Published 7:42 AM EDT Apr 15, 2019
Decisions in the NFL draft tend to have a ripple effect, and few moves have quite as many wide-ranging consequences as trades.
After months of projections and analysis from both media and front offices alike, the first round can often be thrown for a loop by a simple swap, as it was last year by seven . In recent years, Day 1 of the draft has been shaped by moves targeting quarterbacks, including Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Sam Darnold (Jets), Josh Allen (Bills) and Josh Rosen (Cardinals). And a rule change starting in 2017 allowing compensatory picks to be traded has opened up additional avenues for deals.
While many teams already have their young passers in place, several still could be looking to make a move in the first round. Here’s a breakdown of the eight franchises most likely to trade up or down this year, factoring in organizations’ past tendencies and current needs:
In his first draft at the controls after Ozzie Newsome capped his run with the organization last year by moving up to take quarterback Lamar Jackson with the final pick of the first round, general manager Eric DeCosta has already touted the benefits of trading back. Even with two picks in both the third and fourth rounds, Baltimore would be shrewd to retreat to the second round in a deal given that the No. 22 slot might be too early for a run on receivers, the team’s most pressing need, but too late to grab a premier pass rusher, another position of interest after the departures of Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs.
Set to be put on the clock at No. 13, Miami is among a handful of teams in the 10-17 range that could be wild cards for drafting a quarterback. Jumping up for the likes of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins or Missouri’s Drew Lock wouldn’t be out of the question. But unless the Dolphins are enamored of either one, general manager Chris Grier and Co. could instead fade back in the order with a deal and continue to gear up for next year’s draft, for which the team has already added three picks via trades.
NFL draft: 100 biggest busts in league history
More: 10 NFL draft prospects who could have better careers as pros
Diary: North Dakota State QB Easton Stick avoids pro day setback
Jon Gruden’s primary message to Mike Mayock for the TV-analyst-turned-general-manager’s first attempt at making draft decisions rather than analyzing them: “Don’t mess it up, dude.” Though Oakland has three first-round picks (and four in the top 35) after sending away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, the team has an array of holes to fill and no third-round selection after parting with it in the Antonio Brown trade. Mayock has said the class has good depth from slots 20-60, a range in which he would like to add “a couple more picks.” But would either Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen be enough to entice another team to give up an assortment of picks to obtain No. 4? And would Mayock be willing to pass up either one?
General manager Bob Quinn declared Detroit “open for business” with the No. 8 pick, and it’s clear he believes the team can add an additional asset without sacrificing much by fading out of the top 10. The biggest obstacle, however, could be finding a suitor, as the only teams typically eager enough for such a move are those in search of a quarterback. Finding a team antsy enough to leap ahead of the Broncos at No. 10 to grab a passer could be the key to Quinn’s vision materializing.
Much like Quinn, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has made no secret of his interest in putting his top pick at No. 3 up for sale to the highest bidder. But how far back would Gang Green be willing to go? A crosstown swap with the Giants at No. 6 might be best, as the inverse of last year’s deal with the Colts would still afford the Jets plenty of options for a pass rusher or offensive lineman while allowing the team to recoup at least part of what it lost (three second-round picks) in order to position itself for Darnold.
Howie Roseman has an additional second rounder in tow after last year’s deal with the Ravens at No. 32, and he could be headed in the opposite direction shortly. The Eagles don’t have any glaring holes at any one particular position in the short term, but they could afford to get younger and add depth along both lines. At No. 25, they can’t expect the top offensive tackles or defensive ends to fall, so Roseman might be inclined to show his aggressive side once again.
With a knack for piling up compensatory picks and trading down to add to his hauls both in the present and future, Bill Belichick has helped equip New England with six of the top 101 overall picks and 12 overall, tied for the league high. But the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach isn’t afraid to move up for a prospect he likes, as he has done so 21 times in 19 years, including for Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower in the first round in 2012. Regardless of whether he looks to rise up from the No. 32 overall spot to address deficiencies at tight end, wide receiver and defensive tackle, Belichick is a virtual lock to shuffle the Patriots’ draft-day cards in some fashion.
Both on precedent and current outlook, Seattle seems like nearly a sure thing not to be the team making the selection it currently holds at No. 21. The Seahawks have a league-low four draft picks, which would be the fewest in franchise history. General manager John Schneider has made it clear he’s intent on adding to his supply. And there’s little reason to doubt his ability to follow through, as he and coach Pete Carroll have used their first rounder to trade back in five of the last seven years and gone without the pick entirely in four of the previous six. Given that there should be no shortage of interest in the slot, Seattle fans might be better off scheduling their draft parties for Day 2.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.