When picks fly: Trading up and down
Now that the sky is setting on Johnny Manziel — or the chances of any other quarterback being selected with the first overall pick — we can begin to use some more logic.
SFBay NFL Draft coverage
This year’s NFL Draft class does not have the quarterbacks of 2011 and 2012. It’s more like 2013.
Though the quarterback class doesn’t come stacked with many top-tier, pro-ready QBs, there are a number of value picks that will be taken from the second to fourth rounds.
But who’s the only one worthy of a first round pick?
Blake Bortles. And it’s not even close.
If any player is going in the top five not named Greg Robinson, Jadaveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Eric Ebron and Mike Evans, it’s Bortles.
He’s got everything teams look for in a franchise QB. His only knock is the lack of elite competition he faced while at Central Florida. And even then, he’s certainly a gamer.
Could Bortles go in the top five, though?
Despite having the best skill set, teams picking one through five would be best served by trading down.
The Vikings have the largest need at quarterback. With their projected starter being Matt Cassel, they need a guy to groom. Besides Bortles, Carr is the only other quarterback that makes sense.
But there’s also the chance that Jacksonville or Cleveland picks Bortles, or Carr, or maybe both. Even then, neither have the same desperate need that the Colts had when they drafted Andrew Luck.
In fact, not many teams in need of a QB would want to trade up to get one. Teams that would be most likely to move are those with extra picks and fewer needs.
There are two in particular: the 49ers and Patriots.
The 49ers are trying to build a serious dynasty and have few needs. Their largest is one of largess.
They need a big man outside that can snatch 50-50 balls from above Seahawks’ corners. That’s Mike Evans in the top 10, and Kelvin Benjamin in the top 20.
San Francisco could add a value pick, Cody Latimer in the second or third, but they need someone polished, tuned and ready to go.
Mike Evans fits the bill.
The Patriots’ biggest need is not one many would instantly realize. But they like Denver, might draft a quarterback in the early rounds. Both teams have a maximum of two years with their current starters.
Back to trading up for receivers.
Sammy Watkins has the most NFL-ready abilities of anyone in the draft and could be taken within the top three picks. The Detroit Lions know that. With a nice defensive front, a great backfield, quarterback and some dude named Megatron (who names their kid that? Kidding, clearly).
Watkins and Calvin Johnson would put the Atlanta duo (Roddy White and Julio Jones) to shame.
On that, Atlanta traded up for Jones a few years ago with the same idea. Detroit needs to do this.
The Raiders make an ideal suitor, as the Browns have a new general manager and coach, who have the world on their shoulders.
Jacksonville can’t afford not to take offensive linemen Matthews or Robinson, and if Clowney is there at pick three, well, let me retire into a deep sleep filled with enough LSD to make your reality seem reasonable.
If Cleveland doesn’t take Watkins, Oakland and Detroit should deal, the Raiders adding a second-round pick while the Lions become division favorites over Green Bay and Chicago.
Though there’s the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, the determining factor of a draft pick’s real worth is what players are available. That, and how obvious the intended pick is.
There’s a perfect example for this year. If anyone asks the Houston Texans about trading the first overall pick this year, that team is targeting Clowney.
That’s a lot of pick value.
A recent example is when the St. Louis Rams traded the second-overall pick of the 2012 draft to the Washington football team. Washington selected Robert Griffin III, which was a surprise to no one, especially Rams general manager Les Snead.
Washington gave up three first-round picks, as well as a second-rounder.
That’s what people in the football community would call a %#^&*%!@#&% kind of deal.
Bay draft thoughts
After Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie confirmed what many suspected — that Oakland would not pass up a great quarterback prospect in a value slot — teams may be inclined to make the Raiders some good offers.
McKenzie also told SFBay, though, that about half the things general managers say in draft season is B.S.
Either way, the Raiders have pretty solid value in their second, third and fourth round slots, in terms of moving around.
And they’ll need to, considering their current roster and their frightening schedule.
The 49ers have 11 draft picks and very few short or long-term needs. Their biggest, despite the incessant talk of selecting a cornerback in the first round, is a large-framed receiver. And when they do add some cornerback depth, look for a large-bodied defenseman to be the guy.
With so many picks, the 49ers will likely move back a bunch during the first two days. I still like the possibilities of the 49ers and Raiders swapping picks.
The bold predection
That brings us to my BOLD PREDICTION of the 2014 NFL Draft:
The Raiders will trade with the Buffalo Bills at 9 if Khalil Mack is available, or the Detroit Lions at 10 if Sammy Watkins is available.
Either trade will net Oakland an extra second round pick, as well as a fourth rounder.
The Raiders will then make a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, currently at 16. Dallas will select Aaron Donald.
Finally, Oakland will trade with the 49ers for the 16th pick, with San Francisco giving up a second-round pick, a third-round pick, and the 30th overall draft selection. The 49ers take Kelvin Benjamin.
The Raiders end up with three extra second-rounders, an extra third and an extra fourth. They take Marqise Lee 30th overall, a steal by any stretch, and add a defensive tackle, defensive end, offensive guard and a cornerback in the second round.
Then the Raiders use the extra third-rounder on a receiver, and the extra fourth-round selection on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.