Roger Goodell (Howard Smith/USA Today)
Last year, six of the first seven draft picks were traded away. This year could see similar movement throughout the first round after free agency either increased or decreased team needs around the NFL.
Our latest Viking Update mock draft is coming later today. With a week to go until the 2013 draft starts, the process of doing mock drafts becomes more and more worthy of mocking. Why? The simple truth is that, given the strange circumstances of 2013, the draft may take as long as any in the history of the league.
In most drafts, by the time it starts, the team with the first pick has already announced who their pick is going to be. In some cases, they had them signed already. This year, the standard M.O. of opening night will be turned on its head.
There isn’t a consensus first overall pick. Luke Joeckel is the odds-on favorite, but if there is a player anyone in the top five has to have the Chiefs will happily trade out. That is a bit unusual because typically a first overall pick is locked and loaded.
What adds layers to the uncertainty of the draft’s opening night is that there are key locations in the draft that could result in the beginning of a trade frenzy that could be the headline story when the 32 picks are said and done.
It starts with Kansas City. If Andy Reid can sign left tackle Branden Albert to a long-term deal, he doesn’t need the first pick to take another left tackle. That could get the ball rolling.
Without a clear-cut first pick, the water only gets muddier as you go along. Jacksonville has so many holes it could (and should) trade out of the No. 2 spot. Oakland doesn’t have a second-round pick (thank you, Carson Palmer), so trading out of No. 3 makes sense. The jump-off point for those teams interested in blue-chip left tackles Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson begins with the Eagles at No. 4.
Perhaps the most interesting pick could be Cleveland at No. 6. If Detroit takes Fisher, Johnson is the only blue-chip left tackle remaining. For those who may believe Geno Smith is the real deal, getting in front of Arizona, Buffalo and the Jets may be a priority. Those who think Star Lotulelei could be the Next Big Thing at defensive tackle could be looking to jump. The phones will be busy in the Mistake By the Lake.
Depending on their interest in Smith, the Cardinals or Jets could trade out of their spots and hope to drop into a position to get Smith on the cheap. The Jets are at No. 9, but with rumors swirling they’re offering Darrelle Revis up for a first-round pick, they could do several things here. At No. 13, Tampa Bay has been linked to the Revis trade scenario.
At No. 12, the Dolphins have five picks in the first three rounds (two each in the second and third) and, given their aggression in the free agent market there is no telling what the Dolphins will do. They have more ammunition in the first two days of the draft than anyone and they can move up or down as they see fit, which makes them worth watching.
The Saints at No. 15 are also in an enviable position given their dire situation. Thanks to Rodger Goodell playing judge and jury, the Saints don’t have a second round pick. In many mock drafts, like ours at VU, there isn’t a wide receiver off the board at this point of the draft. The conventional wisdom is that St. Louis – having lost Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson to free agency – need young talent and the Rams will have their choice of any wideout they want at No. 16. If someone wants to prevent that, the Saints could recoup draft currency by trading out – and infuriating the Rams.
The Rams have two first-round picks (Nos. 16 and 22, courtesy of RG3) and if Jeff Fisher wants to make a big splash he has the firepower to move up, move down or stand pat and take two picks. Nothing is certain there.
Dallas sits at No. 18. Nobody is more fidgety in his war room command chair than Jerry Jones. He’ll trade up. He’ll trade down. He’ll trade just for the sake of cutting a deal and glad-handing his war room yes-men.
At No. 21 is Cincinnati, which is also armed with Oakland’s pick in the second round (No. 37), and could be a player in the trading game as well. The Bengals have made the playoffs the last two years and it can be argued that both the Ravens and Steelers are worse off now than they were when their respective seasons ended. They could trade up a long way by offering up their top two picks and add one blue-chipper to build the franchise. Many don’t give Mike Brown the credit of savvy to make such a deal, but it’s possible.
The Vikings could play a critical role in the draft trading as well. If there hasn’t been an inside/middle linebacker taken by the time the draft gets to pick No. 22, there could be an offer coming for a team that has a gleam in its eye for Alec Ogletree or Manti Te’o – and the place to be is in the vicinity of the 314 area code.
Vikings fans can smell what we’re cooking when the draft gets to No. 23. Anyone who wants either pick can have it … for the right price. Rick Spielman fashions himself as the smartest guy in the room, and when a trade offer makes sense to him, he isn’t shy about pulling the trigger. If someone wants to get in front of Indianapolis at No. 23, it’s available … for the right price. If somebody wants pick No. 25, it’s available … for the right price. There has never been a pick Spielman hasn’t been willing to trade (except maybe when Adrian Peterson was available). You just have to meet his price.
The final seven picks of the round are held the by the “Big Daddy” franchises of the NFL. Who has the final seven picks? Green Bay, Houston, Denver, New England, Atlanta, San Francisco and Baltimore. The one thing they share is that they are all convinced they will be in the Super Bowl a little less than 10 months from now. If a “have not” team is willing to give up their 2014 first-round pick to get back into next week’s first round, who will turn that down? None of them.
Enjoy our latest mock draft, coming later Thursday. It’s been done given the current situation. Once draft day comes, however, there isn’t a pick in the draft that isn’t subject to trade, which could make it long night next Thursday.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.