More Player Trades than Usual?

NFL_Draft_Trades_Adrian_PetersonEarlier this week, I had an interesting email exchange with Shane Johnson – one of the guys here at PowerHouse who does a lot of great work for us. You will hear a lot more from Shane in the coming weeks…

The topic was Shane’s speculation that the way the NFL Draft might fall could lead to teams having a “best available” in front of them who is at a position that is not a need, and in that case, might we see veteran players traded during the Draft, potentially including Adrian Peterson, to clear cap space and open a path for the draftees.

I thought the conversation was interesting enough to turn into a blog post, so here it is…

SHANE:

Hey, Chris. A couple of weeks ago I read where an NFL GM was quoted as saying that there are no more than 15 true 1st rounders in this year’s draft. When I read that I felt like he was probably correct.

A few hours ago I was able to run the mock draft while selecting for each team manually based on the needs. In some situations there was not a player that I felt was good enough to meet their needs in the first round. The next best thing was to select the best player available for that team. But, when attempting to do this, I ran into situations where the best available player would be sitting the bench due to the talent the team already has at that position.

From what I have discovered this draft is going to be a very unique one. If you are in the top 10, things will work out for teams quite well. But after that it becomes very difficult. I think we are going to see more trades than we normally would but not in the way that we tend to see draft day trades executed.

The first team I ran into that had needs that could be filled in the next couple of rounds was Minnesota. The best player I thought was left on the board was Melvin Gordon. But with AP in the backfield what do they do?

Ahhh.  Trade AP to the Cardinals for a pick and/or a player, clear $13M of cap space and select Gordon. This is one example of something that may happen more in this draft than any other. Unloading a high salary player at the time of the selection and creating a need to fit the players left on the board.

I now see where many teams after the 10th pick would like to trade back for more selections. But 15 second round players still have to be drafted in the first round.

Your thoughts?

2015_NFL_Draft_Prospects_Danny_SheltonBy the way, the further I went selecting the players for each team, I found players that continued to drop. Once I went into the teens I found that Shelton and Ray continued to fall. Basically because of need and defensive fit. They both would up going at the top of the second round.

I have never been a big fan of Shelton. He has problems if he gets stuck on the field when a team is in the no huddle, becoming more of a liability than anything. I forget the analyst on Sirius NFL Radio yesterday who said he is absolutely NOT a 1st round pick. I think it was Polian that said it… Yes it was now that I think about it further.

Ray has to be in the perfect system to succeed and I had him going to Tampa in the second round. Many players that I thought would be 2nd rounders wound up being drawn into the last 12 picks of the 1st, ahead of players that many call 1st rounders.

I believe Garrett Grayson will go to Cleveland with their second pick of the first round. Bryce Petty went to the Jets at the top of the second. while Stephon Anthony and Byron Jones snuck into the first.  Very interesting when you select for need over best player or vice versa.

CHRIS:

Very interesting, Shane, and with your OK, I might like to turn this dialog into a blog post!

As far as my thoughts…

I think it’s common for there to be only 20 clear-cut R1 prospects, give or take, followed by another block of about the same number who could go in R1 or the first half of R2, depending on the particular needs and evaluations of the teams holding those choices. I haven’t finished my scouting yet (I’m notoriously slow at this,) so I’m going on what I’ve generally heard when I say that most view this as a deep draft, especially at positions like WR and DL.

Big picture, this is one reason we built our draft prospect grading system the way we did, with the R1+/R1 designation for the clear first-rounders, and R1-/R2+ covering the guys on the fringe. The other reason is that a former GM who is now an Assistant GM shared with us that this is how their grading system worked.

With the introduction of the standardized fifth-year options in the current CBA, picks 11-32 have increased value. If you’re correct about the depth being only 15 prospects that warrant an R1+/R1 grade, we might see a series of peaks and valleys in the value/marketability of the picks:

  • A peak at the top for any perceived franchise QBs…
  • A valley late in the top ten…
  • A peak from #11 on for some number of picks, as teams value the advantageous fifth-year option terms and suck up the remaining fifteen truly top prospects…
  • A valley in the mid-late first round, until…
  • A peak near the end of the round, as teams look to trade up less-expensively to draft remaining top prospects – per their specific boards – and still have the attractive fifth-year option apply

So, that’s my view of the “market” overall. How long the peak starting at #11 lasts will depend on how the teams view that first tier. Is it truly fifteen prospects? Is it twenty? Opinions will vary, and it doesn’t have to be twenty for pick #20 to have higher-than-expected value, since draftees will come off the board unpredictably, and a team sitting in the 25-32 range may still see one of the top ten prospects on their own board sitting there at #20.

Will_there_be_more_trades_in_the_2015_NFL_DraftTo your more specific question re: will we see more players traded to open a spot for a top prospect… the logic makes sense. In the case of unattractive contracts, they are always difficult to move, and I think the public generally doesn’t understand why. Take the Mike Wallace and Brandon Marshall trades, for example. Two very talented players, each with baggage, each traded for an R5 pick – no, not even an R5 pick… they had to send back an R7 pick as well.

The downward pressure on the trade value of these kinds of players is sure to continue as the draft approaches, in much the same way that players in danger of being cut have little value right before roster cuts in August.

Now to the specific example of Adrian Peterson… The player, performing at his historical level, has tremendous value for any team, particularly a win-now contender with a hole at RB, like the Cardinals. But, he’s 30 and his contract is big. What would he get on the open market if Minny cut him? More non-guaranteed years, surely. More guaranteed money overall? I suppose someone would take a chance that he’ll remain productive enough past 30 for that to happen.

But a high draft choice in return for a big, long-term deal for a 30YO RB with a physical running style and a ton of mileage on him? On draft day? I don’t see it. More realistically – and maybe this is what you had in mind – the Vikings have a tentative deal lined up that the pull the trigger on when they have secured a replacement with their R1 pick. That I could totally see.

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