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2013 NFL draft logic: Who are the potential trade partners?

Chris Chambers

A few months ago, you may remember a post I did called "Logic: Why Drafts Happen, Understanding the Art." While it clearly goes over the strategy, factors and overall intricacies of making draft trades, it was published too early to look at legitimate trade partner options and trade value. While there is not an exact science to trade value, there is an understanding among the league about the power to move up or down in the selection process.

Much like in the first article, there are several factors that come into play when making a solid draft trade. Here are the most clear objectives to executing a substantial draft trade:

  • Value of compensation, either given or gained.
  • Available talent at your spot and where you are trading up or down to.
  • Your current roster
  • Other team needs.
Value of Compensation

What is the point of trading down? Getting value along with a talented pick that you have a lower grade on than where you are picking. Why trade up? To get a player who you think is a "must-have" at the pick that is currently on the clock. The logic is elementary, but there are several factors that play into your compensation in a draft trade. For instance, if a franchise quarterback is on the board, a team is more likely to assess more value and in turn, more competitive compensation towards trading up then let's say a safety or a wide receiver. If a team really wanted the offensive tackle that was taken the pick before them but have a guy at cornerback they feel can be just as good, but know the teams are around them do not have a need, then they would be more inclined to slide back for a lower-end pick (gaining a pick and the guy they want).

Teams have an understanding and an assessment of what their priorities and values are prior to the draft. That is why a team like the Redskins trades a 1st, 2nd and two future 1st round picks to move up four spots (6th to 2nd with the Rams) to draft a quarterback (Robert Griffin III) and why a team like the Jaguars only has to swap its 1st round picks with the Redskins and hand over a 2nd round pick to draft Blaine Gabbert by moving up six spots (16th to 10th in the 2012 Draft). Each pick has value and each position has a value.

The value of a player, his position and the current pick number designates a certain amount of leverage to each team. Sometimes teams are well aware that the other team will do anything to trade down, so the descending-hopeful is low-balled. And more commonly, teams are aware how badly another wants to trade up to get their guy (Redskins and RG3). But if a team pushes their trade partner too much, one of the sides could easily back out and choose to deal with another. That is why it is important that front offices across the league pre-determine scenarios prior to the draft.

Examples of trade up team having leverage:
  • 2012 NFL Draft: Eagles swapped first round picks with the Seattle Seahawks and gave up just a 4th and a 6th round pick to move up three spots to select Fletcher Cox (following the RG3 mega-deal).
  • 2011 NFL Draft: Lions moved back into the first round to nab Javid Best, by swapping 4th round picks with Minnesota and giving the Vikings their 2nd and 6th round picks (moved up 4 spots for essentially a 4th and a 6th).
Examples of trade down team having leverage:
  • 2010 NFL Draft: The Ravens were able to add a 3rd and 4th round pick by moving back 18 spots (25 to 43) in trade with the Broncos to land Tim Tebow.
  • 2009 NFL Draft: Ozzie Newsome is one of the best at taking advantage of teams with super needs. He acquired two 3rd round picks and 4th round selection by moving back ten spots for the Jaguars (the Ravens got their guy in Joe Flacco, Jaguars got Derrick Harvey...)
Available Talent at Your Pick and Their Pick

As you saw with the Flacco/Harvey draft trade, utilizing your board and establishing the search for more picks and equal talent is vital to a successful trade. If you have six guys on your board rated within two points of each other and four of the those players are at a spot of need for you, why not trade back? Well, frankly, your ability to trade back or forward is based on who is around you. If you have three top-flight cornerbacks on the board and a team that needs one is two spots away, you are not likely to get the value you desire in a trade back. However, if you are picking in the top ten where the three top offensive tackles are expected to be taken and you know that the teams with the 11th and 12th pick seriously need an offensive tackle, you can smell the blood in the water (watch out for random Ernie Sims sightings).

While it is ideal to "fleece" the teams in the aforementioned example, keep this in mind: there are going to be at least two offensive tackles available by your spot, so they can deal with the team behind you. Another factor, could be that the opposing team's general manager does not buy your smokescreen and believes you want a defensive end instead of the offensive tackles you have visited with. This means if your price is too steep, the opposing team will just walk and handle another need at 11 or 12. But if a team trades up before you and grabs the second offensive tackle, there is just one tackle standing between your spot and the 12th pick (which is 8 spots away) and the opposing team knows the team behind you wants the final guy; that is when you hold all the cards. You can say "make the deal we want or hit the bricks and deal with your hole at OT."

Another issue with the value around you is obviously based on how much you value the players you have marked at the area you plan to trade back to. If you really want Sheldon Richardson, but you have him as 15th on your board, and you pick at 8, you likely only want to trade back 2-3 spots to make sure you get your guy. This scenario would likely limit your return in a trade, so you may deem it is not worth the risk to trade back and have another team sneak up snatch Richardson, so you stay put.

Your Current Roster's Impact

Like any team, your team has strengths and weaknesses (unless you are the Raiders). If you have a logjam at wide receiver and running back, and you feel like you are in the middle of a run on position players, you may to try to grab some value and obtain the guy you want. This happens frequently at the end of the 1st round (typically with running backs and defensive linemen) and in the middle of the 2nd and 3rd rounds (wide receivers and cornerbacks). This allows teams to benefit on both sides.

Let's say you are missing a 6th round pick and in the middle of the 3rd, teams have taken four safeties in the round already, the position is dwindling and you know that the team that is four spots behind really needs one, so you are willing to deal. You pick up a 6th in the current draft and nab the linebacker you wanted all along, while the team that traded up with selects the fifth safety in the 3rd round.

This process can also work to your advantage as well when looking to trade up. In 2011, the quarterback market was dwindling after Andy Dalton was selected by the Bengals at 35, so the 49ers jumped up to get Colin Kaepernick who they were targeting for the future of their franchise (the 49ers only gave up 4th and 5th round picks to jump nine spots and select their future Franchise QB) because the strength of the 36th spot wavered toward spots that Broncos were not interested in (they took Rahim "where did the ball go?" Moore with the 45th pick and he was the first safety to be taken in the draft so there was back stock on the position).

How Team Needs Play Into Trades

It was touched on a bit earlier, but having several needs makes acquiring picks essential. When you trade down, you acquire picks (simple enough, right?), but the "right" picks are what matters. If you are looking for depth at a position, you are okay with acquiring more Day 3 picks. If you are looking to acquire starting players, you want to arm yourself with 2nd and 3rd round picks. Making sure you can handle the drop in certain rounds is key.

For example, the Eagles liked Brandon Boykin as a 3rd round pick, but had quarterback as a higher need than cornerback, and with Russell Wilson gone just a few picks earlier, the team chose Nick Foles over Boykin. Luckily, Boykin fell to the 4th, despite the team projecting him as an immediate starting nickel corner. That does not always happen. So if you have four guys that your scouts believe can start right away at a certain position, you want to be able to get one of them, if you need a starter. That's why you have to measure opposing team's needs and potential trade ups that would happen between your current pick and your new pick. That plays a factor in whether you trade down or stay put.

Assessing Teams That Want the 4th Pick

Remember, you have to keep in mind who is on the board and the needs around you:

Who is of value in the Top 5? Offensive Tackles, Defensive Tackles, and Pass Rushers

Who needs offensive tackles right away? Chiefs, Lions, Cardinals, Bills, Chargers, Dolphins, Giants, Ravens.

Who needs pass rushers right away? Jaguars, Raiders, Lions, Jets, Chargers, Dolphins, Giants

Who needs defensive tackles right away? Raiders, Jets, Titans, Saints, Panthers, 49ers, Rams

The value of the 4th overall pick hinders on who is taken in the Top 3 and who the Lions have potential interest in (OT, CB, DE). Teams are trading with the Eagles to either jump the Lions or Browns most likely. If Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel get taken in the first three picks, then people will likely be clamoring for Lane Johnson. If Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd are among the first three picks, then some teams may feel a pick froggy and jump to get Sheldon Richardson.

With all you know now about trading in the NFL draft, who do you think is the ideal trade partner for the Eagles? What compensation are you looking for? Who are your targets when trading back?

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