One thing that we'll be discussing until late April will be the possibility of trading the first pick in the NFL Draft. Why? Because the Titans don't need a quarterback and several teams behind them do. It would be a no-brainer for new Titans' General Manager Jon Robinson to add picks in an attempt to speed up the rebuilding process. In this post I'll explore the ins and outs of pulling off a blockbuster draft trade.
Draft trade history
The number one pick has been traded four times in the history of the league, before the pick has been made. I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm saying it's unlikely. I've seen too many people suggest "just trade back and acquire more picks." It's not that easy. You have to have a player worthy of a deal and a team that's willing to part with a large chunk of their draft picks for the year.
Here's a look at the four times it has actually happened.
2001: Falcons move from 5th to 1st. The Chargers received the 5th pick, a 2nd and 3rd round pick, along with receiver Tim Dwight. The Falcons took Michael Vick at number one, but the Chargers ended up with LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees.
1997: Rams move from 6th to 1st. The Jets received the 6th pick, a 3rd, a 4th and a 7th round selection. That seems like crazy value now, considering the Rams took Orlando Pace with the first selection.
1995: Bengals move from 5th to 1st. The Panthers received the 5th and 36th overall selections. Cincinnati took running back Ki-Jana Carter and Carolina ended up getting Kerry Collins.
1990: Colts move from 5th to 1st. Falcons received Andre Rison, Chris Hinton, a 5th rounder and a 1st round pick in the 1991 draft. The Colts took Jeff George.
**Because I know someone is going to put this in the comment section -- the first pick was technically dealt in 2004, but it was traded after the pick was made in the Eli Manning - Philip Rivers saga.**
Players to monitor
There isn't an obvious, jump off the page type quarterback in this class. Some may be higher on a certain player than others, but there isn't that can't miss Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota type player. That isn't to say a certain someone can't rise up to be that guy, but it isn't obvious -- which hurts Jon Robinson quite a bit from the start.
It's an ever changing target. Ask the draft world three weeks ago who the top quarterback was and they might say Jared Goff. Ask them now? The hot name is Carson Wentz. Ask after the combine? It could be Paxton Lynch. Either way, those three players represent the trade opportunity. They are extremely important to the Titans, despite having zero chance of landing in Nashville.
We've been pounding this idea into your head since week 17, but if you're a Titans fan you've got to be rooting for these quarterbacks to destroy the process. Carson Wentz is doing just that. He registered the second biggest pair of hands at the Senior Bowl weigh-ins and also measured in at 6-5, 233 pounds. His rocket arm will have scouts and coaches drooling all week in Mobile. The Wentz hype train is already at full steam ahead.
Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch will have big opportunities in the interview rooms in Indianapolis at the combine. We'll see if they throw, but most top quarterbacks don't. I'm not a big fan of pro-days, but Goff's could be important for scouts to see his arm one last time live. His arm strength has been the knock on him through the process to this point. If he can answer that question, he'll be in play in the top five.
The dance partners
The obvious one is Dallas. They're coaching Wentz in Mobile this week and could very easily fall in love. What makes their situation difficult is Cleveland sitting at pick two with a big void under center. They sit in the driver's seat right now, but the Wentz and Goff hype has to make them uncomfortable. What happens if the Titans end up dealing the pick to someone behind them? Then they run the risk of missing out on their guy. You want Cleveland to be terrified -- terrified enough to pick up the phone and move to one.
Further down you have San Francisco sitting 7th, Philadelphia 13th, Los Angeles 15th and Houston 22nd. It gets really tough to match value for the first overall selection once you get out of the top ten, however. I'd be shocked if any of these teams get involved.
What would it take? (Using the Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart)
Trading with Cleveland would obviously represent the easiest and cleanest route. The Titans and Browns could swap the first and second picks, while Cleveland could match that value with their 2nd rounder alone or by pairing their 3rd and 4th round picks.
A deal with Dallas gets a lot more involved. The Titans would demand the 4th overall pick, along with their 2nd, 3rd and possibly even 4th round selections. That still wouldn't match-up in the Titans' favor on the trade chart, but I think Jon Robinson would take this deal and run.
Virtually any team other than this would be talking about dealing multiple future first round picks. We don't see players dealt in draft trades very often, but that's likely what it would take for any team outside of Cleveland or Dallas to get into the mix. Don't count on that happening.
One thing we do know -- Jon Robinson comes from the New England draft culture where trading picks was a regular practice. It's clear that they had a plan to move each year and stock-pile picks. I love that strategy, but I think it's more likely we see a trade at 33 rather than number one overall.
It's important that we temper expectations and realize just how tough it is to pull a deal like this off. With that being said, the ingredients are certainly there. Now you just need the Cowboys and Browns to fall for their guy. If they don't, they'll be perfectly fine staying put and seeing how the cards fall.