Who Could Trade Up, Down in the 2014 NFL Draft?

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystApril 24, 2014

Who Could Trade Up, Down in the 2014 NFL Draft?

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    Can you imagine the NFL draft without trades? Would 256 straight picks without a trade be exciting to anyone?

    No, we love the draft because we love trades. The draft wouldn’t be any fun without them. Trades give the draft an element of drama. Without a trade every few picks, the draft would be boring.

    We cheer when our team aggressively moves up to get the prospect that is going to put them over the hump. We applaud when a bad team moves down and acquires extra picks to jump-start their rebuild.

    The whole point of a draft trade is to maximize quality by trading up or maximize quantity by trading down. The question is, which teams could trade up or trade down in 2014?

The St. Louis Rams

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    Direction: Down

    The St. Louis Rams have two picks in the first round, but there may be multiple teams willing to trade up to No. 2 to take Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins. The Rams could use Watkins, but it’s also a deep draft at wide receiver, and the Rams can still get a good one with the 13th overall pick.

    A bidding war may mean that trading down is just too good a deal to pass up.

    By trading down, the Rams could end up with a franchise left tackle, an elite wide receiver and other valuable picks in one of the deepest drafts in many years. If the Rams are going to contend in the NFC West, they need as much talent as they can get.

    General manager Les Snead has shown a willingness to trade first-round draft picks in the past. In 2012, Snead moved from No. 2 to No. 6 and then down to No. 14 in two separate trades that netted the Rams first-round picks in 2013 and 2014, plus two second-round picks that year.

    The Rams used the pick equity from those trades to move up from No. 16 to No. 8 last year to select wide receiver Tavon Austin. The Rams also moved down from No. 22 to No. 30 last year and added two extra picks.

    Snead was less than particular when speaking with Kevin Patra of NFL.com, but his comments certainly indicate the Rams could be open to making a move or two this year as well:

    I like to say you make the best decision long term because the short term is by definition short -- it won't last as long. But I think you make a good point. Because we're in 2014, this draft is really good, it's a good chance for us to take some shots with picks in this draft to improve the team. Not only tomorrow and opening day, but also four and five years down the road.

    Since the Rams don’t have much room to trade up in this particular draft, don’t rule out another trade down.

The Oakland Raiders

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    Direction: Down

    The Oakland Raiders are in a tough spot. What the Raiders most need in the draft is a star player, but they may not be in position to draft one at No. 5 overall. The Raiders also don’t have picks to spare that would make it possible for them to move up a couple spots.

    Unless the Raiders get lucky, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are going to be off the board. The Raiders will have plenty of quality options available at No. 5, but without any clearly better than one another.

    It may benefit general manager Reggie McKenzie to move down and add picks to help a team that is still low on young talent. McKenzie moved from No. 3 to No. 12 last year, so he has already shown a willingness to move down the board in pursuit of more picks.

The Atlanta Falcons

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    Direction: Up

    If the Rams decide to move down, don’t be surprised if they are talking to the Atlanta Falcons. Snead worked under Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta from 2009 to 2011 as his director of player personnel, which could make a deal easier to negotiate.

    The Falcons badly need one of the top pass-rushers, but they aren’t nearly as bad as their 2013 record might otherwise indicate. Dimitroff moved up in a deep draft to grab an elite prospect back in 2011 when he moved from No. 27 to No. 6 to draft wide receiver Julio Jones.

    Dimitroff will not need to move as far up the board in 2014, so the volume of picks he’ll have to surrender will be significantly lower than it was when he traded for Jones. With a bold move up the board, the Falcons may be able to climb back to the top of the NFC South.

The Minnesota Vikings

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    Direction: Up

    It’s no secret that the Minnesota Vikings would like to draft a quarterback in 2014. What we don’t know is which quarterbacks will be available at No. 8, or if the Vikings would pull the trigger on one in the first round at all after missing so badly on Christian Ponder.

    Moving up to get their guy or waiting until the second or third round to draft one are options, but staying at No. 8 to draft a quarterback doesn’t make a ton of sense. By staying put, the Vikings only risk that their top quarterback option won’t be available and then reach for the next best one.

    The Vikings may opt to move up and get the guy they want. Good fits for offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s scheme that could go early in the first round include Blake Bortles and Derek Carr.

    In each of the last two drafts, the Vikings have moved up. In 2012, it was from No. 35 to No. 29 for safety Harrison Smith. In 2013, it was from No. 52 to No. 29 for Cordarrelle Patterson.

    History suggests the Vikings may trade up from the second round to the first, but other teams could be kicking around a similar strategy and driving up the price.

The Detroit Lions

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    Direction: Up

    The Detroit Lions have hosted Watkins, Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney on visits, so they are at least kicking around the idea of moving up from No. 10. Clowney, Watkins and Mack may very well be the first three players off the board, so the Lions would have to move from No. 10 into the top three to ensure a crack at one of them.

    Lions general manager Martin Mayhew hasn’t orchestrated a draft trade involving a first-round pick in a few years. The last time was in 2010 when he moved up into the end of the first round to take running back Jahvid Best. Prior to that, Mayhew fleeced the Dallas Cowboys in a predraft deal that sent a trio of picks, including a first-round selection, to the Lions in return for wide receiver Roy Williams.

    Mayhew may be aggressive in 2014 to help his new head coach Jim Caldwell get off to a fast start. The perception is that the Lions have underachieved over the last few years, so a player who can help the team get over the hump may be just what the Lions need.

The New England Patriots

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    Direction: Up or Down

    No team moves around the draft board more than the New England Patriots. Head coach Bill Belichick manipulates the draft board every year and has been involved in four first-round trades in the last three seasons.

    The Patriots traded down in 2011 and 2013, but they traded up in 2012. Which direction they might go in 2014 depends on your perspective.

    The Patriots are in an arms race with the Denver Broncos, so they may be willing to move up and grab a top prospect that starts to slide down the board. Linebacker C.J. Mosley should go much earlier in the first round but could be an ideal replacement for the departed Brandon Spikes if he slides.

    On the other hand, teams at the top of the second round that didn’t draft a quarterback could start calling the teams at the bottom of the first round looking to move up for one. The Patriots can do as they have done many times before and trade back. Moving back a few spots will likely still get them the player they were targeting a few picks earlier.