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April 14, 2012 11:39PM

April 13
by Colin Lindsay and Jared Donnelly

Let’s make a deal …. With the draft now less than two weeks away, the NFL remains remarkable quiet with very little in the way of the usual smoke and mirrors clouding the issue. Minnesota, though, is still reportedly shopping the 3rd pick overall. Translated the Vikings have let it be known that anyone that any team that wants to jump ahead of Cleveland to ensure getting Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, just has to pick up the phone. Same for any team that wants to jump ahead of the Browns to ensure a shot at either Alabama RB Trent Richardson, Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon or LSU CB Mo Claiborne or really wants Southern Cal OT Matt Kalil. Right now, though, it does not appear if any team is seriously considering moving up that high. Its unlikely, for example, that Miami, which hasn’t overpaid for a QB all spring isn‘t likely to move up from the 8th spot in order to ensure getting Tannehill, especially given that all signs point to the Browns taken a player other than the QB with the 4th pick (see below). At the same time, its unlikely that any team picking higher than the 10th slot is going to be willing to pay the price necessary to pry the 3rd pick away from Minnesota for a QB who isn’t a sure thing.

Tannehill, though, could still be the key to a trade in the top 10 this year. Its just far more likely that teams like Kansas City, and maybe even Philadelphia which might be thinking seriously of moving to get Tannehill would consider trying to work a trade with a team like Jacksonville with the 7th pick to jump ahead of Miami. In fact, it would probably only cost the Chiefs, for example, their 3rd rounder this year to move from 11th to 7th, whereas to move all the way up to #3 would probably cost them at least their #1 pick in 2013 or second round picks both this year and next.

In fact, it is very possible there won’t be many further trades in the top 10 this year, although as many as half the teams with top 10 selections reportedly are looking to move down. Of course, there has already been that major deal in which St. Louis and Washington swapped the 2nd and 6th round picks with the Rams also acquiring a couple of future #1 selections as well as #2 this year, but the biggest stumbling block to further top 10 trades this year, unlike recent years when cap ramifications made early trades financially very difficult, may be the simple fact that the players at the top of this year’s board, other than QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, really just aren’t worth the cost. There are very good players available this year, just few potentially great ones.

On the other hand, if there is a run of trades in this year’s opening round, it is very possible that it could start pretty much right after the Dolphins pick at #8. Buffalo, in particular, which has the 10th pick, looks like a team that would happily move down. The Bills are reportedly looking for a LT, but likely won’t find any worth the 10th pick, but guys like Riley Reiff of Iowa and/or Jonathan Martin of Stanford would represent better value 5-10 spots lower in the draft. In fact, a pretty good case that just about every team picking 10th through 20th could move either up or down depending on the players available on the board at those respective selections.

Then, of course, there is New England sitting at the bottom of the opening round with the 27th and 31st picks. In fact, it seems like forever that the Patriots have entered the draft with multiple first round picks, but have ultimately traded away one for a future #1. And while the Patriots have a slew of needs on the defensive side of the ball which they could start to address with those two picks this year, it will be a bigger shock if New England doesn’t move out of at least one of picks. On the one hand its what they do. At the same time, Bill Belichek may be looking to replenish the Patriots stock of lower round selections as New England currently does not have any picks at all after this year’s 4th round.

The Browns beat … With QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin pretty much locks to go first and second overall to Indianapolis and Washington respectively at this month’s draft, and Southern Cal OT Mat Kalil still considered to be close to a lock to go 3rd overall to Minnesota - barring an unlikely trade - it still appears that the real intrigue at the 2012 draft will start with Cleveland on the clock with the 4th pick. And while the Browns are still kicking the tires on a number of prospects including Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill Richardson who will be in Cleveland for a visit on Sunday, there seems to be a growing sense around the league that the Browns will select Alabama RB Trent Richardson with the #4 pick. The Browns have reportedly been torn between Richardson, arguably the best player still on the board, and Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon who represents the better positional value… Elsewhere around the league, it is perhaps interesting to note that Buffalo reportedly has not included Iowa OT Riley Reiff in the team’s allotment of 30 visits from non-local prospects. Riley has been a near unanimous choice for the Bills at the 10th pick in mock drafts around the country. Same story in Dallas where the Cowboys have not invited either Stanford OF David DeCastro or Memphis DT Donatri Poe to their site for a pre-draft visit. Again, both have been popular choices in mock drafts for the 14th pick. Poe is perhaps the most surprising omission as there had been reports that the Cowboys had him targeted. Of course, there is no rule that teams have to include bring their primary draft targets in for pre-draft visits, however, the Cowboys have had each of their first-round picks over the last half dozen years or so in for visits. In the latter case, there is buzz around the league that a number of teams are re-thinking their grade on Poe as they try and figure out why a guy who is so big and athletic wasn’t very productive playing at a C-USA school.

Movin’ on up … Normally at this time of the draft year the pool of potential first round picks tends to shrink. Prospects have been picked over for weeks and flaws tend to get magnified. This year’s draft class, though, could to be something of an exception as the number of players who could be selected in the opening round appears to be growing as the draft approaches. Here’s a quick list of players who have started to show up as possible late-first round candidates on draft boards around the league:

With Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Ryan Tannehill expected to be off the board very early on, there could be a number of teams, including Cleveland, Miami, Buffalo, Seattle, Kansas City, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia and Denver, looking for an upgrade at the position who missed on the top 3 guys thinking about trading up into the latter part of this year‘s opening round to address the position. And that has made the rangy Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler, who certainly has the arm to make all the throws at the next level, an intriguing prospect. Meanwhile, it also wouldn’t be a shock, given the importance of the position, if Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State also becomes a trade up target for a QB desperate team.

RB isn’t quite as vital a position as QB, but both David Wilson of Virginia Tech and Boise State’s Doug Martin appear to be getting some late first buzz. There aren’t as many teams looking for help at the position, but Detroit, Pittsburgh and the Giants could be interested.

This one isn’t quite as new, but South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffrey appears to have at least worked himself back into the late first round mix at the position, which also includes Reuben Randle of LSU and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, with a strong pro day workout at which he showed up at 213 pounds compared with the 230-plus he struggled to carry last fall.

There is also a bit of a buzz that has Ole Miss OT Bobbie Massie and Midwestern State OG Amini Silatou also getting some late first consideration by some teams. Massie is a big guy with long arms and light feet who could get some play at LT, while Silatou is an even bigger guy who absolutely dominated against Div II competition the past couple of years. The buzz about Silatou, though, may not be quite unanimous. No question he has great size and strength and should be able to pound the point of attack at the next level, but there really is very little tape of him competing against top-flight college opposition; plus he’s just not a very good athlete with limited quickness and lateral agility.

There’s also a little buzz coming from the other side of the ball. DE Chandler Jones of Syracuse, for example, is a long edge rusher with a burst and a good motor, while Marshall’s Vinny Curry can be inconsistent, but also has some real quickness and agility coming off the edge. Both are getting some late first consideration at a critical position that isn’t very deep this year. Same story for former Boise State DE Shea McClellin, a productive collegiate edge rusher who reportedly is getting some long looks from 3-4 teams looking for an edge rushing OLB with a late first round pick. Meanwhile, Lavonte David of Nebraska is more a traditional 4-3 OLB who can really run and is also getting some late first whispers. Lastly, with Alabama safety Mark Barron apparently solidly entrenched as a top 15-20 prospect for this month’s draft, Notre Dame SS Harrison Smith has emerged as easily the next best player at the position this year and while he lacks Barron’s overall quickness is another player who could get pushed into the late first round area by a team drafting for need. Of course, its possible that none of the these players will ultimately be selected in this year’s opening round. If any do, though, it will have the effect of pushing other players deeper into the round or even into the second. It also means that this year’s second round could stronger than had originally been thought meaning teams may not have to force picks either in the first or second rounds this April.

You couldn't possibly know the whole story with only half facts.


  2012 DRAFT BUZZ:

ScRAM189April 14, 2012 11:39PM