|Justin Blackmon, Ryan Tannehill and Michael Floyd (from left to right) could all generate draft-day activity.|
Deal ... or no deal?
That is the question teams are pondering now that they have evaluated prospects in anticipation of the 2012 NFL Draft and have a general idea of where players may land in the first round.
But unlike most years, the biggest exchange of picks for this draft happened long before the festivities in New York.
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and head coach Mike Shanahan decided they needed to get one of this draft's top two quarterbacks -- either Stanford's Andrew Luck or Baylor's Robert Griffin III -- to lead their franchise for the foreseeable future. On the first day of the league year, the Redskins sent the Rams their 2012, 2013 and 2014 first-round picks, as well as a 2012 second-rounder, for the rights to the No. 2 overall pick in this month's draft.
There will undoubtedly be another handful of trades Thursday night of draft weekend, as an average of six draft-day pick movements have occurred in the last 10 first rounds.
Predicting the teams moving up, as well as those willing to move down in exchange for later picks in this draft or higher-round picks in a future draft, is extremely difficult. For example, few expected the Atlanta Falcons would send four picks to the Cleveland Browns to move up from 27th to sixth and select receiver Julio Jones last April.
But here are a few scenarios matching players who are likely targets due to their talent -- as well as a scarcity of bodies at key positions -- to teams looking to improve gaping holes in their roster.
The battle for Tannehill
Due to the lack of suspense surrounding the landing points of Luck and Griffin, a lot of attention has been placed on the new home of the draft's third-rated passer, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. The Miami Dolphins are the odds-on favorites to select the athletic and strong-armed, if inexperienced (19 collegiate starts at QB after playing receiver his first two-plus seasons on campus), passer because of their extreme need at the position. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Miami's new offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, was Tannehill's head coach at A&M.
However, the Dolphins cannot just assume they will have access to Tannehill with the eighth overall selection. The Browns, who hold the No. 4 pick, may have some interest in a new quarterback if they're unsure that Colt McCoy will be more than a game manager. The Kansas City Chiefs, who pick 11th, brought Tannehill in for a visit and may not have great confidence in Matt Cassel as their starter past 2012.
Assuming the Redskins go QB at No. 2, this will be the 10th consecutive draft in which a team trades up for a quarterback in the first round. And Miami might follow suit. If the 'Fins really want Tannehill to lead their offense, they could use the third-round pick received from the Chicago Bears in the Brandon Marshall trade as part of a package to beat a deal the Chiefs might present to the Vikings (who pick third), Buccaneers (fifth) or Jaguars (seventh).
Blackmon's receiving attention
Justin Blackmon, the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's top wide receiver, has been quite popular on the team visit circuit lately. He's talked to just about every team in the top 10 that isn't eyeing quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Several teams selecting early in the draft have a huge need at receiver: Minnesota (No. 3 overall pick), Cleveland (4), St. Louis (6), Miami (8), Carolina (9) and Buffalo (10). Such demand at one position often leads to a deal being completed.
The Rams could trade the second-round pick acquired from the Redskins or their assigned early third-rounder to get the jump on teams outside the coveted top six spots. The team does need elite talent throughout the roster, though, so it is possible new general manager Les Snead will allow other teams to give away their premium picks while he stands pat (or collects more picks via trade).
The Bills also have an extra fourth-rounder (after trading former first-round wide receiver Lee Evans to Baltimore) and an additional fifth-rounder (from Seattle, for former first-round running back Marshawn Lynch) they could use to add a strong receiver to take pressure off recently paid Pro Bowler Stevie Johnson.
Big moves for big bodies
Though not as hyped as movements to secure the services of high-profile quarterbacks and receivers, there is typically at least one trade in the middle of each first round by a team desperate for offensive- or defensive-line help.
Last year, for example, the Browns moved up to select nose tackle Phil Taylor. In 2010, both the 49ers (OT Anthony Davis) and Eagles (DE Brandon Graham) traded into the top half of the first round to bolster their talent on the line of scrimmage.
The Eagles are not shy about trading up in the first round (they've made four such moves in the past nine years) and possess an extra second-round selection from the deal that sent Kevin Kolb to Arizona. Philly may feel the need to leap up from the 15th selection to pick a bruising defensive tackle like Michael Brockers (LSU) or Dontari Poe (Memphis) to stop the run.
Several teams picking in the latter half of Round 1 could use help at offensive tackle, and the depth at that position will fall off after Thursday night of draft weekend. Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Jonathan Martin (Stanford) or Mike Adams (Ohio State) could be valued enough for San Diego (picking 18th), Cleveland (22nd), Detroit (23rd), Pittsburgh (25th) or Houston (26th) to pull an itchy trigger finger on a deal.
The Texans may have the biggest need after releasing starting right tackle Eric Winston due to cap concerns, and have a bit of extra trade ammunition in a fourth-round pick acquired last month when they traded linebacker DeMeco Ryans to Philadelphia.
Falling for Floyd
Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd presents one of the more interesting storylines of the draft because evaluation of his talent is as varied as opinions about his off-field concerns. It is unclear whether his status as the second-ranked receiver in this class will push him into the top 10, or whether he lands in the range where Dez Bryant (No. 24, Dallas, 2010) and Dwayne Bowe (No. 23, Kansas City, 2007) fell in previous drafts.
If Floyd gets past all the aforementioned receiver-hungry teams in the top 10, others in the late first might look to jump ahead of mid-round threats in the Cardinals (No. 13), Cowboys (15) and Jets (16) to secure his services. Cleveland has extra first- and fourth-round picks from the Julio Jones trade, as well as an extra fifth-rounder, that it could use to grab Floyd. The Texans may also consider a bold move upward if they think Floyd would be the perfect complement to All-Pro Andre Johnson outside. (Add in Kevin Walter and tight end Owen Daniels, and quarterback Matt Schaub would have a formidable receiving foursome.)
Catching on later
The Texans and 49ers might be planning to meet a receiver need later in the first round by selecting the electric Kendall Wright (Baylor), or one of the bigger-framed pass-catchers: Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech), Rueben Randle (LSU) or Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina). But these two teams could also get leapfrogged if they stand pat.
Several offense-desperate teams reside in the early second round, with St. Louis (Nos. 33 and 39), Indianapolis (34), Minnesota (35), Cleveland (37), Jacksonville (38), Carolina (40), Buffalo (41) and Miami (42) all potential suitors for the league's most popular draft trade partner, New England. The Patriots might happily give up the 27th selection, the earlier of their two first-round picks, so a team can get ahead of San Francisco at 30. Denver may listen to phone calls about the 25th pick, as well, to allow someone to push past the Texans.
The Rams' two early second-round selections give them a leg up on the competition, and if they can't get Blackmon with the sixth pick, they could take a chance to acquire a true vertical threat (even if the player needs a bit of seasoning) for Sam Bradford.
Cornering the market
Almost all of the early second-round teams interested in a receiver could also covet any cornerbacks falling late into the first. Don't be surprised if someone makes a big move to select one of the three second-tier pass defenders: Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina), Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) or Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama). Jenkins' off-field issues make him the most likely to be within reach for those teams in the late-first or possibly early-second round.
They may all take a back seat to the Motor City, however. Detroit, which holds the 23rd pick, might attempt to improve its 22nd-ranked pass defense by jumping corner-hungry teams Chicago, Tennessee and Cincinnati (currently sitting at picks 19-21). Kansas City sent a third-round pick to Cleveland last season to move up five spots (No. 26 to 21) to select receiver Jonathan Baldwin. The Lions might face a similar price, and possibly would have to throw in a "sweetener" late-round pick because they'd be getting a slightly higher pick than the Chiefs received.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @ChadReuter