At this point in the offseason, mock drafts are a ‘dime a dozen,” most of them changing week-to-week based off of small rumblings or, sometimes, out of sheer boredom. While mocks do tend to reflect a teams “likely” selection with that pick, they all have one fatal flaw; the inability to account for trades. Unless there is some definitive announcement about a trade, like the one between St. Louis and Washington in the 2012 draft, most mockers shy away from working trade scenarios into their selections. That makes sense, given that simply “guessing” who a team will pick is hard enough without attempting to prophesize which GM will shoot up the board to snag that one player that dropped from their projected spot. Naturally, with two picks in the 1st round, the St. Louis Rams are prime suspects to make a trade. Based off of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead’s first draft as heads of the organization, any trade scenario in St. Louis would likely mean moving down the draft order, snagging more pick in later rounds or, even, picks in the 2014 NFL Draft. So, who are the likely candidates for a trade…
1. Green Bay Packers (26th Overall)
Starting with the Packers at the 26th pick, the majority of teams left choosing in the 1st round are the ones who are a player or two away from playoff dominance. The Green Bay Packers, who lost in disappointing fashion to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last season, are definitely one of those teams. Erase the failed game plan aimed at forcing Colin Kaepernick to win with his legs instead of his arm, and Green Bay had a significantly improved defense last season, even with the wave of injuries that plagued most of “star” starting cast. Casey Hayward likely should have received the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, and with Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, and B.J. Raji returning at “full strength” the defense should be fine, with some added depth.
However, the one position that has eluded the Packers for years has been running back. If Green Bay buys into the smokescreen of Eddie Lacy going in the 20-25 range, they could trade up to get the top projected running back in the draft. The Packers also might get antsy about snagging an offensive tackle to protect Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, after leading the league in allowed sacks last season. Someone like D.J. Fluker, who very well could be available in the 22nd spot, could be tempting enough to make the move up…
2. Minnesota Vikings (23rd or 25th Overall)
After trading Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, Christian Ponder and the Vikings’ offense are nearly bare in the weapons department, outside of Adrian Peterson. If Tavon Austin were to fall to the 16th slot, Minnesota might be forced to make a deal to move up and grab the Harvin-esque player; albeit, one with a significantly smaller ego and no history of migraines. This is a fairly deep draft in terms of wide receivers, especially in terms of players graded in the late-1st/early-2nd round range. However, while Cordarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen might be the best No. 1 wide out options, they might not fit into the offensive scheme in Minnesota, especially if their are any concerns about injury or about latency in development. It would be hard to imagine the Vikings giving up both 1st rounders to move up, but it would not be unprecedented to see them use the 23rd pick and their 2nd or 3rd rounder to go and get Tavon Austin, if available.
3. Baltimore Ravens (32nd Overall)
Looking back at the Ravens’ Super Bowl roster, the current team is a mere shell of what it was just over two months ago. They will undoubtedly replace some of those holes through the draft and free agency, but no team can replace top-tier defensive players like Dannell Ellerbe, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Paul Kruger overnight. The biggest hit of the offseason was clearly to the linebacking core, which has been the trademark position on the team since they drafted Ray Lewis after moving to Baltimore from Cleveland. The Ravens will have to find a replacement for some of that talent; enter the St. Louis Rams.
Every year, “red flags” force one or two Top-10 prospects to tumble down the 1st round before landing in the lap of a team in desire need of help at that position that is willing to take a chance. Last year, Janoris Jenkins was the prime example, dropping out of the 1st round completely until Jeff and Co. took a flyer on the young star. This year, there are a handful of players in that position, but none more so than Jarvis Jones (DE/OLB hybrid) and Alec Ogletree (ILB/OLB). Both are arguably the top prospect at their respective positions. However, Ogletree has seen his name fall out of the Top-10 and into the 20-32 range of the 1st round after he pre-cursored his NFL Combine debut with a DUI. Jones is much less likely to drop, but is in a similar situation to that of Robert Quinn (dropping out of the Top 5, down to the 14th spot in the 2011 NFL Draft) as a result of a medical “red flag.” After those players, assuming the other top prospects are selected when they are projected to go, the drop off in talent is fairly substantial. Players like Arthur Brown and Kevin Minter might be a reach, even at the bottom of the 1st round. If either Jones or Ogletree are available in the 22nd spot, it might send the Ravens scrambling up the board. However, moving up 10 or more spots in the draft would likely fetch a fairly sizable return, maybe as high as a 2nd rounder or a combination of multiple picks in the mid- to late-rounds of the draft.