The Patriots shouldn’t trade up in this draft. They shouldn’t even stay put at 29. They should trade down.
Admittedly, this is a wildly un-sexy opinion. This year we have a pretty exciting draft. The consensus No. 1 prospect might go anywhere from 1 to 7, as it seems every day there are new stories either valorizing his talent or bemoaning his lack of motor/consistency. There are 4 QBs who might be Top 10 picks are fall out of the 1st round entirely. One of the top prospects went to Buffalo. Buffalo.
It’s never fun to be out of the Day 1 party, to wait 24 hours for your team to even make a pick. And, as Patriots fans, we’ve been here plenty of times before. Bill Belichick has traded a whopping 11 first-round picks since 2000. Sometimes it feels like the team trades just for the sake of making a trade.
But not this year. This year trading down is the best course of action.
- Because the Patriots don’t have one glaring need…
Seriously. If the New England Patriots just decided to skip the draft entirely and go into the season with the roster as it is right now, they’d still get 10 wins, easily. With the return of a healthy Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski (geez the Pats were banged up) and the new acquisitions of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, this is a really good team.
What the Patriots do need are depth and youth; this draft is about two years from now, not next season. So while there isn’t one glaring need, there are six minor ones where the Patriots could do with some re-stocking: defensive tackle, sub pass-rusher, coverage linebacker, “move” tight end, interior offensive lineman, and running back.
And wouldn’t you know it…
- The value at those positions isn’t at 29.
The way that the big board has shaped out since the combine hasn’t been exactly fallen in the Pats’ favor. Louis Nix III, perhaps the one player perfectly suited for the Pats front line, seems like he’ll be taken in the teens rather than the late 20s. And vaunted “move” tight end Eric Ebron seems more and more like he’ll be long gone by 29.
For the rest of those positions, the best value isn’t in the first round. It’s in the second and third rounds. The New England Patriots could possibly reach for players like Ra’Shede Hageman, Ryan Shazier, or Scott Crichton at 29, but they’re all just as likely to be available in the 40s should the team trade down. And intriguing prospects from Telvin Smith to Weston Richburg to Troy Niklas to Bishop Sankey are all 40 to 100 picks who aren’t that far off from their 1st round counterparts.
Again, the goal for a perfect Patriots draft is to spread the wealth, to try and cover their bases with 3-4 Day 2 prospects, instead of springing for a blue chipper in the first round.
But isn’t every team’s front office well aware of how deep a draft this is? If everyone’s playing the same game, why would anyone trade their 2nd/3rd round picks to hop back into the 1st?
- The Quarterback Game
Let me lay out a scenario:
It seems to me that there are five teams in the Top 10 that would be looking to take a top quarterback in this year’s draft: Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, and Minnesota. (I know there’s been some speculation that Tampa Bay might be in the mix, but 1) they locked up Jake McCown this offseason and 2) Mike Glennon looked really impressive last season, and will be a lot better with more weapons around him).
The four top QBs are Teddy Bridgewater, David Carr, Johnny Manziel, and Blake Bortles. There are also rising prospects such as Tom Savage, Jimmy Garropolo, and Zach Mettenberger.
Now it seems more than likely that as many as 2, and possibly more, of those five teams, will select a non-QB with their first round pick, especially Houston, Jacksonville, and Minnesota. It also seems more and more likely that at least one of those four QBs will drop on Draft Day (though it’s hard to know how much of this negative buzz is teams’ smokescreening).
If one of those top 10 teams that passed on a QB sees one fall, it may be in their best interest to jump back into the first round and beat out their competition. This seems to me like the main reason that the Patriots have been hosting these QBs: not because they’d actually be interested in drafting one, but to gauge their value to know how much to ask for their 29 pick. And even if those four all get taken before 29, teams, knowing the Pats are willing trade partners, will want to jump up and grab one of the top Tier 2 QBs.
So, who are the most likely trade partners for the Patriots on draft day?
(Note: All potential trades made using Drafttek’s value chart)
Picks: 8, 40, 72, 96, 108, 148, 184, 223
Previous Partners?: Yes, last season (Pats’ 29 for 52, 83, 120, 229). Also, Randy Moss for Vikings’ 2011 3rd-round pick.
Potential Trade: Patriots trade 29 and Future 4th round pick to Vikings for 40 and 72.
Why Do It?: Arguably the best possible package for the Patriots, giving them four Day 2 picks. The Vikings would probably ask for a future 4th round pick rather than the Patriots 130th (in the hopes of a better position), but it would be well worth it for the Pats, especially considering the compensatory picks they should get next year. Should the Vikings (rightly) spend their 8th pick elsewhere, trading back to the 29 could net them an upgrade over Matt Cassel.
Why Not?: Because the Vikings may still be burned by last year’s trade. Although Cordarelle Patterson seems like a contributor to their offense, the Pats’ haul (Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce, and trading the 229 for LeGarrette Blount) was insane. Still seems like a likely move, but they may play better safe than sorry.
Picks: 5, 36, 67, 107, 219, 235
Previous Partners: Yes. In 2011, the Pats sent their 92 and 125 to the Patriots 219 and their 2012 2nd round pick. The Patriots also traded Richard Seymour to the Raiders for their 2011 first round pick (ended up being Nate Solder), and the Raiders traded Randy Moss to the Pats in 2007 for a fourth round pick.
Potential Trade: Patriots send 29 to Oakland for the 36, 107, and 219 picks.
Why Do It?: Again, not a bad haul for the Patriots, and no future round picks need to be involved. Also, the Patriots have a history of dealing not just with the Oakland Raiders, but plenty of times with Reggie McKenzie when he was with the Green Bay Packers. Like the Vikings, the Raiders could pass up a QB in favor of Watkins, Mack, or even Clowney should he slip, but then trade back up in case of a slip/taking Savage/Mettenberger.
Why Not?: Because the Raiders don’t have a lot of draft picks in this year’s draft, with a huge gap in between their 4th and 7th round picks. If this trade were to go through they’d only have four picks to fill a lot of holes in their roster. Also, with the way they were burned with the Seymour trade, McKenzie may be reluctant to trade future picks instead. A shaky situation overall.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: 21, 53, 85, 98, 121, 161, 176, 197, 236
Previous Partners?: Yes, a whopping six times in the Belichick era. Most recently, in 2012, the Pats traded the 62 for the Packers’ 90th and 163rd picks.
Potential Trade: The Patriots trade the 29 for the 53, 85, 121, and 161.
Why Do It?: Again, history. This would also be one of the few potential trades that don’t involve a team looking to nab a quarterback, as Aaron Rodgers, when healthy, is the best in the league. Like the Patriots, the Packers are already one of the best teams even before the draft. However, they have two glaring needs: safety and more weapons for Rodgers, and the team will almost certainly spend their 21st pick on one of those two spots. However, should either Jimmie Ward/Calvin Pryor or Odell Beckham Jr./Jace Amaro still be available at 29, they may jump up to fill that spot. The Patriots pick up enough picks to cover their needs while also having the pieces to trade up the board if needed.
Why Not?: While the Pats’ 1-for-4 trade sounds good in theory, not picking until 53 is a big risk. Again most likely the team would then combo some of their picks to move back up, but should a proper trade not appear, the value might not be there. On the flip side, while this trade does still leave the Packers with 5 picks, that’s a pretty big price to pay, even if the value math makes sense.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks:30, 56, 61, 77, 94, 100, 129, 170, 242, 243, 245
Previous Partners?: Yes, in 2007, the Patriots traded their first round pick for San Francisco’s 2007 4th round and 2008 1st-round picks.
Potential Trade: Patriots trade 29 and a future 6th for 56, 77, 129
Why Do It?: To put it simply, the 49ers can’t fit their 11 picks on their already packed 53-man roster. With 5 tradeable picks in the Top 100, they’re primed to make a trade. Even if they do pull this off, they’d still end up with 2 1st round picks, a 2nd round pick, and 2 3rd round picks. Moving up allows them to take the top remaining wide receiver or cornerback. And it’s obvious why the Patriots would do this.
Why Not?: Well, because the 49ers may not want to set their sights as low as 29, as they have the assets to get even up into the top 15. Should that not happen, though, this still seems like a great win-win for both teams.