NFL Draft 2014: Breaking Down Biggest Trade Rumors Prior to First Round

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NFL Draft 2014: Breaking Down Biggest Trade Rumors Prior to First Round
Hal Yeager/Associated Press

In what looks like one of the deepest NFL drafts in recent memory, the potential for some teams to make dramatic moves up and down the board during Thursday's first round seems quite high.

Trade rumors always run rampant in the days leading up to the draft, but the hot stove appears to be heating up even more than usual this year. If even a small portion of the rumors that are out there come to fruition, then this promises to be one wild draft.

Here is a closer look at some of the biggest 2014 NFL draft trade rumors that could possibly change the entire course of the NFL for years to come. 

 

Falcons Looking to Trade Up to No. 1?

The No. 1 overall selection is always a coveted spot for teams to move up to, and it also happens to be an advantageous position to be in for the team that holds the top selection. That is especially true this year since South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is regarded by most as the top prospect in the class. The Houston Texans could stand pat and take him, but since defensive end isn't one of their greatest needs, a trade down to gather additional picks might behoove them instead.

Perhaps the most obvious trade partner on the board is the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is currently slated to pick sixth, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff is known for making bold moves on draft day, and he may feel as though his team is one big piece away from contending despite a disappointing 2013 season.

The Falcons trading up to No. 1 would obviously be significant since such deals don't occur often, but the true shock would relate to who they might decide to select if a trade ultimately goes down. According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Falcons do fancy a trade to No. 1, but their desired target may actually be Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson.

Atlanta needs help in the trenches on both sides of the ball, so either Clowney or Robinson would make sense. Based on how much it will likely cost the Falcons to jump from No. 6 to No. 1, though, Atlanta would almost certainly be scrutinized if they move up and pass on Clowney.

Robinson is viewed as a dominant force and a virtual sure thing at offensive tackle, however, and his presence would obviously be beneficial to quarterback Matt Ryan. One person who would support an Atlanta trade up in order to select Robinson is ESPN draft guru Todd McShay, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The Falcons's desire to trade up to No. 1 and the probability of them actually doing so are two totally different things. If they truly believe that Robinson is the best player in the draft and the best fit for them, though, it is well worth exploring the option.

 

Lions Interested In Mike Evans?

For several years, one of the biggest running jokes in the NFL draft was the Detroit Lions penchant for selecting wide receivers in the first round. There were some major busts along the way such as Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, but to their credit, the Lions ultimately got it right when they took Calvin Johnson with the No. 2 overall pick in 2007.

Despite Johnson's presence, as well as the free-agent signing of Golden Tate this offseason, it turns out that Detroit may once again be in the market for a wideout. It is fairly safe to assume that top wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be gone before the Lions come up at No. 10, so trading up is a possibility.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Detroit is one team that has explored the possibility of trading up to within the top five:

Depending upon their exact target spot, the Lions could potentially nab either Watkins or Evans. Per ESPN's John Clayton, though, Detroit's preference would be to trade into the lower part of the top five in order to secure Evans.

Watkins is considered more of a sure thing than Evans, but since he could be drafted as early as No. 2 overall, it would likely cost much more for the Lions to get into position to select him. Evans, on the other hand, probably isn't a realistic target until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick at No. 7.

The thought of the 6'5" Evans working across the field from the 6'5" Johnson has to be tantalizing for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Add in Tate working out of the slot, and Detroit could very well have the best receiving corps in football if they get aggressive and grab Evans.

Perhaps the Lions have more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball right now, but Evans is a player who could possibly help Detroit's offense reach and maintain an elite level in 2014 and beyond.

 

Eagles Targeting Move Up for Wide Receiver?

The Philadelphia Eagles made waves this offseason when they made the decision to release wide receiver DeSean Jackson on the heels of his most productive NFL season. But with Jeremy Maclin returning from injury this season to join Riley Cooper, Philly may still have enough weapons in the passing game to get by.

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There is no such thing as too many weapons in head coach Chip Kelly's offense, however, which could make wide receiver a realistic position for them to target in the first round of this year's draft. According to Peter King of the Monday Morning Quarterback, the Eagles have interest in trading up from No. 22 in order to get a running mate at receiver alongside Maclin and Cooper.

The one name that King mentions is LSU's Odell Beckham, whose stock has seemingly been on the ascent in recent weeks. Beckham's skill set is certainly Jackson-esque, and he could fill the departed receiver's role, both on offense and on special teams, at a fraction of the price.

While a Philadelphia trade up is accepted as a definite possibility, not everyone agrees that Beckham is the target. Per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, a different receiver, or perhaps even a defensive player, could be on the Eagles' radar:

Defense seems to be the biggest thing holding the Eagles back from becoming an elite team right now, but sometimes the best defense can be a dominant offense. Beckham would fit in Kelly's offense like a glove, so he is definitely a feasible option.

Philly is a team that may only need one or two more pieces to get into the Super Bowl conversation, which means that the team shouldn't hesitate to package picks and move up if it identifies Beckham as they guy who will put them over the top.

 

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