NFL Draft: This year's power brokers

Published April 19, 2010

| FoxSports

Sometime Monday, Rams general manager Billy Devaney will complete his pre-draft meetings and wait for his phone to ring. Devaney expects to hear some offers for his team's prized possession, the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's prime-time draft.

So, that makes him the ultimate power broker in this year's draft because he's already admitted that the top three players have greatness written all over them.

This is not an easy job for Devaney.

Yes, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are great defensive tackles, but the player most coveted right now is Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

"You don't hear anyone even talking about his right shoulder anymore," said one insider. Devaney, who decided to pass on USC quarterback Mark Sanchez last year, realizes he needs a franchise quarterback if the Rams are ever going to compete for the playoffs again.

The teams that could come a-calling -- Washington, Cleveland and Seattle -- don't have a pick that will allow them to draft either Suh or McCoy, two players who would make coach Steve Spagnuolo happy. That is Devaney's ultimate dilemma. Yes, he may receive a bunch of picks or players as compensation for surrendering the No. 1 pick, but it won't be the quality his team desires.

For a short history lesson, Devaney was Bobby Beathard's right-hand man with the Chargers when Beathard admittedly made the personnel blunder of his life, not thoroughly checking into the background of quarterback Ryan Leaf. Beathard made a lot of great personnel decisions in his Hall of Fame-worthy career, but Leaf is a tough blemish to erase and it has cost him.

Devaney, though, isn't working in a vacuum. Kevin Demoff, the Rams' young CEO, will serve as an excellent sounding board. Plus former boss John Shaw, one of the smartest men in football, is a phone call away. If the Rams do trade, they should get maximum compensation, a necessary ingredient for probably one of the weakest rosters in the NFL.

Seattle and San Francisco both have two first-round picks -- and that's some ammunition -- but the 49ers are positioned at 13th and 17th overall and the general wisdom is that Jed York isn't going to allow new man Trent Baalke, the replacement for Scot McCloughan, to attempt any outlandish trades because there should be plenty of quality when the 49ers are using their picks.

Pete Carroll, the new man in Seattle, is another story. He and his general manager, John Schneider, already stunned the football world by trading a second-round pick to San Diego for third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. There is a league-wide belief that they want a left tackle replacement for Walter Jones with the No. 6 overall pick.

"If they don't see the draft going the way they want it, I think they could be a major player to make a move," said a club executive in the top five. "I think we all learned that Carroll isn't afraid to try something."

And that's the big issue with trying to gauge this year's power brokers. Guys who aren't afraid to make a deal are the ones to keep a close eye on. This is where Andy Reid in Philadelphia , his former sidekick Tom Heckert, now helping Mike Holmgren in Cleveland , and Denver 's brash coach Josh McDaniels come into play.

All three of these men have proven they are willing to make a big trade. Reid just traded Donovan McNabb to the rival Redskins and McDaniels just traded his star receiver to the Dolphins for two second-round picks (this year and next). You have to keep your eye on McDaniels, who may be the first coach in NFL history to trade his franchise quarterback and star receiver in a 14-month span.

The Eagles are the only team with five picks in the first 87 selections, starting with No. 24 and ending with No. 87. Reid has the firepower to move into the top of the first round for quality if he wants to. And when you trade your franchise quarterback within your division, you've proven to everyone you have the guts to do something wild.

Heckert said last week that he's had informal discussions with Devaney about the asking price for the draft's overall No. 1 pick. Such a revelation made everyone believe that Holmgren covets Bradford over Jimmy Clausen. But if Devaney's price is too steep, does it mean that Holmgren will turn to Mike Shanahan, who owns the No. 4 pick, in order to get Clausen? Most mock drafts have the Redskins drafting tackle Russell Okung, but nothing's a certainty there. This is where Carroll could jump in, too, because Okung is considered their first choice to replace Walter Jones.

A wild card this week could be the Bears and general manager Jerry Angelo. There is no question that the Bears reloaded this offseason with the signings of Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor, plus the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Martz at $1.1 million, in order to win now!

Angelo made those moves, plus the blockbuster trade last year for quarterback Jay Cutler, and who's to say he won't mortgage Chicago's future in order to fill some offensive line holes this season? Granted, the Bears don't have either a first or second-round pick (dealt for the late defensive end Gaines Adams), but Angelo could pull a Beathard and trade his top picks next year in order to make a move this year.

The bottom line in Chicago for coach Lovie Smith and Angelo is that their jobs probably are at stake if they don't make the playoffs in 2010. Will Angelo continue to be bold or will upper management say no if he wants to deal away future picks to shore up a very average offensive line?

You want to say that agents , like CAA's Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, have some say in this draft, too, because they represent Bradford, McCoy, Georgia Tech pass rusher Derrick Morgan, Iowa offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and the best tight end in Jermaine Gresham.

All five of those players are sure-fire first-rounders and their top two clients should go in the top three. However, the Rams' Demoff has already decided not to negotiate a contract with Condon or anyone else. Yes, the Rams know the parameters (probably a $13 million average and as much as $50 million guaranteed if it's Bradford), so there's no need to rush.

I always want to say that men like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick will be power brokers, too, in this year's draft. But I really don't see either one of them trading up into the top of the round. Parcells has already made his big deal for receiver Brandon Marshall whereas Belichick, who is armed with three second-round picks (Nos. 44, 47 and 53 overall), tends to trade down instead of up. Belichick prefers to collect picks rather than packaging them together for a bold move. Besides, everyone knows his most critical need is a tight end at No. 22 in the first round and anybody on defense.

We'll just have to wait to see if one of these powerbrokers really wants to make a deal. But if nothing happens at the top of the round for the Rams, you can bet that Devaney's phone will be ringing on Friday because any team that covets the top pick in the second round could be desperate.

If you recall the Jets made a big swap for the top pick on the draft's second day in order to select Shonn Greene, and after the dust settles on the first round Thursday night, teams will have a better idea where their draftboards stand in relation to other teams.

"That selection could end up being the most coveted pick in the entire draft," Demoff said.

Let the wheeling and dealing begin!

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