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Could the NFL Draft get more interesting on Thursday night?

NFL insiders are wondering if there will be more trades during the draft,

NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame-Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have traded their first-round pick as part of a deal to acquire tackle Orlando Brown Jr. from the Baltimore Ravens, their fans will likely be sitting on their hands during the opening round of the NFL Draft — which starts on Thursday night.

But could some draft-day trades liven things up for fans of the Chiefs, Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams — all of whom won’t have picks that night? NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport doesn’t think so.

“At the risk of ending up on Old Takes Exposed, it doesn’t seem like there’s as much trade activity right now as there usually is,” Rapoport said during Tuesday’s edition of NFL Total Access. “Now, depending on which quarterbacks are available in the top 10, I would expect there to be at least serious discussion about trading up for one quarterback in the top 10 just based on who probably is taken and where that quarterback ends up going. Absent that, I just don’t hear a ton of trade chatter.”

Rapoport noted that part of the reason might be that teams have fewer players on their draft boards graded as opening-round picks.

“And maybe the reason why is after you get to — let’s say pick No. 7 or 8 — there’s just not a lot elite, premium guys. So what teams are nervous about is trading from let’s say inside the top 10 to 14, 15, 16, 17 because the quality of guy is just not there. I think that’s one thing that teams are sort of afraid of. There is a point where you basically stop taking a player you have rated as a first-rounder. Is that 16? Is that 17? It differs for each team.”

Scott Fitterer — Carolina Panthers general manager — said last week his team has 16 first-round grades on prospects. And in his pre-draft press appearance on Friday, Chiefs GM Brett Veach said almost exactly the same thing when he was asked about the possibility of trading up.

“Yeah, that would be really predicated on your board. And you know we have X amount of names there that we feel are first-round value — guys that can come in and step up right away. I think if we get into that zone where our cutoff might be — currently it’s at 16-17 names that we feel are impact starters [who cold] come in and play right away — I think if it makes sense for us in regards to one of those 16-17 players dipping into the teens or 20’s to get aggressive.”

Of course, Veach answered this question two hours before anyone knew the Chiefs were about to trade their first-round pick to the Ravens. It’s very likely Veach already knew the deal was going to happen — his press conference took place almost an hour after it had originally been scheduled, which should have been a clue to reporters that something was afoot — but it still didn’t occur to anyone to ask Veach about trading into the first round.

But that’s not likely to happen — unless, by some miracle, one of their top-rated prospects falls all the way into the very late 20s. Even then, the Chiefs would likely have to trade more of their 2022 draft assets in order to get back in — or perhaps throw in a player like Khalen Saunders, who simply couldn’t find a way back onto the field when undrafted free agent Tershawn Wharton stepped up in 2020. Saunders still has a year remaining on his rookie deal and might solve a need on another team.

But it’s probably wise not to hold your breath for that.

In the meantime, one of the possible trades that’s been mentioned in recent weeks — the Denver Broncos trading up to grab whoever the fourth or fifth-drafted quarterback turns out to be — now seems less likely after their trade for veteran Teddy Bridgewater. (Or... depending on your point of view... more likely).

In any case, Rapaport isn’t hearing about it. But he’s not the only one listening, either. In a piece for ESPN on Wednesday, Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano suggested the Washington Football Team still wants to move up.

The Washington Football Team, which owns the No. 19 pick, has done legwork on a potential trade up, making phone calls to teams in or around the top 10. We’ve talked to a few personnel evaluators who think Washington’s target is not a quarterback. Most sizable jumps are for a passer, though, and it requires parting with serious draft capital to make it happen.

They also reported that depending on how things shake out, the Carolina Panthers could trade either up or back. But when they wrote those words, one thing was true that isn’t true now: Bridgewater was a Panther.

The team also has toyed with the idea of having two high-pedigree quarterbacks on rookie deals, recently acquired Sam Darnold and a new guy. We’re told that if Fields is there at No. 8, they’ll at least consider that move, as they have him graded highly. But other teams aren’t buying that, believing Carolina is all-in on Darnold and is trying to leverage more picks.

So in the end, it’s hard to say whether things will become more lively on Thursday night. Either way... we’ll be watching.

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