Potential trade in top five of NFL Draft, QBs taken in Round 1, and more

With the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, Pro Football Network decided to open up its weekly mailbag and answer reader questions ahead of the biggest weekend of the offseason. From early first-round trades to premium QB prospects in the 2022 class, PFN’s Lead NFL Reporter, Mike Kayeprovides his in-depth answers to questions surrounding the latest news and rumors NFL fans care about the most.

NFL News and Rumors: Do you see a team trading into the top five this year? If so, who is that player that causes them to move up?

With an underwhelming QB class, the chances of a team trading up into the top five are pretty slim. However, with the New York Jets and New York Giants picking twice in the top 10, they might be willing to take a bit less value to trade back than they would with just one pick in that range.

If the Carolina Panthers were dead set on a QB, they could try to jump the Giants at No. 5 and make a deal with the Jets at No. 4. Thus, in theory, no other team could get ahead of them for a QB.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, and Houston Texans are unlikely to take a QB in the top three. They’re also not likely to get a good enough return to move out of those selections. So, with the Jets potentially moving back two slots, the Panthers could offer up some premium 2023 picks in return. The issue for the Panthers is that they are without second- and third-round picks this year.

The Saints could be a team to watch

The New Orleans Saints are another team to watch because they have two first-round picks, which if used together could propel them into the top five. Making a deal with the Giants to jump ahead of the Panthers — their division rivals — would be a competitive move by the Saints. The Panthers and Saints also both need an offensive tackle. In theory, the Saints could try to jump the Panthers to acquire Alabama’s Evan Neal or NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu.

The only other prospect that might be worth making a deal into the top five for is Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who is expected to be a top-three pick. If he were to fall past No. 2, a team could look to trade up for him with the Houston Texans looking to add some long-term value in a weak first round.

Are there examples of Travon Walker-like risers who have been successful in the NFL?

Georgia defensive end Travon Walker has seen his stock catch fire in recent weeks after his unbelievable performance at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

At 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds, Walker ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash and a 6.89-second three-cone drill. Those are elite numbers for a defensive end at any size, so that tells you how much of an athletic freak Walker is at this stage in his career.

However, the concern with Walker is that his college production was middling (at best) on paper. Through three seasons, Walker produced just 61 tackles (13 for loss), 9.5 sacks, and 3 pass breakups. The lack of production — combined with the impressive Combine numbers — has some critics shrugging their shoulders because of the lack of clarity.

That said, rumors have gathered that the Jacksonville Jaguars have interest in Walker with the first overall pick. With little-to-no trade leverage, a smokescreen rumor wouldn’t do much for the Jaguars. Therefore, there’s reason to believe the interest is legitimate.

Lane Johnson has had tremendous success after surging up NFL Draft boards

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s answer the question about a similar rise from an athletic prospect. While freaks and workout warriors like Dion Jordan, Mike Mamula, and Kevin White have bombed over the years, there are a few recent examples of athletic unicorns rising in the pre-draft process and actually panning out.

The best example is probably Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson. During Johnson’s college career, he was a JUCO QB, a backup tight end and defensive end, and a starting offensive tackle. He played a different position in each of his three seasons at Oklahoma, finishing as a starting left tackle as a senior. He then ran a 4.72-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and surged up boards.

Johnson came into the process with very good tape, despite only playing two years at offensive tackle. He was expected to be a top 10-15 pick before the Combine. However, following his unreal performance in the pre-draft process, he quickly launched into the top-five discussion.

The Eagles took Johnson fourth overall, and he is the lone member of the first round from the 2013 NFL Draft that is still with his original team. He’s also a three-time Pro Bowl selection and has been named an All-Pro twice (first-team in 2017, second-team in 2021).

Another example is former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Most looked at the Memphis lineman as a late-first, early-second round prospect entering the pre-draft process. Then, at 6-foot-3 and 346 pounds, Poe ran a 4.98-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and he zoomed up boards. The Chiefs took him 10th overall in 2012, and he wound up making two Pro Bowls during his nine-year career.

NFL News and Rumors: How many QBs will be selected in the first round?

This has been a polarizing question within the NFL circles, largely because of the lack of top-tier, consensus talent at the QB position. As of now, four is the magic number.

Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis are expected to be top-20 picks. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder is riding a wave of pre-draft pleasantries. Ridder’s ceiling is probably No. 16 with the Saints, while his floor is likely No. 32 with the Detroit Lions.

From there, it’s fair to expect a team picking in the early second round to jump into the late first — presumably in a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 29 or no. 30 — to snag a QB with a fifth-year option. That QB could be Mississippi’s Matt Corral or UNC’s Sam Howell.

Ridder is really the wild card in the second half of Round 1. If the NFC South pounces on Pickett and/or Willis in the first 16 picks, look for Ridder to be a prime target of the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20. The Lions could also look to get ahead of them by trading up from No. 32 to 18 or 19. Remember, the Lions own the 34th overall pick, which is a valuable asset at the top of the second round.

If a team like the Eagles, picking at No. 18, wanted to get additional capital and still hold a second first-round pick, GM Howie Roseman could try to strike a deal with the Lions for No. 32 and no. 34.

Will there be additional free agency moves for the Dolphins?

The Dolphins have dished out a ton of money during free agency this offseason. They traded for and gave a market-setting contract to wideout Tyreek Hill, broke the bank on left tackle Terron Armstead, and upgraded the running back room with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. They also made some shrewd role-player moves by bringing in wideout Cedrick Wilson Jr., guard Connor Williams, and fullback Alec Ingold.

With all that said, they still have roughly $20.3 million left in cap space, according to Over The Cap. Since they only have four picks in this year’s draft (3-102, 4-125, 7-225, and 7-248), the only real means of significantly upgrading positions is in free agency.

Center does feel like a lingering need for the Dolphins, though the free agency pickings are slim. Perhaps veteran JC Tretter would make the most sense, as he has played in the Shanahan-like offense that Mike McDaniel will run in Miami. Tretter’s background with Kevin Stefanski could make him appealing to the Dolphins.

Linebacker is a position that’s probably best upgraded in the draft because adding an aging player there really doesn’t help Miami long-term.

NFL News and Rumors: Could Trevor Lawrence pull a Joe Burrow in Year 2?

While it’s hard to imagine the Jaguars having a Bengals-like turnaround this year, there’s reason to believe Trevor Lawrence could surge the way Joe Burrow did last season. Unlike Burrow, Lawrence isn’t coming off a major knee injury, and he’s now working with a “QB guru” in Doug Pederson.

Recent history is full of several examples of QBs blossoming from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NFL. Burrow, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Justin Herbert, and others have shined in their respective second seasons. Lawrence should be no different.

Plus, Lawrence set the bar pretty low last season, as the Jaguars imploded in epic fashion under Urban Meyer. His improvement from that disaster should be pretty substantial. He should also be noticeably better on paper from his rookie season: 3,641 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a 71.9 passer rating.

Pederson has gotten the most out of Wentz, Nick Foles, and Alex Smith during his coaching career. Lawrence should similarly trend upwards with Pederson at the helm.

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