If I called the shots: Five draft weekend plans for needy teams
Michael Lombardi is a 22-year veteran of NFL personnel departments, spending eight years with the Raiders and nine years with the Browns, in addition to brief stints with the Broncos, Eagles and 49ers.
Draft weekend is one of my favorite times of the year. NFL executives have spent the past nine months studying and now it's finally time to take the exam. As they enter the war room it is essential that they rely on their knowledge of every team's strengths and weaknesses and, most importantly, how those teams will think and react. Here are my recommendations for several teams this weekend:
If I worked for the Jets, I would ...
Prepare for the unexpected. The draft for the New York Jets does not start until the Atlanta Falcons make their selection at No. 3. Before the Falcons make their pick, I would have two plans in place.
Plan A would assume the Falcons did not select Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. I would then be on the phone with Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and his representatives, telling them he would be our guy at No. 6. I'd do this while knowing and hoping the phone calls might force the Raiders hand in actually selecting McFadden at No. 4. At the same time I would make numerous trade offers to the Raiders -- with absolutely no intention of trading -- knowing Al Davis hates to trade down on draft day.
If the Raiders suspect we are trying to trade up to get McFadden then this freezes the pick, meaning the pick is not for sale to anyone else at that moment. My main goal is to tie up the Raiders' phone lines, freeze their pick and determine what Baltimore is thinking at No. 8.
The Ravens are my main competition for a quarterback and I need to do whatever is possible to determine their course of action. I don't expect the Raiders to move, but I am hoping they will offer me some vital clues with each one of my calls. On draft day, every team's strategy has to be declared; it's now time to show your hand. Every phone call I make, I closely listen to the voice on the other line to determine if they are bluffing or if they have something concrete in the works.
If the Raiders pass on every deal offered and select McFadden, as I suspect, and I also determine that Baltimore is on the move to acquire Ryan, then I call the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 5 to discuss flopping picks. I know I cannot freeze Kansas City's pick because the Chiefs have so many holes that they will be trying to acquire picks all day.
Carl Peterson, the Chiefs president, is not an easy trade partner. He has to win every deal. That is just Carl's nature. He will suspect I am desperate, willing to pay his price to acquire Ryan. But I will offer what I believe is a fair deal based on the value of the picks being exchanged and not back down. If Peterson thinks he can intimidate or bluff me into a deal, then he is dead wrong.
I also know Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome is not likely to overpay for the pick nor get strong-armed by Peterson. Newsome is a value drafter and rarely does he throw in all his chips. But if Newsome is willing to overpay, that still will not change my thoughts or offer. So I make my offer and stand firm.
If I lose Ryan to the Ravens then my choice is pretty simple: I take Jonathan Stewart, the Oregon running back. Stewart is not receiving the accolades his talent deserves, mainly because of his recent turf toe surgery, yet he may prove to be the best back in this draft. One thing I definitely don't do is sit still. I start making calls to teams in the back end of the first round. With Ryan in Baltimore, I know my competition for Michigan quarterback Chad Henne has been reduced by one team. I start calling Seattle at 25, San Diego at 27 and Dallas at 28, with trade offers using my second-round pick (No. 36 overall) to get back into the first round.
I also will worry about the Chicago Bears trying to move into the bottom of the first round. But I know Bears GM Jerry Angelo very well. He is strict and disciplined when it comes to valuing draft picks. He loves multiple picks and is very reluctant to part with any. I also know the Chiefs are potential players in the quarterback market. Depending on what position they take at No. 5, that will help me understand where they may be headed with their 17th pick that they just acquired in the Jared Allen trade.
Now, Plan B. If the Falcons pick Ryan at three, then I stay where I am and pick Stewart, assuming the Raiders take McFadden. I will still work my plan to get back into the first round to get Henne. But now I know Baltimore will be even more serious competition. So I may have to move further into the first round, calling the Redskins at 21 and the Steelers at 23. I have to work every single one of my options and keep applying the pressure on all the teams to finalize a deal. My goal is to come out of this draft with a running back and quarterback, two cornerstones of the future for my team. Nothing can stop me from achieving that goal.
If I worked for the Broncos, I would ...
Think big. The Broncos in the late '90s had great success building an offensive line with quick, smallish athletes. They won two Super Bowls with this approach. They had a dynamic running game led by an outstanding running back, which highlighted their play action and bootleg passing game. But times have changed in the NFL. The Broncos are no longer the standard for how to run the ball. Denver ranked in the top five in only nine of the 126 offensive categories last season. Much of their poor offensive production in the past two years is due to the lack of size and power in their offensive line.
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