As the NFL Draft approaches- now just 9 days away - there appears to be a trade scenario involving the Vikings that is gaining some momentum- and the rationale on both sides is sound. The deal is for the Vikings to trade their #12 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for some amount of compensation that would include one or both of their first-round picks.
Of course this is the time for rampant draft speculation, and smoke screens, but there is a sound basis and rationale for the trade on both sides. Let’s take a look.
Why the Vikings Would Agree to Trade Down
It takes two to make a trade, and for each team there has to be a compelling reason to make a trade. For the Vikings, trading down would give them another high pick with which to address another roster need. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has done a good job with his salary cap available to fill the holes in the Vikings roster reasonably well in advance of the draft, but there are still positions that could use an influx of talent, either for this year or down the road to replace an aging veteran. It may be that Adofo-Mensah prefers the idea of two late first-round picks to his current 12th pick, for the reason above, but also potentially because of how their draft board is playing out.
GMs usually agree to trade down because, 1) they feel it would be over drafting the top player on their draft board at their current pick; or 2) there are a few players they rate equally, one of which will be available later on, so better to gain more picks and still get a player you wanted at that spot; or 3) the GM doesn’t see a big difference in the quality of players likely to be available where he trades down compared to where he’s picking currently. For example, WR1 or WR2 aren’t much better than WR3 or WR4, so better to trade down for negligible loss in quality of WR (if they want a WR) and gain more draft picks. Lastly, a GM may agree to trade down simply because another team is willing to overpay enough for him to agree to the trade.
Additionally, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah comes from a trading and analytics background, and the NFL continues to over-value first round picks, particularly those in the top half of the first round, and under-value picks after about pick #50 or so, based on recent trade compensation. The over/under value is based on the average player production from each draft position over the years. So, based on his background, Adofo-Mensah may be more inclined to trade down with a 12th overall pick, rather than stay put or trade up.
Lastly, the Vikings could be looking to draft a player early that may not necessarily need to be a week one starter, but work up to that role in time. WR, CB, S, LB, EDGE are all positions where that may be the case. That puts less of a priority on using a #12 overall pick on a player that (typically) is expected to be a week one starter. They may also be looking at a position that isn’t typically drafted so high, except in cases of a generational talent, like defensive tackle.
Why the Chiefs Would Want to Trade Up
The Chiefs are clearly in win-now mode as a Super Bowl contender with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, and a decent roster around him. They also have an extraordinary amount of draft capital this year, with two picks in each of the first four rounds. That gives them the capital necessary to make some big moves, including a big trade up, without spending the rest of their draft picks to do so.
The Chiefs also lost a core offensive player and top WR in Tyreek Hill this off-season, and while they added a couple others (Marquez Valdes-Scandling and JuJu Smith-Shuster), neither are of Hill’s caliber. And so the Chiefs still need to add talent to their wide receiver group. The Chiefs could draft a wide receiver at #29 or #30, but the top several receivers will likely be off the board by then. They could draft a high upside receiver at one of those spots, but that isn’t likely to help them in the short term, which is where their focus is as a Super Bowl contender. So, the need for a top wide receiver could compel them to make a significant trade up, jumping most of the other teams looking for WR, to get the one they covet most.
Chiefs’ GM Brett Veach has a history of trading up at times, so it wouldn’t be out of character for him to make a move such as trading both of his first-round picks for the Vikings’ #12.
It may be that the Chiefs covet WR Jameson Williams, who is the kind of speedy, deep threat WR they lost in Tyreek Hill, and would likely have been a top 10 pick had he not tore his ACL in the national championship game. His recovery progress appears to be going well, and the Chiefs just met with him on a top 30 visit this week.
Signs the Trade Might Actually Happen
One sign that the Vikings may be looking to trade down, and perhaps even have a framework for a deal in place, is that they haven’t met with any prospects likely to go around pick #12. To the extent they’ve met with first-round prospects, they’ve met with late-round ones. And while prospect meetings aren’t always reported, they usually are. And while a team can draft a player without having met with him during the pre-draft process, teams usually meeting with top draft prospects as part of their due diligence process.
Secondly, the Chiefs have met with Jameson Williams, who has zero chance of being available for the Chiefs at #29 or #30.
Interestingly, the current over/under draft slot for Williams is 12.5, with odds slightly favoring the under, according to sportsbetting.ag. The Vikings pick at #12, so that over/under and odds would correspond with either the Vikings taking Williams at 12 (not a bad pick by any means) or the Vikings trading that pick to a team that does.
There has been widespread speculation that the Vikings will take a cornerback at #12, most likely Derek Stingley Jr., according to mock drafts. But Vikings’ GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, at the the recent league meeting in Florida, kinda put a little cold water on that idea, as he said that the way the defense was structured, the cornerbacks have a lot of help to make their job easier, which suggests spending a #12 pick on a potential shut-down corner may not be in his plans. Of course that could all be posturing and smokescreen, but there is some basis for those comments as well. The new Vikings defensive scheme may run a lot of zone coverage, whether Cover-4, Cover-6, or Cover-3, which doesn’t value the high-end skills of a top man-coverage cornerback- the type that go high in the first round- such as a Derek Stingley Jr. or a Ahmad Gardner, neither of which the Vikings have met with during the pre-draft process at this point.
Most GMs are busy making calls throughout the weeks leading up to the draft, gauging other teams interest in potential trades during the draft, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Brett Veach and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have had a trade discussion along those lines.
But it would not be the least bit surprising, especially if Jameson Williams is available, if the Vikings have other potential trade partners looking to trade up. The Texans pick immediately after the Vikings, and they could target any number of positions or players, given their current roster, including WR. They could also be a candidate to trade down. Washington picks right before the Vikings at #11, and could well choose a WR for Carson Wentz- especially with Terry McLaurin’s status uncertain- which could start the run on WRs over the next several picks. Washington has met with WRs Chris Olave and Drake London.
Compensation for the Vikings
If the Vikings draw multiple bidders for their #12 pick, that could lead to better compensation. The Eagles and Saints could look to move up, so too could the Packers with their two late first-round picks. The Cowboys, Patriots and Cardinals could also have some interest. And without adequate compensation, the Vikings could easily choose to make a selection at #12. Again, Jameson Williams or Derek Stingley Jr. would be good picks for the Vikings here, if available.
Looking at a recent comparable, the Bears moved up last year with the Giants for Justin Fields, from #20 to #11. This was a difference of 400 points, for which the Bears gave the Giants a 2022 first- and fourth-round pick, and a fifth-round pick. Future draft picks are generally discounted one-round for one-year, and assumed at current draft order. There were multiple bidders for that pick (Vikings were one of them), and the Giants were able to secure a premium for the pick. The Bears paid 430 points equivalent (but which turned into a lot more given their actual 2022 draft slot) for that pick.
Then there is the Chiefs trade up for Mahomes back in 2017. The Chiefs went from #27 to #10 (620 point differential), and gave a third-round pick and their 2018 first-round pick to trade up with the Bills. Only 446 points. I don’t believe there were multiple bidders for this pick, however. Still a substantial discount. The Packers traded down with the Saints in 2018 as well at a smaller discount (341 points for a 420 point differential).
For this trade the Jimmy Johnson point differential is 560 points. The Chiefs could trade the Vikings their #29, #50, #94, and #135 to arrive at 562.5 points. While that is certainly considerable- gaining another 2nd, 3rd and a 4th round pick could be put to good use- if I were Adofo-Mensah, and there were multiple offers, I’d hold out for both of the Chiefs’ first- round picks- worth 1260 points- and be willing to select at #12 if the Chiefs balk at the offer. That’s basically a 3rd round premium, whether you use the Jimmy Johnson value chart or the more accurate Rich Hill chart. The Rich Hill chart would also suggest the Chiefs should give only a second- and third-round pick to trade up, which I wouldn’t take either.
The reason is simple.
Jameson Williams, while there is the ACL concern- which is the only reason he’d still be on the board at #12 to begin with- is a legitimate playmaker and vertical threat that is NFL ready as a rookie. His 40 time is estimated to be sub 4.3” based on his game film. He ran past every defender he faced in the SEC, so the evidence is there. He didn’t run the 40 in the pre-draft process because of his ACL injury. He would also be the perfect complement to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen as a vertical threat that can take the top off the defense, so he wouldn’t be a bad pick for the Vikings at 12.
For the Chiefs, he’s the closest thing to a Tyreek Hill replacement as can be had in this draft. But if they want him, the Vikings would be right in demanding a premium- assuming he’s available at 12. Again, the Vikings could easily take him at 12 and call it good if the Chiefs - or another team- aren’t willing to pay a premium.
Why the Trade Wouldn’t Happen
Of course this scenario is far from a done deal, and there are a few reasons it wouldn’t happen:
- Williams could be drafted ahead of the Vikings at #12. There is interest from teams like the Jets, and a team like the Eagles or Saints or Chiefs or Packers could trade ahead of the Vikings to land Williams.
- The Chiefs, or any other team interested in trading with the Vikings, may not come to terms.
The Vikings may not get any trade interest after all, and be forced to make a selection at 12- possibly even drafting Williams. One thing about the Vikings right now is not many people expect them to take a wide receiver at #12. Most see Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen and think they’re good at WR. And that’s true, except if the Vikings are going to run 3WR sets 80%+ of the time, like the Rams did with O’Connell, they could use another WR- especially a bona fide deep threat. And with Thielen in the last couple years of his career, they’ll need his replacement too.
Most are expecting the Vikings to draft a cornerback like Derek Stingley Jr., or a defensive player in any case. Adofo-Mensah drafting Williams would come as a very disappointing surprise to a lot of teams picking behind the Vikings. But for that reason, they might not feel they need to trade up ahead of the Vikings to get him.
Should the Vikings trade down with the Chiefs if Jameson Williams and Derek Stingley Jr. are available, for both their first round draft picks?
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