PHOENIX –The National Football League will conduct some of its business in public at its annual meeting this week in the form of votes on rules changes, pace of play and other issues that affect the game on the field, but what happens outside the meeting rooms could be at least as significant.
The meetings, which run through Wednesday, are fertile ground for team officials to plant the seeds in trade talks.
A lot of it is just that – talk, that leads to no action. But with the first round of 2017 draft one month from today, the countdown clock will tick faster by the day as teams consider all possibilities to maximize their draft position.
Based on Bob Quinn's track record since taking over as general manager of the Detroit Lions in January of last year, he will not be a bystander in trade discussions.
One indication of his desire to improve the roster has nothing to do with the draft but demonstrates his willingness to make changes – and his unwillingness to stand pat.
From the mandatory roster to 53 players through the end of last season, the Lions made 106 roster moves. That includes everything from practice squad signings to waiver claims and releases. By comparison, the previous regime made 60 roster moves in the same period in 2015.
With the Lions holding the 21st pick in the first round, here are five things to consider about the draft in the next 30 days:
1. First-round trades: Count on them – from the top of the round to the bottom. Of the 31 first-round picks last year (the Patriots forfeited their first-round pick), 13 changed teams via trades.
That was an unusually high number. Six first-round picks changed teams in 2015, eight in 2014 and 11 in 2013.
Four picks already have changed hands. Three were from deals made last year. The other was this year – the Saints getting the 32nd (and last) pick in the first round in a trade with the Patriots that gave the Super Bowl 51 champs wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
View photos of the quarterbacks on-field workouts at the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
2. Quarterbacks: They are the primary trade targets. Three of last year's trades for first-round picks involved quarterbacks – Jared Goff to the Rams at No. 1, Carson Wentz to the Eagles at No. 2, Paxton Lynch to the Broncos at No. 26.
Bottom line: Be prepared, especially in a year when teams are looking for quarterbacks. There is not a clear-cut No. 1 this year. Mitchell Trubisky of North Carolina, Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Deshone Kizer of Notre Dame all could be first-round picks because of team needs pushing a quarterback prospect higher up the draft board than his grade warrants.
3. Narrowing the field: Quinn has done that in free agency in terms of reducing draft needs by signing guard T.J. Lang and tackle Rick Wagner to start on the offensive line. They are considered upgrades over Larry Warford and Riley Reiff, who departed as free agents.
With no need to draft an offensive lineman early, Quinn can concentrate on a primary need in the first round: front seven on defense, running back and speed receiver.
A quality player at one of those positions is almost certain to be on the board at No. 21.
4. Pick No. 21, 2016 trade: Houston worked a deal with Washington to move up one spot from No. 22 to take wide receiver Will Fuller of Notre Dame. The cost was slight – Houston's sixth-round pick this year.
With pick No. 22, Washington took wide receiver Josh Doctson of TCU.
In 14 games Fuller caught 47 passes. Doctson was limited to two games because of an Achilles injury and caught two passes. The deal was a win for Houston – for one year, but Doctson has talent and could benefit this year in Washington's revamped receiving corps.
5. Lions trading up: It's a good option for the Lions – and a compelling discussion point for the next 30 days -- but the questions involve the position and price.
The most obvious position would be running back, with Leonard Fournette of LSU the top back on the board. Based on most mock drafts, the Lions would have to get ahead of Carolina at No. 8 to be in position to draft Fournette.
In addition to this year's first-round pick, the price likely would include another high pick this year – second or third round – and a pick in the first three rounds next year.
The next Adrian Peterson – a running back who can change a team's fortunes – doesn't come around often.
The Vikings drafted Peterson seventh overall in 2007. They went from 6-10 in 2006 and one playoff appearance in the previous six seasons to 8-8 in his rookie year followed by 10-6 and 12-4 records the next two years, with NFC North titles both years.
The Lions of 2017, with three playoff appearances in the last six years, are in better shape than the Vikings of a decade ago. The roster is not a reclamation project, like it was in the Lost Decade of 2001-10.
It's something to think about.
We have 30 days to do it.