Tackle needy teams could provide trade options in the NFL Draft
One position, however, could end up forcing someone to get aggressive. Whether they lost one in free agency or simply never had one, several teams near the top of this year's draft have holes at offensive tackle. There are several teams within striking distance of a top-notch tackle who have major needs on the offensive line.
It starts right at the top of the draft with the Kansas City Chiefs. After releasing right tackle Eric Winston and signing left tackle Branden Albert to a one-year franchise tender, many expect the Chiefs to select either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher with the first overall pick. However, the Chiefs don't need a tackle the way some of these other teams do, and could be a trade candidate if another team feels they need to lock up one of the top tackles.
The Jaguars, who have the second overall pick, have a terrible offensive line. Their one good player in the trenches, Eugene Monroe, is entering the final year of his contract. The Jaguars could address the defensive side of the ball, but a tackle is a very realistic option.
Though I expect the Raiders to draft defense at third overall, their offensive line was awful last year and they could take Joeckel or Fisher if they are available.
With Jason Peters reportedly feeling a hundred percent, I wouldn't expect the Eagles to select a tackle, but some people with more knowledge than me have suggested that they will.
After losing Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus this offseason, the Lions have huge holes at both tackle positions. I think it is their biggest need, and they very well may reach for one at fifth overall if Joeckel and Fisher are gone.
The Cardinals locked up a solid quarterback by trading for Carson Palmer, so their biggest need is now clearly on the offensive line. Palmer may be an upgrade over Kevin Kolb, but if the immobile former-Raider doesn't have some time in the pocket, the offensive won't significantly improve. The Cardinals draft seventh overall.
The Chargers took a big cap hit to cut left tackle Jared Gaither after he essentially quit on them in 2012. Their offensive line was a weakness before the release of Gaither, and they also lost top guard Louis Vasquez in free agency. I'd expect the Chargers to draft a lineman at 11th overall.
Finally, we have the Dolphins, who lost Jake Long to the Rams in free agency. The Dolphins are reportedly targeting Lane Johnson - considered by many to be the draft's third best tackle - but will he be available at 12th overall? I can't see that happening.
I've now mentioned eight teams in the top-12 that could draft an offensive tackle, and I'd say six of them will be legitimately targeting a player at that position. Here lies the problem: outside of Joeckel, Fisher, and Johnson, the next best tackle (according to most people) is DJ Fluker, who profiles as strictly a right tackle (valued less by NFL teams) and is ranked 21st by Scouts Inc. The next best tackle, according to Scouts Inc., is Menelik Watson, who isn't even ranked in their top-32.
With a top-heavy class of tackles, and an abundance of teams who need offensive linemen, there is a decent chance that one of these teams will trade up to bolster their offensive line.
The team to jump may be the Lions. With Johnson's stock on the rise, fifth overall may be the latest he'll go if the Chiefs and Jaguars select Joeckel and Fisher. A team like the Cardinals could attempt to trade up with the Raiders and Eagles. I know the Raiders, who have a ton of holes that need to be filled, would be open to the idea.
If Johnson does make it past the Lions, the Browns' sixth overall pick will become some prime real estate. I think the Cardinals will go for Johnson if he's available, so trading with the Browns may be the best way for teams like the Chargers and Dolphins to have a shot at locking up a tackle. Outside of Dee Milliner, there aren't any players that the Browns could select with that pick who would fill a big need, so they could be open to a trade. The Dolphins have been among the most aggressive teams this offseason and have an extra second-round pick as a result of last year's Vontae Davis trade.
Although this draft class is largely considered too balanced for a big time trade to occur, there is plenty of reason to believe someone could get aggressive early in the first round. The way this tackle draft class is shaping up combined with the amount of teams who need offensive linemen, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see someone make a move into the top-ten to secure one of the top three tackles. My guess is that the Dolphins make a move for Lane Johnson.