NFL Teams Best Positioned to Maneuver Up or Down in the 2020 NFL Draft

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2020

NFL Teams Best Positioned to Maneuver Up or Down in the 2020 NFL Draft

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Quarterback Joe Burrow and edge-rusher Chase Young are almost certain to go No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the 2020 draft. After that, we could see a push for the third or fourth spot.

    Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert have three months to draw interest from teams that need a quarterback, which may lead to movement in the first round.

    Leigh Steinberg, Tagovailoa's agent, said the Alabama product will have a throwing session in April, per's Mike Rodak. That 40-minute window may be enough to entice a front-office executive to target the 21-year-old signal-caller as a top-five pick.

    Going in the opposite direction of teams that could trade up for a quarterback, some clubs in the top 15 will attempt to accumulate more draft capital with a move down. General managers who need to fill big holes in multiple spots would likely explore the latter scenario.

    Looking at the current order, which teams are in a position to shake up the draft? Who's a prime candidate to push for a quarterback? Why should two clubs in the top five trade down?

    Let's take a look at the circumstances for a handful of teams in position to work the phones leading up to and during draft day.


Detroit Lions: Moving Down

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    Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn
    Detroit Lions general manager Bob QuinnPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford voiced her expectations for the team, general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia following a disappointing 3-12-1 season.

    "We expect to be a playoff contender, and those are our expectations, which we've expressed to both Bob and to Matt," Ford said.

    Quinn could push to contend next season in two ways. He can plug proven veterans into needy areas and select a prospect who's ready to start Week 1—someone like defensive tackle Derrick Brown or cornerback Jeff Okudah.

    Alternatively, Quinn could use some of the Lions' projected $43.2 million in cap space to add veterans and trade back from No. 3 overall in an attempt to pick up multiple first-rounders. Detroit has to address its defensive line and secondary after ranking 32nd in pass defense and 21st against the run.

    The Cincinnati Bengals will likely take Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick. At No. 2, the Washington Redskins may take defensive end Chase Young, who's arguably the best non-quarterback prospect in the class.

    The Lions don't need a signal-caller with Matthew Stafford on the books through the 2022 campaign. So the guessing game starts at No. 3—a good spot for a team with its sights set on Tagovailoa or Herbert.

    Instead of choosing between Brown and Okudah to fill primary roster concerns, the Lions could potentially address their defensive line and the boundary cornerback position if a quarterback-needy team wants to trade up to the No. 3 spot.

    If the Jacksonville Jaguars or Miami Dolphins call, the Lions can land two first-rounders on Day 1, which gives them a shot at a pair of Week 1 starters to bolster their defense.

Indianapolis Colts: Moving Up

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    Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard
    Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris BallardDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett didn't do enough to cement his spot as a starter. In his end-of-season press conference, general manager Chris Ballard highlighted the need for more even performances under center.

    "We just need more consistency out of him," Ballard said, adding: "We do think Jacoby has talent. We do think he's a great teammate, and he's a great leader. But like I said with any position, we'll continue to evaluate, and if we've got a chance to upgrade at any position, we'll do that."

    Brissett had an impressive start to the 2019 campaign, throwing for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in the first four games. After Week 7, he recorded four passing scores and three picks. In fairness, the 27-year-old sprained his MCL in early November.

    The Colts had to put their faith in Brissett following Andrew Luck's shocking retirement announcement at the end of August. In 2020, the front office will have adequate time to evaluate potential replacements outside the roster, starting with the NFL Scouting Combine.

    If Tagovailoa or Herbert draws Ballard's attention, enough to list near the top of his draft board, the Colts have the draft capital to move up a few spots and take either player in the event he's available.

    In addition to the 13th overall pick, Indianapolis has picks No. 34 and No. 44. Those selections could be instrumental in a package to trade up for a top quarterback prospect who slips outside the top five.

Miami Dolphins: Moving Up

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    Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores (left) and general manager Chris Grier
    Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores (left) and general manager Chris GrierBrynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Like the Oakland Raiders last year, the Miami Dolphins have three first-round picks, giving them the flexibility to take the best players available for their rebuild or shake up the draft.

    Even though the Dolphins have the No. 5 overall pick, they could still miss out on a preferred quarterback prospect if the Lions choose to trade down. For that reason, Miami may want to call Detroit for the No. 3 spot.

    With Tagovailoa as a wild-card prospect who could come off the board in the top three, the Dolphins shouldn't allow another team to leapfrog them for the Alabama product if he's high on their big board.

    Miami must take an aggressive approach similar to the Chicago Bears' move up from No. 3 to No. 2 for Mitchell Trubisky during the 2017 draft. Remember, the Lions (third) and New York Giants (fourth) don't need quarterbacks. Both clubs may receive calls from teams interested in Tagovailoa or Herbert.

    The Dolphins have five picks within the top 56, so they would still have the premium draft capital to fill other holes after trading up for a quarterback.

    We know 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the future at quarterback in Miami. Josh Rosen only started three games in 2019. If the Dolphins see their potential franchise signal-caller on the board at No. 3 or 4, they should move up to secure him.

New York Giants: Moving Down

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    New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman
    New York Giants general manager Dave GettlemanSeth Wenig/Associated Press

    Last year, the Giants selected their potential quarterback of the future with the No. 6 overall pick. General manager Dave Gettleman could stand pat at No. 4 and take an offensive tackle to protect Daniel Jones in the pocket or cornerback Jeff Okudah to pair alongside DeAndre Baker in the secondary.

    Then again, we shouldn't be surprised if Big Blue chooses to move back and accumulate more draft picks. The Giants hired a new head coach in Joe Judge, who's bringing in fresh faces to fill his staff. Typically, a new regime turns over a good portion of the roster.

    The Giants don't have to spend their projected $69.5 million in cap space to replace players and fill holes across the depth chart. If Gettleman trades back, he could address multiple needs at the end of Day 1 or on Day 2 of the draft. Keep in mind, Big Blue traded its third-round pick to the New York Jets in the Leonard Williams deal.

    Left tackle Andrew Thomas may be too good to pass up with Nate Solder's struggles in pass protection on the blind side. If the Georgia product's stock slips or the Giants prefer a different prospect, they'll likely open business as a potential trade partner.

    If the Lions trade back with a quarterback-needy team first, the Giants' draft order position would lose some appeal unless three signal-callers are expected to come off the board in the top five. In case Judge wants more young talent, Big Blue should add more picks to fill talent gaps at offensive tackle, cornerback, inside linebacker and safety.

Oakland Raiders: Moving Down

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    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden
    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon GrudenBen Margot/Associated Press

    In 2019, the Raiders stuck to their original draft road map, making selections at Nos. 4, 24 and 27. They didn't have quarterback questions with Derek Carr on the roster, so head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock focused on bolstering the ground attack (Josh Jacobs) and revamping the defense (Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram).

    Mayock and Gruden didn't move their picks around until the second round, sliding down twice before taking cornerback Trayvon Mullen with the 40th overall pick.

    Carr doesn't seem like he's in great danger of losing his job. Meanwhile, the Raiders defense remains a work in progress after ranking 24th in points allowed.

    The Silver and Black could spend some of their projected $62.6 million in cap space to fix the defense, but remember, Mayock and Gruden put together a strong draft class last year with nine selections.

    Defensive end Maxx Crosby and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow had impressive seasons as fourth- and fifth-round picks, respectively. The former led the team in sacks (10). The latter recorded 49 catches for 605 yards and four touchdowns, capping his rookie term with consecutive performances of 100-plus yards.

    Mayock and Gruden should continue to trust their joint draft instincts following a productive class. The Raiders have two first-round picks, but they sent their second-rounder to the Bears in the Khalil Mack trade. Team brass could fill a gap between the 19th and 80th overall picks.

    Perhaps a club that is eyeing a mid-first-rounder would be willing to give up Day 2 selections for the 19th pick. If so, the Raiders could add a top prospect for their defense at No. 12 and double-dip for a needy wide receiver corps between the second and third rounds.