Updated: 4-28-11, 6:15 a.m.
While most national mock drafts give the Bengals Georgia gamebreaker A.J. Green with the fourth pick in Thursday night's first round of the NFL Draft, a U.S. District Court Judge beat the NFL on another big play Wednesday night when she denied the owners a stay of the lockout she lifted Monday.
Susan Nelson's decision has thrown the league into chaos on the morning of the draft because according to ESPN, Nelson said teams were under no obligation to sign free agents right away, although trades are "in question" while the players say the league is violating the law by not allowing workouts or transactions.
But the NFL argues it can't implement rules until the Eighth Circuit hears the appeal of the stay and is continuing to operate under lockout rules. Still, the league may have to allow some operations for the draft, such as trading players, in order not to be in contempt of court. According to an NFL statement via ProFootballTalk.com, the league is going to advise the teams how to proceed Thursday morning.
"We are filing tonight a request with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending our appeal," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello via ProFootballTalk.com.
"We believe there are strong legal and practical reasons that support a stay and that the Court of Appeals should have an opportunity to address the important legal issues that will be presented. We have asked the Court of Appeals to consider on an expedited basis both our request for a stay and the appeal itself. We are evaluating the District Court's decision and will advise our clubs in the morning on how to proceed."
According to the Associated Press, attorneys for the players had dismissed the NFL's argument that it risks either violating antitrust laws by coming up with new league rules without a collective bargaining agreement in place or harming its competitive balance by allowing a potential free agency free-for-all. The solution is to simply implement a system that does not violate antitrust laws they said and Nelson agreed.
"Again, the NFL argues it will suffer irreparable harm because it is now 'forced to choose between the irreparable harm of unrestricted free agency or the irreparable harm of more treble damages lawsuits,' " Nelson wrote. "But no such 'Scylla or Charybdis' choice exists here. There is no injunction in place preventing the NFL from exercising, under its hoped-for protection of the labor laws, any of its rights to negotiate terms and conditions of employment, such as free agency."
For the second straight day, no Bengals tried to get into Paul Brown Stadium. After the draft Thursday night, any player the Bengals seelct is allowed to visit the facility until the last pick of the draft Saturday. He can't meet with coaches to talk football or get a playbook, but he can talk to the media and appear at marketing events. It is believed the first pick will come in Friday and the second and third picks may be able to get in briefly Saturday.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock, like most draft analysts, gives the Bengals Green, widely considered to be the best player in the draft. The potential drafting of Green, compared to the long and rangy Calvin Johnson of Detroit. would no doubt end the Bengals career of all-time receiver Chad Ochocinco. But it wouldn't fill the quarterback need generated by Carson Palmer's threat of retirement if he's not traded.
Mayock's mock points out the danger the Bengals face of not getting a quarterback they like if they don't move up out of the third pick of the second round at No. 35. He has the Patriots trading down from No. 28 and the Packers from No. 32 to teams that will take Washington's Jake Locker and TCU's Andy Dalton. Plus, the Bills are expected to take Florida State's Christian Ponder a pick ahead of the Bengals at No 35.
That would leave Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, a flawed prospect with the draft's best arm but off-field questions and mobility thought to be inadequate for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast offense, as well as Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, a player with a big upside but viewed by many as a project.