The 10 Teams Most Likely To Make A Trade In The NFL Draft
Some obvious, some... less so.
We are getting closer and closer to the NFL draft. With less than 3 weeks to go, let’s take a look at some of the teams that are likely to be on the move in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are several reasons a team might want to trade up or down in the draft.
The first is where they are in the “winning cycle”. Teams that are high up on the winning cycle (like the Chiefs, Bills, Packers or Buccaneers) are more likely to view themselves as one piece away. This might encourage them to move up and get that player. Meanwhile, bad teams need lots of help. They are less likely to view one player as critical. More picks are better than fewer to them. The one exception to this is usually quarterback, where bad teams might feel like that is the key to turning things around. Bad teams also might opt to gather more picks in future drafts, as opposed to the current one, because they know they are a few years away from challenging for a Super Bowl, while good teams (like the 49ers or Rams) might sacrifice future years, to get a player in the current draft).
A second reason to trade up or down is available funds. A team up against the salary cap (and there will be a lot this year) would value having more cheap players from the draft than a few expensive ones. A team like the Falcons or Saints, who are up against it, might opt to move down or even out of the first round, to be able to add several lower cost options later on in the draft.
A third reason is to get a specific player. Teams will occasionally become enamored with a player and decide to do whatever it takes to get that player. Look at the 49ers already this year. They gave up a ton of draft capital (two extra firsts and a third), just to move up 9 spots. They clearly love a specific player they believe will be available in that spot. Meanwhile, the Eagles clearly didn’t see a QB or skill player they felt was worth going for at 6, so they chose to sit it out, and wait at 12 for a good player to fall to them.
A fourth reason would be positional needs. Needs can play a major factor. Where a team needs help can effect where they choose to pick. A team that needs defense, is likely to trade down at the top of the draft this year. There aren’t any super-high impact players like Chase Young this year. A team that needs QB help, almost always needs to move to the top of the draft (players like Russell Wilson or Tom Brady are very, very rare). If you need low value players like interior offensive line, safety, defensive tackle etc., trading down is wise. High value players like quarterback, edge rusher, offensive tackle or cornerback often require moving up.
A fifth reason is excess, or lack, of draft capital. If you don’t have many picks, you will need to get more (move down) or if you have a lot, you are free to move up. Generally, every team needs to have a certain amount of rookies on the squad just from a cost standpoint. Too many, however, and it is tough to stay respectable. It is hard to fill out your squad with vets making the veteran minimum over late round picks who are on rookie scale contracts.
One final reason for trading up specifically, is to make a splash. Team owners and GMs are human just like the rest of us. They love to hear the applause and have everyone tell them how aggressive they are. Owners like Jerry Jones, Arthur Blank or Dan Snyder have pushed around their front office for years, encouraging them to take “splash” players. This year, teams like the Bears, Cowboys, and Falcons are all in need of some good, morale-boosting draft day decisions and that may override common sense at points.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some teams that might fall in a few of these categories.
The Atlanta Falcons:
Already noted above in a few places, I think it is likely the Falcons move down, at least a little. They are up against the salary cap, they are clearly not one piece away from contending for the Super Bowl and what they need (defense help), will be available in spades later in the first round. This will be tough with Arthur Blank pulling the strings. I know that deep in his heart he wants Kyle Pitts, but this team needs way too much help. Kyle Pitts isn’t going to move the needle enough for a team with 0 defensive playmakers. Ultimately, I don’t think this gets done till the day of the draft. There are too many questions about who will be available at 4 and I am guessing compensation will rest on what players are there and who wants them.
They need help pretty much everywhere. They are at the start of a long rebuild and one nice player isn’t going to help them. They are probably going to be the gateway team to either the 4th or 5th (and final) strong QB prospect in this draft for teams that need one. The Lions DO need a QB, but they can wait on that with Jared Goff holding down the fort right now. They will be bad next year too, and the year after, so they will have plenty of shots at QB prospects. They can afford to trade with Denver, NE or even the Bears to get future assets. If the Bears make the same offer as the 49ers gave the Dolphins, they should take it. Given the Lions historic love for WRs with their first round pick, however, I think Devonta Smith is a real possibility too.
The Broncos have a pretty good roster that was gutted by injury last year (just like the 49ers). I doubt they view themselves as likely to pick this high again in the near future. They have a VERY obvious hole at quarterback. Drew Lock is cute and loves to party, but he also loves to be inaccurate and throw picks. I think the Broncos will talk themselves into believing that the offense is one piece away. I don’t believe they can trust that the piece will make it through the Lions and the Panthers. I think this is their chance to get the final offensive piece they think they need, and I think they take it. After all, trading up in the first round is how they got team president John Elway.
New England Patriots:
Bill Belichick and the gang are known for being aggressive with making moves in the draft, and I think they have already signaled this offseason that they will continue to be aggressive. The catch with the Patriots is that their trade could go either way. It will depend entirely on who goes when. If a quarterback starts to slide back to them, I could see them being aggressive to fill the biggest hole on their roster. If one doesn’t, I could also see them trading back to accumulate more picks. They have had a lot of trouble identifying good players in the draft the last several years. The biggest way to address that… is by having more picks. It’s harder to miss when you take more shots, no matter how bad a shot you are. And they have been Harry-from-Dumb-and-Dumber level bad.
This is a team which desperately needs to make a move. Their GM and coach are nearing the end of their life cycle and this team hasn’t improved at all from what they inherited. Ultimately, this is a team that I believe is VERY likely to sacrifice future capital to move up now. I could very much see them trading a future first/second to move up past the Patriots to grab a QB who is sliding down the board. Next year’s first round pick won’t help their GM and coach if they get fired this year. Beyond that, fan confidence is in the tank. The way out of that is to take a player who fans can believe in. This team desperately needs to make a move (in their minds. In reality, they are way more than 1 piece away and should absolutely not do this. They should fire their coach and GM instead).
New Orleans Saints:
The Saints quite famously were almost 80 million over the cap at the start of the offseason. Drew Brees’ retirement put a dent in that, as did releasing several veterans. The Saints still have to fill out a roster though, and this team is not one piece away as construed. I think they are a real threat to move out of the first round all together and start adding more picks as they try to rebuild into Super Bowl contender status again. This situation is very reminiscent of the Falcons, except there isn’t likely to be one player with the pull to keep them at this spot, while the Falcons will likely have to admit they can’t have Pitts, Chase or Sewell if they move down.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
They simply don’t have any major needs. They have signed everyone they want from last year’s team and more. They are just looking to fill out the roster with cheap rookies. I can DEFINITELY see a scenario where a team near the top of the second round decides to pop their head into the first round again (to make that day 1 splash) in order to get to the head of the line for the day 2 picks. Maybe the Bucs fall in love with someone who falls to them, but I doubt it. They aren’t in development mode. They are in win now mode.
We haven’t talked much about the Seahawks because they don’t have a day 1 pick. While they have moved beyond the Russell Wilson trade talk, things are hardly settled. They still need offensive and defensive help. John Schneider prides himself on his draft skill, but this team needs an infusion of talent. They also view themselves as championship contenders now. This is a situation where you sacrifice future assets to move up here. I think they will move up in the second round to get a premier day 2 player, particularly for the offensive line to calm down Wilson.
New York Jets:
While they don’t need to move up or down with their first overall pick, they have a real glut of picks this year and next. I could see them using this to target special players they value. You only want so many rookies at one time, so I can see them using this ability to move up, either later in the first round or second round when a player slips. They aren’t far out of the elite players in round one with that second pick, and if an elite non-QB slips (such as Rashawn Slater, Devonta Smith, or Jaycee Horn) they should be ready to pounce.
Dolphins GM Chris Grier simply LOVES trading He is the most active GM in the league over the last few years, and I don’t think for one second he is done. The Dolphins could easily trade down, up or sideways (trading from now for the future) during the draft and I wouldn’t blink an eye. If Grier thinks he has found a value, he will take it. The Dolphins are totally unpredictable in this sense, other than to simply predict they do *something*. I predict they do *something*.