The 2012 NFL Draft is two days away, and three teams would benefit from trading up the draft board.
The first tick of the clock at Radio City Music Hall on April 26th will mark the beginning of a mental chess match between 32 teams.
Top dogs will be initiated as young pups, and the foundation for the future will either crack or solidify depending on scouts' wisdom.
Three franchises will cash in if they're willing to raise the stakes and throw the dice.
22. Cleveland Browns
As most knowledgeable football fans know, Cleveland has the fourth pick in the draft.
It also acquired the 22nd, which could be utilized in a variety of ways.
The Browns' rush defense concluded the season ranked 30th (147.4 YPG).
Cleveland plays a 4-3 scheme, and middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson accumulated 158 total tackles; yes, nearly 10 per game.
Defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phillip Taylor are immovable objects, breaking scales at a combined 685 pounds. The aforementioned Jackson is a tackling machine that benefits from the two massive beings lined up in front of him.
While the focal point of rushing targets the interior, the outside linebackers also play a key role.
Scott Fujita will be entering his 11th NFL season, and his production has deteriorated over the years. He hasn't played the entirety of a season since 2006, and is a mediocre tackler at best. Fujita has also only racked up 4.5 sacks in the span of his last four years.
Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw is slated to go as high as No. 16 to the New York Jets. The Bengals own the 17th and 21st slots, and head coach Marvin Lewis is rumored (Draft Insider) to be impressed by the former Crimson Tide anchor.
Upshaw won't slip the grasp of Cincinnati, so the Browns will be required to trade up for him. However, his versatility—ranging from pass-rusher to voracious run-stuffer—will pay dividends.
25. Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning made his presence known in Denver, maturing from a young colt to a freed bronco and subsequently bucking Tim Tebow out of town. Manning's rehabilitation is the biggest wild card in the AFC West, but it won't provide Denver with the luck of the draw in landing a playoff spot—unless it upgrades the arsenal of weapons surrounding him.
The Broncos have a bruising ground game, but a feeble aerial attack to complement it. Demaryius Thomas has the biggest ceiling of the bunch, but is injury-prone. The third-year receiver only started 21 games throughout his first two seasons. Thomas quietly fetched 32 balls in 2011, but his 17.2 YPC average opened eyes. Look for the former to ascend while the latter decreases this season, considering that the pigskin will be spiraling through the air more frequently with Manning under center.
The Denver receiving corps is less threatening than Gandhi on Valentine's Day.
Eric Decker starts opposite of No. 88, but would be lucky to rank third on the depth chart of the vast majority of NFL teams.
Denver needs an option that vertically stretches the field.
Wright's 2011 stat-line is ridiculous: 108 receptions, 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He's a speedster that forces opposing defenses to respect his game-breaking potential.
The Broncos would only be forced to couple their first-round pick with another late-rounder, but the risk is well worth the reward.
But that doesn't mean that they can't improve.
The Patriots much-maligned defense contains several voids that need to be filled; the most glaring may be at strong safety.
Alabama safety Mark Barron is expected to be plucked off the board mid-way through the first round (most likely by Dallas). However, the Patriots could solidify the strong safety position that is currently occupied by Steve Gregory.
Barron's collegiate teammate Dre Kirkpatrick should also be sitting around No. 20. Although he's a cornerback, his 6'3" height and naturally aggressive demeanor make him an ideal conversion to safety as well.
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