Trading up in the NFL Draft is nothing new for teams, and certainly not anything foreign to the New Orleans Saints under head coach Sean Payton.
Down has never been a direction that the front office has followed in the past decade, but hey maybe they’ll turn over a new leaf in 2016 — maybe.
Assistant general manager Jeff Ireland was commended by Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis as a “voice of reason” in the draft war room last year, and encouraged them to essentially “let the (draft) board come to you” when their trigger finger got itchy.
It helped explain the selection of offensive tackle Andrus Peat last year, when the Saints were gunning to get defensive tackle Danny Shelton — who went the pick right before to the Cleveland Browns.
The Saints have done enough in free agency at the linebacker spot to not have to reach for one in the upcoming draft; and with a decent enough selection of prospects on the defensive line, the same holds true there.
Oct 24, 2015; Louisville, KY, USA; Boston College Eagles quarterback Jeff Smith (5) scrambles away from Louisville Cardinals defensive end Sheldon Rankins (98) during the second half at Papa John
Let’s be honest, there is enough at that position that the Saints could score a bona fide ‘home-run’, particularly at defensive tackle.
But what if the Saints get that familiar itch and decide to go the board instead of letting it come to them?
What will be the price of the picks to trade up in that situation?
The real value though is what is a player truly worth to a team not just for this season, but for years down the road.
For example, the Washington Redskins trade up for quarterback Robert Griffin III is widely viewed as a ‘bust’ considering they gave up three first round picks (2012,2013,2014) and a second round pick in 2012.
Griffin quickly fizzled out of favor and then health, during his time with the Redskins before losing out to backup Kirk Cousins; and now is trying to resurrect his second overall pick status with the Browns.
The Saints have put themselves in these mortgage situations before in the draft, which was aided by penalties from the Bounty scandal in 2012 that left them scrounging for picks for several seasons following that.
The question has been asked that who would the Saints be willing to trade up for in this year’s draft that would be worth interest on the “draft credit card”?
September 5, 2015; Pasadena, CA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers running back Albert Reid (5) runs the ball against the defense of UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (30) during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
One name that pops to mind is UCLA linebacker/safety Myles Jack; who is projected to be somewhere in at least the top 6 overall of the first round.
The Saints at #12 overall has a value of 1,200 with, for the sake of argument, the #6 pick held by the Baltimore Ravens valued at 1,600.
In order for the Saints to move up to that spot if Jack fell to the Ravens, would be to swap their first rounders plus the Saints second rounder, which is valued at 430 with a total value of 1630 going to Baltimore.
Hey wait Gene — where’s my change at?
Sorry, that’s just the price of picks when it comes to the first round, and besides: that’s just a basic offer and doesn’t even take into account who else may be offering more to trade up for that player, or if the team trading their pick is wanting to price gouge a little as well (see RGIII again for reference)
For a player like Jack, it would likely be worth the Saints’ first and second round pick to move up and select him; considering the talent level he brings along with the versatility to play multiple positions, that would essentially increase his value to the team and justify the trade.
But that is living in a perfect world; and besides I know that most of the Saints fanbase are riding the “Trade Down Train” — and I see that side of the coin as well.
We enjoyed the abidance of wealth with the numerous picks the Saints accumulated last year, and it felt like a cool drink of water after a long drought.
Aug 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Damian Swann (38) celebrates after intercepting the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the third quarter in a preseason NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
But — the possibility of the Saints still trading up in this Draft isn’t far-fetched as one might think, as New Orleans Advocate Saints beat writer Nick Underhill reminded us yesterday in his column:
"“One thing I could see the Saints doing that might catch some people by surprise is trading up.The talent really flattens out after the first few picks and I could easily envision New Orleans falling in love with a player and jumping up in the order to get someone.That would mean surrendering a pick somewhere in this draft (which could make it cheaper to sign everyone), which isn’t ideal since the Saints have some holes to fill and could use all the picks. I’ve even mentioned how they could use more picks.But if you have a conviction about someone and a vision for how they can help your team, then go get him and worry about the other holes later. Picks are great if you hit on all of them.Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually doesn’t happen that way”."
The Saints did trade up with the Redskins to get cornerback Damian Swann in the fifth round (167th overall = 24.2) and sacrificed their 2015 and 2016 sixth rounders for it (both were and will be #187 overall that totals 32.4).
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Once again even in the later rounds, there is a bit of sacrifice for the Saints’ side of it; even though the Redskins gambled too with the fact if the Saints would have had a better record last season, the value would have balanced or even cost Washington a bit for this year.
In both sides of trading, it’s beneficial to find mutual partners that aren’t out to poach each other; although the Saints did try to find an ally in the Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who was with the Saints for the beginning of his career and helped him get a start in the league.
It was mentioned that the Saints actually tried to work a trade with the Bears to move up from the 13th overall selection to the Bears’ 7th overall spot, but the deal was said to be too rich essentially for the Jeff Ireland school of thought.
I don’t know what deal Pace wanted from his old mentors, but if it was too rich I’ll assume it probably involved sacrificing both of their first round picks or first and second round picks to move up and select someone like Atlanta Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley, who honestly wouldn’t have been worth it.
Oct 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (right) with owner Robert Kraft before the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
This year the Saints could have a willing trade partner in the New England Patriots; who currently have eleven picks, four of those are compensatory which are unable to be traded.
The Patriots have no picks in the first round due to the Deflate-gate punishment sanctioned on them and won’t be selecting until the second round where they will then have:
- 2nd round: 60th and 61st overall
- 3rd round: 91st and 96th(comp.) overall
- 6th round: 196th, 204th, 208th(comp.), 214th(comp.), and 221st(comp.) overall
- 7th round: 243rd and 250th overall.
I joked with Adam Bogdan who covers the Patriots for PatriotsInform.blogspot.com recently at how New England always end up with so many draft picks, despite how they continue to dominate into the postseason.
Adam though mentioned that most of the picks are in the later rounds and with the compensatory picks being unable for trade, it could actually work against the Patriots as far as the roster goes.
This could however benefit both teams, especially if the Patriots are looking to move up and grab some reputable talent.
For example the Saints could end up swapping their second round pick (47th overall = 430) with New England (60th overall = 300 or 61st overall = 292) as well as receive one of the Patriots third round selections (91st overall = 136).
Yes, the Saints would be dropped from the top of the second round where they could grab a target like USC linebacker/safety Su’a Cravens; but they would gain an extra selection in the third round where there is still likely some good prospects.
For the Patriots, they could move up to the top of the second round as well as have the 61st overall selection to bookend it, while still having their third round selection.
It’s just a theory and I’m using the value chart as a guide; assuming that it’s numerical value for numerical value’s sake for both the Saints and Patriots.
Now that we can sort gauge the price of doing business in the draft, the amount of anticipation on what the Saints will do this year may only be exceeded by the value of either going up or down their draft board……