The NBA playoffs are around the corner, the NHL playoffs have just started, Baseball season is underway, and arguably the biggest golf tournament in recent history took place this past weekend, yet in the time of year dead between the end of the NFL season and the start of training camp, they steal the show. This should be the time where America remembers its great diversity of professional sports but instead plastered all over the sports world is the NFL draft. What I consider to be as (if not more) important as the draft are the trades the happen around the draft.
Now there have been 2 really big trades that will have huge impacts on the draft. The one that started the real commotion was on April 4, when the Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins in exchange for the 37th overall pick in this years draft, the Redskins second round pick, and either a 3rd or 4th round pick in the 2011 NFL draft. What this trade does for Washington is take away question marks about what to do with the 4th overall pick this year. There was a lot of talk about if Sam Bradford fell there or takingJimmy Clausen higher than projected, but now it seems pretty clear that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, in their first year at Washington, will take an offensive tackle. Now the question becomes who? The most NFL ready tackle is clearly Russell Okung out of Oklahoma State University. Okung, a two time First-team All-American, tops the offensive tackle charts of most scouts and general managers; however, Mike Shanahan is famous for running the zone-blocking scheme in Denver and the tremendous success he has had with it. During hisfourteen-year tenure with the Broncos he had 6 different running backs with over 1000 yard seasons. Now the more athletic top tier tackle is Trent Williams, out of Oklahoma. Now the zone is so successful because it gets big line men to the second line of defenders and having the speed Williams has certainly would help. I think clearly though it will be Okung, he’s much stronger and more NFL ready with the potential of reaching that Walter Jones or Orlando Pace level. Plus the Redskins need all the offensive line help they can get right away.
Surprisingly the Philadelphia Eagles really aren’t affected, from a draft stand point, with this trade. They have had their quarterback of the future, in Kevin Kolb, for the last few years, as well as one of the most athletic quarterbacks to ever play the game, Michael Vick. Their number one issue, far and away, is cornerback. After trading long time starter Sheldon Brown to the Browns, ironically enough, for linebacker Alex Hall, it became a glaring weakness. This year’s cornerback draft class is going to become prevalent at the end of the first round. Depending on who is avaliable by the Eagles 24th overall pick, I could see them drafting a corner like Kyle Wilson (Boise State) or Kareem Jackson (Alabama).
Now another trade, that I do not think anyone was surprised to see, affects the draft much more. Brandon Marshall was traded from the Denver Broncos to the Miami Dolphins for a second round pick in this year’s and next year’s draft. Now the Broncos and Dolphins pick 11th and 12th respectively in the first round. Now the Broncos have many needs, so getting these extra picks was clutch. Broncos highlighted needs are now wide receiver, inside linebacker, defensive line, and offensive line. A lot of people see the Broncos taking Dez Bryant, the “troubled” wide receiver out of Oklahoma State. Now Brandon Marshall was a headache for the past few years, why would you want a guy who could bring just as many problems? You wouldn’t! There are going to be slightly less hyped, higher character guys available throughout the second round. Guys like Arrelious Benn or Demaryius Thomas, so they will address a bigger more important need. Rolando McClain is the best interior linebacker, by far, in this year’s draft. He’s been coached by, in my opinion, the best coach in college football, Nick Saban. He was the anchor of the defense for the national championship team. He’s talented, has leadership, and wants to win, so I cannot see the Broncos passing on him. They can always address their new wide receiver need with the second round pick that they got in the trade.
Now the Dolphins on the other hand took care of one of their biggest needs. Chad Henne was throwing to… no one. They decided they rather run the wildcat than attempt to pass, so that wide receiver need is taken care of. Now the key to a successful 3-4 defense that Miami runs is a prominent nose-tackle. The best guy for that role, who will be there at 12th pick, is Dan Williams. The 6’ 3”, 327-pound linemen out of Tennessee will be there to occupy blockers. They have a good young secondary and just acquired a top tier linebacker from Arizona, KarlosDansby. In order to allow the linebacking core led by Dansby to do their job, they need a guy like Williams to occupy the offensive line. The Miami Dolphins have a lot of talent, they just need to fill some holes, but nose-tackle is going to be one big, important, hole to fill.
Football fans get ready for the NFC and AFC east to be the two most competitive divisions in all of football. And because of the possible lock out in 2 seasons, everyone is getting geared up to try and win this year instead of building for the future. This could be one of the best seasons we see in a long time.
By Alex Rosenbaum