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First Round Trade Scenarios

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Vikings GM Rick Spielman has traded both up and down in the first round of the NFL Draft. Let’s try and look at some tendencies

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This is what I imagine Rick Spielman’s face looks like when a player he really likes starts dropping.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Since becoming full time GM of the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, Rick Spielman has been nothing if not active during Draft Weekend. In the first round he has traded up, down, or both in the first round to position the Vikings for a player they wanted. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always pretty exciting.

In 2012, he moved down from three to four overall in a trade with Cleveland, and got the fourth, fifth, and seventh round picks from the Browns while still getting T Matt Kalil. He traded back in to the end of the first round, going from from 35 overall to 29, by trading that second round pick and a fourth rounder to nab Harrison Smith.

In 2013, he had two first round picks going in to the draft, netting one of them in a trade with Seattle for Percy Harvin. At the end of the round, he swung yet another deal, sending Minnesota’s second, third, fourth, and seventh pick to New England for pick 29 overall.

In 2014, the Vikings traded with Seattle again, moving to 32nd overall for their second and fourth round pick.

Spielman made no first round deals in 2015 (pick 11 overall) and 2016 (pick 23 overall), and last year they had no first round pick due to the Sam Bradford trade (would have selected 14, but yeah...no). However, Spielman did move up early in both the second and third rounds to get two impact players that immediately became starters, Dalvin Cook (seven spot move) and Pat Elflein (nine spot move). He also traded down at the end of the third round as well, but that deal is still confusing to me, and it involved two other teams, so I don’t want to get into it. Because if you think I’m going to drive myself insane trying to cobble together a fictional draft day trade involving three times, lol...no.

What we can do, though, are look at some trends and tendencies in the deals Rick Spielman has made in the early rounds of the draft, and what we might be able to predict for the 2018 draft.

Since he was given unfettered power in 2012, Spielman has not traded down in the first round when picking outside of the top 10. We have to go back to 2010 to find the last time the Vikings traded out of the first round and into the second round, and ironically they were picking 30th that year, too. Back then, Spielman was part of the ill-fated Triangle of Authority, along with then head coach Brad Childress and owner Zygi Wilf, and the Vikes traded with Detroit, moved down from 30 to 34, and selected CB Chris Cook.

Other than Everson Griffen, the 2010 draft class was one of the worst in recent memory, coming in behind only the 2005 class in terms of ‘lol factor’ when it was all said and done. I’m not saying it was because of the trade out of the first round, just highlighting that it was a mostly bad draft class. In an unrelated note, I have as many career interceptions in the NFL as Chris Cook does.

You have as many, too! And so do you, guy in Chaska reading this in his underwear while drinking a Grain Belt! And if by chance you’re reading this and you ever played in the NFL, AND managed to get one interception, YOU HAVE MORE THAN CHRIS COOK! Please contact me via email so I can get your prize mailed out to you.*

*There is no prize. But if a former NFL player wants to email me, I’m totally cool with it.

So recap the moves up, Spielman has moved from the second round to the first round thrice, in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Those moves up were six spots in 2012, 25 spots in 2013, hence the hefty compensation required for the move, and eight spots in 2014. The 2012 and 2014 trades were pretty decent deals for both teams in terms of compensation, and the Vikes ended up with pretty good picks in Harrison Smith (2012), and what we thought was our once and future QB in Teddy Bridgewater.

But with only three picks in the top 100, no fourth round pick, and only eight of 10 desired picks Spielman prefers to have in his pocket in this draft, I don’t know that there’s a player worth moving up to get.

But let’s look at moving up, anyway. Throwing out the deal to draft Patterson in 2013, the two other moves up average out to seven spots. If we use the trade value chart as a guide, we can get a numerical value and cost to move:

Let’s look at moving anywhere from 5-8 spots up to get...whoever. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Quenton Nelson is falling—stop laughing...GUYS I SAID STOP—lol okay I know he won’t but just play along.

There’s a 100 point differential between pick 30 and Tennesse’s pick at 25. If we’re talking draft capital only, the only other pick that gives the Vikings that kind of numerical value without adding future picks is their third round pick. Is moving up five spots, even for Quenton Nelson in this wildly unrealistic scenario, worth not having a pick in the third and fourth round now?

The folks that would do the trade would argue that the Vikings have few holes, and guard might be the only one. If ever there were a draft where they could risk making a move like that, it would be this one. With few question marks on the roster, if it means getting a guy (Nelson or whoever) that fills one of those spots for a decade, then pull the trigger. We’ll make it up in either free agency or next year’s draft.

Guys and gals that disagree with that rationale think that’s a lot to give up to move only five spots, and the Vikings have been pretty good in recent drafts at filling the roster with later round guys. In 2014, for example, they got Jerick McKinnon at the end of the third round, in 2015 they got Danielle Hunter at the end of the third as well. With no fourth round pick this year, it might actually be beneficial to trade down, out of the first round entirely, and recoup that fourth round pick if they can do it without dropping too far. Having a fairly complete roster means this is the time to not only keep what picks you have, but try and acquire another pick or two in the top 125, and get even more depth on the roster to keep this Super Bowl window open for as long as possible.

There are merits to both sides of the argument. Normally, I’m not a guy that values draft picks like they’re gold, and using them to maneuver to get better players—whether it’s to improve draft position or trade for players already in the league—to fill holes isn’t a bad strategy, as long as you hit on the player. But I also understand that scouting is an inexact science, and the more guys you draft the better the chance is that you’ll hit on guys that turn out to be solid to really good players.

After exploring a couple of other trade up scenarios, and citing the example above, I fall in to the latter category with this draft. The Vikings have a very good roster, yes, but I think they need to get potentially good players at a few positions, and I’m having a hard time finding an impact player that would be worth shorting your draft class over. And if you try and preserve picks in this draft, you’re going to have to give up picks in future drafts, so it’s a pick your poison kind of thing.

Several national guys who cover the NFL for a living get the feeling that Spielman will try to trade down and recoup a fourth round pick. Granted, it requires a dance partner, but there might be a couple teams at the top of the second round that might want to tango. Keep in mind I’m just considering draft picks only, no players will be involved in these scenarios. And I’m not going past pick 37, because Spielman’s trade history here shows he won’t drop that far out of the first round, while acknowledging that I’m basing that history off of a ridiculously small sample size of one.

Anyhooo, let’s get to it.

Cleveland: The Browns currently own the first and third picks in round two, 33 and 35 overall, and have a ton of draft capital to use to move up and acquire premium talent if they so choose. Pick 33 has a point value of 580, pick 35 is 550. The Browns own the 14th pick in round 4, 114 overall, and it has a point value of 66. If the Browns were to offer pick 35 and pick 114, that comes out to...carry the one...616 points, essentially even to the Vikings 30th pick, valued at 620 points. If the Vikings wanted to make up those four points, they could swap picks 205 and 213 in the sixth round, and the trade is within a point of each other on the chart.

If they offer pick 33 and 114, there’s a 33 point overkill, so Minnesota could, conceivably, throw in their fifth rounder, pick 167 overall (24.2 points), to get it closer. But the net for the Vikings is still eight picks total, which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re trying to acquire extra picks in this draft. Yeah, you improve your position in the second round and get a fourth round pick, but you lose a fifth rounder. With Spielman wheeling and dealing I’ll discount nothing, but I don’t know that he’d do this.

New York Giants: With Pat Shurmur taking over in New York, the Giants and Vikings have a familiarity there, and that could lead to a trade possibility. The Giants own pick 34 (560 points) and in the fourth round they own the 8th pick, 108 overall (78 points). A trade of those two picks for the Vikes first rounder gives them an 18 point overkill, so the Vikings could also throw in a late sixth round pick to get it within 10 points. If you’re going to end up being even in total number of picks swapped, this seems like a more realistic option, as you still have two other sixth round picks to use, you’re picking in the fourth round, and you don’t lose your fifth rounder, like you would in the above scenario.

Indianpolis: Like the Browns, the Colts have two picks at the top of the second round, 36 and 37 overall (fourth and fifth). 36 is worth 540 points, 37 is worth 530 points. It’s either an 80 or 90 point makeup, depending on which pick you want, and either way, this one is pretty easy. They’re sitting with the fourth pick in the fourth round, 104 overall, point value of 86. If they offer pick 34 and 104, they’re six points over, if it’s 35 and 104, there’s a four point deficit. Either one would work, and I would obviously hope it would be pick 36.

These are just a couple of options, and if last year is any indication, when it seemed the Vikings made a trade in every round (I think they actually did), this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not gonna go any farther than this, because, well, we could go down a draft trade scenario rabbit hole and the next thing you know, it’s three AM, we’ve got to get up and go to work in three hours, your wife wakes up and wants to know why the hell you’re still up and you tell her ‘damn it honey I am on the verge of securing the FIRST 8 PICKS IN THIS DRAFT SO PLEASE JUST GO BACK TO BED THINGS ARE FINE AND YES I’LL LET THE DOG OUT ONE MORE TIME JEEEEEEEEEZ.

TL;DR: Rick’s gonna make a lot of trades. If any of them are remotely close to what I just wrote, I’m gonna become an Internet psychic.