Even though there has been intrigue with the NFL draft in recent years, there has never been the same level of anticipation and anxiety surrounding the event as there is in 2014. A lot of that has to do with the talent available, but don't underestimate the power of trades in this year's first round, either.
Since there is value to be found all over the draft, teams are going to do a lot of shopping with their picks, trying to add more selections in the later rounds.
Every team would love to have Jadeveon Clowney, but if you run a 3-4 scheme and can get Khalil Mack a few spots later, why not entertain the notion of trading down in order to get an extra second- or third-round pick?
Nothing has happened thus far, which isn't surprising, but by the time Roger Goodell steps to the podium on Thursday night to announce that the Houston Texans are on the clock, expect teams to start getting aggressive on the phone lines.
We can't stop thinking about the draft and potential trades, so it's only natural to combine the two and tell you about the teams that seem like sure-fire bets to make a move up in the first round.
San Francisco 49ers
First pick: No. 30 overall (11 total picks)
As the hours slowly tick away, the 49ers are being mentioned more and more as the team that is most likely to make a big move up the draft board. Dylan DeSimone of CSN Bay Area tweeted that he expects San Francisco to make two moves in the first round:
I expect #49ers to move close to the top to settle needs. Two possible trade ups. One to get in teens/20s, then another to get back in Rd. 1— Dylan DeSimone (@DeSimone80) May 8, 2014
The 49ers have two glaring needs coming into the draft: wide receiver and cornerback. Some projections, like the final mock draft from ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required) have them moving up into the middle of the first round to get LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
A move that high, presuming Beckham doesn't slide past the Jets at No. 18, would presumably require San Francisco to surrender its first round pick and at least one second-round pick. General manager Trent Baalke told Scott Kegley of 49ers.com that the team has "lined up several potential scenarios."
The good news is the 49ers are loaded with selections, owning six of the draft's first 100 picks, so they can afford to make that kind of deal without sacrificing their entire draft.
Even with the depth at wide receiver in this draft, the top guys are going to go really quickly. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans won't make it out of the top 10. Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Marqise Lee will likely end up being selected somewhere in the teens. Kelvin Benjamin, Cody Latimer and Jordan Matthews could be late first-round picks, however.
If you have a receiver you want, as the 49ers apparently do, there's no time to waste making a move. By all accounts, it doesn't sound like Baalke and Co. are going to waste any time at all.
First pick: No. 10 overall (eight total picks)
The last 24 hours have drastically altered what we think the Detroit Lions are going to do in the first round. At first, it seemed logical that they would stay where they are and decide between one of the top cornerbacks or move back to get better value in the secondary.
Instead, based on a report from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, it appears as though the Lions are all-in on Watkins to play alongside Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate:
Fascinating to see what business decision #Lions make today: Trade up for Sammy Watkins or stay put. Brass took him to lunch post-Pro Day.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 8, 2014
The Lions have relied so heavily on Johnson for virtually his entire career that when he doesn't have a good game, their offense stagnates. It's why they spent a lot of money to add a slot receiver like Tate this offseason.
Which team needs to make a first-round move the most?
Adding Watkins to the mix would be the closest thing to unfair since the Colts had Peyton Manning throwing to Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Of course, that's assuming Matthew Stafford can find a consistent release point on his throws in order to get the ball into their hands.
New head coach Jim Caldwell doesn't seem like the type of guy who wants to sacrifice defense to add more offensive talent, but sometimes an opportunity comes along that's too good to pass up.
In order to get Watkins, the Lions will have to find a trade partner. The Rams are the most obvious potential partner, because they have two first-round picks—including the No. 2 overall pick the Lions would want—and can fill needs on the offensive line and secondary with the No. 10 pick they receive from the Lions as well as the No. 13 they already have.
It's also in Detroit's best interest to get into the No. 2 spot, because Watkins won't last long with Jacksonville and Cleveland picking right behind St. Louis. Moving up eight spots is going to cost Detroit at least an additional second-round pick and possibly a third-round pick as well.
The good news is that the Lions have three picks in the fourth round to play with.
First pick: No. 31 overall (seven total picks)
The Broncos are unlike any other team in this draft, because they could care less about their long-term future.
Everything they have done this offseason—all of the big contracts to players like Aqib Talib, Emmanuel Sanders, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward—has been for the sole purpose of winning a championship before Peyton Manning retires.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post noted that Denver's strategy on Thursday could be to move up from the 31st pick in order to land an inside linebacker:
It's not Roy Hibbert. Or a Dunkin Donut. But the Broncos have a potential hole in the middle. They insist they are covered with linebacker Nate Irving.
But it would surprise no one if Denver traded up to the middle of the first round of the NFL draft Thursday to acquire a linebacker.
The good news for Denver is that the inside linebacker position doesn't have the same value it once did in the draft. Most teams are more concerned with looking for players who can rush the quarterback off the edge since that's where the game is won or lost in today's NFL.
Alabama's C.J. Mosley is the one inside linebacker who projects as a first-round pick, though he could be gone in the early 20s, because Green Bay also has to fill a need at the position.
There's nothing holding the Broncos to any of their draft picks, because they need to win now. If that means trading away two picks this year or possibly a first-round pick next year in order to address whatever hole they have right now, they might as well do it.
Manning isn't going to be around forever. The defense should be better with Talib and Ward added to the mix, and the unit will also be aided by the return of Von Miller, but time will tell if that will be good enough for them to compete with the physical teams in the NFC if they reach the Super Bowl once again.
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