Draft Day Deals, 2008
One of the themes of Draft Day year in and year out is the annual mathematical exam of teams trading up and down in the draft. This process weighs not only the value of picks, but also the value of that one big talent against the value of multiple picks to improve the “overall talent level” of their roster. The fascinating part of these trades is that both sides can win, both sides can lose, or one side can walk away look vastly better than the other.
Every year we see the immediate post draft breakdown of who won and who lost these trades based on the perceived value of the players. However much as you need to know how to play the draft to get the right prospects, “winning the draft” is about as useful as “winning free agency” if that then isn’t followed through into performance on the field. So having seen how all of these players in these draft-day trades performed on the field, let’s get a look at who actually won them and whether making that big move for a premium talent is such an attractive proposition in hindsight.
We’ll follow with examinations of trades from 2009, 2010, and 2011, but first up, 2008:
Jacksonville Gets Harvey
Trading Up: Jacksonville Jaguars, For: Derrick Harvey (No. 8 overall)
Trading Down: Baltimore Ravens, For: No. 26 overall, No. 71 overall (Rd. 3), No. 89 overall (Rd. 3), No. 125 overall (Rd. 4)
This was the trade that first sowed the seeds for this article in our look back at the biggest first round failures of the last five years. Not only did the Jaguars whiff on the player they traded up to select, but the bounty that they potentially passed up by standing pat at No. 26 overall (Duane Brown, Cliff Avril, Tyvon Branch, Josh Sitton) would not only have filled the hole they were trying to plug at defensive end, but also a trio of other spots a few years down the line with the Jaguars’ now in total re-build mode trying to right the ship in the AFC South.
This trade proved to be a disaster for the Jags who failed to find a difference-making player and pensioned a number of picks that might have left the roster in a better future state. Such is the risk you take with a move like this.
The Ravens’ draft day trading was not done on the back of this trade (see below for the big piece of the puzzle) but the pieces they used from this trade (No. 71 and No. 125) didn’t translate into long-term success for them. The first third-round pick they used on Tavares Gooden who was seen by many as the heir apparent to Ray Lewis, but his lack of development and Lewis’ staying on longer than many thought he would, left Gooden to play just 701 snaps for the Ravens (-0.3 overall grade) in three seasons. Gooden then left for the 49ers where he made the Super Bowl as a special teamer this past season.
Pick No. 125 was used to acquire Fabian Washington who turned in a solid 2008 season (+5.4 coverage grade, 11 pass defenses) before drifting away into obscurity over the next two seasons as he failed to re-ignite his faltering career in Baltimore. The Ravens’ direct returns from this grade may not have been spectacular, but simply for the ammunition to make the next trade on the list they get a win.
Baltimore Gets Flacco
Trading Up: Baltimore Ravens, For: Joe Flacco (No. 18 overall)
Trading Down: Houston Texans, For: No. 26 overall, No. 89 overall (Rd. 3), No. 173 overall (Rd. 6)
Much as Joe Flacco might be a divisive figure in the NFL and his new contract might be eye watering to some, the Ravens struck gold here simply for that four-game run that he just went on to deliver the Lombardi Trophy. The Ravens have had the roster to win the Super Bowl for a number of years, but since that first success have never had the quarterback to lead them all the way. When Flacco finally developed into that guy in the most important month of the NFL season, he put beyond doubt that the Ravens were vindicated in moving to get him five years ago. Even without that Lombardi Trophy the Ravens would look like winners for moving again, the next cab off the quarterback rank that season was Chad Henne.
Meanwhile, in Houston this also looks like a winning move. In theory, the extra picks and the timing of them make this look like the kind of draft day trade that could have been the making of this upwardly mobile franchise. Dig a little deeper and it’s not quite such a ground-breaking, franchise-changing trade, though it is one that is not without its successes for the Texans. Late-round picks are often make weights in deals like this and Dominique Barber (No. 173 overall) was one of those that never quite developed enough to contribute on defense (459 snaps in three seasons), but did at least contribute in the short term on special teams registering 19 tackles his first two seasons whilst missing only one.
One of the bigger fish for the Texans in this equation was Steve Slaton who couldn’t translate a stellar college career into pro success, pushed aside within two seasons by an undrafted free agent by the name of Arian Foster. The biggest catch, however, was Duane Brown, one of the poster boys for late first round development players. Brown looked out of his depth in his rookie season (-14.0 overall, 50 total pressures allowed), but has developed every season culminating in a +45.4 grade in 2012. Houston might not have made the most of those two picks they gained for moving down eight spots, but they got what proved to be one of the league’s elite tackles.
Winner: Both sides walk away happy
Carolina Gets Otah
Trading Up: Carolina Panthers, For: Jeff Otah (No. 19 overall)
Trading Down: Philadelphia Eagles, For: No. 43 overall (Rd. 2), No. 109 overall (Rd. 4), No. 28 overall (2009)
Trading away for future first round picks is always a divisive topic among an NFL fan base. It seems that as many fans are besides themselves with joy at the prospect of multiple picks in the first round 12 months from now, whilst others lament the loss of an impact player right now. This was the dilemma facing the Panthers in 2009 when they moved to get Jeff Otah — a move that, in the short term, appeared to bring such promise has fizzled into ignominy.
With Jordan Gross already on the roster, the Panthers had no qualms about selecting Otah to play right tackle in the first round and after Otah earned a +15.6 grade as the Panthers won the NFC South this looked like a move that would draw dividends giving the sometimes skittish Jake Delhomme bookend protection from two quality tackles. However, the warning signs were there and from a rookie season that saw Otah miss four starts, injury derailed what looked to be a promising career. Whenever he made the field Otah looked like one of the league’s better right tackles, but he barely played more than 1,000 snaps combined over the rest of his Panthers career and, for the lack of longevity alone, the Panthers come up blank on this trade.
On the other side, the Eagles, after some more wheeling and dealing, turned this trade into a game-breaking receiver (DeSean Jackson), one of the league’s elite left tackles (Jason Peters), and Mike McGlynn, who I can’t quite come up with similar hyperbole to describe. The Eagles’ side of this trade is also affected by injury and longevity which hurts the profit that they get from it as questions still remain as to just how much they’ll get from Peters in the long term. The league’s best left tackle in 2011 (+36.9) missed the entire 2012 season and didn’t play 1,000 snaps in a season for the Eagles prior to that.
Where the Eagles go with their draft pick at No. 4 overall on Thursday night could go some way toward determining whether they think Peters can return to his best for them in 2013 and beyond. With the addition of Jackson, though (who looked to be settling into his best year as a pro this season before the injury bug bit him too), the Eagles walk away with a passing grade in spite of the long-term question mark over Peters.
Follow Ben on Twitter @PFF_Ben