Draft Day Deals, 2010
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.
San Diego Gets Mathews
Trading Up: San Diego Chargers, For: Ryan Mathews (No. 12 overall), No. 110 overall (Rd. 4), No. 173 overall (Rd. 6)
Trading Down: Miami Dolphins, For: No. 28 overall, No. 40 overall (Rd. 2), No. 126 overall (Rd. 4)
As much as running back might be going out of vogue as a position to draft in the first round, teams are still willing to pull the trigger on the right player, and in the case of the San Diego Chargers three years ago that included engineering a trade to move up 16 spots to select Ryan Mathews. Having parted ways with long time and legendary starter LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers had the desire to immediately get a No. 1 back in place. However, in three years since, Mathews has failed to lay claim to the same workload that Tomlinson managed every season, trying not to compare production to one of the best backs of all time.
In three seasons Mathews has played more than 500 snaps only once and has fumbled 11 times. In the last two seasons, Mathews has shown promise as a ball carrier (+1.2 rushing 2011, +3.7 rushing 2012), but without the durability and heavy workload, he isn’t delivering what the Chargers would have hoped for. San Diego parlayed the other two picks into safety Darrell Stuckey (No. 110) and used the sixth-rounder as make-weight to trade up for Donald Butler in the third round. Stuckey was a special teams captain for the Chargers this season (leading the team with 11 tackles) but has struggled to establish himself on defense (11 career snaps). Meanwhile, for as much promise as Butler has shown in the last two seasons (+9.3 combined overall grade), the 49ers have got immediate and excellent production from NaVorro Bowman, selected with the third round pick the Chargers moved up from to nab Butler.
On the other end of this deal, the Dolphins used this trade in an attempt to upgrade and re-tool what was at the time a 3-4 front. At No. 28, the Dolphins took Jared Odrick whose rookie season was derailed after only 22 snaps and after a solid second season he found himself at defensive end in a 4-3 defense this past season, providing solid run support but offering nothing as a pass rusher either on the edge or on the inside in pass rushing sets. In the second round of the draft you at least hope for a solid player and the Dolphins got that in Koa Misi, though he is another who may see himself squeezed out with the shift to a 4-3. Misi was solid (+5.6 run defense) this season in his first in the Dolphins’ 4-3, but he is definitively a two-down linebacker, particularly with the additions of Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler this offseason. In each of his three seasons, Misi has struggled to deliver the sort of pass rush that a second-round edge defender might be expected to bring. The Dolphins final make-weight in this trade was A.J. Edds who suffered an ACL injury during his rookie training camp and never saw the field.
Winner: In spite of each team grabbing solid players from the three selections involved in this deal, neither team got the impact from the individual or group they would have hoped for.
Philadelphia Gets Graham
Trading Up: Philadelphia Eagles, For: Brandon Graham (No. 13 overall)
Trading Down: Denver Broncos, For: No. 24 overall, No. 70 overall (Rd. 3), No. 87 overall (Rd. 3)
We only move on one more pick for our next “big” trade and we reach another player whose career has shown great promise but has also been blighted by injury. In his rookie season, Brandon Graham had recorded 36 total pressures on 257 pass rushes and was amongst the league’s Top 15 with a Pass Rushing Productivity score of 10.8, tied with Mario Williams of the Texans, albeit on fewer snaps. However, a torn ACL against the Cowboys in Week 14 derailed his career for nearly two years for all intents and purposes.
While he returned in 2011, he only played 56 snaps after being activated from the PUP list and had no impact. He was then very gradually eased back into the Eagles’ rotation at defensive end during 2012, demanding more playing time by how ludicrously well he was playing as a pass rusher. Last season Graham recorded 45 pressures on 205 pass rushes earning by far the best PRP score of the season among 4-3 defensive ends at 17.3, way ahead of even Cameron Wake. When he has seen the field Graham has been anything from good to excellent, but those injuries have stopped this trade from being a big hit for the Eagles. How he acclimatizes as the Eagles now transition to be a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chip Kelly will be fascinating to see.
The Broncos turned the three picks sent the other way into Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and then used the No. 70 overall pick as part of their trade to move up for Tim Tebow three picks after they selected. Two thirds of those selection helped form the foundation of one of the league’s best passing attacks when Peyton Manning arrived this season to replace Tebow who headed for the aforementioned New York sideshow. Both Decker and Thomas proved just how quickly receivers can develop when their talent is paired with an elite quarterback as they combined for very close 2,500 receiving yards this season and Thomas proved to be one of the most devastating receivers in the league after the catch who is not called Percy Harvin. If we just take it as read that anything involved with trading up to select Tebow (with due credit given to his part in the Broncos reaching the playoffs) was a disaster, then even so Thomas and Decker coming out of this deal still manages to outweigh that after their work paired with Manning this season.
Winner: Denver – A devastating injury has robbed Philadelphia of Graham’s true impact, while you can’t take away from the Broncos getting two 1,000-yard receivers.
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