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Draft King Analysis
March 11, 2015
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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With the first 30 hours of official NFL 2015 free agency now in the books, analysts can start to look at how the whirlwind of deals could potentially impact the upcoming NFL Draft.

Jacksonville signing former Broncos tight end Julius Thomas removes any lingering thoughts I might have had on the team taking a wide receiver at #3 overall. Their signing of former Dolphins DL Jared Odrick makes me think they think the Titans are taking USC DL Leonard Williams at #2 overall. Maybe that's not the case, and perhaps they would take Williams were he to fall to their spot, but my money is on them taking an Edge (DE/OLB) player. There's just too much talent at that position for it to be ignored.

It's less clear for Oakland at #4. They've targeted front seven defense early in free agency, inking DT Dan Williams and ILB Curtis Lofton in day one. Lofton will likely fill the spot vacated by Nick Roach, who has an uncertain future after suffering a severe concussion in the 2014 preseason that knocked him out for the year. They have OLB Khalil Mack entering his second season, and he might be better utilized in 2015 with Jack Del Rio now at the helm.

The question is: will Oakland go with a wide receiver with their first pick or a pass rusher? They had been rumored to be strongly interested in Randall Cobb, but Green Bay kept him with an unexpected late deal signed this past weekend. Torrey Smith (49ers) and Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs) are off the board. Andre Johnson signed with Indianapolis today. They have money to spend under the cap, but once the top-tier wideouts are gone, it could get considerably trickier for them.

And, while rookie wide receivers typically don't have the instant breakout potential of rookie edge defenders, the rule changes implemented by the NFL for safety reasons in recent years have made it easier for top-flight receiver prospects to make a quick impact. It's not like the old days where it usually took until year three for elite wide receivers to really hit their stride.

Another deliberation: if it's wide receiver for the Raiders, will they go with Alabama's Amari Cooper or WVU's Kevin White? Louisville's DeVante Parker could also be a dark horse for the spot. Cooper seems like the favorite at this point, but White has really broken out of the second-tier pack to give Cooper a legit run at being the first wideout drafted in 2015.

The Redskins are said to be interested in taking Marcus Mariota at #5 overall. In my opinion, this is likely the team simply chumming the water for a potential trade partner, perhaps targeting the Jets at just one spot below. Actually going through with it would be a very Daniel Snyder-era style move for Washington, and even with questions surrounding Robert Griffin III's long-term future in DC, a defensive front seven player or offensive lineman makes considerably more sense for them.

Keep in mind that there is a line of thought that Mariota is not the sure-fire NFL prospect at quarterback that many perceive him to be despite his impressive 2014 accuracy, in part because of the system he played in at Oregon. Him sliding down the board on draft day is a possibility. As much as elite QB talent is craved above all else in the modern NFL, using a first-round pick on a QB who doesn't work out can have major negative repercussions for a team.

The rumor mill, fueled by yesterday's trade frenzy, has been rumbling today about the Saints possibly trading QB Drew Brees to Tampa Bay for the #1 overall pick. That would be interesting, particularly with both teams being in the same division, though I don't know that I buy it from Tampa's perspective. Are the Bucs just one QB away from legitimate Super Bowl contention? If not, dealing the top pick for a 36-year-old QB would seem questionable, even for one who has remained as consistent as Brees has.

If you think the NFL is actually going to punish any of the teams that had financials worked out for player contracts prior to 4 p.m. yesterday, think again. The Dolphins waited an extra day to officially sign Ndamukong Suh, but that was just for show and ended up being the identical financials reported several days ago. And, as it turned out, not all of those deals reached in principle ended up being completed after Frank Gore had a change of heart with the Eagles prior to the official start of things yesterday.

The one time in recent memory when the NFL punished teams for free agency shenanigans was after the infamous 2010 uncapped year when the Cowboys and Redskins were later punished for violating what sure felt like collusion to artificially suppress spending that year.

As 11 p.m. EDT creeps closer as I finish this, there's still no deal in place for free agent RB DeMarco Murray. Shady McCoy's big money deal that Buffalo curiously gave him after acquiring him via trade perhaps over-inflated what Murray thought he could get on the open market, but I've picked up on whispers that Murray had better decide on his destination by tomorrow. If he doesn't, his list of interested suitors could dwindle considerably.

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