Just when the picture started coming into focus on the 2008 NFL Draft, the trade of two veteran defensive linemen this week and the potential — some say inevitable — trade of another has created further intrigue in Saturday's first round.
First, the Kansas City Chiefs traded franchise DE Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings for a first-rounder, two third-rounders and a swap of sixth-round picks in this year's draft. Then Thursday, the Jets finally unloaded DT Dewayne Robertson to the Denver Broncos for a conditional pick in next year's draft.
But as regular readers on this site may have seen, the change of one player at the top of the draft board created a ripple effect of change in our early mock drafts. These moves and the impending trade of Miami DE Jason Taylor will also alter the landscape of what is to come in this weekend's draft.
The key to the equation here is the lack of depth at the DL positions in this draft. Much as with wide receivers, teams have recognized that it will be tough to address their needs at DE and DT without being in the top of the first round. The price for getting up that high on the board is too steep for most teams, and those that do will overspend for unproven players.
Thus, as we mentioned earlier this week, we have seen the beginning of the movement of veteran players in exchange for draft picks, which will likely continue over the weekend with players such as Eagles CB Lito Sheppard, Taylor, and maybe even Cincy WR Chad Johnson.
The Allen deal has several ramifications. KC coach Herm Edwards told us weeks ago he would like to stockpile as many picks as possible. "We have 10 and I want 15," he said. Thanks to the Allen deal, he now has 13, and you can bet that one of those will be used on a defensive end.
Of course the beauty of the move for the Chiefs is that they are in a position to do just about anything Saturday, which makes them a big player in the early going.
If they want to trade up to St. Louis' second pick to get Matt Ryan or one of the top defensive linemen, they are certainly in position to do that as one of only two teams with multiple first-round picks. If they stay where they are, they are still in position to address the QB position, as well as the D-line or one of their other needs at WR or in the secondary. They are a player for just about every top prospect on the board.
For Minnesota, the trade addresses their single biggest need. When on the field, Allen has been among the most productive pass rushers in the league over the last two seasons, and he is still only 26 years old.
And while some may feel the Vikings gave up too much for a player who has already served suspension time in the league's substance abuse program, they would have had to give up at least the two third-rounders to even have a chance at the top pass rushers in this draft, none of whom can be considered a sure thing at this point. And with late questions arising about DEs Phillip Merling and Derrick Harvey, staying at No. 17 seemed pointless.
It also takes them out of the defensive end business. This is good news to teams like Washington and Jacksonville, who were below Minnesota and whose odds of getting an impact player have improved. Of course, KC could be on the phone offering them a chance to move up and get the player they want.
The Broncos addressed their top need as well with the addition of Robertson, who no longer fit in the Jets' plans. Denver is traditionally a mover on draft day and likes to go up and get its guy, especially if he slips. But the prospects of getting into the top five or six picks to get the only impact DTs in the draft (Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis) came with a high price tag, and the drop in talent after those two players made staying put or trading down an unfavorable option.
They have now opened up their other options and can use the 12th pick on a much needed OT to replace the retired Matt Lepsis, or they could snag a player like Southern Cal LB Keith Rivers to boost their run defense, which suffered last season.
As we mentioned, expect more veterans to have an impact on this draft as Friday turns into Saturday. Sheppard could still become a hot commodity despite the depth of corners in this draft. The spread offenses of today's NFL demand that every team have three quality cover corners.
Former Seattle running back Shaun Alexander could be the answer for a team with a need at RB, much in the way that Jamal Lewis was the answer for the Browns a year ago, pushing some of the top RB prospects down a peg.
And the availability of Taylor will not only give teams who are out of reach of the top pass rushers in this draft a chance to pick up an impact player, but it will give Miami a second first-rounder without giving up one of its second-round picks, meaning the Dolphins will send four cards to the podium in the first 57 picks.
Every pick will be in play early Saturday. Be sure to check back Monday when we review the overall draft and the Jets' take from the weekend.