The draft boards are set, and in many cases under lock and key, in the days leading up to the draft.
The risk of information getting out is such a concern to most general managers that they don't share the final board with anyone but the owner and the head coach.
It wasn't uncommon when I was in pro personnel that the GM, before the start of the first day, would come into the draft room and suggest everyone go to the bathroom one more time because the war room would be locked down for the rest of the day. No wandering down the hall for the assistant coaches and scouts, who just might pick up their office phone or cell phone and get asked what the team was going to do with the next pick. I have been in draft rooms where scouts were dismissed the morning of the draft because they were viewed as information gatherers and not part of the decision-making process.
Of course, this is the time, in the week leading up to the NFL's annual selection process, that pre-draft and draft-day trades leak out. In most cases, the agents get involved and the teams struggle to keep things a secret, especially if the player wants out of a situation. The agents are trying to drum up business and the more action they can bring to the table, the more they stand to make.
Some memories always seem to come back to me this time of year.
In 1993, when I was with the Jets, we had the third pick in the first round and the Cardinals had the fourth choice. We really liked linebacker Marvin Jones, but the Cardinals started to believe we were going to take running back Garrison Hearst because Blair Thomas, whom we had drafted second overall in 1990, had not lived up to his draft selection.
The more the media called, the more we fueled the fire that we liked Hearst, whom we had no intention of taking. The morning of the draft, the Cardinals switched spots with us in a trade and they took Hearst. We took Jones, and they threw in a running back, Johnny Johnson, for the swap.
We were also burned on draft day, especially in 1991. We didn't have a first-round pick and we needed to draft a young quarterback. The only quarterbacks taken in the first round that year were Dan McGwire and Todd Marinovich, which was just fine with us.
As the second round started, we moved up to 34th overall and felt like we were in perfect position to take the quarterback we wanted. As it turned out, and much to our dismay, the information we received about the Falcons not interested in taking a quarterback with the 33rd pick was wrong. They selected the guy we wanted: Brett Favre. We settled for Browning Nagle, and the rest is history.
In 1996, we had the first overall pick, and I held pre-draft negotiations with USC wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy. We wanted to trade out but, without a marquee quarterback in the mix, there were no takers. We were lukewarm on Hardy, and Johnson wouldn't sign a pre-draft deal. If we had been committed to Simeon Rice or Jonathan Ogden, we might have gotten a deal done with the guy who thought, under normal circumstances, he would go fourth in that group, but we didn't go that deep. We ended up taking Johnson and got him signed after a holdout that lasted a few weeks.
After taking Johnson No. 1 overall in 1996, we also had the top pick in the second round. We had a young, talented running back on our roster, Adrian Murrell, who was due to have his contract expire a year after the draft. We brought him in the morning of the draft with his agent and suggested that a long-term deal at that point would prevent us from taking a running back in the second round.
There was a back out of Texas A&M, Leeland McElroy, just sitting there ready to be taken, but Murrell accepted a deal, with a nice bonus, and we passed on a running back. Time and a sense of urgency are the best ingredients to a quick negotiation.
This week, Jared Allen hopes the Vikings and Chiefs can work out a trade before the draft, which would mean a new contract for the Pro Bowl defensive end. Tampa Bay, and maybe another team or two, are going to enter the mix for Allen if something doesn't get hammered out quickly.
The Chiefs know they will not get two first-round picks for Allen, but it looks like they have estimated his value at close to 1,500 points on a trade chart. That 1,500 points is comparable to the eighth pick in the first round, or a combination of picks that add up to 1,500 points. If a team offers a package close to what the Chiefs envision, a deal could get done before the draft starts on Saturday.
The Vikings' pick at No. 17 equates to 1,070 points, so how do they generate the rest of the compensation? Their second-round pick is worth 430 points, which brings the total to 1,500 points. Another way to do this deal would be to eliminate the second-round pick and package the two third-round picks Minnesota has (No. 73 and No. 82), which add up to 405 points and bring the total to 1,475. Throw in a backup player, or a sixth-round pick, and it's done.
Of course, teams like to use future picks to close deals, which is always difficult to calculate. Is the team going to do well the next season and make the pick less valuable? Will the team play poorly and make the draft slot much higher than expected?
My advice has always been to figure on the middle of the round, nothing more and nothing less. If the numbers don't add up then drop the future-picks concept.
For a team such as the Buccaneers to come up with the compensation the Chiefs might be looking for, they should take a different strategy. Their first-round pick (20th overall) and second-round pick (53rd) are both worth less than the Vikings' first- and second-round picks. The Buccaneers' top two selections add up to 1,350 points, so they need another 150 points of compensation. One way they could close the deal would be to add a fourth-round pick in 2009 and a young veteran player. The middle of the fourth round is worth 70 points, so the player has to be valued at 80 points, or also a fourth-round pick.
Keep in mind, Allen and the club acquiring him have to agree on a new long-term contract. If he only likes the deal being offered by one of the clubs recruiting him, then he can close a Chiefs trading partner out by not agreeing to a new deal.