The 2012 NFL Draft more or less starts with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings have officially started trying to sell their pick.
On Thursday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman announced that his team has narrowed its pool of potential picks at No. 3 overall to Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Spielman’s not doing that as a favor to his fans, those players or as any kind of contract negotiating ploy. He’s telling the other 31 teams in this draft — six or eight them, in particular — that the Vikings are open to discussion about trading that pick.
This is especially relevant to the Browns, who sit right behind the Vikings at No. 4. We heard from Browns GM Tom Heckert on Thursday that his team knows who it’s going to pick if it stays at No. 4.
The Browns’ window for high-level negotiation in the top third of the draft probably passed six weeks ago when they were outbid by the Redskins in trying to trade up to No. 2 and having the chance to draft Robert Griffin III. That was a closed auction, with the Rams vowing not to drive up bids of competing teams.
What the Vikings are trying to do is conduct an open auction, bringing back as much as possible for that third pick. Such is business in the NFL and atop the draft.
When Heckert talked Thursday, he shared details and philosophies. He said the Browns will always be open to discussion and to adding picks if they can still get a player they covet. He didn’t give away any trade secrets, but he shared solid information.
In general, we should probably hear more of Heckert talking personnel and less of the team president talking about not asking him playoff tickets, but that’s for another day.
For more — and more direct praise of Heckert — check Pat McManamon’s article from Friday afternoon.
The first two picks of this draft are all but set in stone. That the Browns, picking fourth, would have their choice narrowed to two players going into it isn’t as much a victory for fortune tellers as it is for simple mathematics. The only way the Browns don’t get their Plan A Player is if he goes at No. 3 overall.
The Vikings are dangling that No. 3 pick. They want the Browns to call about it. They want the Bucs and the Dolphins to call about it, too.
If we’re sure the Browns’ Plan A Player is Trent Richardson, some nervous moments are ahead.
(For what it’s worth: I’m rarely right, but I’m pretty sure Richardson is the Browns’ Plan A Player).
The Bucs, at No. 5, could covet Richardson as well and have enough veterans in place to be able to afford to give up draft assets to get up to No. 3. The wildcard in the entire draft remains Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. We think we know the Bucs don’t want Blackmon, and it would be a huge surprise if the Vikings really wanted Blackmon over a tackle or cornerback, but the Vikings have to play up whatever element of surprise, uncertainty and anxiousness are out there.
The draft is next Thursday. For its first uncertain pick, the bidding is open.