|Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire|
|The Redskins want a franchise QB. Would they trade up thinking Blaine Gabbert is the answer?|
There aren't many teams aching to move into the top reaches of the first round, but I continue to get the sense from various league executives that there will be no shortage of movement during the draft, and certainly a few picks that will make analysts and draftniks do a double take.
Here a few trade possibilities that continue to gain steam among NFL people.
Trade 1: Redskins move up to get their franchise QB
There are general managers convinced that this will go down. There are evaluators in Redskins Park who believe Blaine Gabbert has the potential to be a franchise quarterback, a great fit in their system and the best player in this draft. Washington has concerns about him being there 10th overall. Denver, among others, is immensely receptive to this possibility of trading down, and Mike Shanahan's ties to John Elway and Brian Xanders in Denver's front office could help facilitate a deal.
Washington is never shy about trading future picks and has moved up in the first round for quarterbacks before (including dealing with Shanahan, when he was at Denver, to move up for Jason Campbell in 2005). Owner Daniel Snyder has coveted a franchise quarterback throughout his regime. There are other teams in the top 10 very willing to trade back, but Washington's concern would be one of the quarterback-needy teams in slots three, four or five (Buffalo, Cincinnati and Arizona) would take their guy. Moving up to No. 2 is the safest bet, and if you're sold on a kid, you do what you have to do. Although Washington's lack of 2011 picks makes things somewhat tricky, there is ample potential here. A trade of this nature would not surprise me in the least, nor any number of NFL execs and agents I have spoken to.
The Broncos would love a crack at defensive lineman Nick Fairley somewhere around 10th overall. They see value in other spots. Getting a stud with the second overall choice is great, but they would leap at this chance. And do not underestimate the financial components here. Many clubs believe the Broncos are cash strapped to some degree now and they could save at least $30 million guaranteed by dropping down should these picks get signed under the old system (a very real possibility). That's a massive savings and the Broncos badly need picks, which is another reason this deal could get done for perhaps less than what the various "draft-value charts" would dictate.
Houston is another team I have heard the most buzz about possibly trading into the top five. Team sources have downplayed it, but it hasn't died down. It's not particularly likely the Texans do so, but the opportunity to get Von Miller or Patrick Peterson will be enough to keep phone lines open Thursday and I figure the Texans at least explore this route.
And several league sources said the Falcons have thoroughly exhausted all possibilities of what it would take to get into the top five or 10. It will likely end up being costly, and prohibitive, but there are several players who intrigue them in that region, beyond just the top two receivers. While moving up that high from pick 27 probably won't make sense, they will continue doing their due diligence.
Trade 2: Steelers want to complete twin peaks
There is no lack of motivation within the Steelers' organization to reunite Mike Pouncey, an interior offensive lineman, with his twin brother, Maurkice, Pittsburgh's Pro Bowl, second-year center. Coach Mike Tomlin, in particular, is adamant about exploring this option to the fullest.
Teams in need of a center/guard that are grouped together in the 15-20 range could have something to say about that. Steelers officials believe moving up to Miami, pick 15, is unrealistic, but the Dolphins could well take a quarterback there and pass on Pouncey. Pittsburgh's front office is compiling and assessing what it would take to move up into that range to get Pouncey, and will be prepared to pounce (excuse that horrible pun, but I somehow couldn't resist). New England, at 17, is also looking for trade action and is never really averse to moving down.
Tomlin has very strong ties to Tampa coach Raheem Morris and swinging a deal with the Buccaneers at 20 could be the best option ... if the Steelers are willing to risk that and wait that long. No lack of effort will be put into doing pre-draft homework and seeing what it would take to land a pick in this late-teen range. If Pittsburgh can't pull this off, then look for it to draft a defensive back like Aaron Williams or Brandon Harris if they are available (Williams would be the preference from what I hear).
Trade 3: Someone gets itch to fill QB need
There are too many teams in need of a signal-caller and too many clubs open to trading back for this not to happen. And not everyone who needs a passer is going to take one in the first round. Philadelphia and New England are prime targets for dropping back, and the Jets, at 30, will be as well. With Buffalo holding the second pick in the second round, and Cincy targeting someone like Andy Dalton one pick later, at 35, one of those clubs, or the Cardinals or 49ers, for instance, could well feel the need to leapfrog the others to get their man. Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett could all potentially still be on the board as we head toward pick 30, and certainly several of them will be at least.
I foresee a deal getting done. The Bills have taken a shine to Ponder. The Titans, if they don't take a quarterback in the first round, love Dalton. The Bengals do too. If Miami doesn't take a quarterback at 15, the pressure to acquire a second-round pick to land a Kaepernick or Locker could be extreme. With so much time between Day 1 and Day 2, the opportunities for someone else to play ball with New England at pick 33 could be far too great to risk. So much will depend on which quarterbacks are selected higher in the draft, who is remaining, etc. But I foresee it happening for one of these quarterbacks, which brings us to ...
Bold Prediction: Four QBs go in Round 1, at least three in top 15
Despite their faults and the question marks, and no matter the fact we could still be operating in a system whereby highly picked rookies earn massive contracts, the demand for quarterbacks coupled with the labor uncertainty and the lack of free agency has created a perfect storm. Quarterbacks will go high; some will say far too high.
Cam Netwon goes to Carolina and I have the Redskins taking a quarterback, whether through trading up for Gabbert, having Gabbert fall to them, or going with Locker at 10 perhaps. The Titans are giving strong consideration to the quarterback position as well, and in this here scatter-brained scenario of mine, I'm giving Tennessee Dalton. So that's three in potentially the top eight picks for me. (Be bold, or go home; that's my motto for quasi-mocks).
The Dolphins, as we mentioned, could take Pouncey. But they don't have a quarterback that inspires any degree of confidence on the roster and they don't have a second-round pick. Locker and Kaepernick excite them. Both are elite athletes. But as we're going bold here, and as I'm already projecting a rather surprising run on passers, I'm going to say the Dolphins continue that trend and take Kaepernick at 15.
If you throw in our quarterback-centric projected trade at the back end of the first round, we're up to five quarterbacks selected in the top 32 (my money would be on Locker being the other first-rounder here). And if it does in fact go down somewhat like this, then we could see seven signal-callers taken in the top 50, which would be a record pace.
Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.