NFL draft: Jump up? Move down? Stay put?
By BARRY WILNER
AP Football Writer
NEW YORK — Jump up. Move down. Stay put.
The questions facing teams in this week's draft are compounded by the switch to a three-day schedule, beginning Thursday in prime time. That leaves more time — perhaps too much time — to consider trades. Further confusing the situation: 2010 is the best overall draft class in years.
"From the bottom of the first round into like the fourth round, maybe even into the fifth round, there are going to be a lot of good football players," Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway said. "There are a lot of players there that are going to come in and play for people, and not just in the upper rounds, but maybe in Rounds 4 and 5 where you'll be able to steal some players."
Although the dilemma of trading up to grab an enticing prospect or moving down to add more selections always has existed, the revamped structure for the seven rounds adds another element to decision making: time.
Teams now will have 18 hours or more to contemplate second-round choices. So a drafting order that so often gets shuffled in the first round — and likely will again Thursday — could see even more movement in Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday.
"I think there's speculation that the top of the second round will be more valuable because you have a whole day and night to maybe evaluate your board and target certain players," said Mickey Loomis, general manager of the Super Bowl champion Saints. "It will certainly give teams opportunity, a lot of time to discuss with other teams trade options. When you have that kind of opportunity, you expect there to be more deals.
"Beyond that, I don't think that (the change in setup) will have a major impact."
The biggest impact in this draft could be made by linemen. It's possible half of the 32 first-round picks could be guys from the trenches, including defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma, and offensive tackles Russell Okung of Oklahoma State and Trent Williams of Oklahoma. That quartet could go in the first six picks overall.
Also deep are the secondary, led by Tennessee safety Eric Berry and Florida cornerback Joe Haden; receivers, featuring Demaryius Thomas or Georgia Tech and Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State; and tight ends, including Rob Gronkowksi of Arizona and Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma.
The pickings are strong at running back, too, led by C. J. Spiller of Clemson and Ryan Mathews of Fresno State.
"I think there are some secondary guys, which most of the time they are pretty deep in corners," Browns general manager Tom Heckert said. "At safety there are probably more guys at the top than there's been in the past. It's really kind of relative every year. It's about the same, it's just the level of the top guys.
"This year there are obviously some defensive tackles who are going to go really high and that's usually not the case. It's usually defensive ends."
The talent stretches so deep into the draft that for Saturday's fourth through seventh rounds, plenty of jockeying of positions could occur.
The biggest intrigue might center on the first pick of the second round. The Rams own it and, after the other 31 clubs have all those hours to contemplate who is left — and who they had rated as a first-rounder and is still on the board — St. Louis' phone lines could be buzzing.
"Chances are nothing will happen," Rams GM Billy Devaney said, perhaps sending up a smoke screen. "The second round is really deep and teams may say 'Why give up a pick? We'll just stay where we're at.'"
"I'm always open to trading down, I really am," said Seahawks GM John Schneider, who was hired away from the Packers. "We kind of took pride in it in Green Bay, and we will continue to do that.
"If you feel real good about your board, it's worth moving down. Now, you are going to miss out on a guy here or there. And (fans will howl) 'Hey, they passed on such and such.' But you've got to look at it like maybe Player A was a better player than B and C, but B and C, (that's) two players for one."