The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are slated to pick seventh in the 2018 NFL Draft, and chances are they will do exactly that. Trades are a big (and extremely enjoyable) part of draft weekend, but the majority of picks never change hands. No matter how much a team might want to move up or down in the first round, it's not always easy to find a willing trade partner.
All of that is true…and yet we still want to talk trade. It could happen! The Buccaneers could move up. They could move down. They could go all-in to get their most coveted player. They could find a team willing to give up the house to grab a quarterback. None of these are far-fetched scenarios.
So let's examine what it might take for Tampa Bay to move up or down from pick number seven in the 2018 NFL Draft. We'll do so by examining previous deals involving the #7 pick, as well as the perceived value of the picks in play. To that latter point, we will use as reference points two "draft value" charts. Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys famously blazed this trail in the late '80s and early '90s, and their chart still has a lot of influence. It assigns a point value to every pick, so teams can try to make a "fair" deal by matching up points.
That original chart is a bit arbitrary, and there have been efforts since to produce a better one. Chase Stuart of fivethirtyeight.com came up with one based on empirical draft data and it probably does a far better job of indicating the value of any given draft pick. However, evidence suggests that NFL team decision-makers still pay more attention to the original chart, as you'll see repeatedly below. Ultimately, that makes the Johnson chart more valuable for this analysis.
Should the Bucs trade up? Should they trade down? Should they trade way down? We're going to give you the information you need to decide. Below are three trade scenarios based on the idea of trading up from pick #7. Later in the week, we'll present five trade-down 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. Let's get started with the trade-up options.
Proposal #1: Trade up from #7 to #3**
Why the Bucs Might Do It: By late April, the Buccaneers could believe that there is one non-quarterback prospect in the draft who would make far more impact on their fortunes than any others. By that point, it might also be clear that the first two teams are taking quarterbacks, as was the case in 2016 after a pair of big trades.
NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 700 points, equivalent to pick #26
Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 5.4 points, equivalent to pick #98
Possible Trade Package: The Bucs give up their third-round pick, #38 overall, and their first-round pick in 2018 to entice the Colts to move down four spots. Tampa Bay doesn't have the extra 2017 first-rounder that the Johnson chart would suggest but could get relatively close with a high second-rounder, and then make up the difference with a premium pick in next year's draft.
Real Trade Example #1: There are no ready examples of an exact #7-to-#3 trade, but we can approximate the real-world value by looking at a recent move from #6 up to #2. That's what Washington did in 2012 in order to get Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, sending a second-round pick (#39) and their first-rounders in the 2013 and 2014 drafts to the Rams.
That's a lot of draft capital, even when accounting for the devaluing of future-year picks. Using the formula described above, we're considering the 2013 first-rounder a mid-second-round pick and the 2014 first-rounder a mid-third-round pick. Using that approach, the value of the three picks Washington gave up combine to approximate some pretty incredible value: the third pick in the first round on the Stuart chart and the 14th-overall pick on the Johnson chart.
Will It Happen?It's hard to imagine this deal getting done without a first-round pick in the mix, particularly with the Colts likely having plenty of suitors for the #3 spot. The RGIII trade netted two future first-rounders, but the Redskins paid more of a premium because there was a quarterback involved. It's unlikely the Buccaneers would pay that much draft capital to acquire a non-QB. In reality, it's highly unlikely that this kind of deal would go down, and the Buccaneers can probably sit tight at #7 and believe they will get an outstanding player.
Proposal #2: Trade up from #7 to #5**
Why the Bucs Might Do It: If Tampa Bay's strategists believe there are three non-quarterback prospects who are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field, and the draft begins with QBs in the first two picks, the Bucs might think it was worth a little extra draft capital to make sure they get one of their top three.
NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 200 points, equivalent to pick #78
Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 1.9 points, equivalent to pick #171
Possible Trade Package: The Bucs give up their third-round pick, #69 overall, and get Denver's sixth-round pick in return. The Johnson chart suggests there's a 45-point difference between picks #69 and #78, and that's the equivalent of a late fourth-round pick. Even if that mathematically makes sense, the Broncos probably aren't willing to do the deal for what is essentially swapping a fourth for a third, so they agree only to throw in a sixth-rounder to even things up.
Real Trade Example #1: Jacksonville trades up from #7 to #5 with Tampa Bay in 2012 draft. Jacksonville gives the Buccaneers a 4th-round pick, #101 overall.
The Jaguars targeted wide receiver Justin Blackmon and traded up with their fellow Florida team to make the Oklahoma State star the first receiver off the board. The Buccaneers got good value in the deal if you favor the Stuart chart but left a little on the table by the standards of Johnson's chart.
Real Trade Example #2: Indianapolis trades up from #7 to #5 with the L.A. Rams in the 1994 draft. The Colts give the Rams a third-round pick, #83 overall.
The Colts were after Trev Alberts, who they made the first linebacker off the board. In this case, Indy paid almost exactly what the classic NFL chart would demand but quite a bit more than what Stuart would suggest.
Will It Happen?Though these things can be dictated to some extent by what the team trading up actually has to offer, there's a pretty big difference between what the Bucs got in 2012 and the Colts got 18 years earlier. If the cost of this move is a fourth-round pick, that seems like a reasonable amount to pay to land what the team believes is a real game-changer, but a third-rounder might be a bit hard to stomach for just two spots. Still, the pull is strong: The Buccaneers obviously hope they will not be picking in the top 10 again anytime soon, so the chance to get a potential "generational talent" might not resurface for a while.
By the way, the fact that neither Blackmon nor Alberts proved to be a good pick – both were rather significant busts, in fact – shouldn't and assuredly wouldn't affect the Bucs' thinking in this situation. There is no sure thing in the draft, but Licht and company would trust in their own evaluations.
Proposal #3: Trade up from #7 to #6**
Why the Bucs Might Do It: A one-spot trade in the draft can seem like a head-scratcher at first blush. If the team you're trying to trade up with was as gung-ho about a particular player as you are, it probably wouldn't do the deal, right? If they are willing to trade, that suggests they weren't going to take your guy anyway. That's true, but when a team makes a deal like this it's not because it's afraid of the team just ahead of it; rather, it's worried about another team trading into that spot to take the coveted player.
Thus, if a hot non-QB prospect surprisingly fell to the sixth spot, where the Jets are currently sitting, both Tampa Bay and New York could be motivated to make that tiny trade. If there was a quarterback left that the Jets wanted, they could feel reasonably secure that the Bucs wouldn't take him at #6 after trading, and they could gain some draft capital without losing anything. The 49ers did just that last year, trading down from #3 to #2 so that the Bears could draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, would make sure that no other team leap-frogged them for their targeted player, just as the Bears did.
NFL Draft Value Chart Difference: 100 points, equivalent to pick #100
Chase Stuart Draft Value Chart Difference: 1.0 points, equivalent to pick #195
Possible Trade Package: The Bucs give up their fifth-round pick, #108 overall, to swap spots with the Jets. That falls very close to what the Johnson chart suggests. Tampa Bay could try to get something small back in return but the Jets might not be in a giving mood with other teams heating up their draft-room phone lines.
Real Trade Example: Cleveland trades up from #7 to #6 with Detroit in the 2004 draft. The Browns give the Lions a 2nd-round pick, #37 overall.
The Browns were after Miami tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and must have been spooked that the Lions were about to trade with another team hot on Winslow's trail. Still, Cleveland appears to have wildly overpaid by both charts, and it's likely the Lions would have gladly made that trade even if they were high on Winslow, as well. As it turned out, nobody fared particularly well in this deal; Winslow was talented but had injury problems and was eventually traded to the Buccaneers. The Lions took wide receiver Roy Williams at #7 and linebacker Teddy Lehman at #37, neither of whom returned enough value for those spots, although Williams did eventually net a first-rounder in a trade with Dallas.
Will It Happen?This would be a hard sell. The two draft value charts suggest that the Bucs would need to give up something between their fourth-rounder and their first sixth-rounder. That could be a reasonable price if the player in question is very highly-coveted, but history suggests they might have to give up more than fair value in such a deal. In such a situation, the Bucs might be better off rolling the dice and hoping the Jets stay put and take a quarterback.