We're still months away from May's NFL draft, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking at the many possible permutations of how things could shake out.
The St. Louis Rams aren't having an open auction for the No. 2 overall pick like they did in 2012, but general manager Les Snead has already indicated a willingness to move it. Without a pair of clear-cut top quarterbacks, the market may not be in a hurry to make a move which could leave the Rams waiting until they're on the clock before making a deal. As the combine approaches along with pro days, prospects will become more valued and the market could crystallize.
Free agency is also likely to have an impact on potential trade partners as teams fill needs in other avenues. For now, we'll take a look at a possible Rams trade partner each week for the next six weeks.
Sunday, we take a look at a team that proved it wasn't shy about making big draft-day trades in 2013, the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota holds the eighth pick in the first round.
Why Minnesota makes sense: Put very simply, the Vikings need a quarterback and this draft doesn't appear to have but three signal-callers deemed to be worthy of a top-10 pick. Those players -- Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater -- are almost certain to be gone by the time the Vikings make their pick.
Depending on how things shake out over the next few months, some may see Fresno State's Derek Carr entering the picture. But for now, it appears to be a three-quarterback draft when it comes to the top 10. Combining that relatively small supply with a large demand means that if you want to get your hands on a top-three quarterback, you probably need to be drafting in the top five.
Minnesota had a few interesting quarterback options, but the best one, Matt Cassel, opted out of his contract and there's no guarantee he'll return. Moreover, the Vikings are making no bones about their need to upgrade the position. ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling expertly broke down the importance of finding the right guy with comments from general manager Rick Spielman acknowledging the need to get the right quarterback.
Last year, the Vikings maneuvered their way into three first-round picks, coming away with an impressive haul led by receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
In looking at the teams drafting in the top five, one could argue that the Rams are the only one that doesn't need (debatable, I know) a quarterback, which could put them in position to make a deal to move down. Even if Houston took a quarterback, a team like the Vikings could be a little more patient and look to move up to get the franchise quarterback they want so long as the Texans don't have the same preference.
In terms of ammunition, the Vikings also have an extra third-round pick in this year's draft, which could be added to what would have to be a much larger package to make the move up.
Why Minnesota doesn't make sense: While quarterback is the Vikings' most pressing need, it's also not their only one. Minnesota needs to upgrade its defense and will likely put a premium on that under new coach Mike Zimmer, who is defensive-minded.
More than that, Minnesota might simply be too far down the pecking order to attempt a trade into the pricey territory occupied by the Rams. Although Minnesota has an extra pick in the third round, it would likely need to surrender something to the effect of the eighth pick, a second-round choice, a future first-round pick and maybe more to move up six spots.
That doesn't appear to be something Spielman wants to do. In fact, Spielman has made mention of wanting to accumulate up to 10 picks in this year's draft. Trading away a bunch of selections to move up wouldn't help those efforts. Actually, the opposite is true and if the top three quarterbacks are gone as expected, the Vikings might end up being a candidate to move back in the draft.
From the Rams' perspective, moving all the way down to No. 8 might simply be too far to move to get the type of player they want. If the Rams trade back and stay within the top five or six, they could still have a shot at someone like top receiver Sammy Watkins, top end Jadeveon Clowney or one of the top offensive tackles in Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson. If they moved back to No. 8, that would make for a much murkier proposition.
The Vikings seem like the most unlikely of the quarterback-needy teams in the top 10 to make a bold move to No. 2. In the end, it might be too costly for Minnesota and too far for the Rams to strike a deal.