Many of the mock drafts floating around B/R do not account for the very real possibility of teams trading their picks to better fulfill some of their team needs.
Free agency and trades will start shortly with Judge Susan Nelson's ruling, denying the league's motion for a stay—essentially pausing the lift of the lockout. It is unknown when the league year will start, but the NFL has said that it will send out a timeline for the start of it tomorrow. One report, from Pro Football Weekly, claims that the league year will start early next week.
This means that free agents can talk to teams, teams can communicate with other teams about trades and perhaps most importantly, teams can potentially trade their newly-picked players for established vets once the league year starts.
All of these possibilities could dramatically change the landscape of the draft—teams might not have to draft for need as much after all.
With all of these new possibilities, I think many teams will explore these avenues that they have not yet had access to this offseason.
The Broncos have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft; this could be valuable for them in multiple ways.
They could potentially draft top defensive players like Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, or Von Miller. All of these options would have a major impact on their starting defense, which by the way was quite an embarrassment in 2010.
Reports have surfaced, as well, of the Broncos listening to offers for their No. 2 overall pick.
When you think about it this way, any first round picked defensive player would be a major improvement on their extraordinarily lackluster defense.
If they could still get a top flight player in picks 12-25, why wouldn't they want to move down and ensure another good draft pick? That's just good business in my book.
Another trade possibility that one must address is that of trading QB Kyle Orton or QB Tim Tebow. Both could be considered top options for this Broncos club, and once one is picked as the starter, the other will want out.
The team should ensure that they get their money's worth for whichever one could leave and trade them for some picks.
The Arizona Cardinals have the fifth overall pick in the draft and have need in some specific areas.
They need to improve their defense; Texas A&M OLB Von Miller and LSU CB Patrick Peterson should very much be on their radar.
Perhaps their most overwhelming need, however, is at QB. There is a very good chance that top QB's Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert could already be off the board by the time the Cardinals make their selection. That being said, there is a very strong possibility, I believe, that the Cardinals could pursue a veteran option.
The Eagles would most definitely like to move up and possibly snatch CB Patrick Peterson to give them the elite pass defense that could've helped them move further in the playoffs last season.
Another option would be to trade with the Washington Redskins who select with the 10th pick. The Cardinals could bring in veteran QB Donovan McNabb, and select with the 10th overall pick, possibly a fourth or 5th round selection as well, and send the No. 2 pick to Washington.
Washington would like to move up to select WR Julio Jones from Alabama to help stretch the field, because as of right now, they don't really have many receiving options.
Either option would help with Arizona's dismal QB situation and keep Larry Fitzgerald happy for at least one more season.
The Cowboys were a train-wreck last season. They have many offensive linemen who could explore free agency, a fading defensive line, and utterly no defensive secondary.
Favorable pick has the Cowboys taking OT Tyron Smith from USC with the No. 9 overall pick. Other options could include OT Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, DE Cameron Jordan from Cal, and CB Prince Amukamara from Nebraska.
Honestly, I wouldn't put it past Jerry Jones to trade in either direction with the first-round pick. I could see them trading down, allowing a Detroit Lions or a Minnesota Vikings to trade up for CB Prince Amukamara.
I could also see them trading up to make the high profile pick of QB Cam Newton or CB Patrick Peterson.
I know that the Cowboys already have QB Tony Romo, but would it really surprise anyone if Jerry Jones decided to be done with the QB that has been injured so often in the last few seasons, and has failed to produce in the playoffs when it means the most.
I think that Peterson could be a potential target for the Cowboys because of how similar he can be to Cowboy great Deion Sanders, who reportedly adores Peterson.
Jones will want to wow his team's fans in the draft, especially after facing that epic defeat in the Minnesota courthouse at the hands of the NFLPA.
This team is a given after one of my previous slides.
I think that they could very possibly trade up to snag WR Julio Jones.
The 'Skins could put a big price tag on this No. 10 pick and make some big improvements on their roster later in the draft.
The Skins will want to get rid of McNabb as fast as possible so that they can move on from the drama of him and DT Albert Haynesworth.
The Texans hold the No. 11 pick in the draft. Their defense was atrocious last season.
They could try to move up to the No. 9 or No. 10 to try to get Prince, or possibly even further to select LB Von Miller or DT Nick Fairley.
I think that the No. 11 spot is one of the last higher profile spots that has some value in this draft, so they could also receive a lot of offers from teams with lower picks looking to move up.
The Vikings have the No. 12 pick in the draft and have the most need at QB, OT, and DT. They could also stand to improve at CB and S.
Most mock drafts have them taking defensive ends like Cameron Jordan or Da'Quan Bowers or Robert Quinn. These are simply unrealistic, but because most mock drafts don't explore trade possibilities, they ignore the fact that the Vikings don''t really need a DE.
Right before the last CBA expired, the Vikings signed DE Brian Robison to a three-year, $14.1 Million contract.
They have also expressed interest in keeping starter Ray Edwards who could test the free agent waters. With the lockout lifted, Edwards becomes a restricted free agent and teams will have to give up a first round pick for him. This could be unattractive to potential suitors.
The Vikings have a lot of potential for trading around. They need a QB, so realistically, they could attempt to trade into the top 5 to try to get Newton or Gabbert. If not, they could sit at No. 12 and hope for a Prince Amukamara or a Tyron Smith to fall to No. 12.
Other than those two players, I think anything else would be a reach or a wasted pick on a position they don't need. If those options are unavailable, look for the Vikings to move down to try and get a 3rd round pick along with either QB Ryan Mallet, Jake Locker, or Christian Ponder.
New Vikings head coach Les Frazier wants to get his team its franchise QB, so st some point in this draft, the Vikings will select a QB.
They should really make an effort to do this in the first two rounds. Ideally Ryan Mallet is the best fit, and if they are able to secure another pick and still get Mallet, all the better.
The Lions select right after the Vikings at No. 13. If the Vikings don't have access to the QB or OT that they want at No. 12, they may go with CB Prince Amukamara, given that he is available.
If this is the case, Detroit must move ahead of the Vikes to ensure this doesn't happen.
Not only do the Lions have great need at CB, they also share a division with the Vikings, who if allowed to select Prince, would shut them down twice a season.
The Lions absolutely must move up to make sure the Vikings can't get Prince.
If Prince is gone well before either team select, I don't see the Lions moving. They will sit and wait for DE Robert Quinn from UNC.
Realistically, the Rams would be fine sitting where they are at No. 14.
They would be able to get dominant Missouri DE Aldon Smith to really fortify their defensive line a little bit, and have a successful first round.
I think, however, with the high profile pick of Sam Bradford in the 2010 draft, the St. Louis management will try to get Sam an elite receiving target.
For this reason, I think they could try to move into the top 10 to select WR Julio Jones.
Outside of Jones, I don't see them moving very much, other than possibly trading their first round pick for an established veteran receiver from another team.
Maybe a Steve Smith from Carolina or a Sindey Rice from Minnesota? Or how about Chad Ochocinco?
The Rams need some help at receiver, so I could see them moving around to get one.
The New England Patriots have so many picks in this years draft that it would be hard to see them not trading at least one if not more of them.
In the first round alone, they have the the No. 17 pick and the No. 28 pick. I think they will try to trade one of these picks to accumulate some more picks overall or some more picks in the 2012 draft.
Most of the Patriots starters have been selected in the second round, so clearly coach Belichick doesn't mind passing on the consensus "premier guys" because he has still made a very successful team without them.
I think the Patriots could try and trade up to get the Vikings spot at No. 12 and snag one of the top tier DE's like Da'Quan Bowers, Robert Quinn, or Aldon Smith. This would help the Vikings out in moving down to get their QB, since there won't likely be one of high caliber available at No. 12.
If the Patriots trade their No. 17 or No. 28 pick to the Vikings along with one of their second-rounders, I think this deal could have a high chance of getting done.
I don't really know what pick, but I do know that the Patriots will try to trade around at some point during the draft.
The Eagles don't select until the No. 23 pick. They would really like to add one of the top tier CB's to really have one of the league's best squads. There is no way they can get at one of these CB's without trading up.
They could draft Colorado CB Jimmy Smith, but I think they would rather stay away from him because of his character issues.
They already get enough bad publicity for signing Michael Vick, even if he hasn't done anything to deserve it since joining the team.
I think the Eagles will try to wow their fans and trade up to grab one of the top guys, this should scare the Cowboys.
The Steelers don't really need to trade up; they already have a very solid squad.
They are narrowing in on one guy that I think they really want to draft: Mike Pouncey.
I think they will try to reunite Mike with his twin brother Maurkice Pouncey in Pittsburgh. However, with Mike's stock on the rise, the Steelers may have to trade up to make this fantasy come true.
I could see them trading with the Dolphins, who could at No. 31 still have a chance at Alabama RB Mark Ingram or Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure.
I think this is one of the more unlikely trades because it would require too much effort for the Steelers to get a guy that they like more than a guy that they need. I thought it ought to be mentioned anyway.
The Oakland Raiders have no first round picks; they traded their first round selection to New England for Richard Seymour.
New England now has their No. 17 pick and could very well trade it away again to move up further in the boards.
The Raiders were alright in 2010, the ended the season with a record of 8-8, but could still use some work at QB and on defense.
I think with all of the highly talented defensive players in this year's draft, Al Davis will want to move the Raiders up into the 1st round once again—especially with the added threat of losing star CB Nnamdi Asomugha.
The Raiders need to have a star player on defense, so Davis will do his best to try and get that for them.
I don't know who he will want to trade with, or how high he can get, but I think the Raiders will at very least try to make an attempt to move up.