We’ve taken the next step here. Although our mock drafts this past year might outnumber our visits to the gym, this will be the first time we project trades. Are they going to happen just like we see them? Of course not. But it's fun to envision scenarios that are not immediately evident, and yet we know that trades are a huge part of the draft landscape.
There were nine trades involving first- or second-round picks on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft. In this scenario, we project a pedestrian three — enough to get our creative juices flowing and start the plate tectonics a bit, but not too many to cloud and skew the picture dramatically. But it's no coincidence that two of the three deals involve trades up for quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. That sort of thing tends to happen on the clock when teams get antsy.
We’ll check in the night before the draft — 16 agonizing days from now — with our final first-round predictions from the Shutdown Corner contributors. But here’s how the first 64 picks look right now.
We’ve had him in this spot for months and haven’t wavered much from it. Clowney’s pro day performance displayed what we suspected: that he’d have no trouble going in reverse, if asked to. The Texans might be in their base defense only 30 percent of the time, so Clowney will be quite comfortable rushing the Andrew Lucks of the world from a right-end spot — or wherever else coordinator Romeo Crennel wants to play him. That said, a trade down wouldn't be out of the question — something we hadn't considered previously.
Shaun King's take: Major question marks and concerns
The Rams’ offense must marry the power run game with the rhythm passing game, and Robinson can step in and help give it a boost. He’s already an NFL-caliber run blocker, and his athleticism and work ethic should allow him to be a plus pass blocker in time. Jeff Fisher’s ties to Jake Matthews aside, this is the right fit. Robinson should dominate as a second-level blocker on the turf.
Shaun King's take: Best run blocker in a decade
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Buffalo LB-DE Khalil Mack
Coach Gus Bradley now has the makings of a deep and skilled front seven that can make the Jags contenders. They face a slew of good quarterbacks, but they also face a handful of teams that could be starting rookies at the position, so the m.o. in Jacksonville will be to attack and force turnovers to give the offense as many chances as possible. Mack was a turnover machine in college and is the perfect fit as the “Leo” linebacker in this scheme.
Shaun King's take: Best pound-for-pound player in the draft
4. Cleveland Browns — Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews
General manager Ray Farmer has been on the job a little over two months now, and he’s weighed his options at No. 4. Knowing he has two more picks coming in the subsequent 30 slots, Farmer likely will want to make as safe a selection as possible here and maybe not tie himself to a quarterback in this spot. If they need to — foreshadowing alert — the Browns can trade up for a QB later. Here, they take their starting right tackle for a decade.
Shaun King's take: Most polished player
Watkins would be a huge upgrade over the inconsistent and unreliable Denarius Moore at the “X” receiver spot and give Matt Schaub a run-after-the-catch threat. The Raiders would be in decent hands with a top three receivers of Watkins, James Jones and Rod Streater. Ideally, they’d find their quarterback of the future here, but this is a good alternative assuming they do not.
Shaun King's take: Unquestionably No. 1 receiver in draft
6. Atlanta Falcons — Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Too soon? The Falcons were soft up front last season. Way too soft. Mike Tice is the new OL coach, and he likes players such as Lewan, who carry a nasty streak. The Falcons can keep Sam Baker at left tackle for now and put Lewan on the right side, but it would not be surprising to see Lewan slide over to the left at some point. He’s exactly the guy to add a little vinegar to their recipe up front.
Shaun King's take: Has potential, but not refined
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
Prior to the trade of Mike Williams, the Bucs had depth problems at receiver. Now they have a talent deficiency, too. Evans and Vincent Jackson have some overlapping skills, but that’s OK. So, too, do Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and new Bucs QB Josh McCown might feel like he’s back in Chicago when he sees these two physical freaks running patterns.
Shaun King's take: Second-best receiver in the draft
Minnesota Vikings — Central Florida QB Blake Bortles8.
The Vikings can’t afford to mess around with their top quarterback option on the board. Yes, the Daunte Culpepper connections would arise with this pairing, but Bortles is a slightly different cat. But GM Rick Spielman watched Bortles light it up at his pro day, and you’d have to think that his skills would translate very well to a Norv Turner-called offense. The beauty, too, is that Matt Cassel can win the job, and Bortles can replace him whenever he’s good and ready.
Shaun King's take: Highest ceiling QB in draft
9. Buffalo Bills — UCLA LB-DE Anthony Barr
The Bills don’t have a ton of pressing needs, and a pass-rushing linebacker/end might not be atop the list, but there is a lack of depth behind Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Jim Schwartz runs the wide-9 scheme and needs his edge rushers to crash down hard, yet have the athleticism to stay balanced and flexible. That’s Barr, who could more seasoning. But his upside is undeniable.
Shaun King's take: Not souring on Barr
10. Detroit Lions — Alabama S Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix
New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows that in order for his secondary to work, he must have good safety play. Nearly everywhere Austin has coached, he has helped cultivate talented safeties (Matt Elam in Baltimore and the University of Florida; Antrel Rolle with the Cardinals) and taught them to be ballhawks. Clinton-Dix comes from a pro-caliber college defense, and even with a slight downtick in his play in 2013, he shows the ability to be a Day 1 centerfielder in the back half of a defense. The Lions want to let their young corners develop, and having better safety play should help.
Shaun King's take: Like an Earl Thomas
11. Tennessee Titans — Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert
Not willing to pull the trigger on a quarterback here, the Titans could still address a major need by drafting Gilbert, who could start Day 1 opposite Jason McCourty and take Leon Washington out of a job on kick returns. Gilbert has the long arms and press-coverage ability to check the Andre Johnsons of the world, and the alpha-dog persona to be a perfect fit for fiery new coordinator Ray Horton.
Shaun King's take: Not aggressive enough
12. New York Giants — Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
The Giants have some interesting names at defensive tackle, but none of them are guaranteed contributors this season. They need an inside penetrator to help check blocking schemes against them and open things up for Jason Pierre-Paul, and Donald appears to be that perfect fit. Giants DL coach Robert Nunn has had to be a big motivator for all the talented but inconsistent underachievers the Giants have had up front, but that won’t be a problem with Donald, whose motor always runs hot.
13. St. Louis Rams — Louisville S Calvin Pryor
Pryor isn’t Earl Thomas, but he has some Thomas-like aggression and pursuit ability, which is a perfect fit in the NFC West, one of the most aggressive divisions going. The Rams had trouble defending the deep pass last season, and Pryor can be for them what Michael Griffin was for Jeff Fisher’s Titans teams. If Pryor can learn to play with a little more control, he could be a leader for perhaps the best young defense in the NFL. Seriously. (Oh, and don’t think I haven’t heard the Johnny Manziel rumors. I just … couldn’t.)
Chicago Bears — Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman14.
Bit of a tough spot for the Bears, who in this scenario will have seen the top defensive tackle, top corner and top two safeties go off the board. Their consolation prize is a Phil Emery special — the freakishly gifted but inconsistent Ra’Shede Hageman, who could be a monster or a bust. He has Richard Seymour-like physical traits but must grow into being that type of player. The Bears don’t have many players who can anchor inside, so Hageman would fill the bill there and try to develop on the job.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
Roby might never be an elite player, but he reminds me a little of Deshea Townshend, and he might look the same to Dick Lebeau as well. Roby didn’t have his best final year in college but is a better player than, say, the Wisconsin game tape reveals. He can blitz, play man or zone, outside or slot. This would be an instant-impact addition.
It has to kill Jerry Jones not to be able to draft an impact defender or even pull the trigger on, say, Johnny Manziel. This is a draft loaded with intriguing upside players, and yet we’re projecting them a very safe, sound pick. Why? It’s a need, with Martin able to start Day 1 at guard and kick out to right tackle next year when the team has to consider cutting Doug Free.
17. Baltimore Ravens — LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham can play all three receiver spots and return punts and kickoffs, making him a valuable piece on a team that lacked receiving weapons last season. A package of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside, Steve Smith and Beckham in the slot and Dennis Pitta would be an outstanding upgradge for Joe Flacco this season.
Shaun King's take: Like Sammy Watkins without consistency
18. New York Jets — North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
The Jets don’t have a threat to stretch the seam, so this would be a perfect match of need and ability. Ebron might not be a plus blocker in the NFL right now, and the Jets probably wouldn’t ask him to be right away. But they have to have some big plays in the passing game to fit the skills of either Geno Smith or Michael Vick, and Ebron could help achieve this. Ebron’s bombastic personality also could be a big hit with Rex Ryan, too.
Shaun King's take: As good as Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski
19. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Miami Dolphins) — Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Two years ago, the Cowboys traded the 18th pick to the 49ers for the 31st and 74th overall selections. In this scenario, we think the Browns could deal the 26th and 83rd overall picks (ones they acquired in separate trades from the Colts and Steelers) to move up for Manziel, in what would be among the more talked-about moves in the draft. The Browns go safe at the No. 4 pick, and then they move all their chips to the middle with Johnny. It’s a great way to hedge with the Matthews pick — his college teammate, no less. The Browns have done their homework on Manziel, and then some. On the flip side, it would make sense for new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey to trade down here because there is no player in this scenario he has to have, and it allows him to add a valuable pick later in the draft.
Shaun King's take: Johnny Football won't be successful in NFL
Arizona Cardinals — Fresno State QB Derek Carr20.
The Cardinals are in a strange place: They have one of the 4-5 best-looking rosters in the conference but they just happen to be the third-best team in their division. Still, there’s a strong argument to take the best non-QB available and hope he’s an instant-impact player. But short of one being here, the Cardinals might feel they have to pull the trigger on a quarterback with the positional run likely to start at this point of the draft. Bruce Arians loves confident, strong-arm passers (who doesn’t?), and Carr could be a perfect fit in this vertical scheme. He can come in to challenge Carson Palmer but can sit and marinate for a while until Palmer plays his way out of a job.
Shaun King's take: Tough evaluation; long growth process
21. Green Bay Packers — Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
This is a dream pick for the Packers, who must upgrade over Brad Jones, and Mosley does that by giving Green Bay a player who contributes on all four downs — special teams, too. His injury history is concerning to some teams, but all things being equal, the Packers would be getting one of the top 10 best pure football players in this year’s class at exceptional value at a need position.
22. Philadelphia Eagles — Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
We can’t quite pin the Eagles at 22, knowing that it could be receiver or perhaps an edge player. After all, cornerback isn’t a super-pressing need, but most of the key contributors are solid if not eminently replaceable. Dennard would give this unit some more confidence, athleticism and physicality.
Shaun King's take: Day 1 starter in this league
23. Kansas City Chiefs — UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo
Andy Reid’s love for smart, aggressive, intelligent offensive linemen shows through, and Su’A-Filo figures to be a Day 1 starter. He played left tackle but probably figures best inside. The Chiefs have a huge hole at right guard, and frankly left guard might be an issue, too, unless Jeff Allen plays better. Everyone is screaming for a receiver, but that can wait. The line needs an immediate upgrade.
24. Cincinnati Bengals — Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Fuller missed half his final season with a core muscle injury, but in his limited play, he did great work against a pair of 2015 NFL draft propspects — wideouts Amari Cooper and Justin Hardy — and showed at the combine that he’s back in great shape. The Bengals currently have some age and question marks at corner, and Fuller would give them the physical, long-armed corner they thought they were getting with Dre Kirkpatrick.
25. San Diego Chargers — TCU CB Jason Verrett
The Chargers’ two biggest needs on defense are at nose tackle and corner, and it’s likely they will address either one with this pick. We mocked them the competitive, feisty, ball-seeking Verrett, who bears some resemblance to Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. The Chargers want to keep adding these types of playmakers in their secondary, especially with at least another year of facing Peyton Manning, whom they faced three times last season.
26. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Cleveland Browns) — Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio
Moving down would allows the Dolphins to add a starting-caliber talent, albeit a player who must answer questions about his health and some poor performances last season. Still, this is a potential anchor at right tackle and part of a continuing rebuilding job up front for the Dolphins.
27. New Orleans Saints — Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford
Having watched the top five cornerbacks go off the board quickly, the Saints turn to their other pressing defensive need. Ford can heat up the edges as a third-down rusher early in his career while he learns the nuances of playing OLB in a “30” front. Rob Ryan knows that if he can’t get a cover guy he must find some more pressure to help make up for it.
28. Carolina Panthers — USC WR Marqise Lee
With no ace left tackle prospect still on the board, the Panthers must fill another huge void. Lee has some Marvin Harrison-like qualities but must prove that his 2012 tailspin was an aberration. He’ll be the most talented receiver on the roster, but the pressure to help replace Steve Smith and Co. will be high.
Shaun King's take: Most polished receiver in draft
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (projected trade with New England Patriots) — Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Jaguars are building some momentum, and their extra draft picks (two fourths, three fifths and two sixths) will allow them to feel comfortable moving up 10 spots to nab the freefalling Bridgewater. This would be a perfect marriage: Bridgewater’s dogged determination and all-around solid skills with Gus Bradley and the team’s West Coast scheme.
Shaun King's take: No. 1 QB in the draft
30. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
The speed merchant fills a void and gives the 49ers a more diverse passing game, one that in theory can attack most parts of the field now. You have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree working the sticks, Vernon Davis threatening the seam and the edges, and Cooks as a deep threat. Cooks also has a little chip on his shoulder that will play well with the hard-edged Jim Harbaugh.
31. Denver Broncos — Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier
We can’t think of too many better fits. There’s a hole in the middle of an otherwise good Broncos defense, and the confident and supremely athletic Shazier would be an instant hit, never coming off the field. He can play inside or outside, base or nickel and makes this front seven even stronger as a Day 1 starter. The Broncos have hit all the right notes this offseason, and this would be another strong play.
32. Seattle Seahawks — Nevada OG-C-OT Joel Bitonio
Don’t put it past the Seahawks to go a little off the grid with this pick, as they often do with their first choice every year. Bitonio slowly has been rising through the ranks during the pre-draft process and is exactly the kind of athletic, versatile addition this team could use. He’s probably best at guard and could earn a starting spot out of the chute (as a clear upgrade over right guard JR Sweezy), but Bitonio also played left tackle last season and has been tried in workouts at center.
33. Houston Texans — Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage
Look, we’re not sold on him, either. But the fast-rising Savage fits the mold of a smart, tough, strong-armed quarterback that Bill O’Brien will be seeking.
34. Washington Redskins — Northern Illinois S Jimmy Ward
They’re still able to nab a starter at a need position despite giving away their first-round pick.
35. Cleveland Browns — Indiana WR Cody Latimer
Physical wideout looked good in college despite subpar QB play. Imagine what he’ll do in Cleveland! (wink)
36. Oakland Raiders — LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
The ghost of Al Davis comes to life in the pick of this risky, high-upside, strong-armed passer.
37. Atlanta Falcons — Boise State DE-OLB Demarcus Lawrence
Perfect edge rusher to help them make the transition to a 3-4 defense, if that’s what they want to do.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson
Massive but athletic guard would have en excellent chance to start as a rookie — at either guard spot.
39. New England Patriots (projected trade from Jacksonville Jaguars) — Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
Remember the Patriots’ rumored interest in Larry Fitzgerald? This is their big-bodied consolation who can give Tom Brady another shot at a title.
Shaun King's take: Plays like Alshon Jeffery
40. Minnesota Vikings — Rice CB Phillip Gaines
The fast-rising (and fast-running) Gaines would be the speedier bookend to the physical Xavier Rhodes.
41. Buffalo Bills — Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief
With Stevie Johnson perhaps on the outs, Moncrief gives them an ideal replacement. Eric Moulds Jr.?
42. Tennessee Titans — Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
The slide ends for Nix, who is a perfect addition to a team transitioning to a “30” front.
43. New York Giants — Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
The Giants have needed to break out of the one-year, free-agent rental approach at tight end.
44. St. Louis Rams — Alabama QB A.J. McCarron
Brian Schottenheimer, who interviewed for the Bama offensive coordinator gig in 2012, finally gets to work with McCarron.
Shaun King's take: Back-up at best
45. Detroit Lions — Fresno State WR Davante Adams
A perfect complement to the explosive Calvin Johnson and the quick Golden Tate to give Matthew Stafford a strong three amigos.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers — Penn State WR Allen Robinson
The Steelers stay in-state to provide Ben Roethlisberger some much-needed size and skill among a smallish WR group.
47. Dallas Cowboys — Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan
This is a very good fit for a penetrating 1-technique in Rod Marinelli’s defense.
48. Baltimore Ravens — Virginia OT Morgan Moses
Long-armed project is worth the gamble and could find his way into the Week 1 right tackle mix.
49. New York Jets — Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy
In no way, we think, did Rex Ryan think he’d find this good an edge rusher this far down.
50. Miami Dolphins — Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
If the Dolphins are drafting him as Mike Wallace’s eventual replacement, they have a year to season Bryant.
51. Chicago Bears — Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Granted, defense is still a huge need. But Matt Forte has two years left on his deal, and undrafted speed back Michael Ford is the only other back on the roster.
Shaun King's take: Most complete back in draft
52. Arizona Cardinals — Washington State S Deone Bucannon
Super-athletic tone setter could help give Cardinals a terrific secondary to compete with the NFC West elite.
53. Green Bay Packers — Colorado State C Weston Richburg
Blue-collar center fits in with smarts and toughness and can work with Aaron Rodgers from the get-go.
54. Philadelphia Eagles — Stanford OLB Trent Murphy
Hard-nosed, high-motor edge player can get stronger while providing depth.
55. Cincinnati Bengals — Georgia Tech OLB Jerry Attaochu
The Bengals can follow a familiar pattern of drafting a talented DL project in Round 2 (e.g., Margus Hunt, Devon Still).
56. San Francisco 49ers — Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland
The 49ers love rangy corners, and even though he’s raw, Breeland fits the mold perfectly at a need position.
57. San Diego Chargers — Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
GM Tom Telesco loves production, and Matthews did so with little around him, drawing top SEC corners.
58. New Orleans Saints — Florida State CB Lamarcus Joyner
If there’s ever a cornerback who could play for Rob Ryan, the feisty Joyner is it.
59. Indianapolis Colts — USC C-OG Marcus Martin
Martin would be a huge upgrade over Khaled Holmes (his former college teammate) or Hugh Thornton at either guard or center, and with the recent (and sudden) retirement of Phil Costa, the depth inside is painfully thin.
60. Carolina Panthers — Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson
Might be their Week 1 starting left tackle, and they can’t wait any longer to draft at this spot.
61. San Francisco 49ers — Florida DT Dominique Easley
Has played in both odd and even fronts, and the 49ers have the luxury of waiting for him to get fully healthy.
62. New England Patriots — Notre Dame DT Stephon Tuitt
Can work in at two need spots: as a base end on early downs or inside on passing downs.
63. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with Denver Broncos) — Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo
The Titans make a bold move, trading a 2015 pick (they have no third-rounder this year), to land competition for Jake Locker — ahead of the Buccaneers (who pick at No. 69 and who have met multiple times with Garoppolo).
64. Seattle Seahawks — Washington TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins
The former top lieutenant under Pete Carroll, Steve Sarkesian is sure to give a spot-on scouting report.
Auburn RB Tre Mason
Shaun King's take: Question marks for next level
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