INDIANAPOLIS -- On Friday morning, the NFL will conduct a series of coin tosses to determine the final order of the draft based on the identical records and strength of schedule of four teams. The Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins will be calling heads or tails to earn the No. 8 pick (the loser gets No. 9) while the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks will flip for the 11th and 12th slots.
Although the tosses will not garner much attention at the NFL Scouting Combine, I believe the outcome of the coin tosses could have a significant impact on the landscape of the draft. Here are three reasons why:
1. The trade market at the top of the draft will change based on the outcome of the coin flips.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has dramatically reduced the financial commitment to top picks, leading to an expected flurry of trade activity in this year's draft. Several teams have expressed interest in moving out of their respective spots for the right deal, and the desperation to find a franchise quarterback has decision makers entertaining all options to get into position to nab one.
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With two coin flips involving four teams within the first 12 picks, there are suddenly several pressure points at the top of the draft to get a quarterback. For instance, Robert Griffin III is rated as the second-best quarterback on most draft boards across the league, and he is expected to come off the board at the No. 2 spot currently held by the St. Louis Rams. However, the Rams selected their franchise quarterback, Sam Bradford, a few years ago and it is unlikely the team would add another playmaker at the position. That certainly puts the pick on the auction block for quarterback-needy teams like the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, but the Rams would likely want to remain in contention for a playmaker like Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or a franchise-caliber offensive tackle like Riley Reiff with their new pick. If the Dolphins lose the coin toss and obtain the ninth pick, it is very possible the Rams will rebuff their trade efforts due to the possibility of losing out on the chance to get Blackmon or Reiff in the draft.
The outcome of the coin flip will also alter leap-frog possibilities for teams near the top of the draft. Decision makers will gauge the possible landing spots for coveted prospects and attempt to get in front of other teams linked to those players. For example, the Redskins could have an interest in Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill at No. 6, so the Dolphins could look to deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 5) to get their desired player before he comes off the board.
2. The value of players at the premium positions will skyrocket due to the outcome of the coin flips.
The evolution of the passing game in the NFL has placed a premium on four positions -- quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback. The final results of the draft order could drive up their values across the league. Teams aggressively target players at those positions early in the draft, creating a run in the middle of the round that results in several underrated players coming off the board higher than their grades would warrant.
In looking at last year's draft, the surprising selection of Jake Locker by the Tennessee Titans led to Christian Ponder coming off the board higher than the borderline first-round grade he carried on most draft boards. While Vikings' officials likely would deny this assertion, the fact that three quarterbacks came off the board within the first 10 selections forced their hand when it came to nabbing a potential franchise quarterback, making it necessary to take Ponder at No. 12 or risk missing out on grabbing a top quarterback in the draft.
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This year, the run on defensive ends (pass rushers) could occur when the Dolphins or Panthers select at No. 8. Both need to upgrade their personnel on the edges, and the lack of depth at the position could prompt teams to pinpoint their designated rushers immediately following their selections. This could result in four or five pass rushers coming off the board within the first 20 selections despite uncertainty surrounding the long-term potential and effectiveness of several of the top prospects at the position.
With supply and demand weighing heavily in the minds of evaluators, the outcome of the coin flip involving four teams could set off an avalanche of activity in the draft's opening round.
3. Value conscious teams will reap the benefits of top-10 caliber players sliding down the charts.
The flurry of activity will certainly alter the landscape of the draft with several top prospects poised to unexpectedly slide down the charts on draft day. This could put the Chiefs and Seahawks in a quandary when deciding whether to address a need, take the best player available or trade the pick at their selection.
While both teams have several holes on their respective roster, the No. 11 pick has produced J.J Watt, Patrick Willis, Jay Cutler, Demarcus Ware and Ben Roethlisberger in recent years. Each was viewed as an elite talent prior to draft day, but unexpected moves at the top of the board led to their exclusion and their respective squads were able to land a Pro Bowl-caliber playmaker on the outskirts of the top 10.
In studying this year's class, Alabama's Trent Richardson is the elite player who could unexpectedly slip outside of the top 10. The Browns are the only team at the top of the board with a glaring need at running back, but their quarterback concerns rank as a priority. Thus, Richardson could be a mercurial talent without a viable landing spot in the draft's early stages. With the Seahawks, Chiefs and others in desperate need of more playmakers on offense, Richardson's unexpected fall could lead to a surprising windfall on draft day.