Veteran WRs could affect rookie values

Last year, wide receiver was a popular position in the draft, but not until the second round. This year, the potential trades of several high-profile veteran wide receivers could devalue the rookie class.

Over the next few days, the rumors surrounding the direction teams will be going in this weekend's draft will be running rampant. As of now, quarterbacks are dominating the discussion, with the possibility of both Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez coming off the board in the first four picks. But, as the draft actually unfolds Saturday, the main storyline may well be wide receivers.

Last year at this time, wide receivers were also projected to be a storyline and they were – but for the wrong reason. A victim of depth, as many as six wideouts were viewed as first-round talents. But, when all was said and done, none of them were drafted in the first round and a record-setting 10 wide receivers went on Round Two.

This time around, it would seem a similar conundrum may be in play. As it stands now, there are as many as many as six wide receivers that could go in the first round – Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt. Like last year, the longer that the top tier of receivers remain on the board, the longer the wait for many of them could be. In 2008, many teams with need at wide receiver felt that they could still get a talented player in the second round, creating an anti-run on the position that allowed players to slide deeper into the draft. The same scenario appears to be setting itself up for this year's draft.

Complicating this potential draft-day drop is that at least three prominent veteran receivers are said to be on the block – Arizona's Anquan Boldin, Cleveland's Braylon Edwards and Cincinnati's Chad Johnson. With each of them likely to warrant a first-round pick in return, it may not necessarily be the dearth of talent that causes rookie wide receivers to drop in Saturday's first round. Instead, it could be the potential of having teams getting in bidding wars for veteran WRs that will make the big difference.

The trading of veteran players seemed like a dead art form just three or four years ago. If a player was disgruntled, he held out and had a stare-down with his current team. Having little in the way of leverage, the player typically blinked and came back to the team. That would seem to have changed over the last few years. Jared Allen was a prime example of that last year. Disenchanted with how he was perceived by ownership in Kansas City, Allen said he wanted out and found a new home with the Vikings.

Already this offseason, quarterback Jay Cutler found his way out of Denver and offensive tackle Jason Peters was able to escape Buffalo to Philadelphia. In both cases, the teams acquiring the players gave up coveted first-round draft picks to get them. No longer viewed as sacred, more teams are taking this approach: Why risk so much money on an unproven talent when you can get a veteran with a track record of success in the NFL for that same draft pick?

While much of the attention heading into the draft will be on the top two or three quarterbacks, there will also be the potential for another run on offensive tackles in the first round and the dearth of ‘tweener defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids will have them in demand. When all is said and done, the main storyline might well be the wide receiver Class of 2009.

The only certainty is that Crabtree and Maclin will come off the board in Round One. Beyond that, the speculation will continue to run rampant, as teams line up to evaluate that rookie class, but also the veteran wide receivers who may be available to be had in trade. By the time all is said and done, Boldin, Edwards, Roscoe Parrish and Chad Johnson could all be with new teams by the time Saturday is over – making for an interesting sidebar to the annual draft drama.

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