Draft Day Deals, 2011
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.
* Two years might not be enough to fully judge these trades, but we can certainly give a progress report on them and in some cases that progress report is lagging someway behind “must do better”.
Atlanta Gets Jones
Trading Up: Atlanta Falcons, For: Julio Jones (No. 6 overall)
Trading Down: Cleveland Browns, For: No. 27 overall, No. 59 overall (Rd. 2), No. 124 overall (Rd. 4), No. 22 overall (2012), No. 118 overall (Rd. 4, 2012)
Much like the Jaguars three years earlier, the Falcons found themselves in a situation of being a playoff team with the need, or desire, to grab a difference-making player to propel them further forward. Rather than a pass rusher, though, the Falcons went for what some consider to be the “shiny hood ornament” of an NFL roster, a wide receiver. Julio Jones arrived at the Falcons with no little fanfare even without considering the king’s ransom that Thomas Dimitroff gave up to acquire him.
After a rookie season where his production was excellent but showed more promise than consistency (having huge games, with production in chunks rather than consistently) he flourished with the Falcons in his second season and now forms arguably the most devastating wide receiver tandem in the league with Roddy White. He even saved the best game of his career for when the Falcons needed it most — the conference championship game this past season. In spite of his effort the Falcons fell short, but with greater consistency this season Jones looks to be on a clear upswing and a smash hit for the Falcons.
The willing trade partner was once again the Cleveland Browns and, though the jury is still out to an extent on this deal, we again could be faced with the prospect of the Browns failing to make the most of the ransom that they got in return for taking a colossal move down in the draft. One of the picks was used as part of the Browns’ trade to ensure they got Trent Richardson last summer, but in terms of players that the Browns got directly from this trade, the list reads: Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Owen Marecic, Brandon Weeden. Have the Browns managed to get the same impact from the combination of these four players as they would have done from staying put and selecting Julio Jones, Aldon Smith or J.J. Watt? Consider me a doubter on that front.
Winner: Atlanta paid a king’s ransom, but thus far it looks like deposit has been worth it while the Browns appear to be squandering their haul.
Jacksonville Gets Gabbert
Trading Up: Jacksonville Jaguars, For: Blaine Gabbert (No. 10 overall)
Trading Down: Washington Redskins, For: No. 16 overall, No. 49 overall (Rd. 2)
That earlier comment about “must do better”, yeah I suppose that could be applicable here. A quarterback should get more than two years to develop, but at the same time a quarterback can rarely have got off to a worse start in their pro career than Blaine Gabbert has made through two seasons in Jacksonville. After the Jaguars abortive attempt to shield Gabbert with Luke McCown fell through after less than two games, Gabbert was thrown to the lions and he has barely been able to fend them off. His rookie season was consistent but consistently bad, with only the occasional excellent throw breaking up a season for which scattergun would be a generous description. His -49.2 grade for that season marks out a season which you would struggle to imagine going any worse.
His second season got off to a great start in Minnesota (+3.0 passing), admittedly in a loss to the Vikings, putting in his best game as a pro and overcoming four drops for a strong display. However, it proved to be a false dawn as injury curtailed a season that showed vast improvement on his rookie year but also showed just how far he still has to go. With rumors of the Jaguars looking at quarterbacks in this draft, the question has to be asked of whether he will get the chance to show if he can continue those forward strides.
On the receiving end of the modest trade down in the first round was the Washington Redskins who were the busiest team on draft weekend two years ago with 12 selections and no small number of trades. The Redskins were in the process of re-building their roster entering their second season under new head coach Mike Shanahan. At No. 16 overall, the Redskins netted Ryan Kerrigan who has been an ever present in the Redskins’ defense in the first two years of his career missing only nine defensive snaps (against Philadelphia this season) in his two seasons combined. What he hasn’t been is a special defensive difference-maker, but he has been a steady performer for the Redskins and in two seasons has recorded 126 total pressures.
By way of trade downs they converted the No. 49 overall pick into four players: Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Dejon Gomes and Maurice Hurt. None were “crucial” contributors to the Redskins’ playoff season in 2012, but Hankerson did at least show the ability to come back from a knee injury which cut short his rookie season and Gomes figures to see more snaps moving forward after playing well in coverage (+2.2) while earning 405 snaps — almost double the number he played in the second half of his rookie season. This playoff run from the Redskins was unexpected to say the least and we are still seeing how the players selected in that 2011 draft will build into a team over the next 12 months or so.
Winner: Washington’s grade is to be determined here, Jacksonville need a miracle to get anything but an F.
New Orleans Gets Ingram
Trading Up: New Orleans Saints, For: Mark Ingram (No. 28 overall)
Trading Down: New England Patriots, For: No. 56 overall (Rd. 2), No. 27 overall (2012)
Our final draft day trade sees another team sending a future first round selection to the New England Patriots (seriously, when will people learn?). The Saints, having just selected Cameron Jordan at No. 24 overall, decided that their crowded backfield just wasn’t crowded enough and that they needed to add another body to it. Now Mark Ingram was a widely-lauded pro prospect and a former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Alabama, so clearly there was great “value” with this pick, but even at the time another running back to add to an already crowded backfield looked like a luxury pick in extremis. Since then, Ingram has only figured in 487 snaps for the Saints and even with the potential departure of Chris Ivory this summer, they’re not necessarily going to completely disregard Pierre Thomas and make Ingram an every-down back.
Last season Ingram saw an increase in pass protection snaps and surrendered a sack, a hit and three hurries. Combined with a limited contribution in the passing game as a receiver, the Saints wouldn’t appear to be in a hurry to throw snaps at a runner in a one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the league. The potential promise here for the Saints is that with the return of Sean Payton to the sideline that New Orleans’ offense returns to its chameleon-like best. An offense that at the height of its power looked as comfortable when running power football as it did spreading and airing the ball out with Drew Brees. Ingram has shown potential as a runner, but at the moment isn’t close to delivering on the additional wealth in picks that was given up for him.
While in 2009 the Patriots flirted with accumulating picks for the sake of accumulating picks, in this trade they parlayed these two selections, almost, directly into two players who contributed to their run to the AFC Championship game this season. At No. 56 overall in 2011, they selected Shane Vereen who, like Ingram, has been short of playing time, but at a lower cost has similarly flashed ability in a different role. Vereen was one of a trio of backs to contribute in their own way to the Patriots’ pass-heavy offense, collecting 562 offensive yards and seven touchdowns as part of a triumvirate who combined to earn a +24.0 grade this season.
Meanwhile, Chandler Jones’ progress report from his rookie season would be for more of the same from prior to his injury. He started the season like a house on fire, finally giving the Patriots’ defense a dynamic player on the edge, but he fell away in the second half and New England never replaced that production down the stretch.
Winner: To be determined – New Orleans need to get or give more playing time to a player who cost them so much while New England just needs more of the same from the picks they got in return.
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