Now we’re really closing in, as the hours to the draft tick by. Here’s the latest I’m hearing …
• The Saints have called just about every team inside the top 15 that would be willing to move its pick, I’m told, to gauge trade interest and cost. The question, of course, would be what they’re looking to move up for, and they’ve been among the most corner-hungry teams on the scouting trail over the last two months. So maybe it’s Patrick Surtain II. Maybe it’s Jaycee Horn. Or could it be a quarterback? Or a weapon like Jaylen Waddle? The reluctance of teams in the upper reaches of the draft to drop back below the late teens, I think, will make a trade difficult for New Orleans. But if the Saints are anything, it’s self-assured in their process—and their evaluations (last year three of their four picks were the result of aggressive trades that had single players targeted).
• There are rumblings that Baltimore and Cleveland could move up in the 20s, too—and my sense is that there’s going to be a premium on corners in that range. By then, Horn and Surtain will be long gone. There’s a drop off to the next group. And then, there’s a second tier and another drop-off. So Northwestern’s Greg Newsome, Georgia’s Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes, and Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph could be the objects of some shorter moves up either within or into the 20s, with Joseph joining Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley as a bit of a wild card (Joseph’s issue is off-field, Farley’s relates to injury).
• While we’re on Farley, we mentioned yesterday that the Cardinals, Raiders and Browns have turned over a lot of rocks on him. One issue that most have brought up to me: The two back surgeries have happened since he last played in a football game. So not only have you not seen how he’s come off the second back surgery, teams really haven’t gotten a look at how he came off the first either. His case continues to be a most interesting one.
• Arizona’s corner need has been a little overlooked, but the Cardinals have been out there on the scouting trail looking hard at the position. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has been to a number of the pro days involving top corners. So while I’ve heard Arizona’s smitten with the Alabama skill guys (they’ve been connected to Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris by multiple teams the last couple weeks), the corner spot is one to watch for them, with the trouble being that they’re too low to get Horn or Surtain, and probably too high to dip into the second tier.
• One veteran quarterback who could be moved this weekend: Denver third-year man Drew Lock. If the Broncos land Justin Fields or Trey Lance (which I think is a possibility), there’s a strong perception that Lock will be on the block starting Friday. One potential destination I’ve heard for Lock is Minnesota, a team that could use an affordable backup with upside. Carolina was one team I heard could be in the mix, but that’d be if they don’t draft one Thursday night (and I think they could).
• Whether you call it the “cliff” or the “ledge,” most teams believe right around the 16 to 18 range, there’ll be a serious drop in ability, with the class starting to flatten out. So it makes sense that Las Vegas at 17, Miami at 18 and Chicago at 20 have explored the idea of trading down. And as we mentioned in Wednesday’s GamePlan, that also explains why the teams at the top have set limits on how far back they’re willing to go.
• For what it’s worth, Vegas has asked around on a potential move up, too, and Jon Gruden has met with some of the top quarterbacks. And if Lance, Fields or Jones slips out of the top 10, there’s an interesting alley there: It wouldn’t stun me if the Eagles, Vikings, Patriots or Raiders was quietly thinking about the position there.
• And while we’re on the Eagles, while we reported a couple of weeks back that they were asking around on a trade up, and other teams believed it was to get in front of Dallas for one of the top two corners, it does seem like GM Howie Roseman’s keeping a pretty open mind on which position to attack. I’ve heard Philly connected to Kwity Paye, Waddle, Smith and Fields, as well.
• The Patriots continue to come up as a trade-up candidate—potentially for a quarterback. But one GM in the top 10 told me his sense was that New England might be looking more seriously at a move up outside the top 10, rather than into it. Another exec said that the feeling he got was New England was trying to play its interest cool for now. One thing that I can say: The Patriots have talked to Falcons, Lions, Panthers and almost every other team in front of them (with the exception of their division rivals) about moving. We’ll see if they get more aggressive tonight. At the very least, they’ve got a feel for the cost of it.
• A smoking gun for you: The presence of Bengals line coach Frank Pollack at a lot of pro days featuring linemen that’ll be available in the second and third rounds. To me, that’s an indication of Cincinnati’s consideration to take LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth pick and then double back on its offensive line need Friday.
• And here are two guys who are wild cards Thursday night: Alabama’s Christian Barmore and Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman. Teams have linked Barmore to Jacksonville, either at No. 25 or No. 33, and that makes sense given Urban Meyer’s emphasis on being strong on the defensive front. But given Barmore’s off-field issues, if he slides past Baltimore twice, with all the connections the Ravens have to Alabama, it’ll get the attention of other teams. As for Bateman, I won’t be surprised in the least if he drops well into the second round.
• Speaking of the Ravens, we mentioned they could move up from No. 27. They’ve also had talks on moving down from No. 31. And the Bills have had talks with teams about moving down from No. 30. And it would surprise no one if the Bucs tried to peddle the 32nd pick.
… And we’ll be back with more later.