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The Cost of a Deal: Trade-Down Scenarios

Posted Mar 6, 2018

Should the Bucs' trade up or down from pick number seven in the 2018 NFL Draft? Here's what you need to know about moving back in the first round

Earlier this week we examined what it might cost the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if they were to attempt to trade up from the seventh spot in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Now we're going to take the opposite approach. What could the Buccaneers gain from trading down, and how feasible is each option, depending upon how big of a move it is?

Once again, we'll use the Jimmy Johnson and Chase Stuart draft value charts to help us figure out what such a trade should net. Both charts place a numerical value on each slot in the draft so that you can add up both sides of a proposed deal to see how "fair" it is. Johnson and the Cowboys came up with the concept in the late '80s and Stuart more recently refined it with empirical draft value information. Evidence suggests that most NFL teams continue to rely on the original chart.

Should the Bucs trade down if the opportunity presents itself? If so, how far should they consider moving down? We're going to give you the information you need to decide. Below are five scenarios based on the idea of trading down from pick #7. Earlier in the week, we presented three trade-up scenarios. In each case, we will show you the amount a team should pay based on both of those draft-value charts. We've also found real trades of those same picks (or something close) for comparison and we'll break down the actual compensation as compared to what the draft value charts suggest.

The idea is to give you a better footing to argue whether or not the Bucs should trade up or down, and a framework to evaluate any trade the team actually makes. Here are the trade-down possibilities.


Proposal: Trade down from #7 to #9

Why the Bucs Might Do It: Tampa Bay made a little deal like this just two years ago, moving back from #9 to #11 with the Bears and still getting their targeted player, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. Similarly, a deal like this might be a matter of taking advantage of an opportunity to add a bit of draft capital without sacrificing anything. San Francisco is slated to pick #9; if the 49ers have a specific player they covet and the Buccaneers have several equally-rated prospects (or the strong belief that neither San Francisco nor the Raiders, picking 10th, wants their top choice), this deal could get done.

NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 155 points, equivalent to pick #88

Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 1.6 points, equivalent to pick #177

Possible Trade Package: San Francisco makes the move up by shipping the Buccaneers a fifth-round pick (#143, previously acquired from the Jets) and a 2018 fourth-rounder. This one gets tricky because the most sensible pick to include, the 49ers' fourth-rounder, has already been traded away. The Bucs would likely be adhering more to the Johnson chart and thus wouldn't want to settle for just a fifth-round pick, even if it's close in value to what the Chase chart suggests. An extra pick next year gets it done.

Real Trade Example: Seattle trades down from #7 to #9, getting a third-round pick (#82) out of the 49ers but sending back a sixth-round pick (#191) in the 2001 draft.

Perhaps growing desperate by a hard run on defensive linemen at the top of the draft, the 49ers move up two spots to secure defensive end Andre Carter, the fifth D-Linemen off the board in the first seven selections. The value of the pick that Seattle acquired is offset a bit by the one they gave up, leading to a gain of what the NFL chart would say is the #84 overall pick and the Stuart chart would peg at #97. In other words, a mid to late-third-rounder.

Will It Happen? This has the feel of an on-the-clock decision based on what players have already been taken and which ones the Buccaneers are targeting. If there is a drop-off on the Bucs' board between the players who went #1 to #6 and what is left, it would be easy to justify a slight move down in order to pick up a third-round pick. However, while that's what Seattle got 17 years ago, the charts would suggest that San Francisco overpaid. This is a relatively easy sell if there's a third-round pick in the bargain.


Proposal: Trade down from #7 to #10

Why the Bucs Might Do It: It might not seem like there is much difference between this proposal and the seven-to-nine swap, but this high in the draft there is a real drop of perceived value from one slot to the next, and a higher degree of concern that you'll miss out on the player you want if you move down. Still, the motivation is the same as above: Pick up some very useful extra draft assets for a (hopefully) small risk.

NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 200 points, equivalent to pick #78

Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 2.3 points, equivalent to pick #159

Possible Trade Package: The Raiders send the Buccaneers their third-round pick (#75) and Tampa Bay ships back the first of their two sixth-rounders (#180).

This one looks pretty easy on paper. The Johnson chart suggests pick #78, a mid-third rounder, and the Raiders happen to own #75. However, judging from the real-life example below, Oakland might think that price is just a little too steep and would want a later pick in return. The Bucs have an extra sixth-rounder thanks to the J.J. Wilcox trade with Pittsburgh so might be willing to give up one of them to close the deal.

Real Trade Example: New England trades down from #7 to #10, getting a third-round pick (#78) out of the Saints but sending back a fifth-round pick (#164) in the 2008 draft.

Amazingly, the Saints had the exact pick that the Johnson chart would call for but, as noted, that seemed like just a bit too much to New Orleans, which finagled a fifth-rounder in the other direction and then took Sedrick Ellis, the second defensive tackle off the board. Subtracting the value of that pick from what the Patriots attained works out to 4.8 points on the Chase chart and 174.2 points on the Johnson chart. That's still the 83rd overall pick on the latter scale but the Chase chart devalues it to #107.

Will It Happen? There's a bit more risk here with one more team in between, especially because none of those teams – the Raiders (after the trade), Bears and 49ers – would be in the market for a quarterback. This comes down to how the top of the Bucs' board looks like at this point; if there are three or four similarly-rated players at positions of needed, it might be worth it to turn a sixth-rounder into a third-rounder just for moving down three spots.


Proposal: Trade down from #7 to #12

Why the Bucs Might Do It: Some of the positions at which the Buccaneers appear to have a real need – defensive end, running back, offensive line – feature one red-hot prospect and then a lot of uncertainty as to who should go next, and how high. If the Bucs agree with that assessment – and, again, this is all speculation not informed by actual Jason Licht strategy – they could be willing to make a medium jump down in order to get their targeted player at a more reasonable price. As you'll see below, the Buccaneers made this exact move 23 years ago and used the acquired assets to set up one of the greatest first rounds of all time.

NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 300 points, equivalent to pick #60

Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 3.4 points, equivalent to pick #134

Possible Trade Package: Cincinnati sends their second-rounder, #46 overall, to the Bucs in order to move up from 12 to 7.

That's pretty much on the nose. The Bucs got the equivalent of #38 for the same deal in 1995 and the Redskins got what amounted to #50 in 2012, so #46 would seem to fit the bill.

Real Trade Example #1: Washington trades up five spots in the 1999 draft, surrendering third, fourth and fifth-round picks, as well as a 2000 third-rounder, to Chicago.

That was quite a haul for the Bears, though not unreasonable at all if you favor the Johnson chart. Using our year-later depreciation approach for the 2000 pick, those four selections add up to a value of 400.8 points on the Johnson chart and 18.1 points on the Stuart chart. That's roughly pick #50 on the former and roughly pick #13 on the latter. Given that it's pretty obvious the Johnson chart still largely holds sway, the Redskins didn't really overpay and the Bears didn't get fleeced.

Oh, and while we're not focusing too much on the actual players who were taken, this one really worked out for Washington, as they selected future Hall-of-Fame cornerback Champ Bailey.

Real Trade Example #2: Tampa Bay takes Philadelphia up on an offer to move back five spots, picking up two second-rounders (#43 and #63) while sending back a third-rounder (#106).

The Eagles were after Boston College defensive end Mike Mamula, who had dominated at the Combine. The Bucs moved back and then took defensive tackle Warren Sapp at #12. They later used that 63rd overall pick to move up from #41 in the second round to #28 in the first round and take linebacker Derrick Brooks. That's two Hall-of-Famers in one round. Even by sending back the third-rounder, the Bucs got good return in the deal. Remarkably, the Johnson and Stuart charts completely agree on this one: the trade package gave the Bucs the equivalent of the 38th overall pick in the draft by both formulas.

Will It Happen? If the Buccaneers were motivated to find a draft partner in the range of picks 11-13 and were able to do so, a second-round pick would be a pretty significant acquisition. It's much easier to suggest such a thing than to have it actually happen, of course, but there's always a chance. If the Bucs had picks #12, #38 and #46 they would have a shot at hitting three very significant needs among the top 50 selections.


Proposal: Trade down from #7 to #15

Why the Bucs Might Do It: The motivation would be the same as in the above scenario, just with a little bit more risk. The interesting part here is that pick #15 belongs to the Arizona Cardinals, who clearly need a quarterback. This is a team that might actually be motivated to make a dramatic move into the top 10 if the quarterback they like lasts to pick #7. At some point, the price could be good enough for the Bucs – with a quarterback on the line – that they are willing to take on that added risk of a bigger move down.

NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 450 points, equivalent to pick #45

Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 4.8 points, equivalent to pick #107

Possible Trade Package: Arizona offers up its second-round pick (#47) to swap the #15 pick for #7.

This one is too perfect. That's almost the exact value called for by the Johnson chart, which is what most NFL teams are probably using. And while that's a lot to give up for an eight-spot jump, there's no doubt a team would do that in order to lock down their future at the game's most important position.

Real Trade Example: San Francisco deals with the Rams, giving up second (#56) and third-round (#100) picks in order to move up eight spots.

Trading second and third-round picks for eight spots is bold, though it should be noted that the 49ers were picking late in the draft after making it to the NFC Championship Game in 1993. The #15 pick they swapped had been acquired from the Chargers the year before; their own selection in each round was near the end, so that reduces the overall draft capital a bit. Still, the value of those two picks added together comes out to the 46th overall selection on the Johnson chart and the 24th pick on the Stuart chart.

The 49ers moved up to get Bryant Young, who was the third defensive linemen and the second d-tackle off the board. It was a brilliant move and San Francisco won the Super Bowl the next season.

Will It Happen? If the motivation for a 7-to-15 swap is similar to that of a 7-12 trade, then so is the reasoning and the potential payoff. Matching the Rams' haul of second and third-rounders would be fantastic; however, given that San Francisco ended up with a cornerstone player thanks to their bold move, the Bucs would have to feel certain that they weren't giving up an opportunity to take a much better player for them at #7 than they would have at #15.


Proposal: Trade down from #7 to #25

Why the Bucs Might Do It: A trade of this variety would indicate that the Buccaneers think the pool of prospects is very deep and they can best help the team by getting as many of them as possible. Alternately, the Buccaneers could make such a move with an eye towards picks in the next few drafts, taking a long-term view, but it's more likely that team management thinks the 2018 club is going to be a playoff contender.

NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 780 points, equivalent to pick #22

Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 8.1 points, equivalent to pick #64

Possible Trade Package: The Tennessee Titans own pick #25 and we could make a trade scenario between Licht and his former top lieutenant, current Titans General Manager Jon Robinson. However, as it turns out, there is an incredible opportunity here to make this trade scenario work if we're a bit flexible. The Buffalo Bills own picks #21 and #22. It might be a bit too much to give up #22 to move up from #21 to #7, but it's pretty close. So let's call this the Bucs' #7 pick plus their first sixth-rounder (#180) for picks #21 and #22.

Real Trade Example #1: As with our 7-to-3 analysis above, there is no available example of a team trading down from pick #7 to the middle of the 20s. However, there are a couple of really close examples that can set the landscape.

The first one is the famous trade by Atlanta to move up most of the first round to get wide receiver Julio Jones. That happened in 2011, when the Falcons convinced Cleveland to slide from #6 to #26 by offering second and fourth-round picks that year and first and fourth-rounders in 2012. Jones, obviously, has been a fantastic player for Atlanta, though it's fair to weigh in the opportunity cost of the potential players the Falcons missed out on. In any case, the picks that Atlanta gave up (factoring in the future-year depreciation) add up 84.8 points on the Johnson chart and 27.4 points on the Chase chart. That's the equivalent of the 20th overall pick for the former and the third overall pick for the latter.

Real Trade Example #1: In 2008, the Ravens missed out on Matt Ryan and thus decided to trade out of the #8 spot, moving down a whopping 18 spots with Jacksonville. The Jaguars, picking 26th, gave up two third-round picks and a fourth-round choice to move up and get defensive end Derrick Harvey. There was a huge run on defensive linemen going on at the time; Harvey was the third end and fifth D-Lineman chosen in the first seven picks.

The combined value of those three picks was 427 points on the Johnson chart and 17.4 points on the Stuart chart. That's a mid-second-rounder for Johnson (#47 overall) and the 15th overall choice for Stuart. As is the case with most of these deals, the value traded is a lot closer to what the Johnson chart would suggest.

Will It Happen? Buffalo made the playoffs in 2017 and might think they are one piece away from making the next step. Could that entice them into trying to turn their two late-round picks into one game-changer at #7? It's possible. And if the Buccaneers decide to take the quantity approach, this could be a very appealing opportunity.