be drafting a player with great value at this point in the first round, and the squad could bring him along slowly until he is ready to succeed.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, the offense should be just fine. Instead, the Packers need to use their first-round pick on someone who can improve the defense.
Calvin Pryor has good speed to help against the pass as well as a physical nature that will allow him to help defend bigger targets. With Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in the division, Pryor would be a much-needed addition.
22. New Orleans Saints (Trade with Philadelphia Eagles): Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
(NO gets picks No. 22 and No. 162; PHI gets picks No. 27 and No. 91)
The Saints know that they are only a few players away from bringing home another Super Bowl. For this reason, they need to be aggressive in order to bring the right players on board.
A receiver could help the offense, but Drew Brees does not need a lot to work with, and the team could find plenty of talent in the later rounds at this position.
Instead, New Orleans should bring in a big-time pass-rusher who could blossom into an elite all-around talent at linebacker. Kony Ealy certainly has the confidence to succeed, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
"I feel like I'm the best guy in this draft, period. And that's not a cocky thing — that's just a confidence thing. It's not just talk. It's been proven. My numbers show for it. My size and speed and agility show for it. What else can you want?"
Ealy would be the perfect addition to complete Rob Ryan's aggressive defense and help make this unit one of the best in football.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
While the Chiefs made the playoffs last season, the offense consisted mostly of handoffs and short passes to Jamaal Charles. The squad needs someone else on the roster capable of picking up yards offensively.
Brandin Cooks has that ability as one of the fastest players in the draft. He was extremely productive for Oregon State and should be able to stretch defenses and turn up some big plays for Kansas City.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The Bengals had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, but they still could use help when it comes to rushing the passer. This is what Dee Ford does best thanks to his quickness and advanced technique on the outside.
While the Auburn star might never develop into an every-down defensive end, his ability to get to opposing quarterbacks will be useful right away for a team looking to contend for a Super Bowl title.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller is another one in a deep class of cornerbacks who will be immediate contributors in the NFL. The Virginia Tech product is physical with opponents and has great instincts that allow him to make plays on the football when it is in the air.
San Diego desperately needs an upgrade at this position and should draft the best available at the spot, leaving Fuller to be an obvious pick.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
After drafting Watkins with the first pick, the Browns have now set up the next quarterback to enter an ideal situation, something that is not often said about Cleveland.
Derek Carr might not be an immediate starter, but he is by far the best quarterback left on the board as someone with a strong arm and the ability to make quick decisions to spread the ball around the field. Although the transition from Fresno State to the NFL is a big one, Carr should do just fine.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (Trade with New Orleans Saints): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
If Beckham is still on the board, you can expect the Eagles to keep their pick and draft the receiver as a replacement for DeSean Jackson. However, cornerback remains the next biggest need, and there are a number of them available at the end of the first round, allowing for a trade back.
The best one at this stage is Jason Verrett, who makes up for his size at 5'10" with great instincts and quickness to cover receivers either in the slot or on the outside. Philadelphia will then add another high pick that can be used for a wideout or someone else on the defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Panthers had a mediocre receiving corps last season that just got worse. If the organization wants to set Cam Newton up for success, it needs to surround him with more talent.
Marqise Lee would certainly be a big help with his quickness that can turn a simple slant into a long touchdown. He can bring another dimension to the offense and help Carolina repeat last season's success.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
When Rob Gronkowski went down with multiple injuries last season, Tom Brady was left with a handful of undersized targets like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. While these receivers fared well for the majority of the time, this deficiency hurt in the red zone.
Even if Gronkowski comes back healthy, the squad still needs more players capable of winning physical battles in the middle of the field. This is where the 6'5" Jace Amaro can come in handy, especially in sets with two tight ends.
30. Baltimore Ravens (Trade with San Francisco 49ers): Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Baltimore knows how to get the most out of a draft, and trading back for an additional second-round pick is almost a no-brainer. The squad can then take the best player available after filling some of the biggest needs in free agency.
That leaves Ryan Shazier as the best pick as someone who could possibly replace Terrell Suggs down the line. The Ohio State star is a bit raw, but he has incredible athleticism and could learn from one of the best to help him reach his true potential.
31. Denver Broncos: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Broncos have made a number of upgrades to a defense that held them back last season, but they still could use one more player in the middle who is capable of making plays all over the field.
C.J. Mosley has proved this ability after a successful career leading one of the best defenses in college football. He should be able to step in alongside Danny Trevathan and help strengthen what was previously a big weakness on the contending squad.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Seattle might want to find an upgrade at receiver after losing Golden Tate in free agency, but a healthy (fingers crossed) Percy Harvin should make up for that.
Instead, the Seahawks must try to improve an offensive line that gave up way too many sacks last season, even when completely healthy. Xavier Su'a Filo is balanced enough to improve the pass protection as well as clearly more space for Marshawn Lynch in the run game, something that is a scary thought for opposing defenses.
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