Mike Mayock spent Tuesday night doing mock drafts. Not for publication, not for any other reason than the fact that he's Mike Mayock, NFL Network's draft guru. Multiple times in the course of a 10 minute interview with a gaggle of reporters, Mayock referred to making mock drafts last night. While you slept, Mike Mayock made mock drafts ... for the hell of it. Over the course of his draft talk, Mayock returned over and over again to trade talk, sometimes by his own accord, sometimes by a media that salivates at the idea of trading draft picks.
Columnists have pointed to the rookie pay scale again and again in speculating about what could be a busy day of trading on Thursday. Not having to pay a brand new NFL player $50 million in guaranteed money makes a big difference when talking about trading up.
That difference matters when it comes to moving up to the top of the round for a franchise quarterback, a move like the one Washington made in March to secure the second pick in the draft and Robert Griffin III. It matters less in the middle part of the part of the round, though I doubt you would hear many general managers and their bean counters complaining about millions less in salary dollars. It does certainly remove a barrier.
Trades this year are all about the specific players, a point Mayock stressed each time one of the wrinkled Oxfords surrounding him probe for a scoop. There are some very good players in this year's draft, but after the top five players -- a list that starts with the two quarterbacks and includes Trent Richardson, Morris Claiborne and Matt Kalil -- the talent is pretty well bunched together in the middle of the round.
"I think there's more 'If we want Mark Barron, how do we go get him?'" Mayock explained. "I kind of think that's more the intriguing market ... trading up from 15 or 16 to 12 or 13 where you're not giving much up, but you're getting your player."
Position scarcity matters too, and no position has as noticeable of a dropoff as safety. Mayock, a former safety himself, tipped his hand to that fact when Mark Barron's name rolled off his tongue so easily and persistently as an example of a trade that might happen in the first round.
That "15 or 16" quoted above? That's the Jets who are being mentioned frequently in trade rumors this week.
"If you want a safety, will you give up a third-round pick to go get him?" Mayock asked.
So who are the most attractive trade targets? The names being mentioned most in trade rumors include these players:
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama -- The people who actually know what they're talking about LOVE Trent Richardson. NFL Films' Greg Cosell raved about him, dismissing the "devaluation of the position" talk in the case of Richardson. The hot rumor yesterday had the Jets eyeing a move into the top five for Richardson.
Mark Barron, S, Alabama -- It's a good day to be from Alabama. Besides the position scarcity thing, Barron is also a really good player. There just so happen to be a handful of teams used to winning as well as wheeling and dealing with big holes to fill at safety. The Jets are another possibility here, along with the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots, who I see as a dark horse candidate.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State -- The irrational exuberance of the early spring over Dontari Poe and Michael Brockers has calmed. Cox is the top defensive lineman, and that will make him attractive to some teams. The Eagles have been mentioned as a possibility, and keep an eye on the Carolina Panthers.
David DeCastro, OG, Stanford - There are just too many guards available in this draft for a team, even a team like Dallas, to move up more than a spot or two for DeCastro. The better play would be to move around in the bottom of the first or early second with an eye toward Kevin Zeitler.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M - Yesterday's news. The love for Tannehill has diminished significantly from two weeks ago when everyone thought three or four teams might trade up for the consolation prize. It's still possible that Miami could move up, but with Cleveland not interested Jeff Ireland can wait.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, Carolina - No player got more love from Mayock yesterday than Gilmore. For him, the difference between Gilmore and Morris Claiborne is minimal. Cornerbacks are the new left tackles in the NFL these days, and that could be enough for teams like the Bengals and the Titans to move up a few spots.