If there's a theme for the 2013 NFL Draft, it's that teams are looking to buy in bulk. And the reason is simple: The market looks more like a Sam's Club than a Nordstrom.
Where this draft has volume, it lacks luxury. Where it has "good," it's short on "great."
That explains why the vast majority of teams picking in the top 10 are looking to bail. It's also why the selection process that starts Thursday night figures to be as unpredictable as you can imagine.
How do we know for sure? Because the clubs themselves are so divergent in their thinking as to how it'll all play out.
One general manager said on Monday, "Right now, you're talking and it's a little harder bargain. But I think on draft day, it'll get cheaper than normal to move up, because teams want to move back. So you'll have movement."
Another GM, later in the day, disagreed: "If you're a team with a lot of different holes and needs, you're fine without having to trade up. There may be less than usual. Most years, starting with the end of the first round, maybe 25-40, those guys are all very similar. That group (of similarly rated players) is larger this year."
So with that in mind, and after spending the last two days talking to GMs, executives, college scouting directors and area scouts, let's kick off a draft-rumor bonanza, highlighting trends, players and teams to watch the next few days ... right ... now ...
Five teams that could be on the move
1) Oakland Raiders (No. 3 pick): Without a second-round pick -- thanks to the Carson Palmer deal -- the Raiders are taking their best shot at dealing down, like many others in the top 10. Unlike some, though, they offer suitors a clear shot at one of the top three offensive tackles. And don't get this part mixed up: The tackles will dictate the highest level of the trade market.
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2) Cleveland Browns (No. 6): It's no secret that the Browns are looking to make up for the second-rounder they lost when they nabbed Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft. If Lane Johnson somehow makes it to No. 6, there's a chance someone tries to jump Arizona to get him. If the tackles are gone, someone could come calling to get a pass rusher like Barkevious Mingo.
3) New Orleans Saints (No. 15): For the horde of high-drafting teams looking to deal down, New Orleans could be lurking as a potential partner. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan still needs edge rushers for his 3-4, and this isn't a draft rich in those types. The problem is, the Saints, thanks in part to the bounty scandal, have just five picks. But in the past, they've been willing to deal selections from future drafts.
4) St. Louis Rams (Nos. 16 and 22): It's not out of the question that the Rams could move up for a player like Tavon Austin. It's also well within reason that they could deal way down. Some clubs view St. Louis' spot at 22 as a potential landing place for those wanting to move up out of the second round and grab a quarterback.
5) Minnesota Vikings (Nos. 23 and 25): Ditto. The Vikings, with two picks in the 20s, could be in prime position to accommodate a quarterback-needy team looking to move up. Buffalo is considered the "cliff" for the quarterbacks; that is to say, if they all get past the Bills at No. 8, they could fall into this range.
Five players to trade up for
1) Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel and/or 2) Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher: They can't both go first. If Fisher's the pick, Jacksonville is likely to consider Joeckel at No. 2. If the Jags go with a defensive player there, then Oakland will be in prime position to move its pick. And that's because some teams view the drop-off from these two to Lane Johnson as being a considerable one.
3) Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson: Teams that view this as a three-tackle draft rather than a two-tackle draft would then be motivated to move up and try to get Johnson. He'd be an exceptional fit for Chip Kelly's supersonic pace on offense; that might mean a tough call for Philly when it comes to deciding whether to sell its pick or bet on a player who isn't a finished product yet.
4) LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo: As with the tackles, the drop-off after the top pass rushers will drive the trade market at that position. Once Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah are gone, clubs that run a 3-4 defense could pull the trigger on a deal to move up and get this freakish LSU product -- especially those that have concerns about Jarvis Jones' athleticism.
5) Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert: A very clean prospect who will likely benefit from the following circumstances: a) the value of tight ends has never been higher; and b) there aren't a lot of them in this year's draft. There seems to be far more of a league-wide positive consensus when it comes to Eifert than there is regarding Stanford's Zach Ertz; a team could thus get antsy and make a move for the Irish All-American.
Five things to watch
1) Where do the quarterbacks go?: One AFC exec made it simple: "There's no quarterback worth a top-10 or even a top-15 pick, so if you take one there, you're only drafting them there for need." An AFC college director was stronger: "I don't like any of them in the first round." Few seem to have the order nailed down. Fewer know when they'll go. And as you'll see in my mock below, my sense is that Geno Smith is no lock to be the first one taken. Still, there could be a run on them at the start of the second round.
2) There's always next year: The star power in 2014 -- with potential names like Jadeveon Clowney, Taylor Lewan, Cyrus Kouandjio, Jake Matthews, Marqise Lee and Sammy Watkins -- is expected to far exceed that of this year's class. How will that impact things? Teams like the San Francisco 49ers -- loaded with draft picks but not roster spots -- could deal into next spring.
3) The real risers: Truth is, "draft stock" can be a media creation that is generated as all of us learn more about what teams really think. With that in mind, here are two names that could go higher than some perceive: Tavon Austin (because there's a scarcity of playmakers in this class) and Sheldon Richardson (because there's a feeling he's still improving, and that type of 3-technique isn't easy to find).
4) Depth matters: Because of the level field, players at positions that are deeper could take a hit because clubs will look at the first two rounds as a package. Another AFC college scouting director said, "It's a deep safety draft, it's a deep linebacker draft, so people are gonna be saying, 'We'll be able to get one
later.' " This draft class also has depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
5) The Alabama effect: There's no question that Nick Saban has built a juggernaut in Tuscaloosa, and the annual handful of first-round picks is evidence of the respect the pros have for that. There's also a growing perception in the NFL that 'Bama's best are so well-coached that they're closer to maxing out than those from other programs. As one scout put it, "When those guys leave Alabama, they're as good as they'll ever be, so you better like them on film." It's a weird dynamic, to be sure, but one to keep an eye on.
My top 10
7) Oakland Raiders (trade with Cardinals): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. Floyd could go as high as second to Jacksonville, and the Raiders would be fine taking him third. Getting him here, after a trade down, would be a masterstroke in terms of maximizing GM Reggie McKenzie's initial first-round pick.
8) Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. Buzz is growing that the Bills will take a quarterback at this spot, because they don't like the idea of having to trade next year's No. 1 to get into the bottom of this year's first round. I'll stick with Nassib, but I have heard they might like Matt Barkley more.