Today's absurd prediction:
Someone will make a major trade into the top 10.
The press has finally figured out the trend that no one wants a top 10 pick, and it's widely publicized, with just about every notable journalist talking about what a pricey gamble a top draft pick is these days. This is usually right about the time that someone comes along and bucks the trend.
This isn't a freak occurrence, it makes perfect sense that this would happen. People who own football teams are savvy investors. That's why they bought football teams. They recognize the difference between perceived value of an asset and its actual value, and make decisions accordingly. They haven't been trading for top picks lately because they've been overvalued. But now, with everyone up in arms about rookie salaries and how they're ruining the game, suddenly top 10 draft picks are undervalued.
Despite the fact that there are a large number of high-profile busts at the top of the draft, your odds of finding a long-term impact player ARE higher at higher picks. Yes, the later rounds are where your scouting team shines and you find the guys that form the bedrock of your team, but when you're talking 20th overall vs. 7th overall, a lot more of those 7th guys have become great players. Look at this:
7th overall: Adrian Peterson, Michael Huff, Troy Williamson, Roy Williams, Byron Leftwich, Bryant McKinnie, Andre Carter, Thomas Jones, Champ Bailey, Kyle Turley, Ike Hilliard
20th overall: Aaron Ross, Tamba Hali, Marcus Spears, Kenechi Udeze, George Foster, Javon Walker,
Adam Archuleta, Stockar Macdougle, Ebenezer Ekuban, Terry Fair, Dewayne Rudd
The jury's still out on how the more recent picks will pan out, but of the 11 7th picks, you've got at least four or five guys who should finish their careers with multiple Pro Bowl appearances, and guys like Hilliard, Jones, and Carter who have been long-term starters. There are no superstars at 20th, maybe a few one- or two-time Pro Bowlers. And by the way, to be fair, I picked the numbers 7 and 20 arbitrarily; if I'd thought about it, I would have avoided a list that would include Troy Williamson.
So while you're going to spend a lot more money on a 7th pick, your odds of landing a Pro Bowler are much higher. And people holding those picks are going to either throw away or seriously re-evaluate their draft value charts. So some savvy owner is going to realize he can get a bargain.
Now, how's it going to happen? I could very easily see Dan Snyder moving up to nab a guy he loves, despite his claims that he's planning on keeping his picks this time around. He's got the business shark personality to buck the trend, and he's one of the few owners with a recent history of moving up in the draft (to pick Jason Campbell and Rocky McIntosh). There are just two problems: 1) the Redskins are in terrible salary cap shape and can't really afford a high draft pick, so unless they unload a player with a high cap number in the trade, it probably can't happen; and 2) they're already in a good position to hit the second wave of pass rushers or a solid wide receiver in the draft, two areas of need, so there's not much incentive to move up.
The team to move up will probably not be targeting Matt Ryan or Darren McFadden. I don't think anyone will be bucking the trend of devaluing quarterbacks and running backs just yet. It's much more likely they'll be going for Ryan Clady, Sedrick Ellis, a top corner, or perhaps a Vernon Gholston or Chris Long if they slide past the top 5.
The team accepting the trade will probably not be the Chiefs, since their trade with the Vikings satisfies their need for more picks later on. It probably won't be one of the top four picks, because those still aren't valuable enough, not in this draft. It probably won't be the Saints, since they're in position to take the best corner in the draft, and probably happy with that. I'm thinking it also won't be the Ravens, I think they like their options at 8. So let's figure it's the Jets, Pats, or Bengals. The Pats don't need the picks later, per se, they'd just prefer to take guys at a lower price because they know they can find a star later. The Jets could stand to move down a bit, but might be enticed by Matt Ryan or Darren McFadden if they slip to six. The Bengals are probably the best bet; though several mocks have them getting Sedrick Ellis, which they'd be happy about, I'm not convinced they wouldn't rather load up on later picks.
There are too many variables to predict exactly how things will shake out, but here are some possibilities:
OT Ryan Clady is still there at #7; the Broncos trade up with the Pats, offering this year's first and fourth round picks and next year's second round pick.
The Dolphins trade up with the Bengals for the #9 pick, hoping to beat New Orleans to whomever they view as the top corner in the draft, say Leodis McKelvin. They offer their second-round pick, next year's third-round pick and Jason Taylor, and probably another incentive-based pick (if he doesn't play in 2009, the Dolphins' fourth-round pick).
Chris Long slips past the top five, and the Jets get a ton of offers, the best of which is from favorite trading partner the Washington Redskins: This year's first- and second-round picks, CB Shawn Springs, and DE Philip Daniels.