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The trade heard 'round the league; thoughts on all 32 first-round picks

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Before I get to the story of the night, the mega-trade between Cleveland and Atlanta that I'm sure made Sean Payton cringe, an explanation of the weirdness that happened with Baltimore on the clock at pick 26, weirdness that is not over:

Chicago, picking 29th, and Baltimore, at 26, finalized a trade that would have had them switch slots, with the Ravens getting the Bears' fourth-round pick in return. Chicago would take Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, and the Ravens, if Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith was still on the board, would take Smith at 29. With two minutes left in the Ravens' period, the deal was done.

Under NFL rules, each team has to report the trade to NFL draft headquarters at Radio City Music Hall. The Ravens called it in. They assumed Chicago called it in, but due to a miscommunication in the Bears' draft room, no one from Chicago ever called the league. As the clock ticked down to zero, and with Chicago on the phone with Carimi to tell him he was going to be their pick, Baltimore noticed no one at the league had announced the trade and Chicago's pick of Carimi. Meanwhile, Kansas City, with the 27th pick, rushed its card to the desk at Radio City, taking Pittsburgh wideout Jonathan Baldwin.

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, on an open line to New York, demanded to know why the trade hadn't gone through. Chicago never called to confirm it, Newsome was told. Baltimore was infuriated. The league didn't allow the trade. The Ravens picked Smith at 27 (not 26; Kansas City was awarded the 26th pick and took Baldwin, because the Chiefs got the pick in before the Ravens did), and the Bears got lucky, getting Carimi at 29.

"Whatever you hear, Baltimore did everything the right way," Bears GM Jerry Angelo told Chicago media. "There were a lot of things happening in the draft room. We were getting a lot of calls, we just ... dropped the ball. I dropped the ball. I can't say anything more than that."

All's well that ends well, you say? Not so fast. Angelo called Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti to apologize, but Bisciotti wanted the fourth-round pick anyway, claiming it was part of the deal they'd agreed to. In fact, I'm told Bisciotti today will push to get the fourth-round pick, or to make the situation right in some way.

The league is under no obligation to do so, because the trade was never official. And maybe all's fair in love and draft-night trades, but as far as Baltimore's concerned, I don't think this one's over. I think the Ravens will ask the league to award them some compensation from Chicago before the draft resumes at 6 p.m. Eastern today. Stay tuned.

***

Everything in the NFL is cyclical.

The Julio Jones trade was a perfect storm of two bold, young general managers trying to do something that made inordinate sense for each team ... with a bizarre historical precedent.

"When we started talking about a trade this size about a week ago,'' Cleveland GM Tom Heckert told me last night, "we looked for a trade we might be able to pattern it after, and we found one back in 1995. Cleveland and the 49ers">49ers made a deal where the 49ers moved way up to take J.J. Stokes.''

Uh-oh. Harbinger of doom right there.

Cleveland owned the 10th pick in 1995, San Francisco the 30th. With John Taylor and Jerry Rice getting old, the 49ers sent first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 1995 and a first-rounder in 1996 to move up to take Stokes, the receiver they thought would be a great successor to Rice. He flopped, of course, averaging 38 catches a year in a starless nine-year career. In the 1995 draft, Cleveland coach Bill Belichick, running his last draft before getting fired by Art Modell, didn't have his best day. He chose linebacker Craig Powell and linebacker Mike Frederick with the first two 1995 picks.

But the 1996 first-round pick, after the franchise moved to Baltimore? Linebacker Ray Lewis.

Cleveland got zilch out of the deal. The 49ers got the same.

"I don't think history's going to repeat itself,'' said Heckert.

These two teams hope not. This time, Cleveland traded the sixth pick in the draft to Atlanta for the Falcons' first- (27th overall), second- (59th) and fourth- (124th), and next year's first- and fourth-rounders. So in 1995, San Francisco moved up 20 spots in the first round and paid a 1, 1, 3 and 4; in 2011, Atlanta moved up 21 spots in the first round and paid a 1, 1, 3, 4 and 4. An extra four, as it turns out. A ransom, some called it. A Ditka/Ricky Williams deal, others said.

I love it for both teams. Cleveland has six or eight major holes all over the field and acquired three top-60 picks and two in the fourth round to address them. In Matt Ryan's career, Atlanta may never be in position to draft a 6-foot-4, 223-pound wideout who runs a 4.38-second 40 and blocks like a poor man's Hines Ward. The Falcons were desperate for an explosive offensive player to take pressure off Roddy White -- who turns 30 this season. Seems like a good deal for both teams, though I realize the Falcons slightly overpaid for a player who has B-minus hands.

"It will be lauded by some, scrutinized by others,'' Dimitroff said over the phone just before midnight. "It's a substantial price to pay, but we spread it over two years, and we're still left with a three, a five, a six and three sevens this year. I want to emphasize this: I know the impression out there will be that we must think we're one player away to have paid so much for one player. But that isn't the case at all. We need more explosive playmaking, and this will help not only Matt but Roddy White and Michael Jenkins and Tony Gonzalez. We just decided to make an aggressive, bold move that we think will pay off for our team.''

Dimitroff first called Heckert last week, and they actually reached the parameters of a deal early this week. Cleveland would have gotten cold feet had the best player on their board, A.J. Green, slipped down to their pick at six, but he was taken at four. When Jones was there at six, both teams eagerly pulled the trigger.

This is the kind of trade a timid GM can't make. Wouldn't make. I'm reminded of the 2008 draft, when I spent the weekend in Atlanta for Dimitroff's first draft. He turned down a treasure trove from Baltimore to stay at number three and pick Mike Vick's replacement, Ryan. Then he dealt two second-round picks in a deal for tackle Sam Baker, the 21st pick in the first round. Baker wasn't worthy of the 21st pick in terms of talent, but Dimitroff saw the tackles flying off the board and said, "It can't always be about the value. Sometimes it has to be about the player.'' Baker's a passable left tackle now, and without him, Ryan might have been abused significantly more in his first three years.

But give credit to Heckert too. The Browns desperately wanted a wideout threat; they have none for young quarterback Colt McCoy. And now the pressure's on Heckert to make sure that, like Dimitroff, he can turn one of these prominent picks into an explosive offensive weapon.

This is the deal that made the 2011 draft so much fun. A good friend of mine, a Falcons fan from Augusta, Ga., texted late last night to say, "ATL has a Christmas feel to it tonight.'' Thanks to Dimitroff.

(Click team name for picks.)

1. Carolina: We all know it's a great, great risk, drafting a guy with one year's experience at a high level to be the cornerstone of the franchise at the toughest position to play in sports. But I'd have done it. Had the Panthers not done it, who knows what happens in 2012 when Andrew Luck comes out? What if Carolina picks second next year and misses Luck by one pick?

2. Denver: The need at defensive tackle was far greater, especially with Elvis Dumervil coming back as an outside pass-rusher. But John Fox simply isn't going to pass on a pass-rusher, and he didn't in picking up Von Miller. Pass-rushers are rarer than defensive tackles ... unless we're talking Ndamukong Suh-quality at defensive tackle. And Marcell Dareus is not Suh.

3. Buffalo:Marcell Dareus is the only pick they could have made. Best front-seven player available. I'm sure they longed for Von Miller, but they never had that choice.

4. Cincinnati: No one can criticize the pick of A.J. Green, the number one player on several teams' draft board -- including division rival Cleveland. The Bengals might get very, very fortunate if they can steal Andy Dalton early in the second round today.

5. Arizona: Best corner in the draft by far in Patrick Peterson, a superb pick. You know how much Arizona liked him? So much so that even though Blaine Gabbert was the number one quarterback on the Cards' board, they never seriously considered him here because they loved Peterson so much.

6. Atlanta: Thomas Dimitroff got this text from a friend in the league last night: "Ballsy move.'' Couldn't have said it better, trading five picks in the top four rounds for one difference-maker (he'd better be), Julio Jones.

7. San Francisco: Everyone's surprised about Aldon Smith at 7, but clearly the Niners thought Smith was the second-best pass-rusher in the draft, behind Miller -- and ahead of UNC's Robert Quinn. "The pick speaks for how they were rated on our board. Aldon was just rated higher,'' GM Trent Baalke said late last night. But the fans in the Bay Area are still waiting for a quarterback -- rightfully. "There are situations out there that will allow us to address the position. You have to let them play out,'' Baalke said. Sounds like a Kevin Kolb or Matt Hasselbeck might be coming to town.

8. Tennessee:Jake Locker at 8. Stunning. Just stunning. Started for parts of four seasons in college, and completed 54 percent of his throws in his college career. Great leader, great kid, great locker-room guy. But if he's Kyle Boller as a thrower, how can he make it in the NFL?

9. Dallas: Much discussion in the organization about this pick, with some favoring Anthony Castonzo here, and I think the BC kid would have been better for a team that might need a guard as much as a tackle in the next year or two. But the 'Boys judged Smith the best tackle on the board, and he's only 20, so they think he's got room to grow as a player. We'll see.

10. Jacksonville: Hand it to GM Gene Smith. He's a bold drafter. After picking Tyson Alualu at 10 last year, he took Blaine Gabbert at 10 this year. Not that Gabbert at 10 is gutsy, but it cost the Jags their second-rounder to move up. Seat's getting hot for David Garrard, who may have one season left in Florida.

11. Houston: The Texans wanted Patrick Peterson badly, but never had a shot to trade up for him. They're praying J.J. Watt can be the edge presence to help take the pressure off Mario Williams and Brian Cushing.

12. Minnesota:Christian Ponder is, quite simply, the classic example of a quarterback who was overpicked in the first round, the way we'd heard so many of them would be. But the Vikings obviously figured they liked Locker and Ponder, and they couldn't trade down to gather currency in rounds two or three. So they sat at 12 and picked a developmental quarterback they felt they had to have.

13. Detroit:Nick Fairley. Manna from heaven. Fairley and Suh, next to each other, rushing the passer? Why, that's unfairly.

14. St. Louis: Would have been very happy with Corey Liuget here. Much happier with their top rush defensive end on the board. Robert Quinn's a risk because of a four-year-old brain tumor and playing but one full college season, but I think he's a good risk at 14.

15. Miami:Mike Pouncey's not sexy, but unless you think Andy Dalton's clearly better than Chad Henne and should have been the call, Pouncey's a good, solid choice here. Remember, though, he's had some problems making the shotgun snap.

16. Washington:Ryan Kerrigan's not what they did best. Picking up the 49th pick in the draft for passing on a couple of quarterbacks they liked ... that's the good thing here. The Redskins had discipline, and now they have the ninth and 17th picks on day two of the draft.

17. New England: Repeat after me, Patriotland: In Bill We Trust. Nate Solder's not a strike-up-the-band pick, but he's a solid tackle prospect who should form a good long-term combination with Sebastian Vollmer. If you wanted to see the Pats take Mark Ingram instead of deal him for the 56th pick today and next year's one for the Saints, you're not alone. But this draft will have very good rushing prospects down the line between picks 50 and 125.

18. San Diego:Corey Liuget's ideal for the Chargers, a good penetrating nose man who can also play inside on four-man lines. Lucky he got by the Rams.

19. New York Giants: Prince "Of The City'' Amukamara was such a surprise to the Giants that they never spent a lot of time considering him in the last couple of months, certain he'd be gone by 10 or 12. He probably should have been. Every team needs three good corners, or four, and Amukamara is unexpected high-quality depth for a team that never thought they'd be picking one here.

20. Tampa Bay: Two months ago, the Bucs never thought they'd be passing on Da'Quan Bowers. In fact, when I saw GM Mark Dominik at the Scouting Combine in February and mentioned Bowers' name, he shook his head and said he'd never be there at 20. Well, Bowers is there at 33, sunk by a bum knee. And Adrian Clayborn now becomes the speed guy around the edge the Bucs are desperate for.

21. Cleveland: Very interesting pick upon trading down to 27 and then trading back up to 21. Nose tackle was not a big need position for the Browns after unknown Ahtyba Rubin came out of nowhere to be so solid late last season. But they picked the best nose guy in the draft, Phillip Taylor of Baylor. Tom Heckert told me last night Taylor's more than a nose, and he had some experience playing the three-technique in college. Cleveland needed reinforcements on the line for the switch to the 4-3.

22. Indianapolis: Polian father and son take 3.2 seconds to call in the name of Anthony Castonzo at number 22. Peyton Manning takes 1.6 seconds to call Castonzo and say, "Be at the facility at 7 in the morning. Time to go to work.'' (Kidding. Probably.)

23. Philadelphia: The good -- Danny Watkins is a day-one starter, mature and experienced, and can play either guard and, in a pinch, tackle, where he played last year at Baylor. The bad -- He'll be a 27-year-old rookie this fall.

24. (& 28.) New Orleans: In the span of 31 minutes, the Saints got a bargain in taking Cam Jordan, the versatile defensive end from Cal, and dealing up with New England to get Alabama running back Mark Ingram at No. 28. I think new Orleans would have preferred Adrian Clayborn over Jordan, but the combo-package of these two good day-one performers is better than anyone could have imagined.

25. Seattle: Last year, the odd pick was Tyson Alualu to Jacksonville. This year, it's James Carpenter to the Seahawks. Seattle couldn't trade down, and was left to pick its top run-blocking tackle on the board. Pete Carroll Tweeted early this morning that Carpenter, in the Seahawks' minds, was exactly that. Was that a smile I saw on Marshawn Lynch's face?

26. Kansas City: Jonathan Baldwin is the kind of playmaker that's in short supply in Kansas City at wide receiver, and will be in shorter supply if they don't re-up Dwayne Bowe for the long-term. After K.C. used a first-rounder on Baldwin, I question whether the Chiefs will pay two receivers.

27. Baltimore:Jimmy Smith's a dynamite pick if he can stay on his best behavior. It's probably worth the risk, considering the Ravens are going to be facing three speed receivers in Pittsburgh and A.J. Green in Cincinnati for the next five or six years.

29. Chicago: After Jerry Angelo screwed up the trade with Baltimore (Chicago was going to move from 29 to 26 to ensure getting Gabe Carimi), the Bears were lucky to come away with Carimi, the tackle line coach Mike Tice wanted all along. The Bears need him to be a day-one starter.

30. New York Jets: There's a reason Rex Ryan went to most of the defensive-lineman workouts this spring. He wanted to see which big-bodied guy fit best in his malleable defensive front. Muhammad Wilkerson, all 315 pounds of him, had 22.5 tackles behind the line for Temple last year, and he should get a shot in the defensive-end rotation, where the Jets need some youth.

31. Pittsburgh: Some guys should be Steelers. Cam Heyward fits very well there. He's a versatile defensive end who can play the run well and penetrate well to bother the passer. Might be the long-term replacement for Brett Keisel, who turns 33 in September. But I'm like everyone else: I think Pittsburgh should have gone corner here, with such a desperate need at the position, or offensive tackle.

32. Green Bay: Tackle Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State and Bryan Bulaga, last year's top pick, will soon be the heirs at tackle, with the aging populace at tackle for Green Bay. If Sherrod's 80 percent the player early on that Bulaga was last year, Ted Thompson's made a great pick.

*Oakland: Only team without a pick in the first round. Oakland gets the 16th crack at it today, when round two begins. I think it's safe to say Al Davis would like to draft someone fast.

COMPLETE ROUND 2 DRAFT ORDER | BEST PLAYERS AVAILABLE

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