Best Potential Trade-Up Scenarios in First Round of 2014 NFL Draft
With the NFL Scouting Combine, free agency and a plethora of pro days in the books, it's safe to say that we now have a pretty good idea as to what most team's strategies will be on Day 1 of the upcoming draft. The one thing we are less certain about are the types of trades that will go down at Radio City Musical Hall next Thursday.
Draft-day trades won't be a necessity for all 32 teams, but they will be a crucial part of the process for teams that need to get better at a particular position. A select number of organizations could be targeting a specific player to fill their need at a key position, which means they will need to trade up in order to get their guy.
With the draft being less than a week away, let's take a look at the best potential trade-up scenarios that we could see unfold next Thursday night.
All height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com.
49ers Make the Jump for a Wide Receiver
If one team has the ammo to make the jump up into the top 10, it’s the San Francisco 49ers.
Even though the 49ers employ Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, general manager Trent Baalke is well aware of the fact that one of the two wideouts may not be on the roster in 2015. Boldin is nearing the end of the line at 33 years of age, and Crabtree is scheduled to hit the open market at the end of the 2014 season.
For those reasons, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Baalke pulls the trigger and does a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who own the No. 7 overall pick, for the chance to select Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.
Evans has every tool in the book. He possesses the size (6'5", 231 lbs), strength and speed teams covet in a true No. 1 wide receiver. Here’s what Bleacher Report’s very own Ryan McCrystal had to say about Evans:
Evans is a prototypical No. 1 receiver and will be an ideal fit for a team that likes to challenge defenses down the field. Few receivers, even at the NFL level, are as dominant when battling for contested balls, and Evans should make an immediate impact in this area.
But don't mislabel him as a strictly a possession receiver. In five games I charted from the 2013 season (Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Duke and LSU), Evans averaged 9.3 yards after the catch. He's a dangerous weapon in many facets of the game and has the potential to quickly develop into one of the elite receivers in the game.
Based on McCrystal’s scouting report, it sounds like quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Evans would have a heyday together. Kaepernick loves to challenge the back end of defenses down the field, and Evans loves to battle defensive backs for contested balls.
Moreover, Evans could come in and make an impact on the outside right away. And we have all seen how dominant of a player Boldin is in the slot, which is why this move makes a ton of sense.
As far as cost goes, the 49ers would probably have to unload the 30th pick, a second-round pick and their first-round pick in 2015. Some may feel that cost is too high, but there’s no way 11 picks are making San Francisco’s roster in 2014.
Another player San Francisco could look to target in a trade-up scenario is Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham Jr. would be a great fallback option if the 49ers missed out on Evans.
The All-American pass-catcher out of LSU may not be viewed as transcendent talent like Evans is, but that’s OK. Why? Because he possesses a lot of the same traits Evans does, according to NFL Draft Geek:
One of the most explosive receivers in all of college football, Odell Beckham Jr. is the type of player with the potential to turn any touch into a touchdown.
Beckham possesses a fantastic blend of speed, agility, hands, and leaping ability rarely found from a collegiate prospect. Beckham does most of his work after the catch, breaking tackles, making defenders miss and running away from the defense. Additionally, Beckham displays a very polished and diverse game; he runs crisp routes, he high points the football, and proved to be one of the best return men in the country this season.
Let’s not forget, the asking price to move up and acquire Beckham would be a lot cheaper than it would be to get Evans. Odds are the 49ers would have to make a deal with the Baltimore Ravens, who sit at No. 17, in order to acquire Beckham’s services.
In exchange for the 17th pick, San Francisco would have to give Baltimore its first- and second-round pick in this year’s draft.
No matter which way you slice it, the 49ers are in a prime position to upgrade the talent level in their wide receiving corps.
Dolphins Do Business with Rams
Despite adding left tackle Branden Albert in free agency, the Miami Dolphins are doing everything they can to add even more talent to their offensive line.
Many mock drafts, such as these featured on CBS Sports, have the Dolphins selecting Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin with the 19th pick. Martin would be a sensational pick for the Dolphins because of his athleticism, but it looks like his late rise will vault him into the top 15.
According to Mike Mayock of NFL.com (h/t College Football 24/7), there is "no way in the world" Martin will be available to the Dolphins at No. 19.
This, in turn, means Miami will have to leapfrog a handful of teams to draft him.
One of the potential trade suitors for the Dolphins are the St. Louis Rams. Along with the No. 2 overall pick, the Rams also hold the 13th pick in the draft. And in true Les Snead-Jeff Fisher fashion, the team is presumably open to the idea of trading down in order to acquire more picks.
The move with the Rams would be ideal considering the Dolphins would only have to move up six spots, but what would Miami have to part with if it wanted to move?
Based on the trade value chart found on Draft Countdown, the Dolphins would have to unload the 19th pick and their third- and fourth-round picks. That may be too steep for some to stomach, but Miami has to pull the trigger and get its guy.
The last thing the organization wants to see is quarterback Ryan Tannehill get knocked around the way he did in 2013.
Falcons Strike a Deal with Texans
There has been plenty of discussion about the possibility of the Atlanta Falcons trading up to the No. 1 overall spot. The discussion isn’t shocking when you look at the Falcons and how strapped for talent they are on the defensive side of the ball.
As it stands right now, Atlanta’s edge-rushers consist of Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi. All three players have shown the ability to get after the quarterback in spurts, but none of them have ever been viewed as a once-in-a-decade type prospect like Jadeveon Clowney is.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Clowney’s game, Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com does a good job of giving you his bottom line on Clowney in his scouting report:
A physical specimen with a rare size-speed combination, Clowney was not as impactful as a junior while playing through injuries and being forced to deal with opposing offenses that fully accounted for him with extra chip protection. Was a 20-year-old junior affected by turnover on the defensive coaching staff. Could benefit tremendously from a stable positional coach and strong, veteran mentor on the defensive line who will hold him accountable, show him the way and serve as a fatherly figure. Is one of the most unique talents in the draft and could easily be a double-digit sack producer in the pros from either end. Is every bit worthy of the first overall pick -- will immediately upgrade a defensive line and improve the production of those around him.
If Clowney is worth the first overall pick, as Nawrocki says he is, it looks like the Falcons will have to surrender a plethora of picks to draft him. Former Colts GM and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that he thinks the Falcons would have to give up the sixth overall pick and two other draft picks as well in order to consummate a trade:
Well, it would take obviously a swap of first-round picks, and then it's probably going take two other picks. Those two other picks are negotiable, depending upon ... you're moving five spots. You're moving for a premium player. There's probably another No. 1 involved. And then after that, the sweetener remains to be seen. Or, they could throw in a number of extra picks, which would [offset] the No. 1. It just depends on how the club that is trading views what it is they're getting.
Polian didn’t offer up any specifics as to what the other two picks might be, yet if you had to guess, you could easily see one of them being a second-round pick in 2014 and a first-round pick in 2015.
One has to wonder if the asking price is justifiable considering Atlanta just made a blockbuster draft deal in 2011 for wide receiver Julio Jones.
Are the Falcons one defensive player away from making a Super Bowl run? That’s the million-dollar question. Most would say no, but only general manager Thomas Dimitroff knows what the right answer to that question is.
The answer will either have the Falcons in the Super Bowl in the coming years, or it will cost him his job.
Cowboys Set Their Sights on Aaron Donald
After a switch to the 4-3 from the 3-4, the Dallas Cowboys defensive line took a step back in 2013.
Aside from the fact they allowed eight run plays of 20 yards or more, the Cowboys finished with the sixth-worst run defense and the eight-fewest sacks in the NFL. It’s clear the organization didn’t have the right players for Rod Marinelli’s scheme.
So what did Jerry Jones do? This offseason, he cut some of the dead weight that had been holding Dallas back, and he went out and signed players who fit Marinelli’s scheme. The most notable of the offseason signings came at the defensive tackle spot, as the Cowboys inked Pro Bowler Henry Melton to a multi-year deal.
Yet, Melton alone won’t turn Dallas’ defensive line around. The Cowboys will need to select a player in the draft whom they can couple with Melton if they want to see a drastic improvement in 2014.
The good news is that such a player does exist, and his name is Aaron Donald. The only problem is that he won’t be on the board when Dallas is on the clock at No. 16. This means that the Cowboys will have to get on the phone with one of the teams in the top 10 and work out a trade.
A month ago, the thought was that Donald might be available at No. 16 overall, but that thought no longer exists. One AFC executive believes Donald is the best defensive line prospect to come out in the last 10 years, according to Bryan Fischer of College Football 24/7.
If that truly is the case, the Cowboys will have some work to do. As noted by Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, one of the teams interested in acquiring more picks is the Minnesota Vikings, so they appear to be Dallas’ best potential trading partner.
The jump from No. 16 to No. 8 wouldn't be astronomical, but it will require Dallas to surrender two draft picks. In addition to the 16th pick, the Cowboys will have to part ways with the 41st pick in the draft as well.
Losing a second-round pick is never ideal, but Dallas has to make the move. It can’t afford to finish next season with the 32nd-best defense for the second time in as many years.
Jaguars Agree to a Trade with Patriots
With less than a week to go until the draft, there isn’t a player with a lower draft stock right now than Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Shortly after the college football season ended, Bridgewater was viewed as the potential No. 1 pick. Yet since that time, things have changed drastically. Mayock told AM 570's "Petros and Money Show" that he wouldn’t use a first-round pick on the Sugar Bowl MVP if he was a general manager.
This is shocking, because the draft community seemingly loves Bridgewater, but it’s clear that teams are starting to push him down their draft boards. Other than his poor pro day, the reasons behind the push are relatively unknown. This leads me to believe a quarterback-needy team like the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to get a steal at the end of the first round.
The Jaguars don’t have two Day 1 picks, but they could after a simple trade up with the New England Patriots.
Bill Belichick has made a habit of acquiring additional selections in years past, so the Patriots could be open to moving down this year if the right opportunity presents itself.
To move back into the first round, the Jaguars would presumably have to part ways with four picks. The first pick would be No. 39, the second would be No. 105, the third would be No. 144 and the fourth would be No. 222.
Parting with four selections may seem like a lot on the surface, but the truth is that No. 144 and No. 222 carry little value. Most of the value is wrapped up in the second- and fourth-round picks they would be giving up.
Bridgewater will probably never perform at the same level as Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, but Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes Bridgewater compares to All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
Lions Pair Sammy Watkins with Calvin Johnson
Most of the trade chatter at the top of the first round has surrounded Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Khalil Mack. But the one name fans should be focusing on is Sammy Watkins.
Here’s what Watkins tweeted out on Tuesday: “I truly think a team going to jump up n grab me who it may be i know.”
The tweet was a bit cryptic based on the fact that he didn’t reference any teams specifically. Yet it’s worth noting that if any one person knew about a potential trade, it would be Watkins.
If I was a betting man myself, the one team that I could see trading up for Watkins would be the Detroit Lions. Yes, the Lions signed wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency this offseason, but signing Tate shouldn’t sway Detroit away from jumping up and grabbing Watkins.
Like Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, Watkins is a legitimate pass-catcher who has the ability to step onto the field and contribute as a No. 1 receiver right away, a claim that is backed up by Nawrocki:
A legitimate No. 1-caliber receiver who stepped onto the field as a true freshman and made an immediate, game-changing impact. Was slowed by injuries as a sophomore, but responded with a strong junior season and capped his career as one of the most impactful receivers in school history. Has rare speed, soft hands and the big-play ability to challenge NFL defensive backs as a rookie.
Obviously, he wouldn’t be the Lions No. 1 wide receiver, yet he would have the opportunity to grow into that roll over time. By no means am I suggesting Calvin Johnson is going anywhere any time soon, yet the four-time Pro Bowler will be 29 years old in September.
Let’s say Johnson plays three more seasons for Detroit and then decides to move on in some capacity. At that point in time, he will be nearing 32, and Watkins will still only be 23. It never hurts to have a foolproof succession plan, because at any moment in time a player can go down with a serious injury.
Furthermore, there have been rumors floating around that the Lions may love Watkins enough to trade up for him, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
The Detroit Lions are fascinated by the prospect of adding Sammy Watkins to their receiving corps, and they continue to do all the homework necessary in case that possibility becomes reality.
The Lions hosted Watkins on one of their 30 pre-draft visits today, three weeks after general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Caldwell dined with the Clemson receiver the night before his pro day.
Apparently, the interest is mutual:
“It'd be definitely a blessing playing with Megatron and Golden Tate, having Reggie Bush and Matthew Stafford,” Watkins said, per Birkett. “They're doing a great job with the program with all the coaches. If I ever go there, sky's the limit.”
Watkins is right; the sky would be the limit. Nonetheless, the price to obtain Watkins would cost the Lions a pretty penny. According to Draft Countdown’s trade value chart, Detroit would have to trade its first-round pick, second-round pick and third-round pick in this year’s draft. Plus, it would have to trade another second-round pick in 2015.
That’s an awfully high price to pay. However, the Lions may be willing to pay the high price in order to select a player who has been compared to the likes of Percy Harvin and Josh Gordon.
Raiders Jump Back into the First Round and Grab Their Franchise Quarterback
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie hasn’t pulled any punches this offseason.
The Raiders were arguably the most active team in free agency this year. In addition to trading for Matt Schaub, they signed big-name players like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Antonio Smith, Austin Howard and Donald Penn.
The only problem is that six of the eight big-name players Oakland acquired are nearing the end of the line. Tuck is 31 years old, Woodley will be 30 in November, Rogers is 32, Smith is 32, Penn is 31 and Schaub is 32.
It’s evident that McKenzie is playing for keeps in 2014; he wants and needs to win now. Time is running out on his tenure in Oakland, so he has to do everything in his power to keep his job.
This means he needs to not only collect talent for the 2014 season, but he also needs to collect talent that can help him win down the road.
With the realization that Schaub is not the Raiders’ long-term answer at the quarterback position, expect McKenzie to work his magic on draft day and obtain the team’s franchise quarterback of the future.
Despite working out and visiting with numerous signal-callers prior to the draft, the Raiders appear to have their sights set on one quarterback in particular: Fresno State's Derek Carr.
According to David White of the Fresno Bee, Oakland has a “massive crush” on Carr. If White’s report ends up ringing true, where would the Raiders draft Carr at?
Odds are they select an impact player at No. 5 and trade back into the first round for Carr. Per Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports, a perfect trade partner for the Raiders would be the Seattle Seahawks, who currently hold the 32nd pick.
This leads me to the most important question of all: if the Raiders did agree to a trade with the Seahawks in order to sneak back into the first round, what would Oakland have to give up?
To acquire the last pick in the first round, the Raiders would most likely have to surrender the 36th pick and a future fifth-round pick. Often times, a fifth-round pick doesn’t pan out and make the 53-man roster, so the move would be categorized as a low-risk, high-reward attempt to solidify the most important position on the field.
Carr wouldn’t help the Raiders win in 2014, but he would help Oakland win in 2015 and beyond.