A last-minute look at storylines to watch in draft's first round
Vikings, Browns and Rams would like to trade down, but likely won't be able to
If Dolphins pass on Ryan Tannehill, someone will deal up to take him by No. 11
Despite his off-field troubles, Janoris Jenkins is still attracting first-round interest
NEW YORK -- The two-month NFL Draft season, which seems to get longer and more ridiculous every year, mercifully peaks tonight in midtown Manhattan, when commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the podium at Radio City Music Hall shortly after 8 Eastern to announce Andrew Luck as the first pick in the 77th league draft.
"I'm really ready for this to happen," Ryan Tannehill said over breakfast in Manhattan this morning. "I'm ready for the media hoopla to be over, all the debate, all the arguing you see on TV. We're football players. This whole experience has been fun, but I can't wait to get this over and play the game."
There will be drama; we just don't know what it is yet. But it figures to center around these draft positions, teams or players:
The Vikings, at 3. Minnesota has more holes to fill than a potholed St. Paul street after a brutal winter. GM Rick Spielman has been trying to drum up interest in the pick so he can get multiple choices in the first two rounds, but most teams below him have the same feeling he does: This draft is 75 picks deep with potential year-one rookie starters, and I'm hearing no strong evidence that any team is inclined to climb this high to blow it all on one player.
The one exception here, at No. 4 with Cleveland, could be Alabama running back Trent Richardson. But I look for Minnesota to stay put, ignore the bleatings of people like me who say the Vikes should take a corner here, and draft USC tackle Matt Kalil. Then the Vikes could pick a big corner like Montana's Trumaine Johnson with the 35th overall pick, to match up with the Calvin Johnsons and Jordy Nelsons of the NFC North.
Trent Richardson. He might be the best back to come out since Adrian Peterson, which is why you hear teams like the Jets frothing all over him. Barring a great offer, look for Cleveland to stay put and take Richardson or Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon. I love Mike Mayock's Wednesday-night scenario for the pick-heavy Browns (league-high 13 choices in all): Blackmon at No. 4, Boise State running back Doug Martin at 22. As tempting as it would be for the Browns to trade out of the pick and gather more nuggets, they'll either go Richardson or Blackmon here ... which could leave the Bucs with a Richardson-or-Morris Claiborne dilemma at No. 5.
The Rams, at 6. All drafts have shelves, and many NFL people think this is the end of the top shelf. It's six players deep. St. Louis would be happy if a team would come up and deal for the last of the six top guys (Blackmon or Claiborne, most likely), if it would net them one more one pick in the second round. The Rams have the 33rd and 39th overall picks right now. If they stay, look for them to go Blackmon. If he's gone, it'll be a tussle between Fletcher Cox and Claiborne.
The desperate-to-deal Jags, at 7. "We'll definitely have more trades this year than last year because of the fixed costs of rookies now,'' one GM said this week. Well, that wouldn't be hard. Last year, there were four first-round trades made, the ninth consecutive year the league saw fewer than 10 trades in the first round. In the 10 years between 1993 and 2002, the NFL averaged 11.7 trades per first round.
There's no question teams will be more comfortable moving around because of price certainty, and because trading up doesn't mean you're necessarily taking on millions more in a risky, unproved player. Normally, I'd say this would help Jacksonville -- and it could, if a desperate team like Dallas decides Alabama safety Mark Barron is worth its second-round pick (45th overall) to move up eight spots in the first round to acquire him.
Ryan Tannehill. It's likely Tannehill goes to Miami at No. 8, obviously. If he doesn't, I don't see how he gets past the 11th pick. Not that Kansas City will take Tannehill; I don't believe the Chiefs will. But GM Scott Pioli will have interest in dealing down from 11 (he moved from 21 to 26 last year for a third-round pick), and if Tannehill or Barron is here, I guarantee he'll get a taker for the pick.
Players who could move. The player trade market wasn't helped by the Eagles taking a seventh-round pick for a quality cover corner, Asante Samuel, on Wednesday. (It was a money deal. Philadelphia owed Samuel $21.3 million over the next two years, and figuring he'd be cut if he didn't get sane about his contract, the 31-year-old Samuel accepted a three-year, $18.5 million deal with Atlanta.) That's not good for the Colts, who'd love to get a good pick for 32-year-old Dwight Freeney. So consider the player trade market officially depressed.
The Colts and the 3-4. Consider GM Ryan Grigson's first draft a success, obviously, because of drafting Andrew Luck. But for weeks the Colts have mentally moved on to other priorities. Their roster is terribly suited to play coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense. In an ideal world, they'd be able to trade back from No. 34 (their second-round pick) to get two picks in the top 80, because they need quantity to play the 3-4. They need a nose tackle, a versatile inside linebacker who can stop the run, and a big defensive end. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Janoris Jenkins. I spoke with one team Wednesday interested in taking Jenkins, the troubled cornerback, in the top half of the second round. "But I don't think he gets out of the first round,'' the club official said. Could Jenkins slip into the bottom of the first round? I don't see it, but so many teams in the lower third of the first round -- Pittsburgh, Detroit, Denver, Houston -- have a cornerback need.
He's going to have major financial problems, having to care for four children by three different mothers already, and the team that drafts him has to make sure he can put his past marijuana problems in the rear-view mirror. I can't see anyone taking him in the first, but I'm told a few teams have gotten comfortable with Jenkins in the last couple of weeks. Look for New England, Carolina, St. Louis, Buffalo and Dallas to be tempted.
Those are a few of the storylines that will develop tonight. More are sure to come, which is why ESPN and NFL Network will have game-like ratings for the draft.
Teams will have 10 minutes per pick in round one. On Friday (7 p.m. ET), teams get seven minutes per pick in round two and five minutes per choice in round three. The final four rounds kick off Saturday at noon, with five minutes per pick again.
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