Tuesday April 22nd, 2008

As the draft-week intrigue starts to build and our final mock draft looms (version 7.0 hits the site Friday), predictions of what's about to unfold are everywhere. But as I survey the NFL landscape in late April, here are 10 moves I think make too much sense not to make. I'm not saying these all will happen, but I think they should:

1. The Giants trade Jeremy Shockey to the Saints: New York can spin it any way it likes, but the reality is the Giants got a glimpse of life without Shockey from mid-December on, and it wasn't so bad. In fact, it was better.

Eli Manning was undeniably at his best and the Giants offense was more balanced and varied without the constraints of having to ensure Shockey was happy with his level of involvement. In addition, rookie tight end Kevin Boss showed legitimate promise in the postseason.

Shockey has never fully bought into head coach Tom Coughlin's program, and he promises to be even more of a potential problem now that he has let it be known he doesn't care for his blocking assignments and has grown bothered by the perception that the Giants won it all in part because he missed everything after Week 15 due to injury. Super Bowl success has freed New York to do the right thing for its locker room, and that spells moving an unhappy player while he still has significant value.

New York is never going to get New Orleans to give up both its second-round pick (No. 40 overall) and starting safety Roman Harper (a second-round pick in '06), who has been the best player in the Saints' sometimes shaky secondary. New York should settle for the second-rounder, plus a fifth, and then use its picks at No. 31 and 40 to take the best available safety and outside linebacker, filling its two most obvious needs. The Giants might come away with a safety prospect like Miami's Kenny Phillips or Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson with one of those picks, and maybe a linebacker such as Penn State's Dan Connor or Oklahoma's Curtis Lofton with the other.

At No. 40, New York could also choose to replace Shockey with a younger, healthier, cheaper version in Purdue tight end Dustin Keller, and wait until its No. 63 second-round pick to select its linebacker in Xavier Adibi of Virginia Tech. As for Shockey, he'd be a big upgrade for the Saints tight end position, where he'd play a major role in an offense he's familiar with. Saints head coach Sean Payton was his offensive coordinator with the Giants in his rookie season of 2002, when Shockey caught a career-best 74 passes for 894 yards.

2. The Eagles trade Lito Sheppard to move up in the first round: The minute Asante Samuel signed with Philadelphia it became a fait accompli that Sheppard would be dealt. It's rare that a 27-year-old cornerback with a pair of Pro Bowl selections on his résumé reaches the market, but Sheppard's recent injury history and his contract dissatisfaction make him expendable.

With Sheppard not even taking part in Philly's offseason program, the Eagles don't have a ton of leverage in any potential deal. Everybody knows he's a goner, so Philadelphia can't exact maximum value. What the Eagles should be content to do is use Sheppard as the ammo they need to move up in the first round from their current No. 19 slot. The two obvious teams above Philly that need a cornerback are No. 8 Baltimore and No. 10 New Orleans.

The Ravens wouldn't go anywhere if Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan was still available at No. 8, but as the draft looms it's looking less likely that he'll get past the trio of the No. 3 Falcons, No. 5 Chiefs and No. 6 Jets. If the Eagles could get Baltimore interested in moving down to No. 19 in exchange for Sheppard, they should jump on it, because it might put them into position to take USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis.

Same for No. 10 New Orleans. At No. 10, the Eagles could pick the draft's top-rated receiver, Devin Thomas of Michigan State, just ahead of the No. 11 Bills, who covet him. Another potential target at No. 10 would be Virginia guard-tackle Branden Albert, who is rated the draft's second-best tackle prospect by some teams. Turning Sheppard, a former 2002 first-round pick, into one of those three players -- Ellis, Thomas or Albert -- would be transforming the Eagles' biggest negative this offseason into a positive.

3. The Raiders bypass Darren McFadden: He might be the most talented and gifted player in this year's draft, but McFadden isn't the missing piece that will turn Oakland into a winner after five desultory seasons of losing. The Raiders still have many needs, but running back simply isn't one of them. Somehow, some way, they should be able to piece together a ground game from the likes of Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan. Adding McFadden would be counterproductive and leave some need unfilled.

The Raiders need defensive linemen and they're well-positioned in this year's draft to address that issue. At No. 4, they're 99.9 percent certain of getting one of the following: Ohio State defensive end/linebacker Vernon Gholston, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey or Virginia defensive end Chris Long. If none of those possibilities seem attractive enough, Oakland should still spurn McFadden and shop the pick to a team that needs a running back (No. 14 Bears, No. 15 Lions, No. 16 Cardinals), or a team that wants to move up and take one of those three defensive linemen. With as many holes as the Raiders have, multiple picks in the opening three rounds is the way to go.

4. The Bears draft Rashard Mendenhall: I'm not sure what the Bears still see in 2005 first-round running back Cedric Benson that deserves continued displays of confidence, but I don't share their optimism.

Benson doesn't seem to do anything particularly well three years into his NFL career, and if I was calling the shots in Chicago, I'd cut my losses and move on. At least in the sense of bringing in front-line competition for the underachieving Benson, who appears to be a classic case of the high draft pick who got paid and lost motivation.

That's where Mendenhall, the University of Illinois star, comes in. He's a big, powerful and fast runner who has very little wear and tear on his body after starting just one season (as a junior) for the Illini. The already low-impact Bears offense suffered some losses this offseason, and playmakers are in painfully short supply on the unit coordinated by Ron Turner. The Bears stayed status quo at quarterback and lost ground at receiver. More than ever, they need a running game they can rely on.

5. The Chiefs trade Jared Allen to the Vikings: It's not an enviable position to have to shop your best defensive player, but that's the situation the Chiefs find themselves in given that the franchised Allen appears unlikely to ever agree to a long-term deal. In reality, Kansas City can go 4-12 with or without Allen leading the league in sacks these days, so it makes sense to move him for as many picks as possible and at least try to speed up the Chiefs' rebuilding program.

The Vikings have offered their No. 17 pick in the first round, plus the higher of their two selections in the third round, No. 73 overall. The Bucs are interested in Allen as well, but Tampa Bay picks 20th overall in the first round, and that means Minnesota is in the driver's seat.

With the Vikings' two picks, the Chiefs would own five of the draft's top 73 choices, including two of the top 17. If they choose wisely and get some luck, the Chiefs could parlay that into a draft-weekend bounty and be on their way back. Kansas City should act now, when Allen's value is at its peak, rather than risk losing him in the long run, perhaps for a lot less.

6. Baltimore trades for a second first-round pick: If the Ravens miss out on Matt Ryan as I now expect they will, Steve McNair's retirement gives them more motivation than any team to try and trade back into the lower third of the first round and select their quarterback of the future.

Who will it be? The Ravens like all three of the passers who could potentially be the second quarterback chosen: Michigan's Chad Henne, Louisville's Brian Brohm or Delaware's Joe Flacco. My pecking order would be Flacco, Brohm and Henne, but there's some thought that it's Henne, Flacco and Brohm on Baltimore's board.

As for the Ravens' trading partner, several teams in the 20s jump out as likely targets: No. 24 Tennessee, No. 25 Seattle, and No. 27 San Diego. The Titans probably have the most reason to stay where they are, but if they don't like their receiving options at 24, they could choose to move down and let Baltimore climb ahead of fellow quarterback-needy clubs such as Miami, Atlanta (if it doesn't choose Ryan in the first round) and Carolina.

7. The Saints move up in the top 10 to take Sedrick Ellis: OK, I'll conceded it's not possible for New Orleans to do everything I've suggested. The Saints can't both trade down with No. 19 Philadelphia for Lito Sheppard and trade up from No. 10 for Ellis, the Southern Cal defensive tackle. And don't forget sending their No. 40 second-round pick to the Giants for Jeremy Shockey.

But New Orleans needs help at defensive tackle and Ellis is seen as the obvious pick at No. 9 by Cincinnati. It'll take getting above the Bengals to land Ellis. While the Saints are rumored to have also explored the idea of getting up high enough to have a shot at LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, it's probably cost prohibitive. Ellis makes much more sense and comes with the added bonus of having been recruited to USC by new Saints defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the former Trojans assistant head coach/defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator.

8. Dallas trades for Pacman Jones: It's going to happen sooner or later, even if it's in 2009, so let's just get on with it, shall we? For the sake of everyone who has long since grown weary of this particular sub-plot, let's say the Cowboys ship Tennessee a mid-round pick this year, and another conditional pick in 2009 if the currently suspended cornerback gets back on the field and contributes in Dallas.

I know Jerry Jones is eventually going to take the plunge with Pacman, and you know it too. Right now I've just got Jones and Titans owner Bud Adams locked into a staredown, each waiting for the other one to blink. But the Cowboys need a cornerback and the Titans need closure. Let's get it done, people.

9. The Jets draft Matt Ryan: While the latest buzz has Ryan going to the No. 3 Falcons, I still think Atlanta would be wiser to take Dorsey with its first pick and use some of its three second-round selections as ammo to land either Brohm, Henne or Flacco late in the opening round.

Doing it that way, the Falcons could almost certainly add an impact player on both sides of the ball at the top of their draft. Taking the quarterback at No. 3 means it's unlikely they'd be able to affect their defense as dramatically in Round 2 as Dorsey would in Round 1.

But New York isn't in the same position as Atlanta, and has to get better quarterback play if it has any hopes of closing the gap on the Patriots in the AFC East. Chad Pennington is on borrowed time with the Jets, and Kellen Clemens remains a question mark who came at the price of a second-round pick in 2006. If the Jets are as high on Ryan as indications allow, and he makes it to their No. 6 slot, they should pull the trigger and not think twice.

10. Matt Walsh spills his guts on Spygate: I can't think of a better way to truly open the build-up for the NFL's 2008 season than to finally put the biggest story of 2007 to bed -- one way or another. Let's hear it, Matt. All of it. And see it too, as the case may be. Then the conspiracy theorists will be either proven right or wrong, and the saga of the 2007 Patriots won't be an open-ended debate.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.