The Pats, Eagles, Rams have the draft-weekend edge. Analyzing the draft, and which team has the biggest edge, is difficult this year because there isn't one team with a dominant edge. But here are the teams I believe have the best draft value as of this morning. Keep in mind that trades will happen, surely, to affect the numbers:
New England. The Pats lead all teams with 12 picks, but that number is misleading because five of those picks are seventh-rounders (between the 229th and 250th overall picks). The good part of the Patriots' early haul is that they'll get great value out of the four picks in the guts of the first two rounds (23rd, 44th, 47th and 53rd). The bad part: They go 66 slots without a pick after number 53. Of course, Bill Belichick and personnel man Nick Caserio could make several deals affecting that order, and this might be the year to move up to take a power player at a position of major need, like tight end, wide receiver or pass-rusher.
The Patriots have one other power piece if there's something they want desperately on April 22 -- Oakland's first-round pick in the 2011 draft, thanks to the Richard Seymour trade. It's likely they won't touch that, but it's pretty comforting to know that, 17 days before the 2010 draft begins, you already have the most powerful position in next year's draft and one of the top ones in this year's as well.
Philadelphia. With the McNabb deal, the Eagles now have seven picks in the first four rounds, two more than any other team in the league. You can be sure that the Eagles, with new GM Howie Roseman having watched Andy Reid and former GM Tom Heckert wheel and deal over the past few years, will be active on draft day. The ammo they have in the first four rounds (24, 37, 55, 70, 87, 105 and 121) will allow them to do one of the things Reid loves -- trade out of this year's draft to get a number one pick in next year's.
St. Louis. With picks 1, 33, 65 and 99, the Rams are in position to be the power trader because they hold the first pick on every day of the three-day draft. If they move down in round one, they could get a king's ransom for the first pick. The first pick on day two will be sought after because teams will have so much time to re-set their boards Thursday night and Friday during the day. Such a scenario led to the Jets paying a big price last year to move up 11 spots to deal with Detroit for the first pick of day two to select Shonn Greene. The 99th pick will be the first choice of round four, the top pick of day three.
Cleveland. The Browns got two roster pieces Friday, linebacker Chris Gocong and corner Sheldon Brown, without touching their five picks in the top 100 (7, 38, 71, 85, 92). They may be in position to take highly touted safety Eric Berry of Tennessee at number seven, and Berry would immediately upgrade a weak secondary. The Browns would also be in position, if they like one of the four top-rated quarterbacks, to move up from number 38 to nab him -- though when I spoke with Mike Holmgren at the owners meetings last month, he seemed intent on not paying a ransom for any one player.
Tampa Bay and Kansas City. They're close to twins, except for the volume -- Tampa Bay has 11 picks and the Chiefs eight. The Bucs (3, 35, 42, 67 and 101) and Chiefs (5, 36, 51, 68, 102) have multiple holes and are intent on building through the draft.
I like Seattle (6, 14, 60) and San Francisco (13, 17, 49, 79) too, but I would have liked the Seahawks more if they'd stayed at 40 overall instead of trading down 20 spots in the second round in the Charlie Whitehurst trade.
How does the McNabb trade affect the Rams? Maybe not as much as you think.
In the last three days, I've talked at length to Rams GM Billy Devaney and Rams executive VP of football operations Kevin Demoff about their draft plans, and two points seem unshakeable. One: They have not been told by the owners desperately trying to sell the team, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, to go cheap in this draft or save money by trading down. And neither Rosenbloom nor Rodriguez have made any recommendations about what to do with the draft pick, in part because the Rams have spent much of the last year positioning themselves financially to do whatever it would take to sign their draft choices to market contracts. Two: The Rams won't be swayed by not being able to sign their pick before the draft if they decide that's the player they want.
All of that is likely much less important this morning, of course, with Washington being taken out of the mix for the top pick. But I pass it along because I wanted to contest the notion that the Rams will be motivated to save money in this draft more than they'll be motivated to get better.
I doubt any team will pony up the ransom it's going to take to get Bradford. The Rams need him too badly. They need him as a quarterback, and they need him as a franchise face, which they don't have right now. Interior linemen can't be your billboards. Interior linemen don't get stadiums built and franchises sold; quarterbacks do. That's what the Rams need. That's why, at the end of the day, I don't think the Rams would have traded the pick to Washington without the McNabb deal unless they found Jimmy Clausen just a smidge beneath Bradford in ability, leadership and presence.
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