Posted: Friday April 23, 2004 5:15PM; Updated: Wednesday April 28, 2004 4:41PM
Detroit is interested in trading down to draft Oregon State RB Steven Jackson.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
CLEVELAND -- With the prospects for movement at the top of the first round looking a whole lot less likely than it did a day or two ago, the hot spot in Saturday's NFL Draft is suddenly the No. 6 pick, which is currently being shopped by Detroit.
Friday night, league sources said No. 9 Jacksonville had emerged as the odds-on favorite to trade up into the Lions' spot, but no fewer than five teams -- all between the No. 8 and No. 13 slots -- have contacted Detroit about a potential move.
Disappointed by USC receiver Mike Williams' removal from the draft, and worried by the rumored shoulder injury of USC defensive end Kenechi Udeze, the Jaguars earlier this week explored the possibility of trading with No. 2 Oakland to get one of the draft's premier offensive players. But they don't have the ammo to swing a deal with the Raiders, and instead set their sights on Detroit as a trade partner.
Jacksonville at No. 6 could still land Texas receiver Roy Williams or Miami tight end Kellen Winslow, or barring that, another of the draft's elite players, such as Miami safety Sean Taylor. At No. 9, the Jags feel as if they're just out of the money in terms of this draft's best bets.
The Lions are very open to the idea of a trade down, because they believe they could move as low as No. 13 and still be in position to fill their glaring need at running back by selecting Oregon State's Steven Jackson.
One league source put the Jags' chances of striking a deal for the No. 6 spot at 90 percent, and it is believed that Jacksonville has offered Detroit veteran safety Donovin Darius and a mid-round pick to swap first-round positions. The Lions are considering taking Taylor with their No. 6 pick, so Darius would address that need and allow Detroit to land the lead running back it covets in Jackson, at No. 9.
The phones were ringing in Detroit on Friday, and here's who was calling besides the Jaguars:
No. 8 Atlanta -- The Falcons covet either Williams or Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who many have going in the draft's sixth and seventh spots, just ahead of the Falcons.
No. 10 Houston -- The Texans at No. 6 would likely go for either Taylor or Hall, an indicator that they're not that excited about the potential choice between Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and Oklahoma defensive end Tommie Harris at No. 10.
No. 11 Pittsburgh -- The Steelers would be moving up to get a quarterback, and while they are believed to have North Carolina State's Philip Rivers rated higher than Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger, they would likely be happy with either. If Eli Manning and Roethlisberger go No. 1 and No. 4, to San Diego and the Giants in some order, the Steelers only concern would seem to be Buffalo trading up to No. 6 Detroit or No. 7 Cleveland in order to nab Rivers ahead of them.
Otherwise Rivers is expected to last until No. 11, because the teams at No. 8-10 all have young quarterbacks in place in Michael Vick, Byron Leftwich and David Carr.
No. 13 Buffalo -- The Bills also covet a quarterback at No. 6, and would make the jump in order to hurdle the No. 11 Steelers for the right to take either Rivers or Roethlisberger. If the Bills sit tight, they would likely need either the Chargers or Giants to pass on a quarterback in order to select one at No. 13.
The Lions, desperate for a lead rusher, are getting all the trade interest because they have signaled to teams that they would be content to move down and select Jackson, the draft's highest rated running back. Nobody in the top 13 is expected to select a running back, and Jackson's likely landing spot has been projected as either No. 15 Tampa Bay or No. 17 Denver.
The Lions believe their performance in free agency might allow them to pass on the chance to draft players such as Williams or Taylor in that slot. If Winslow some how gets past No. 5 Washington, which is not thought likely, Detroit might re-think its trade aspirations.
During free agency, the Lions added much needed veteran help at cornerback in Fernando Bryant, offensive line in Damien Woody, receiver in Tai Streets, and safety in Fred Marion.
In other first-round trade possibilities, No. 7 Cleveland is still awaiting word back from No. 2 Oakland. The two have had trade discussions this week, with the Browns seeking to move up to select Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery. The Raiders however are not showing any inclination to cut a deal until they find out what's going to happen at No. 1, with San Diego.
But as Friday night closed, the Chargers looked determined to draft Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning, even though he has signaled that he will not sign with San Diego if they do. Oakland also appears to be a strong bet to stay put, and Gallery is thought to be their likely choice at No. 2.
Oakland is also high on Williams, but he could be gone by the No. 6 position, which is why a trade with No. 7 Cleveland is considered a long shot at best at this point.
The Browns this week also showed interest in trading up for San Diego's No. 1 pick, but the Chargers made it clear that they don't want to move down as far as No. 7. The only scenario where that slot might work for San Diego is if it deals down to the No. 4 Giants, and then trades again with the Browns, picking up a package of three or four extra picks in the process.