The NFL Networks' Jason LaCanfora today posted a list of invitees to the draft. The list offers a possible peek at players the league forecasts to go in the first round. Of particular interest are quarterbacks, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, whose inclusion suggests they may be late first-round prospects. As we've discussed in earlier pieces, the rise of one or both QBs on league boards could create a legitimate trade-down market for a team like Dallas, which sits in territory just beyond the range of first-round graded prospects.
As you probably know, the league is spreading the draft over three days this year, with the first round taking place on Thursday, the 2nd and 3rd rounds on Friday and the later rounds on Saturday. In year's past, the league might bring in players who project as potential second rounders for the "day one" broadcast. With only round one unfolding on day one, I doubt the NFL would invite a player to sit around. LaCanfora's story stresses that the players are not obligated to wait in the green room, just off the draft stage. That said, I'm still skeptical that they would get the invitations if they did not have a fair chance to be picked Thursday night.
Here's the current list of invitees confirmed to be in New York on day one:
- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
- Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
- Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
- Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
- Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
- Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
- Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
Let's look at the projected range for each name here. Suh, McCoy and Okung will go in the top five. Eric Berry should be gone by pick ten. Morgan, Dan Williams and Trent Williams are second-ten picks in most mocks. Odrick currently leaves most mockers' boards when the Patriots pick at 22.
LaCanfora notes that the top four QBs, Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Tebow and McCoy are "mulling their options." Whether they attend or not, Bradford and Clausen appear to be top ten prospects. The Rams have opened negotiations with Bradford, Clausen, Suh and McCoy, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story.
This is standard operating procedure these days for teams with the top pick. The Rams may prefer Bradford above all, but concurrent negotiations with other top prospects will keep any agent from becoming too outrageous in his demands. Rookie bonuses generally decline by draft slot, which means that a "good" bonus for the 2nd overall pick will still fall short of a "bad" bonus for the top guy. An agent can cost his client a lot of money if he's too hard headed and forces the team to pursue another player with a similar grade.
Tebow and McCoy have been wild cards. Most mocks have put them somewhere in the second round, but with St. Louis, Washington, Cleveland and perhaps Seattle and Buffalo looking for signal callers in the top ten, and only Bradford and Clausen being sure quarterback prospects in that range, a trade up market could develop for teams in the bottom quarter of the round if the teams who missed out on Bradford and Clausen feel they can't wait until the 2nd round to guarantee themselves a quarterback.
The Cowboys made a deal like this in 2007, when they traded the 22nd overall pick to Cleveland, who used it to draft QB Brady Quinn, who had fallen lower than expected. The Browns surrendered their early 2nd rounder and a 2008 first rounder which eventually became Felix Jones. Dallas used that 2nd rounder as part of a subsequent move back into the late first, where the team picked Anthony Spencer.
Dallas is certainly hoping that a player or two with a first-round grade falls to pick 27 or close enough to allow for a low-cost move up. If the Cowboys' top-tier targets are gone, however, the emergence of a quarterback market could give them other options.
The invitee list suggests that market could be more than a pipe dream.
Update: ESPN's Chris Mortensen Twittered Tuesday that the Cleveland Browns have a real interest in Colt McCoy and that a move into the late 1st should not be ruled out.
Hmmm. That mock scenario I posted last week suddenly doesn't look so crazy. (See scenario one.)