The New England Patriots caused a storm by allegedly inviting Jake Locker to come in for a visit before the draft. Locker is listed as a middle to late first-round pick and the Patriots have two first-round picks (17th and 28th overall). The Patriots have the luxury of drafting for a need and drafting for their future in the first round.
Locker is a quality quarterback and could be an everyday starter in the NFL. Likely there are teams trying to trade in to position to have a chance at Locker before he is gone. This could allude back to the idea that the Patriots are shopping their picks to these very teams and just want to gauge the value of Jake Locker. Or they realize that in the NFL all that matters is winning now and someday they will have to lose Tom Brady and their ability to win now will go out the door with him.
If the Patriots are serious about this move it could start a new trend in the NFL. It is a copycat league and if there is one person team's love to copy it would be Bill Belichick. That got us to thinking, if drafting your future star years away were to become a standard practice, which teams would be partaking this year? Here's our list:
Need: Middle Linebacker to replace Ray Lewis
The very first draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens franchise was Ray Lewis. Lewis recently turned 35 years old and although he still plays at a high level, the Ravens will have to consider their future without Lewis. This year's draft class isn't overly strong at middle linebacker, but there are a few options the Ravens could consider.
There are three different options the Ravens could choose from at MLB: Quan Sturdivant of UNC, Kelvin Sheppard of LSU and Mason Foster of Washington. All three are listed as going as early as late Round 2 to about the Ravens third-round pick. The Ravens would have to draft a linebacker with their second-round pick or else trade up in the third to have a chance at one of these prospects.
Need: Quarterback to replace Peyton Manning
Peyton will surely go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game (cue the B/R comments about how he only has one ring...) and surely will keep his gig in Indy until he breaks a few records set by Brett Favre. The Colts' leader is also 35 years old and the Colts have to realize that he won't be their quarterback forever.
Peyton has actually seen his production increase over the past two seasons as his yardage and completions have increased. The Colts have the luxury then to not have to worry about drafting a quarterback in the first round and could wait until the second to find Peyton's heir. With the 53rd overall selection the Colts will have slim pickings at quarterback. Likely only two viable options would remain Colin Kaepernick of Nevada and Ricky Stanzi of Iowa.
New Orleans Saints
Need: Quarterback to replace Drew Brees
The Saints are in a similar situation as the Colts. They have a quarterback that recently won them a Super Bowl, his production is still at a high level but he is also over 30. Brees is actually 32 years old but hasn't had the same level of success as Peyton over his career so it is wrong to assume he will play at the same level for another three years like Peyton had.
Brees is a great quarterback, though, don't get me wrong, angry Saints fans, but your window with Brees is closing. The Saints sit right behind the Colts in the draft and, if they waited until the second round to find a replacement, could sit with Indy's leftovers between Colin Kaepernick or Ricky Stanzi. Or the Saints could shock the world and reach on a quarterback in Round 1, if he isn't a New England Patriot, the Saints have a chance of stealing Jake Locker from the Seattle Seahawks.
St. Louis Rams
Need: Running back to replace Steven Jackson
For nearly seven years Steven Jackson has been the man in St. Louis. Jackson has been the man so much that the Rams have been running his wheels off. Jackson is only 27, and that age is usually the prime for NFL elite like Jackson. The seven years of unshared workload have certainly caught up to Jackson, however, as last year was his first full season since 2006.
Jackson may be the biggest reach on this list, but wouldn't it make more sense than any of the above mentioned scenarios if the Rams looked for a complement to Jackson now?
The Rams are moving in to the Sam Bradford era and will have to focus money, time and patience in to his progression. Eventually there will be a need to extend Bradford's contract and to sign receivers so likely Jackson will be the odd man out. That is why I think the Rams could actually draft the replacement for Jackson in this year's draft, even looking in to his alma mater.
The Rams won't get proper value drafting a running back in the first round, but could look to that position in the second or even the third round. If they were to go with a second round selection the Rams could have the choice between Ryan Williams or Mikel Leshoure the consensus No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.
The Rams could have even more value with a third-round selection however. By waiting until the third round you could see the Rams pick Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State. Of course all of the above-mentioned scenarios are speculative and highly unlikely.
One scenario I think could actually happen is the Rams investing a late draft pick on Oregon St. running back Jacquizz Rodgers who could be a hybrid running back/wide receiver much like Dexter McCluster and Darren Sproles. Rodgers is very similar to Jackson in that they are both former OSU Beavers and have great speed and agility.