5 potential first-round trades in the 2016 NFL draft
Jaguars up to No. 3? Browns to No. 4? Jeff Dooley proposes a handful of first-round trades that would benefit both teams.
5 potential first-round trades in the 2016 NFL draft
We’ve already seen big trades to move up the draft board from the Rams and Eagles, respectively, to acquire the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the 2016 NFL draft.
What other draft trades would make sense for both sides involved? We came up with five deals that would benefit both teams, landing them ideal prospect fits who grade out well on our draft board.
Here are five first-round trades that would benefit both teams:
- Jacksonville Jaguars trade up to No. 3 to draft Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey
San Diego Chargers move back to No. 5 to draft Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil
Details: Jaguars give up their 2017 second-round pick
Jaguars: The idea for this one came from colleague Steve Palazzolo, who included it in his mock draft on Monday. The Jaguars would certainly be fine to stay put at No. 5 and let the best available defensive player drop to them – Ramsey, Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, Oregon DE DeForest Buckner or UCLA LB Myles Jack – but Ramsey fills by far the biggest need and is an ideal fit in head coach Gus Bradley’s scheme. The Jags had the third-worst overall coverage grade last season, and Ramsey has the versatility to play corner, safety or some kind of hybrid role – he’d likely slot in at safety early. It’s not that a guy like Bosa wouldn’t help, but between free-agent signing Malik Jackson, Jared Odrick and No. 3-overall pick Dante Fowler Jr., Jacksonville should be able to generate a productive pass rush next season. Landing a difference-maker in the secondary like Ramsey would make parting with next year’s second-round pick worth it.
Chargers: I like this trade even more for San Diego, because it adds a valuable asset in Jacksonville’s 2017 second-rounder while getting the player it could have taken at No. 3 in Tunsil. The Chargers ranked second-to-last in run-block grades and dead-last in pass-block grades last season, and Tunsil could slot in at either tackle spot right away while developing into a long-term answer on the left side. He was one of the top-graded run-blocking tackles in the nation on a per-snap basis last season, and only allowed five total QB pressures (and zero sacks) in pass protection.
- Cleveland Browns trade up to No. 4 to draft Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
Dallas Cowboys move back to No. 8 to draft Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Details: Browns give up one of their third-round picks, No. 65
Browns: Cleveland will be well-positioned to make a run at a QB prospect in next year’s draft, but it can also use the additional draft capital accumulated in its trade with Philadelphia to move back up and draft the No. 1 prospect on the PFF draft board in Bosa. He might not seem like the perfect fit in the Browns’ 3-4 base defense, as his ideal position is that of a 4-3 defensive end (he ranked No. 1 in edge defender grades last season). But in a league in which only five of the 32 teams threw less than 60 percent of the time in 2015, defenses are in nickel and dime looks as frequently as they are base packages – and in those schemes Bosa could slot in as either an edge rusher or interior rusher, providing an immediate upgrade at either spot.
Moreover, the Browns had the second-worst run-defense grade in the entire NFL last season, and Bosa projects as an excellent run defender who could set the edge on running plays in the Browns’ base defense. Having an elite defender in place will make life easier for whichever franchise QB they end up finding next year.
Cowboys: Bosa would also be an excellent fit for Dallas as a 4-3 DE with playmaking ability against the run and as a rusher, but no prospect in this entire draft might have the potential to make an instant impact like Elliott would for the Cowboys. He is a pro-ready back due to his abilities as a pass-catcher and pass-blocker (just one pressure allowed all of last season), and behind the NFL’s No. 1 run-blocking line (they rank No. 1 in pass-blocking, too) he could have a very productive rookie season – he ranked No. 1 in this class in yards after contact per attempt, so he can make the most out of the running lanes provided to him. A healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant teamed with the league’s top O-line and Elliott would make for one of the best offenses in football – and in this scenario they could add a third-round pick in doing so.
- Chicago Bears trade up to No. 7 to draft Oregon DE DeForest Buckner
San Francisco 49ers move back to No. 11 to draft Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley
Details: Bears give up their third-round pick, No. 72
Bears: Chicago could very easily stay put where it is and either draft the best available offensive tackle (either Stanley or Michigan State’s Jack Conklin) or best available defenders (perhaps Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins). But the Bears have a real need at 3-4 defensive end, and Buckner is the No. 2 overall player on our board after grading out as far and away the best interior defender in the nation last season. He was effective against the run and could use his combination of length and power to take on blockers and make plays in run defense, while acting as an interior pass-rushing force (his 67 total pressures last year were the most from an interior lineman) on obvious passing downs, teaming with edge rushers Pernell McPhee and Willie Young. The cost of giving up a third-rounder would be worth it if Buckner becomes one of the best players in this class.
49ers: Buckner is also a good fit for San Francisco, but the team just spent a first-rounder on a 3-4 DE from Oregon last year (Arik Armstead) and has needs all over the roster it needs to fill. One such need area is offensive tackle, and Stanley’s quickness and overall athleticism projects well in head coach Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme. He only allowed 14 total pressures last season for Notre Dame, including three sacks, and would help fix up a line that featured some disastrous performances a year ago.
- Kansas City Chiefs trade up to No. 21 to draft Baylor WR Corey Coleman
Washington Redskins move back to No. 28 to draft Alabama LB Reggie Ragland
Details: Chiefs give up their fourth-round pick, No. 126, plus a 2017 fourth-rounder
Chiefs: Jeremy Maclin had a solid first season in Kansas City, and Travis Kelce posted the 11th-best receiving grade among tight ends last season, but the team still needs to add more of a supporting cast around Alex Smith. His average depth of throw of 6.8 yards tied for the shortest in the league, so a receiver like Coleman who can use his speed and explosiveness to both separate quickly from coverage (he is excellent at shaking press-man) and turn underneath catches into big gains after the catch is an ideal fit. Screens, quick outs and slants made up 30 percent of Smith’s throws in 2015 (the NFL average is 20 percent), and he was incredibly efficient on all three patterns – the combination of Coleman, Maclin, Kelce and dynamic slot receiver DeAnthony Thomas would give the Chiefs a group of pass-catchers ideally matched for Smith’s skill set – hopefully closing the gap between the offense and the team’s defense, which ranked No. 6 in overall PFF grades last season.
Redskins: Washington had one of the most productive draft classes in 2015, and by moving back to acquire fourth-rounders in each of the next two drafts, it can continue to re-stock its roster after the trade up to No. 2 overall to land Robert Griffin III back in 2012. Moreover, the signing of Josh Norman minimizes the Redskins’ immediate need at corner, and by moving back to No. 28 overall they can either address their need at linebacker in Ragland – a player they could consider at No. 21 – or take the best player available.
- Carolina Panthers trade up to No. 24 to draft Houston CB William Jackson III
Cincinnati Bengals move back to No. 30 to draft Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard
Details: Panthers give up their third-round pick, No. 93
Panthers: Our boss here at PFF, Cris Collinsworth, has an interesting theory regarding Carolina’s decision to rescind its franchise tag on Norman and allow the star corner to sign with Washington as an unrestricted free agent. The Panthers might have come to the conclusion that head coach Ron Rivera’s defensive system – which puts defensive backs in position to make big plays by encouraging them to jump routes and make plays on the ball — had played a major role in Norman’s success, and that rather than pay big money to a cornerback approaching 30 years old, they could create another star at corner within Rivera’s system at a much lower cost.
If that’s the case, Jackson would be an ideal replacement for Norman. Jackson impressed our analysts with his ability to make spectacular plays on the ball in 2015, earning PFF’s second-highest coverage grade in the class despite being targeted a ton. He could get beaten on some double moves early in his career, but in Rivera’s scheme he could produce a lot of big plays for the Carolina defense, as well.
Bengals: Not only would the Bengals pick up a third-round pick in this scenario, but they’d be getting the No. 3 wide receiver on the PFF draft board and top-graded receiver in all of college football last season. Shepard did most of his damage from the slot for the Sooners (his slot catch rate of 82 percent led the nation, and his 3.2 yards per route run from the position ranked second), so he’d provide an excellent complement to deep-threat A.J. Green and seam-stretching tight end Tyler Eifert for QB Andy Dalton, who doesn’t have the best arm strength in the league.
Despite doing most of his work underneath, Shepard was also a remarkably efficient deep threat in 2015, hauling in 65 percent of the throws traveling 20 or more yards in the air – the third-best rate in the class. There are more hyped receiver prospects in this class that Cincinnati could take at No. 24, but Shepard would be an excellent value at the end of the first round.
Jeff Dooley | Editor-in-Chief
Jeff is the Editor-in-Chief of PFF, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post's NFL coverage. He previously worked as the editor for ESPN Insider's NFL, Fantasy, and College Football coverage.