2012 NFL draft trade scenarios

Trent Richardson and Ryan Tannehill could both be trade targets at the top of Round 1. US Presswire

In the weeks leading up to the draft, general managers and personnel directors around the NFL will turn their attention to a process called draft management -- NFL insider speak for predicting how the draft will unfold. It's through this process that a team anticipates where its draft targets may come off the board and ensures the selection of one of its top choices.

While teams are never 100 percent accurate with these predictions, they have been able to project the first round with a high degree of certainty in recent years. That said, every draft has certain pivot points, spots where the draft veers from its anticipated path and proceeds in a new, unexpected direction. Sometimes the impetus for these moments is an off-the-radar selection, but more often it's a trade.

There are several reasons to believe the first big pivot point of the 2012 draft could come with a potential trade of the No. 3 overall pick from the Minnesota Vikings to the Miami Dolphins.

There's a reduction to a previously formidable barrier to trades at the top of the draft.

In recent years, the cost to sign a top-10 pick had been skyrocketing. Teams were hesitant to trade up into the top 10 because, in addition to the cost in terms of tradeable assets, such a deal would cost a franchise millions of dollars when it came time to sign its newly acquired prospect. A player taken in the top five would become one of, if not the highest-paid player at his position before ever playing a down. It meant the reward to draft high was effectively mitigated. The new collective bargaining agreement has checked those rising prices and made it less costly to bring those picks under contract -- and less costly in cap ramifications if the player is a bust.