Picks, trades that could shape draft

Former NFL GM Bill Polian identifies the 'pivot points' of the 2014 NFL draft

Updated: May 2, 2014, 7:43 AM ET
By Bill Polian | ESPN Insider

When it comes to the NFL draft, divining potential pairings of prospects and teams is not an easy exercise -- and it is not getting any more predictable. Trades at the top of the draft used to be a rarity. There was a time under the old collective bargaining agreement when you couldn't give away a top-five draft pick. In fact, during my time as GM, we once considered passing on our first-round pick because we didn't believe the required salary investment was worth it. But now, under the new CBA, the rookie wage scale has greatly increased the possibilities at the top of the draft. And because of that, May 8 is dripping with intrigue.

In 2012, we had a fairly predictable top of the draft. The Colts were focusing on Andrew Luck and the Redskins on Robert Griffin III. Even in 2013, we were relatively confident the Chiefs would select a lineman at No. 1, and they did, taking Eric Fisher. But the 2014 draft is topped by a team, the Houston Texans, with a clear need at quarterback -- the most important position in the game -- but with no QB prospect worthy of a No. 1 pick ... particularly with generational pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney there for the taking.

That confluence has put the draft's first pick squarely in play, and I see three potential scenarios that could shape the rest of what likely will be a turbulent first round.

Below are the 2014 draft's most likely early pivot points, a collection of particularly intriguing picks or potential trades that could steer the draft in an unexpected direction. As noted, those surprises could start with the No. 1 pick.

Pivot Point 1: Texans' triple option

Pick No. 1, Houston Texans

I see three possibilities at No. 1: The Texans take Clowney; the Texans trade the pick to a team targeting Clowney; or a potential shocker -- they trade the pick to a team targeting an offensive tackle.