NFL Draft Talk Volume XXXIX
As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level. What are some potential draft night trades that could shake up the first round? Draft experts and pundits can make all the first-round mock drafts and projections they want, but the way draft boards fall is far from an exact science. Typically, most of their mocks include a disclaimer that states “barring any trade”. That is because there are always trades that happen throughout the opening round whether it is a team trading up, down or out of the first round entirely. Here are some potential trades that could shake up the first round and sent mock drafts spiraling into chaos: • Raiders trade up to No.1: Contrary to his public comments, there have been reports throughout the offseason that Head Coach Jon Gruden is not committed to current starter Derek Carr as the franchise quarterback going forward. Per his contract, Gruden has the final say on all personnel acquisitions, but he claims to have a cyclical relationship with first-year general manager Mike Mayock and that the two have been in one accord on roster decisions since Mayock was hired. Gruden has not shied away from making his immense adoration for Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, who is projected to go No.1 overall to the Arizona Cardinal later this month. Oakland has three first-round selections and a bunch of high picks in the early rounds that they could package together to persuade Arizona to part with the top overall selection. • Dolphins trade up to No.5: Recent reports and mock drafts are predicting that the New York Giants are going to take a pass rusher with the No.6 overall pick instead of taking the consensus second-best quarterback in this year’s draft class in Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. However, Miami might not want to leave that up to chance just in case Giants’ General Manager Dave Gettleman is using smoke and mirrors to throw other teams off the scent their scent and hide their true intentions to select Eli Manning's successor. The Dolphins are believed to be committed to a rebuild for the foreseeable future and they might have to make a deal with their Sunshine State neighbors in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the fifth overall pick in order to leapfrog the Giants for Haskins. • Giants trade up to No.14: Those same reports and mocks that have the G-men forgoing the opportunity to take Haskins in lieu of one the draft top pass rushers still suggest that they will take a quarterback in the first round. They acquired the 17th overall pick from the Cleveland Browns in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade last month and some believe that they will draft Manning’s heir apparent at that spot. The popular pick to them at there has been Duke’s Daniel Jones and with his ties to the Manning family through his college Head Coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both of the Manning brothers in college, he could very well be the prospect they are eyeing with that pick. While Jones is being mocked to them at 17 and would be a perfect scheme fit for the style of offense that Giants Head Coach Pat Shurmur, he could come off the board a few picks before they get on the clock for the second time on opening night. The Carolina Panthers hold the 16th overall pick and since they have former league MVP Cam Newton entrenched as the face of the franchise, but despite trading for the 31-year-old Case Keenum this offseason, the Washington Redskins are reportedly in the market for the future of their franchise in the form of a young quarterback. In order to ensure that their NFC East division rivals don’t snag their guy with the 15th overall pick, New York would have to strike a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, who have another former league MVP in Matt Ryan at the helm of their offense, for the 14th overall selection. • Patriots trade up to No.9 or 12: Since Rob Gronkowski is officially retired (for now), New England now has a glaring need at the tight end position heading into next season. While there are three tight ends that are expected to be taken in the first round, they hold the last pick of opening night at 32nd overall and all three could be gone by the time they are finally on the clock. I’m not insinuating that the next Gronk is in this year’s draft class because he was a generational talent and the most dominant player at his position for nearly a decade. They might be looking to address the position in the draft and if they wish to have one of the best in this year’s class then they will likely have to make a big leap into the top half of the first round. The top two tight ends in this year’s class hail from the University of Iowa in TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant, but both of them are expected to come off the board in the first 15 picks. Hockenson is being mocked to the Denver Broncos at No.10 overall and Fant is a popular puck to the Green Bay Packers at 12th overall. According to these projections, they would have to execute a trade with either the Buffalo Bills who hold the ninth overall pick or the Cincinnati Bengals at 11th overall to have a chance of getting either one of them. They might not have to give up nearly as much for Alabama’s Irv Smith if he falls to the early or mid-20s. • Redskins trade for Rosen: According to JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington, the Washington Redskins have emerged as the leading candidates to trade for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen pending them selecting Kyler Murray with the No.1 overall pick. Rosen was the 10th overall selection in last year’s draft after the Cardinals traded up to select him out of UCLA. With Alex Smith facing a lengthy recovering following a broken leg that he suffered last season in addition to a complication with the surgery that proceeded that nearly cost him his leg and Keenum being viewed as a stop-gap starter, Rosen could be the long-term solution at the quarterback position if all the projections come to fruition on draft night. • Ravens trade out of the first round: Baltimore is looking to reload and revamp their pass rush as well as their receiving core in this draft and while they hold the No.22 overall pick, they don’t have a second-round selection after trading back into the first round to select franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson in last year’s draft. The strength of this year’s class is on defense and especially at pass rusher. With Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs departing in free agency, the Ravens are losing 15.5 sacks from last season and will look to supplement that production with larger contributions from players already on the roster and with some additions through the draft. They lost both of their leading receivers from a year ago as well when they released Michael Crabtree and let John Brown walk in free agency. This year’s draft class is considered to have great and quality depth at both positions in the early to mid-rounds. While they have a pair of picks in both the third and fourth rounds, they might want to trade back and possibly acquire a pair of picks in the second round where many of the top receivers in the draft are expected to come off the board. At the team’s annual pre-draft press conference last week, first-year General Manager Eric DeCosta expressed that the team would relish the opportunity to “manufacture picks” by trading back, an area that they have been quite proficient in over the past two decades. So that means that the likelihood of them trading back into the latter half of the first round or out of it entirely is extremely high considering their recent draft history and the value they place on acquiring more picks or “swings at-bats” as DeCosta would say.