It is almost inevitable that a handful of first round trades will happen on Thursday as some teams will want to move up to grab that one key player that they believe will help get them over the hump. Other teams will see value later on in this draft or want to acquire future picks. Judging whether a team won or lost a trade always comes down to the players they picked with their newly acquired draft selections.
Below are three teams that I believe should jump up in the first round to acquire a specific player. These teams need to take the gamble, move their chips to the center of the table and go all in.
The other three teams on the list are teams that should look into dropping down a few selections or even out of the first round if they can get a sweet deal for future picks. While the goal is always to get better, the opportunity to pick up future draft selections will become beneficial in a year or two with these teams.
Moving on up:
1) Denver Broncos: It is abundantly clear that the Broncos have invested everything they have from a player development standpoint into these next two seasons. Peyton Manning won't play forever, probably a few more seasons at best. The recent signing of DeMarcus Ware, to pair up with Von Miller, gives the Broncos a dynamic pass rushing tandem that could be one of the best in the NF,L as long as both players stay healthy and avoid any off the field issues.
They have some holes and needs in their defensive secondary and along their offensive lines. While these are areas of need, the best value and player who could help transform their defense is Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh). Donald is the best interior pass rusher to enter the draft since Ndamukong Suh. A third and long situation against Denver would be a heartbreaking match-up for any offense. With Ware and Miller speed rushing from the outside and Donald and Derek Wolfe coming up the middle, most offenses will try to get rid of the ball in just under 2.5 seconds. These quick, short throws will allow their secondary players to play off the receivers and not give up the deep ball.
2) San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have six picks in the first three rounds and they have a roster stacked with Pro Bowlers and All-Pros on both sides of the ball. They are in position to win now and in the future with a stockpile of young, proven talent. With a defense that is ranked amongst the top two or three in the NFL, they have a key member who is getting up there in years in Defensive end Justin Smith. While productive, he is not a long term answer. His total snaps played has dropped from 91% of total defensive snaps three seasons ago to 73% last season.
Finding Smith's replacement will be difficult. He is a rare player who has the strength to play inside and the speed and agility to be moved outside and rush the passer. While he will eventually need to be replaced, there are currently no first round picks who offer the versatility and skill set that is similar to Justin Smith.
Aldon Smith, the elite outside linebacker, has run into a number of legal and off the field issues. While he has produced at an incredibly high level each of the last three seasons, he is still a liability who could be suspended for an extended period of time. It would be wise for the 49ers to find an insurance policy for Smith, a player who can either take his spot on the roster if he is suspended or be matched up on the opposite side to give the 49ers a more prolific pass rushing attack.
Two players the 49ers could afford to move up and select are Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA) or Ryan Shazier (OLB, Ohio State). Either player is highly skilled and showed remarkable consistency in rushing the passer while in college. Barr has a higher ceiling, he is the second rated outside linebacker on my board. While the price might be steep to move up, they have a number of picks from last year's draft who are suited to take on more responsibility this year.
3) Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals currently own the #20 overall selection in the first round. They are also the third best team in their own division and will need to acquire an impact player to help overtake one of the two top spots. The Cardinals have some holes along their defense, specifically at safety and at the inside linebacker positions. They also have an older quarterback in Carson Palmer who, if given time in the pocket, shows tremendous accuracy especially on deep downfield throws.
While it will take a great deal of draft picks, the Cardinals should look up and investigate if the Raiders or Rams would like to make a trade. If the Cardinals can move into the top five, they should target Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson). The Cardinals already possess one of the better wide receiver tandems in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd and with the addition of Watkins, the Cardinals might just become the next greatest show on (field) turf. During the last draft, they selected Andre Ellington who has showed a great deal of promise and ended up being one the steals of the entire draft last year. The addition of Watkins to that offense will surely pay immediate dividends. They will be able to spread the field, pick opposing defenses apart and target the playmaker that has the mismatch.
Coach Bruce Arians' offense is built around deep, down field throws and Watkins is perfectly suited for this offense. It won't be easy and they will have to sacrifice a number of future picks, but the opportunity to become an elite offense in the NFL is well worth it.
Moving on down:
1) Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons took a huge risk a few seasons ago and moved up in the draft to acquire Julio Jones. While Jones' performance so far has been spectacular, the picks given up to acquire him have proven to be a fatal flaw for the development of this franchise. Injuries happened last season, but injuries happen to every team and the picks given up to acquire Jones would have given the Falcons the depth they needed to overcome the injuries.
The Falcons have holes on their offensive line, defensive line, defensive secondary, tight end, wide receiver, linebacker and safety positions. Moving up in the first round to select Jadevon Clowney or Sammy Watkins will not cure the fact they have more holes on their roster than they have draft picks.
The Falcons should look to slide down a few spots in the first round and pick up an extra second, and possibly third round, pick. This draft is deep at the pass rusher and offensive tackle position. In the first round, the Falcons can still target an elite pass rusher such as Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State). With an extra second round selection, Zach Martin (OT, Notre Dame) or Joel Bitonio (OT/G, Nevada) would be quality picks if either is still available. Both players offer flexibility and versatility and they can play multiple positions along the offensive line.
2) Chicago Bears: The Bears have a high powered offense that is led by quarterback Jay Cutler and a wide receiver pair of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery who had over 2,700 receiving yards combined last season. On defense, the Bears need a number of upgrades in the defensive line and secondary. They had the worst rush defense in the league last season giving up 5.3 YPC.
The popular sentiment is for the Bears to target a saftey with their first round selection. Jimmie Ward would be a valuable target; he was a ball-hawking playmaker for Northern Illinois and is the top safety on my board.
With a deep class along the defensive line and with the popular opinion being that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the top saftey, the Bears might be able to entice the Cowboys or Ravens to trade up and select Clinton-Dix and at the same time, move only a few spots down to select Ward and pick up a second or third rounder.
The Bears also need some additional help along the offensive line and they could add Gabe Jackson (OG, Mississippi) or Cyril Richardson (OG, Baylor) in the second or third round. Both players would add tremendous value to the Bears and help solidify a young offensive line for the next few seasons.
3) St. Louis Rams: The Rams need to keep the second overall selection, unless someone is giving up an entire draft like the Saints did to move up to draft Ricky Williams. Unless something like this happens, the Rams should hold steady and select Jake Matthews. Matthews is the top rated tackle and can play the right tackle position for a season or two and then slide over to the left side when Jake Long is no longer with the team. In the meantime, the Rams will have two strong bookend tackles, something they have needed for over five years.
The Rams also hold the #13 overall selection. This pick is extremely valuable and they have shown that they are not afraid to wheel and deal. If the Rams can pick up a couple of mid-round selections and/or a future first rounder, they should seriously consider making a move.
It is no secret that the Rams are giving Sam Bradford one last season to prove that he is a top tier starting quartbacks in the NFL. He has been injured during the past few seasons and combined with less than stellar performances, it is a make or break season for he and the Rams. If the Rams can pick up another first rounder next season, they might be in a position to take a quarterback. Having an extra pick could hold tremendous value in either moving up to take a quarterback or being in the right spot to select one next year.
Playing it safe and taking Matthews with the second overall selection will give the Rams an upgrade along the offensive line that could help in Sam Bradford's growth or help with the development of a young quarterback in future seasons.
|Bessire: 2014 Ranking Classes|
|2014 NFL Draft: 7 Round Mock|
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