clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2015 NFL Draft: History Says the Titans Should Trade Back If Possible

Calling Chip Kelly...

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

We've all seen the rumours that Chip Kelly may still in fact want to trade up for Marcus Mariota...and the Titans should be more than willing to deal with him.

I have long been a supporter of trading back in the draft. Its often challenging to do but not impossible. A few days ago I set out to see if my theory of trading back would hold true. With that in mind I wanted to look at the last three drafts. I used the 2012 draft as the starting point and it ended up being a lot of trades to discuss. With that in mind, the early part of this article will cover that draft and trade.

The Rams traded the 2nd overall pick to Washington in exchange for three first rounders and a second round pick. With the last parts of the deal finalized this past season, we can now look at the haul for both teams. Washington obviously has Robert Griffin, while the Rams, thanks in part to more wheeling and dealing, ended up with Greg Robinson, Alec Ogletree, Stedman Bailey, Zac Stacy, Isaiah Pead, Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Rokevious Watkins. Even if Griffin manages to turn his career around, St. Louis clearly won this deal. In return for one pick they were able to land several starters.

The rest of the top ten had a lot of trading as well though. The third overall pick was traded from Minnesota to Cleveland, who landed Trent Richardson. Minnesota moved back a spot and landed Matt Kalil, Jarius Wright (4th Rd), Robert Blanton (5th Rd), and a 7th rounder that was traded to Tennessee. This clearly isn't the monstrous package St. Louis landed but a productive one nonetheless. Kalil's a three year starter and Wright is a contributing receiver. Minnesota wins this one.

Its gets better (worse?) though. With the next pick the Jaguars traded up for Justin Blackmon. In return the Bucs moved down two spots and selected Mark Barron, and picked up an fourth round pick which was later shipped to Denver. You can call neither team a winner in this one if you prefer. I think the Bucs win for at least having a contributing player on their roster for a few seasons before sending him to St. Louis.

The Rams sent the sixth pick, acquired in the Griffin deal, to Dallas who chose Morris Claiborne. In return they landed the aformentioned Brockers and a second rounder, which was traded to Chicago.

Next up is a deal that worked for both teams. Philadelphia nabbed the 12th pick, Fletcher Cox, while sending the 15th pick (Bruce Irvin), 114th pick (Jaye Howard) and 172nd pick (Jeremy Lane) to Seattle. Personally I've always been a big fan of Fletcher Cox, so I'd give Philly the edge on this one even though the Bruce Irvin pick really worked out for Seattle. The other two players have gone on to have unremarkable careers.

Later in the draft at the 21st pick, New England took a chance on the first of their two trade-ups. Cincy moved back to 27th (turned out to be Kevin Zeitler) and picked up a spare third rounder (Brandon Thompson), while the Pats were more than happy to select Chandler Jones. Again, I find myself with a bit of a bias on Chandler Jones but I think this worked for both teams.

The Pats then jumped to 25th to select Donta Hightower. In exchange, Denver got the 31st pick and a fourth round selection - both of which they ended up trading.

Later the Vikings moved up to 29th for Harrison Smith. The Ravens in return landed a 2nd and a 4th round pick, which turned into Courtney Upshaw and Gino Gradkowski.

Wrapping up our first round deals was Denver dealing down once again - moving the Patriots' 31st pick and their own 126th pick for the 36th and 101st picks. Tampa Bay took Doug Martin 31st and moved the fourth pick. Denver's acquisitions included Derek Wolfe and Omar Bolden.

These last few trades show the benefit of trading up. The Pats, Vikings and Bucs all landed starters. Still, the investments made by Cincinnati and Baltimore paid off as well.

Its About Quantity Over Quality

Each team moving up in the draft felt so strongly about their targeted player that they were willing to sacrifice other (later) picks. The problem with this thinking is that even with the best possible analysis, advanced statistical evidence and numerous scouting reports, there are still going to be players that fail. Calling it an inexact science is the best way to describe it. Even the best front offices miss on picks. No matter how strongly you or scouts may feel about a prospect, all of them carry risk. Trent Richardson was supposed to be a "safe" pick. Aaron Curry as well.

(Later after writing this portion, I saw an article on Tuesday by Peter King who claimed that Jimmy Johnson said "having more draft picks is insurance against mistakes.")

If its hard to find ways to draft better, the secret then is to draft more frequently. The Patriots have been one of the teams to take this approach (speaking broadly, considering this draft they actually gave up picks). Bill Belichick has made several poor draft decisions. His 2011 draft included such superstars as Ras-I Dowling, Ryan Mallett, Lee Smith, Markell Carter and Malcolm Williams. That is five picks that ended up making minimal impact on the squad. The reason he wasn't criticized more for this draft is because he STILL netted Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Steven Ridley, and Marcus Cannon. For comparison's sake, consider his 2013 draft haul: Jamie Collins, Aaron Dobson, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, Josh Boyce, Michael Buchanan, and Steve Beauharnais. Eight selections compared to nine, and this one doesn't look nearly as pretty. As you'll see below, Belichick moved out of the first round to acquire picks that went to Collins, Ryan and Boyce. Would that draft be even uglier had he not moved back?

The NFL Draft still is about gathering as many lottery tickets as possible and hoping to cash in. The goal should be to retain and accumulate as many picks as possible. To be more specific, the Titans should focus on any of the more "valuable" rounds - likely rounds one to four. There's no reason to turn away from late round picks though too. While the odds of those players working out is lowest, having more chances at hitting on a pick is valuable.

With the 2nd overall pick, the Titans are in a rare opportunity to grab a whole bunch of valuable lottery tickets.

Evaluating a Potential Trade with the Eagles

A move of this nature is rare. A helpful measuring stick for a trade is the 2011 one for Julio Jones. The Falcons moved up from 27th to 6th and in return Cleveland received the 27th overall pick, 59th pick (2nd round), and 124th (4th) in 2011 as well as 1st and 4th round picks in 2012.

There are two ways to look at it from here. With an 18 spot jump for Philly, should the Titans receive less, or does the value of the 2nd overall pick carry so much weight as to push the pricetag higher? I personally think the price tag is higher.

Working loosely off the template from the Julio Jones and Robert Griffin deals, I came up with a potential haul of three first round picks, two second round picks, a fourth round pick and/or potentially Sam Bradford. I don't really care about Bradford but I imagine Kelly would use him as a trade piece if he is willing to move. I'd rather receive another pick.

Let me be clear about a few things, especially if Eagles fans find their way here. I've seen the rumour that the Browns offered a first round pick for Bradford, and despite the value that Cleveland may place on him, simply don't agree on it. At all. I also realize that this seems like an extremely steep price and am completely okay with that. There are other ways to mix and match draft picks to come up with a similar but slightly smaller return (such as dropping a second rounder to a third, etc). I'd strongly consider any similar offers. However, if Chip Kelly wants Marcus Mariota, I am going to make him pay a king's ransom.

What do you think of this potential offer?

A Quick Look at the 2013 and 2014 Draft Trades

Brevity clearly is not my strength so for this part I attempted an abbreviated approach.

2013 Draft Trades (team moving up placed on the left, t = traded to)

Dolphins receive 3rd overall - Dion Jordan Oakland receive 12th pick (DJ Hayden) and 42nd (Menelik Watson)
St Louis: 8th pick (Tavon Austin) and 71st (TJ McDonald) Buffalo: 16th (EJ Manuel), 46th (Kiko Alonso), 78th (Marquise Goodwin), 122nd (Chris Gragg)
San Francisco: 18th pick (Eric Reid) Dallas: 31st pick (Travis Frederick), 74th (Terrance Williams)
Atlanta: 22nd pick (Desmond Trufant) St Louis: 30th pick (Alec Ogletree), 92nd pick (Stedman Bailey), 198th pick (t-Houston)
Minnesota: 29th pick (Cordarelle Patterson) New England: 52nd pick (Jamie Collins), 83rd (Logan Ryan), 102nd (Josh Boyce), 229th (t-back to Minn)

What you see here is a lot of misses for a lot of teams. Dion Jordan, Tavon Austin and Cordarelle Patterson have all been busts so far. The Niners and Falcons traded for players that at least can be considered even or better than the package the team moving down received. I'd probably give the 'win' to each side moving back still.

2014 NFL Draft Trades

The usual disclaimer here is necessary that it takes years to fully evaluate drafts, and so this one and even the 2013 one may still see players turn things around and swing the deal in the opposite direction.

Bills receive: 4th pick (Sammy Watkins) Cleveland receives: 9th pick (t-Minn), 1st and 4th Rd 2015 picks
Cleveland: 8th pick (Justin Gilbert) Minnesota: 9th pick (Anthony Barr), 145th pick (David Yankey)
New Orleans: 20th pick (Brandin Cooks) Arizona: 27th pick (Deone Buchanan), 91st pick (John Brown)
Cleveland: 22nd pick (Johnny Manziel) Philadelphia: 26th pick (Marcus Smith), 3rd round pick (t-Hou)
Minnesota: 32nd pick (Teddy Bridgewater) Seattle: 40th pick (t-Detroit), 108th pick (Cassius Marsh)

Tough to call a few of these ones with their futures still undetermined. I think the moves for Watkins, Cooks and Bridgewater right now show evidence for trading up but I'm not sure that the WR moves will look as smart in the future.

Should The Titans Make A Deal?

If there's an good offer out there, I think the Titans should take it. Regardless of how confident you are in the futures of Leonard Williams or Marcus Mariota, there's a good argument to be made that playing the odds will play out better. Now, there will obviously be examples opposing this theory. It wouldn't have made sense for the Colts to trade down and pass on Andrew Luck. I don't see a prospect as good as him at a position as important. This team has tons of roster weaknesses still. An added bonus is that if Webster and Whisenhunt are fired next year, the new front office is set up nicely to rebuild quickly with the extra draft picks.

I'd be excited to trade down on draft night.