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Nickel Package: Changes at the top?

3/13/2013

If it feels as if your Twitter feed is rolling like a stock ticker and that there's a "Breaking News" banner on every screen on TV or the web, you're not imagining things. It has been quite the first 24 hours for NFL free agency, with new signings happening as we type. While we'll leave the assessments of winners and losers to other people, all of this action in the front office does make waves when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Considering so much is continuing to go on (the Denver Broncos just signed Wes Welker), the situation surrounding how free-agent deals will affect the 2013 NFL draft is fluid.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't take stock of how Day 1 of free agency when it comes to the upper half of the first round of the draft. Here are some initial thoughts in relation to moves made in the first day.

Eagles roster overhaul

Picks: No. 4 overall, No. 35

Philly's Mock 3.0 pick: Alabama CB, Dee Milliner

Scouts Inc. grade: 96

I love what the Philadelphia Eagles are doing overall. They haven't handcuffed themselves when it comes to your picks. It has an old-school Patriots feel during Bill Belichick's first few seasons in New England. FB/TE James Casey will be a perfect toy for Chip Kelly because of Casey's versatile skill set.

Philly also signed four defensive players -- S Patrick Chung, CB Bradley Fletcher, NT Isaac Sopoaga and LB Jason Phillips -- to moderate contracts. All four are great scheme fits and/or offer versatility. They're all underrated players whose market value was lower than what they should be able to offer the team on the field.

Just because the Eagles signed Fletcher doesn't mean their problems at cornerback are solved. They still need help there, and there's a strong chance that my pick for the Eagles in my last mock, Dee Milliner, won't be there for Philly at No. 4. By bringing in Fletcher, the Eagles have brought someone in they think can be a starter.

Let's say the Eagles have Oregon OLB Dion Jordan (Grade 95) rated higher than Milliner, then there's no temptation to take Milliner. Of course, this is all hypothetical. Or it could be any player at any position for that matter. But in moving to a 3-4 with Brandon Graham, Trent Cole, Vinny Curry and Philip Hunt, outside linebacker might be their deepest position.

It's not just about Jordan. If they don't have Milliner rated high and they don't feel they need Jordan, it could be an offensive tackle because of the injuries they've had there. Could it be Eric Fisher or Luke Joeckel? It may be a defensive lineman. They brought in Sopoaga and they have Fletcher Cox, but they could still use a left defensive end. If he checks out medically, could that be Star Lotulelei or Ezekiel Ansah, who could play left defensive end in a 3-4 for a 4-3.

The Eagles opened up a lot of options for themselves on the first day of free agency.

Browns get defensive

Picks: No. 6 overall, no second-round pick

Cleveland's Mock 3.0 pick: Oregon OLB, Dion Jordan

Scouts Inc. grade: 95

When the Cleveland Browns signed former Ravens OLB Paul Kruger, they got a player who had 13.5 sacks in Baltimore's final 12 games, including the postseason. We had Oregon OLB Dion Jordan slotted to the Browns, but now they have Kruger opposite Jabal Sheard in defensive coordinator Ray Horton's hybrid (at least while transitioning) 3-4 defensive scheme. They've also picked up DT Desmond Bryant and LB Quentin Groves.

They still have needs at wide receiver and there isn't a wideout in this draft worth taking with the No. 6 overall pick. They could certainly draft a guard, and I love Alabama's Chance Warmack and North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, but they're still guards. If there's any chance that Milliner is available at No. 6, he'd be a great addition, but more than likely he'll be gone by then.

At six, the Browns have to hope someone will want to trade up to that spot, whether because there has been a run on offensive tackles and Joeckel, Fisher and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson are gone or if someone surprises us and wants West Virginia QB Geno Smith that badly and wants to get ahead of the Cardinals, Bills and Jets. The Browns are in a spot where there could be trade action. With the needs they have a wide receiver, corner and across the board defensively, they could potentially move back in a draft that I think is loaded in the second and third rounds. That would be the Browns' ideal situation, if the opportunity arises.

But now the Browns aren't in the situation in which they must get Jordan or it would be a disappointment because they have a proven commodity in Kruger.

What do the Bills do at QB?

Picks: No. 8 overall, No. 41

Buffalo's Mock 3.0 pick: Central Michigan OT, Eric Fisher

Scouts Inc. grade: 96

We all knew the Buffalo Bills were going be in the QB market but they left no doubt with the decision to take a $10 million cap hit by cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick rather than paying him $10.5 million to serve as a backup. Clearly the Bills are frustrated and want to start over.

So, for the Bills is it Smith? Is it USC QB Matt Barkley? Who does offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett want to run his West Coast offense? Maybe Barkley could fit. New head coach Doug Marrone coached Ryan Nassib at Syracuse and watched Nassib defeat Smith in the horrid weather at the Pinstripe Bowl. Marrone's last image of Smith is of Smith not handling bad weather well at all. What input will Marrone bring to the Bills' decision on QB, especially when you need to consider that Buffalo is one of the worst weather cities in the NFL.

It doesn't seem like a great option, but will the Bills move down to take Nassib? Every team that wants Nassib knows it has to get in front of Buffalo in the second round.

Now, who's left in free agency that makes sense? The irony of this is Fitzpatrick is probably the top-rated free agent quarterback. The market is bare. Could it be Bryan Hoyer? Who knows? But the Bills will probably need to bring in veteran to pair with a rookie QB that they take in the first two rounds.

Are the Titans off guard?

Picks: No. 10 overall, No. 40

Tennessee's Mock 3.0 pick: North Carolina G, Jonathan Cooper (Scouts Inc. grade: 94)

The Titans are sitting at No. 10 and have already signed former Bills guard Andy Levitre, who agreed to a six-year, $46.8 million contract on Tuesday. I thought guard was a top need and the Titans were a top candidate to take one of the two elite guards in this class -- Cooper or Warmack. Levitre will start at left guard, and the Titans still have a need at right guard, so we shouldn't completely rule out the possibility of them using the No. 10 pick on Warmack or Cooper. But that would be a boatload of money invested in the guard position.

They have other needs, which include defensive end, offensive tackle and defensive tackle. In a class that's deep in DE, OT and DT, you would think that a player that they like would fall to them. At 10, does LSU DE Barkevious Mingo improve that pass-rush? Could it be Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson? The Titans have options.

The Dolphins don't need to reach

Picks: No. 12 overall, No. 42, No. 54

Miami's Mock 3.0 pick: Cal WR, Keenan Allen

Scouts Inc. grade: 91

The Dolphins signed WR Mike Wallace with a five-year, $60 million deal that guarantees him $30 million. They also have Brian Hartline and Devonne Bess. Do the Dolphins still need to target wide receiver in the draft? I think so, but they don't need to reach for one in the first round, especially in a class in which the highest grade I have on a wide receiver right now is mid-to-late first round range -- and that's on a slot receiver in West Virginia's Tavon Austin.

The Dolphins can now figure out whether they'll take a left tackle if Lane Johnson is available to fill the void there. Do they move back a bit in the first round to take Alabama's D.J. Fluker? Can Jonathan Martin handle the left tackle position? He's more of right tackle but didn't play terribly when at LOT when Jake Long got injured.

Cornerback is a need, but there's zero chance of Milliner falling there and we don't think there's another corner that fits at that spot. There's a possibility that they could grab a guard at No. 12, especially if there isn't a tackle there.