Elite playmaker Tavon Austin
could be a hot commodity early in the first round. (Rich Graessle/Icon SMI)
During the run-up to the 2012 draft, much of the attention centered on the No. 2 overall pick. The Rams dangled that selection for the rest of the league, with Robert Griffin III as the bait, before the Redskins dealt away three first-round picks and a second-rounder to claim it.
There does not appear to be such drama in store this year, at least at the top of the draft. The main reason: The 2013 draft, while bereft of obvious superstars, is as deep as any in recent memory. So many of those trade talks may occur in Rounds 2, 3 and beyond.
But that does not mean that Round 1 will be a stick-to-the-script affair. Which teams might try to move up the draft board? We take a look at some candidates:
Arizona Cardinals (No. 7), Buffalo Bills (No. 8)
Target Player: QB Matt Barkley
Where He's Expected to Go: Top 10
The quarterback situation at the top of this draft is a tough one to peg. Are the Jaguars or Raiders going to take a QB with the No. 2 or No. 3 pick, respectively? If not, then Geno Smith could be around when Cleveland goes on the clock at No. 6 ... unless one of these two teams jumps.
And what's the quarterback pecking order? The general consensus is that Smith is the top prospect available at that position, but there are definitely arguments to be made after that for Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Mike Glennon and others.
Keep an eye on Philadelphia (No. 4) and Detroit (No. 5). Should Arizona or Buffalo decide it's time to get aggressive for a new quarterback, those would be the targeted picks. The Eagles or Lions might agree to slide down for a swap of first-rounders plus an additional pick later in the draft.
San Diego Chargers (No. 11)
Target Player: OT Lane Johnson
Where He's Expected to Go: Shortly after Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher
While there's uncertainty atop the quarterback draft board, the standing at offensive tackle is pretty clear. Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher represent the top two players there, in some order, with Johnson a not-too-distant third.
So, if Joeckel and Fisher come off the board within the first five or six picks, as is expected, that would put a premium on the Oklahoma product. San Diego, sitting at No. 11 in the first round, badly needs to upgrade along the offensive line and Johnson could be a great fit. But it might require the Chargers to make a move -- both to leapfrog any other interested teams and to ensure that no other franchise can do the same.
St. Louis Rams (Nos. 16 and 22), Minnesota Vikings (Nos. 23 and 25), San Francisco 49ers (No. 31)
Target Player: WR Tavon Austin
Where He's Expected to Go: Top 12
Austin continues to pick up steam as the draft approaches, with more and more teams becoming intrigued by the possibility of adding him to their offense.
The floor for Austin might be that No. 16 pick of St. Louis'. With the Rams holding two first-rounders and in need of receiver help (and, specifically, slot receiver help with Danny Amendola departing), Austin is a natural fit there. But that reality also gives several other teams a baseline from where to start their trade talks, while St. Louis could feel the pressure to climb even higher if Austin is the goal.
Minnesota, also with two first-rounders, is an obvious candidate to move. So, too, is San Francisco, which worked out Austin this week and has 15 draft picks with which to orchestrate a deal.
Chasing Austin could require a big move, though, as teams like Tampa Bay (13), New Orleans (15) and Pittsburgh (17) would at least toy with the idea of drafting the West Virginia WR. The aim here, then? Let's set it at the Jets' No. 9 selection.
Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 17)
Target Player: OLB Jarvis Jones
Where He's Expected to Go: ????
Jones is one of the draft's biggest wild cards. He has the talent of a top-five pick, but health concerns and so-so workouts left his draft stock in flux.
That could work to the Steelers' benefit. Pittsburgh has lost more than its fair share of veterans lately, thanks to salary cap issues, with OLB James Harrison among the more recent cuts. While Pittsburgh may prefer to stay put and play it safe in this draft, the prospect of adding Jones might be too tantalizing to ignore, even if the Steelers think he's going to be off the board before they pick.
Pittsburgh is not a team known for wheeling and dealing come the draft, but its needs on defense could shift the plan.
Chicago Bears (No. 20)
Target Player: G Jonathan Cooper
Where He's Expected to Go: Top 20
The Bears hold the final selection in the top 20, so one of the draft's two elite guards -- Chance Warmack or Cooper -- could fall into their laps. However, for a team that's badly in need of an upgrade on the O-line, there will be some nervous moments should one of those two (likely Warmack) hear his name called early.
Chicago doesn't figure to put all its chips on the table to move up a few spots, but a swap with, say, Miami at 12 or Carolina at 14 could be mutually beneficial.
Baltimore Ravens (No. 32)
Target Player: LB Kevin Minter or Manti Te'o
Where They're Expected to Go: Late in Round 1
If Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has taught us anything this offseason, it's that he is more than happy to let the market come to him. Given that, maybe it's unrealistic to consider Newsome packaging a couple picks for a small leap in Round 1.
And yet ...
The Ravens remain in a relatively dire situation up the middle, where both Dannell Ellerbe (free agency) and Ray Lewis (retirement) are gone off last year's Super Bowl team. Either Minter or Te'o -- plus someone like Kansas State's Arthur Brown -- would greatly ease the transition into 2013.
If Minter and Te'o linger on the board deep into Round 1, then Baltimore can just sit tight and decide. Should one or the other land elsewhere (like Chicago at 20), the Ravens might attempt to parlay the No. 32 pick and a second- or third-rounder into a top-25 selection.