NFL Mock Draft: Hypothetical trades shake up Round 1
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Last year, there were four deals made involving first-round selections, plus another between the Giants and Titans atop Round 2. Two drafts ago, picks Nos. 2, 4, 8, 9, 20, 22, 26, 27 and 32 all changed hands.
We rarely account for such moves in our mock drafts (unless they happen early, like the Miami-Philadelphia swap from a couple weeks back). That’s not the case this week. A few other swaps are included within the latest prognostication, starting in the top five.
Here we go...
Titans GM Jon Robinson said over the weekend that it would take “a substantial amount of picks” to trade back from No. 1 lest his team miss out on “a group of players at the top of the draft.” How deep does that group run inside the Tennessee war room? Unless Robinson feels comfortable digging seven or eight prospects deep, or budges on his demands, he’s staying put. And in that case, the debate likely remains Tunsil vs. Jalen Ramsey or Joey Bosa. Tunsil remains the leader in the clubhouse.
Hue Jackson’s barnstorming tour of quarterbacks rolls on—Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and now Robert Griffin III. The Browns are going to find one (and possibly two) quarterbacks somewhere. It remains far from a lock that search ends at No. 2 overall. This roster needs talent, period. Ramsey might be the most talented player in the class.
Projected trade with Chargers
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At least hear me out. Last week, I brought up what is a potential worst-case scenario for Jacksonville in Round 1: Tunsil, Ramsey, Joey Bosa and Myles Jack go in picks 1–4 and no one wants to trade up for pick five. That’s the scenario which leads to the Jaguars’ move up in this mock, so as to guarantee themselves one of those four players. Leaving Jack this high banks on positive returns from his personal workouts and medical re-check, but at 100% his athleticism would be a huge boost to the Jacksonville LB corps.
As for the price tag ... well, in 2014, the Bills paid a heavy charge to move up to No. 4 (their No. 9 pick plus a fifth-rounder and ’15 first-rounder). A better comp is what happened a few spots later, when Cleveland traded that ninth pick plus a fifth-rounder to move up one spot. This time around, something like No. 3 and No. 102 for No. 5 and No. 69 might work.
Again, the Jaguars’ move up wasn’t to prevent Dallas from taking someone but rather to ensure they landed a top-four choice. The Cowboys could stay put and wait on either Jack or Bosa (or a quarterback or Ezekiel Elliott) to be here. Benson Mayowa’s arrival via free agency should not push Dallas away from Bosa. It still needs more help off the edge.
Projected trade with Jaguars
This very well could be the Chargers’ pick at No. 3 anyway—the powerful Buckner would fit very well in their 3–4 base. Moving back two spots here to climb 33 spots later makes for a solid trade-off. It also puts San Diego in more reasonable range for OT Ronnie Stanley, should he be the desired option.
Projected trade with Ravens
The biggest move in Round 1 comes from a team with the most appealing draft pick possibilities. Los Angeles is thin on Day 3 picks (no Round 5 or 7 selection) but holds three of the top 45 slots. Would 15, 43 and a future second-rounder be enough to convince Baltimore to drop nine spots? Let’s say yes, for the purposes of this mock.
And with their new top-10 selection, the Rams cut in front of Chip Kelly to take Goff, the QB with the best combination of NFL readiness and upside in this class. All those “Case Keenum is our quarterback” soundbites can be erased.
If the 49ers are planning to take a quarterback early, they have to be approaching the draft with either a) a plan to trade up so they get their main target, or b) two prospects in mind they really like, anticipating Cleveland or another club takes one before them. Say what you will about Blaine Gabbert, but he does give the 49ers a short-term option if they need one. They would if they take Wentz, an extremely promising prospect who will require ample seasoning.
Ezekiel Elliott, right? The Eagles no doubt had someone in mind when they moved up from No. 13 to No. 8 and Elliott is—for my money, at least—a top-five prospect in this class. But Stanley isn’t much further down the list, plus he gives Philadelphia the future long-term starting tackle it needs with Jason Peters’s career winding down.
The Buccaneers are far from set, but for the most part they have done what teams set out to do in free agency: prevent any desperation picks. Robert Ayers will help the pass rush, Brent Grimes will help the secondary and retaining Doug Martin was important, too. That leaves myriad options at No. 9. Lawson’s potential to be an All-Pro-level pass rusher pushes him over the top.
Backed off this pairing in recent mocks because it strays from the Giants’ usual MO. The value of getting Elliott at 10, though, is too much to keep passing up. He very well could be taken as high as No. 4 by Dallas, and deservedly so. The Giants haven’t had a 1,000-yard back since 2012 nor have they been able to rely on any one player there since Tiki Barber and then Ahmad Bradshaw departed. Elliott can be a superstar.
On paper this has been an outstanding off-season for the Bears, who nonetheless will be on the hunt for more defensive playmakers come draft time. Hargreaves fits the bill. He would step in immediately as the Bears’ nickel back, with a multi-year plan to have him eventually replace Tracy Porter outside. Need meets best player available.
Would Sean Payton and co. pass on Laquon Treadwell if he is there for the taking at No. 12? It would be difficult, no question—the Saints have a lot of unproven talent waiting to catch passes from Drew Brees next season. They also still have a dearth of top-end talent on defense. The versatile, active Rankins would help round out a line led by Cameron Jordan.
The dominoes dropped Elliott into Miami’s lap in last week’s mock; the Dolphins have almost no choice at this point but to plan on drafting a running back. With Elliott gone this time, they turn their attention instead to finding a potential lock-down cornerback. Swapping out Grimes for Byron Maxwell does little to improve the situation at that position.
The Raiders are absolutely loaded from left tackle to right guard: Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele. They have far less certainty at right tackle, where Austin Howard finished 2015 on IR with a knee injury and 2013 draft pick Menelik Watson is trying to get back from an Achilles tear. Conklin would erase all doubt, plus provide depth at guard in a pinch and give Oakland options when Penn’s new contract expires after the 2017 season.
Projected trade with Rams
GM Ozzie Newsome already has nine draft picks with which to play and we gave him another second-rounder with a trade down. The Ravens should be able to stockpile at several spots come April 28–30. Here, they score their new starter alongside fellow ex-Alabama star C.J. Mosley. The loss of Daryl Smith combined with Arthur Brown’s stuck-in-neutral career leaves a new inside linebacker on the list of needs. Ragland’s downhill, punishing mentality would pair well with what Baltimore likes to do.
This is approximately our 214th mock draft and this scenario has not come up often: Treadwell sliding down to Detroit’s spot at 16. But it is entirely possible. While the Lions patched up their receiving corps post-Megatron by landing Marvin Jones, they are shy on a player who can be Matthew Stafford’s bailout target downfield. That problem would be solved—and the depth chart bumped from decent to outstanding—by bringing in the physical Treadwell.
Treadwell would make for an interesting discussion in the Atlanta draft room. Ditto for the likes of Josh Doctson, Corey Coleman and others among this talented receiver class. Flip side: Atlanta cannot continue to live with the uninspiring linebacking group it has, especially in a high-octane division. Lee would be a significant upgrade and a three-down starter.
Projected trade with Colts
The Texans probably could stay put at 22 and still find an impact wide receiver. The alternative is for them to take control of their own fate and jump up for Doctson. TCU’s standout receiver would be an ideal complement to the remarkable DeAndre Hopkins—Doctson can obliterate one-on-one coverage deep.
The sticking point on this idea is that it’s an intra-division trade. That’s only a problem if both teams are on the fence about it. Say 22, 119 and a 2016 fourth for this pick, a haul comparable to the San Diego–San Francisco trade from 2015.
Because of how many different ways they can be employed, and because of the premium Rex Ryan places on movable parts up front, Butler and Rankins have been two favorites in this slot. Rankins’s earlier selection by New Orleans makes for an easy call. Ryan would love Butler ... and Butler would love the attention offensive lines have to pay to Marcell Dareus.
The Muhammed Wilkerson tag standoff looms over the Jets’ draft plans. Whether or not he remains on the roster for 2016, they have to find a pass rusher (and it might be even more imperative if a Wilkerson trade leaves the line less potent). Spence has the potential of a higher pick and the off-field red flags of a lower one. He lands in between, with a coach in Todd Bowles who would maximize his abilities.
We’ve already slipped past the point where I would declare A’Shawn Robinson a value pick. With Washington favoring more one-gap looks up front, though, Billings’s skill set makes more sense. He is deserving of this pick range himself. Another impressive defensive tackle off the board.
Projected trade with Texans
Guards still are not valued like tackles but we consistently see how offenses implode without quality there. Garnett is the top true guard available in this year’s class, and he would solve a problem area for the Colts. They also could go tackle here (Taylor Decker is coming up), but I think it would have to be for someone like Conklin, who has the ability to play inside.
Really considered a Minnesota move up for Josh Doctson. However, in this draft class, the Vikings can find an impact wide receiver later. That’s not necessarily going to be the case at tackle, where a bit of a cliff looms beyond Tunsil/Stanley/Conklin/Decker (and maybe Jason Spriggs or Germain Ifedi). Decker can battle with Andre Smith on the right side and take over there—if not at left tackle for Matt Kalil—when Smith’s one-year deal expires.
Tyler Lockett’s draft slide was the latest example of NFL teams getting burned by not thinking outside the box. He doesn’t fit the profile of a No. 1, outside receiver so he waited 69 picks. How many teams would take him in Round 1 now if given a do-over? Shepard, who has excelled both outside and from the slot, deserves to be a top-31 selection. He is a polished prospect with the ability to hurt defenses after the catch. Cincinnati has to restock at WR, and this is a great start.
The Steelers are not going to panic and overreact to Martavis Bryant’s suspension. That said, should the opportunity arise to nab a dynamic receiver, they should be ready to jump. Don’t take this as a comp or a setting of the bar, but Coleman can do some Antonio Brown-esque things with the ball in his hands. He is a different style of receiver than Bryant, yet would elevate the passing attack. Coleman is bordering on a Round 1 lock.
A 6-foot cornerback with length and a sub-4.4 40 time. In other words, don’t be stunned if Jackson winds up leapfrogging Hargreaves and/or Alexander come Round 1. He can be the starter Seattle needs opposite Richard Sherman, with Jeremy Lane returning to tackle the slot.
Jarran Reed has been a popular pick at 27. Robinson slipping down the board a bit allows Green Bay to swap out one Alabama behemoth for another. Losing B.J. Raji doesn't force the Packers’ hand at nose tackle. But this is far from a panic move. Robinson is a load up front, just the type of wall this defense needs to improve on early downs.
Projected trade with Chiefs
I’ve mentioned in a couple previous mocks that this could be the plan for Cleveland if it takes a non-QB at No. 2. Likely without having to sacrifice all that much—say, 32 and 99 for 28 and maybe a throw-in pick—the Browns could climb over Denver and choose between Lynch and Connor Cook. With Josh McCown under contract and Robert Griffin III in the fold, Cleveland could opt for the higher-upside Lynch and let him develop.
The Cardinals’ Carson Palmer window is closing and they have their eyes on a Super Bowl. If there is a team in this draft with the wiggle room to choose need over the best player available, this is it, especially with Chandler Jones in the fold. Kelly is a Day One plug-and-play option at center, and quite possibly a Round 1 pick even if the Cardinals don’t make the call.
Clemson’s older, less-hyped alternative to Shaq Lawson winds up with a perfect home on the defending NFC champs. Carolina was going to be eyeing pass rushers even before Jared Allen retired, so it obviously will now. Dodd will have to be eased into the rotation a bit—an approach that would pay off for the Panthers when he is fresh for a playoff run.
Should they score Kaepernick or Griffin, the Broncos would be able to pass on drafting a QB for at least a year. If they don’t gamble on either of those players, they should have Cook in mind late on Day 1. The Michigan State product comes with his own set of flaws and question marks, but he also has the requisite background to step in as a starter should Denver need him.