Tom Rudawsky is a former NFL scout for the New York Giants and previously worked in football operations for the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. He now writes for The 33rd Team among other publications. Find him on Twitter @TRudy831
With the NFL Draft now nine days away, teams across the league are tidying up their draft boards and talking through potential scenarios they could face across the three-day event in a quest to bolster their roster. Last week, I wrote about five teams that could be looking to trade down in the first round. This week, we examine the teams that could be aggressive next Thursday night in an attempt to land a dynamic player at a key position of need – and ultimately make a trade up the draft order to do so.
It’s rather ironic that the Seahawks are on this list, because historically they’ve been the team that usually looks to trade down and out of the first round to acquire more draft capital in the middle rounds of the draft – where they’ve often found great value. However, the state of Seattle’s franchise is much different than it’s been in a long time, and that’s because Russell Wilson is no longer holding down the fort at quarterback.
It’s a new era in Seattle, and with the Seahawks picking ninth overall and in need of a quarterback, this is a team that could be aggressive in a potential pursuit of a franchise-altering guy. Of course, picking ninth is already a good spot to be, and Seattle definitely will have the chance to take a quarterback. But will it be THE quarterback? That’s the question. Whatever Seattle’s QB rankings are for this class, they’re within striking distance of getting their top option and trading up. It might seem like a shocking change in philosophy, but John Schneider’s team could be moving up in round one.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints were already a strong candidate to trade up when they held the 18th overall selection as their only first round pick because they need a young QB. Then, a few weeks ago, they became an even likelier “trade up” team when they swapped first round picks with the Eagles, and in turn acquired an additional first round pick. Now, they’re picking 16th and 19th overall, with enhanced flexibility to act as they desire on draft day.
Having more draft capital means having more options, and boy does New Orleans now have options. Though they re-signed Jameis Winston this off-season, there definitely is a need for a young, talented signal caller to join the roster and eventually usurp Winston. However, after losing Terron Armstead in free agency, there also is a glaring hole at left tackle, paving the way for a potential trade up for a tackle in what is a rather strong OT class as well. Regardless, the Saints are now clearly a team that figures to be aggressive in round one, and teams that want to trade down will be putting in a call down to the bayou to gauge that interest.
The Steelers, despite a big hole at quarterback, still have an upper echelon roster in football. It’s a vaunted defense that also has a good young core of playmakers on offense. However, possessing a hole at QB isn’t just some footnote – it’s a massive proposition that longtime General Manager Kevin Colbert faces in his final season leading the Steelers.
Pittsburgh is a logical trade partner for a team looking to move down due to the Steelers craving for a QB. Looking at their roster, one could reasonably say that they truly are just an elite quarterback away from being a true contender. So, if that’s what’s standing between them and potential Super Bowl glory, why not make the aggressive move up? This proud, storied franchise is one to watch come April 28.
Green Bay Packers
It’s been an eventful offseason in Green Bay as the Packers signed Aaron Rodgers to an earth-shattering contract extension. However, they then traded Rodgers’ top weapon in Davante Adams to the Raiders, creating a glaring hole at wide receiver. The Packers, of course, netted some quality draft capital in return. They now pick 22nd and 28th overall in the first round. Given how obvious of a need they now have to try to fill, teams picking around them have a clear idea of the direction they could go at either (or both) of their first round picks.
For Green Bay, having this type of flexibility offers them the chance to go up and get a playmaker they identify as a game-changer. This is a very strong wide receiver class, so they can certainly stay put as well. However, they’re not just replacing their top wideout. They’re trying to replace the best receiver in football, and that must be treated with very high priority considering the contract they just handed to their quarterback. If the Packers hone in on a player that they can’t live without, such as Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, it could be wise to move up and ensure his services.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For Tampa Bay, looking to potentially move up in round one of the draft is more about a mindset than anything. When Tom Brady first announced his retirement, it signaled a major transition phase for the franchise in replacing the most accomplished quarterback in the history of the sport. However, Brady walked back his retirement, and now Tampa Bay is operating with the ultimate “win-now” mentality. They have to assume this is Brady’s last year, and that means one final golden opportunity to maximize having TB12’s greatness. So, how can they do that? By going all in during round one of the draft, and trading up to acquire a prized talent they may have their eye on.
As far as who the Bucs could be targeting, it could be anything, really. Perhaps another receiver to make the already-dynamic receiving core that much more lethal. Perhaps it’s a cornerback to lock down the secondary. Perhaps another pass rusher to pair with Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. After all, you can never have too many pass rushers. Regardless, this is a team that should certainly push their poker chips to the middle of the table in 2022, and we could see that on night one of the draft.