Last year, five trades were consummated during the first round of the NFL Draft, down from eight the previous year, but up from four in 2011. While the exact number of trades during Thursday night’s selection process can’t be known yet, there figures to be plenty of moves made throughout the night.
As the draft 8 p.m. start time nears from Radio City Music Hall in New York, teams have been known to panic that their top-rated player could go higher than expected, or opt-out of their higher pick for more selections in the later rounds to address several positions rather than one.
Teams hoping to move up reportedly include the San Francisco 49ers, the defending AFC-champion Denver Broncos, the Detroit Lions, the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He also indicated the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 1 overall pick, are interested in moving their second round pick for another selection in the first round, and that the Browns would like to use their No. 26 overall selection to move up as well.
The 49ers, which hold the No. 30 overall pick, are one of the more complete teams in the NFL, but could possibly use some more depth at wide receiver or tight end. Defensive lineman Aldon Smith’s recurring off-the-field issues could also force San Francisco to move up for any one of the highly rated pass rushers or d-lineman available in this draft, like UCLA’s Anthony Barr or Buffalo’s Khalil Mack.
San Francisco stands as the team with the most to offer via trades this year, with 12 total picks in the seven-round draft, counting two in the third round and four in the seventh. Both Cleveland and Jacksonville are second with 10 picks each.
Denver’s offensive line was blasted during their Super Bowl blow-out loss, and there are several highly coveted offensive linemen in this year’s draft class that could be gone before they pick at No. 31. Keeping quarterback Peyton Manning healthy and upright in the pocket will always be a concern for the Broncos.
The Lions need help specifically in their secondary, and for weeks have been tied to defensive backs like Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. Detroit presently holds the No. 10 pick, and has three picks in the fourth round which could be up for grabs.
NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport said the Lions were also at one point talking to top-ranked receiver Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins “nearly every day.”
Picking at No. 18, the Jets are in serious need of a receiver to pair with second-year quarterback Geno Smith, but may also address a pass defense that was No. 22 in the NFL last season. Though that would mean back-to-back years New York picks a defensive back in the first round, after Dee Milliner at No. 9 last year.
Cleveland is one of two teams that possess two first-round draft picks this year (St. Louis being the other). The Browns have reportedly ruled out Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel at the No. 4 pick, and could wait to pick a new passer at No. 26. The Browns already have one of the best young defenses in the NFL, and could instead bundle a package to ensure they pick Watkins and pair him with Josh Gordon.
The Texans have been very coy throughout the draft season as to how they will spend their No. 1 pick, and reports have indicated they either know who they will pick already or that they trade down to improve a squad that followed up a division title in 2012 with a 2-14 campaign last year.
Several times throughout the drawn out draft process the Texans were linked to South Carolina pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, Manziel, Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles and Mack. Pairing Mack or Clowney with 2012 Defensive Player of the Year and defensive end J.J. Watt might be too tempting for new Houston head coach Bill O’Brien, but the Texans are in need of a new franchise quarterback after shipping Matt Schaub to Oakland in a trade earlier this year.
Schefter also indicated the Oakland Raiders (No. 5 overall), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No.7), Tennessee Titans (No. 11), Baltimore Ravens (No. 17), Miami Dolphins (No. 19) and the New England Patriots (No. 29) as teams interested in moving down.
The Buffalo Bills are an example of how teams, or general managers, fall in love with draft picks.
The Bills are reportedly enamored with LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr., according to local radio station WGR 550. The same report indicates Buffalo could then try to parlay top veteran receiver Stevie Johnson into more draft picks.