Draft deals cooking
Teams maneuvering to take WR Johnson, LB Willis
Posted: Wednesday April 25, 2007 4:42PM; Updated: Wednesday April 25, 2007 7:56PM
With the NFL Draft kicking off in fewer than 72 hours, here's what we're hearing around the league:
While everyone has focused on No. 4 Tampa Bay as the most likely trading partner for No. 2 Detroit in the Calvin Johnson Sweepstakes, it's the No. 8 Falcons who might truly be in the driver's seat. Sources say Falcons owner Arthur Blank has pretty much ordered Atlanta general manager Rich McKay to do everything he can to put the team into position to land Johnson at No. 2.
Blank wants Johnson for a couple of reasons. First, Johnson played at Georgia Tech and would help sell tickets to disillusioned Falcons fans who have endured two non-playoff seasons after Atlanta went to the NFC title game in 2004. Second, the Falcons still have their long-standing need of a reliable big-play receiver for quarterback Michael Vick to play pitch and catch with.
With seven picks in the first four rounds (including two second-rounders and three in the fourth), Atlanta definitely has the ammo to make the deal with Detroit. The Falcons could send the Lions their picks at 8, 39 and 44 for the No. 2 spot, and still have a third-rounder and three fourth-rounders to fill other needs.
The Lions are known to covet middle linebacker Patrick Willis of Mississippi and would be perfectly situated at No. 8 to select him. Picking up at least two extra second-rounders in the process would meet Matt Millen's goal of turning the No. 2 slot into a first-day package of picks. Detroit is likely to draft a quarterback with its own second-round pick at No. 34. Stanford's Trent Edwards remains slightly favored over Michigan State's Drew Stanton.
At No. 4 and not wanting to give up the majority of their four picks in the draft's first 68 slots, Tampa Bay is not likely to move up in an attempt to compete for Johnson. The Bucs need defensive help and appear to be more likely to take Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams if they stay put. Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas is another option at No. 4, but so too is trying to move down a few spots with the intention of taking Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, who some in the organization are likening to a young Warren Sapp.
As tempting as Calvin Johnson may be, the Oakland Raiders will not stand logic on its head and select the Georgia Tech receiver over LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Raiders owner Al Davis never makes decisions quickly these days, and he seems to have little clue as to the complicated contract negotiation that becomes a reality when you take a quarterback first overall. But Russell still will be the guy because of Oakland's crying need for a starring option at the game's most pivotal position.
Even Davis can read the depth chart and come to the conclusion that the Raiders have to have more than Andrew Walter and a Tim Rattay, Josh McCown or Daunte Culpepper via trade. Some around the league believe Davis's love of size and speed will convince him that Johnson has to be Oakland's pick, but Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin may be a potential lobbying presence for the necessity of a quarterback.
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