Draft Day Deals, 2009
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’ve seen the deals of 2008 and still to come are looks at the trades of 2010, and 2011, but now, 2009:
New York Gets Sanchez
Trading Up: New York Jets, For: Mark Sanchez (No. 5 overall)
Trading Down: Cleveland Browns, For: No. 17 overall, No. 52 overall (Rd. 2), Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff, Abram Elam
If Derrick Harvey wasn’t the poster child for just how wrong you can get an aggressive draft day trade, then Mark Sanchez just might be. After guiding the Jets to two conference championship games in his first two seasons (or would it be more accurate to say he was guided to?), the wheels have firmly fallen off of the Mark Sanchez bandwagon. Disaster even turned to theatre with the addition of Tim Tebow to the mix last summer — a comedy of errors that read like a Broadway show that the producer just won’t pull the plug on. In some sense, Sanchez’s career bottomed out this season as the Jets roster finally imploded, but in performance terms, if you discount wins as a quarterback statistic, his career never got going. His -22.1 grade this season was the third time in his four-year career that he’s earned a grade of -20.0 or worse, only a -7.2 in his second season (2010) showed any signs of improvement. With the No. 17 pick the Jets traded away, the Bucs took Josh Freeman, who has hardly set the world alight but has still shown more than Sanchez ever has or seems likely to do.
Forgotten in the gigantic shadow of the Sanchez debacle is the fact that the Cleveland Browns, ever happy to trade down to acquire more picks and (in theory) more talent, were the Jets’ trade partners back in 2009. The theme of this trade for the Browns in the view of many was that this was a couple of picks with some shrewd add-ons to go along. Kenyon Coleman was a tremendous run defender for Mangini in New York in 2008 (+17.5) but never re-discovered his best form in Cleveland (-3.5 2009, +7.9 2010). Abram Elam provided solid performances on 500 snaps at safety in New York but didn’t parlay that consistency into a full time role with the Browns. Brett Ratliff was seen as a smart addition to the deal as a developmental quarterback, but was cut by the Browns after one year before he took a regular season snap.
With the make-weights barely a pass, that just leaves the draft picks. Thankfully for the Browns, one of the picks they hit a homerun on and got the best player out of this deal, Alex Mack. The former Cal center has been one of the league’s best since he entered and is the one bright spot in this otherwise disastrous deal. The less said about the Browns’ second round selection of David Veikune the better, so we’ll leave it at that.
Winner: No-one; The Browns got Mack out of the deal but he on his own didn’t — and won’t — turn around the overall talent level on the roster this deal was intended to achieve.
Baltimore Gets Oher
Trading Up: Baltimore Ravens, For: Michael Oher (No. 23 overall)
Trading Down: New England Patriots, For: No. 26 overall, No. 162 overall (Rd. 5)
In the mold of the previously discussed Jeff Otah trade, this is a trade up (albeit a small one) that looked a lot better after the player’s rookie season than in it necessarily does right now. That rookie season playing opposite Jared Gaither, Michael Oher earned a +23.4 overall grade and looked like one of the league’s best right tackles as he helped pave the Ravens’ way to a divisional playoff defeat. However, with medical and off-field questions raised over Gaither, the Ravens chose to switch Oher to Joe Flacco’s blind side and he has never looked as settled since. An up-and-down 2010 season at left tackle culminated in a disastrous playoffs for Oher (-6.8, 10 pressures allowed) and through switching back and forth across 2011 and 2012 he has never re-discovered that consistent form from his rookie season, though his pass protection this season was a step in the right direction. Entering the final year of his rookie deal this is a crucial season for Oher and the Ravens’ evaluation of this selection.
On the other side of the coin we find the Patriots and, inevitably, those two selections they got from the Ravens don’t lead directly to two players… when is anything related to personnel and Bill Belichick that simple? After a few games of NFL Draft style snakes and ladders we arrive at the Patriots collecting three players in 2009 and one more in 2010 (by way of one more trade, why not). At the end of 2009 this trade for the Patriots looked like it could have been simply accumulating picks for the sake of accumulating picks.
After trading down again, the Patriots selected Darius Butler midway through the second round. Butler was cut after only two seasons and less than a 1,000 snaps in New England, just one in a lengthening list of failed selections at corner. The third-round selection they got as part of that trade down turned into Brandon Tate who, like Butler, lasted only two seasons in New England and played even fewer snaps, but did at least collect 1100 kick return yards in his second season. The final 2009 pick was a flyer on Julian Edelman in the seventh round whose versatility for the sake of versatility would have been an ideal comparison for the Patriots’ accumulation for accumulation’s sake. However, that is until you roll the clock around 12 months and the Patriots move up two spots to nab some tight end who goes by the name of Rob Gronkowski. Yeah, that guy. The Patriots were certainly guilty of some fruitless wheeler dealing in this trade but at the end of the road was a pot of gold, the league’s best and most rounded tight end.
Winner: Patriots, eventually. The Ravens are hanging on by a thread pending Oher’s 2013 season.
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