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Let’s Make A Deal – A Recent History Of Trades Into The Top 5 For QBs

  • Kyle Crabbs
  • November 6, 2019
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The NFL Draft's top of the order is typically a little more clear now than what we're currently experiencing. The Cincinnati Bengals are lonely at the top of the order -- winless at 0-8. Behind them? It's a whole different story. The NFL currently features seven other teams (in addition to the Bengals) who possess either one or two wins on the season, which makes forecasting the rest of the year and the eventual 2020 NFL Draft order a pretty damn messy proposition.

And as we continue to work our way through the NFL and college football seasons alike, we're able to dial in on who the most likely names are to be in demand. Some are well established -- such as Ohio State DE Chase Young and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. Others are red hot and could crash the party, like LSU's Joe Burrow. Others are watching their stock arguably fade at this point in time -- such as Oregon QB Justin Herbert. But of the eight teams with zero to two wins in the NFL, four of them (Cincinnati, Miami and Tampa Bay have a clear need at quarterback). Denver, at 3-6, and Tennessee, at 4-5, also have an established need for a signal caller as well -- but sit more on the fringe.

And with this much demand in the quarterback market, there's sure to be a whole lot of jostling and fighting for positioning to be in a position to draft one. Whether that's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looking to make a bold move and bid farewell to Jameis Winston, the Tennessee Titans deciding to go "all-in" on a quarterback or the Miami Dolphins looking to avoid a blown "tank" of 2019 after winning too many games, teams like the Washington Redskins (they've got Dan Snyder's hand-picked quarterback in house with Dwayne Haskins) or the New York Jets (Sam Darnold) could potentially reap major rewards to stink just enough to get in the way of some of these quarterback hungry teams and facilitate a trade.

What would such a trade look like in the 2020 landscape? Well it depends on where you're trying to trade up from. But over the last decade, we've seen enough trades into the top-5 of the NFL Draft for quarterbacks to have a pretty potent sample size.

To measure the rough value of these deals, we'll measure the value of the trade packages using the NFL Draft Pick Trade Value Chart -- a concept often credited to former Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson. The chart helped quantify the value of the picks and allow team negotiations to work off of the number values assigned to picks. For the sake of uniformity, we'll consider all picks from future years to land right in the middle of the draft order -- because at the time of the deal there was ample uncertainty on what value those picks would return.

The Layup (From inside the top 6 picks)

Trades in this area since 2009 include: Sam Darnold (Jets, 2018), Mitch Trubisky (Bears, 2017), Robert Griffin III (Redskins, 2012)

New York's deal for Sam Darnold is the best case scenario for a team like the Miami Dolphins -- who may end up winning themselves one too many games for their own good if they hope to have their cake (quarterback) and eat it, too (not trade for him). Because the Jets' deal to flip from 3rd overall in the 2018 NFL Draft cost the Jets their 2018 1st (6th overall), two 2018 2nds (37th and 49th overall) and a 2019 2nd-round pick. The Jets would then draft Darnold as QB2 in 2018, while the New York Giants forsook drafting a quarterback of their own to instead draft the player largely deemed as the best available player on the board, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley.

That will be a trend throughout this piece -- many "no brainer" QB landing spots don't necessarily turn out that way, such as the Giants passing on an heir for Eli Manning with the 2nd overall pick in 2018.

In all, New York traded picks combined to be worth approximately 3,560 points to jump 3 spots and draft Sam Darnold with the 3rd overall pick in 2018.

Just a year before the Darnold deal, the Chicago Bears manufactured a deal of their own with the San Francisco 49ers in order to acquire their quarterback of choice in 2017, Mitchell Trubisky. (I will pause here momentarily for all chatter, objection and snickering to play out before we continue.)

The Bears' deal with San Francisco is unique -- mainly because it involves flipping spots separated by nothing. The 49ers picked 2nd, the Bears picked 3rd. And the Bears, just to be safe, flipped picks by sending the 3rd overall pick in 2017, 3rd and 4th round picks in 2017 and a 2018 3rd-round pick to San Francisco to change spots. The alternative of someone else trading up in front of Chicago made the deal justifiable in action. And when considering the cost of the exchange, the Bears weren't robbed blind -- despite the fact that San Francisco had their heart set on a certain player and wouldn't have traded back far enough to miss drafting him. What wasn't established at that time? The 49ers quarterback situation. The 49ers ended up opting to trade picks for New England Patriots backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo in November of that year instead. But again, a situation of a team that *could* draft a quarterback instead opting to trade back for more assets.

In all, Chicago traded picks combined to be worth approximately 2,717 points to jump 1 spot and draft Mitchell Trubisky with the 2nd overall pick in 2017.

Ah. Yes. The most blatant ripoff in NFL history.

Is that really true? I'm not sure...but the Washington/St. Louis trade for Robert Griffin III is on the Mount Rushmore of bad deals. If you're looking for an outlier package, I've got good news! You've found one. The Washington Redskins were slated to pick 6th in 2012. And Robert Griffin III won their hearts throughout the course of his 2011 Heisman Trophy winning campaign with the Baylor Bears. They had to have him. Had to. And so they struck a deal with the (then) St. Louis Rams, agreeing to trade their 2012 1st-round pick (6th overall), their 2012 2nd round pick (39th overall) and their 1st-round pick in each of the next TWO seasons to jump four spots and draft second behind the Indianapolis Colts, who were nailing down football's prodigal son of the time, QB Andrew Luck, with the top pick.

In all, Washington traded picks combined to be worth approximately 4,110 points to jump 4 spots and draft Robert Griffin III with the 2nd overall pick in 2012. (And that goes without saying that Washington's 2014 1st-round pick ended up becoming the 2nd overall pick in that 2014 Draft. The hindsight full value of the picks Washington traded to jump four spots to draft Griffin was a whopping 5,490 points -- effectively the equivalent of the 1st and the 2nd overall pick in a draft combined.)

The Mid-Range Jumper (From between picks 7-10)

Trades in this area since 2009 include: Carson Wentz (Eagles, 2016)

With just one deal to quantify, looking at this deal is pretty simple -- although it took some magic from Howie Roseman and the Eagles' front office to posture themselves in position to make a deal. The Eagles were originally positioned to draft at 13, but manufactured a trade with the Miami Dolphins -- sending that 13th pick, LB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell to South Florida to jump 5 spots. From there, the Eagles coughed up their 2016 1st (8th overall), 2016 3rd, 2016 4th, 2017 1st and 2018 2nd to jump six spots into the two hole behind the Rams, who had manufactured their own deal to jump into the top spot. But more on that momentarily.

The best thing about this deal? The Eagles made the trade with the Browns -- a team that was widely perceived as needing a quarterback. Sometimes money talks -- other times draft picks do. And so the lesson here is that yes, the Eagles joined the club of forfeiting multiple 1st round picks to make the jump, but they also did so with a team that could have used Wentz themselves.

Anything can happen in this business -- including trading out of a quarterback your team would have desperately needed.

In total the Eagles traded picks combined to be worth approximately 3,101 points on the trade value chart to jump 6 spots and pick 2nd overall to draft Carson Wentz.

From Deep Downtown (From beyond pick 10)

Trades in this area since 2009 include: Jared Goff (Rams, 2016), Mark Sanchez (Jets, 2009)

The Rams' also made their deal happen ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, trading with the Tennessee Titans, who had just drafted Marcus Mariota 2nd overall the year before. The most impressive thing about this deal that the Tennessee Titans agreed to tumble 15 spots in the draft order so far out in advance of the draft. The team agreed to give the Rams the 1st overall pick and in return received the Rams' 2016 1st (16th overall), two 2016 2nds, a 2016 3rd, a 2017 1st and a 2017 3rd. A fittingly 'Titan' sized deal.

Tennessee received three top-50 picks the year of the trade (2016) with the 16th pick and picks again at 43 and 45 -- plus an extra 1st and two 3rds.

In total the Rams traded picks combined to be worth approximately 3,300 points on the trade value chart to jump 15 spots and pick 1st overall to draft Jared Goff.

The Jets' trade for Mark Sanchez in 2009 is the most odd of any in this case study -- because the Jets accomplished this deal in 2009 by trading their 1st round pick in 2009 (17th overall) and their 2nd round pick the same year plus three veteran players to strike a deal. That's it. The veteran players: DE Kenyon Coleman, SAF Abram Elam and QB Brett Ratliff. None of the three players traded to Cleveland as a part of the Sanchez deal lasted more than two seasons with the Browns.

In total, the Jets traded picks combined to be worth approximately 1,330 points on the trade value chart and three veteran players to jump 12 spots and pick 5th overall.

Maybe that cheap cost should have been a red flag on the merits of Sanchez as a prospect, in hindsight.

What does this all tell us? Mainly that it's very possible a team like New York (Sam Darnold) or Washington (Dan Snyder's handpicked QB Dwayne Haskins) crashes the party in the top few picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. And their options will be to stand pat and draft the best available player (hello, Chase Young), or make a business decision to add more assets to their ledger. Heck -- we may even see a team with an open ended quarterback situation decide they can have their cake and eat it too by trading back and then drafting their desired target -- quarterback or otherwise. It wouldn't be the first time. And if you're a fan of a team looking to trade up? You know approximately what you need to offer. There has been 6 trades into the top-5 overall picks to draft quarterbacks in the last decade.

They've come from 1 spot away, they've come from half a round away. And the average cost of compensation in a trade package is approximately 3,019 points -- roughly the cost of the 1st-overall pick in the NFL Draft. Do the math. If you're picking 5th (1,700 points), you've now got to fill 1,300 points somewhere. Your 2nd and next year's 1st is worth approximately 1,500.

If you're picking 10th (1,300 points), your 2nd and next year's 1st only gets you to 2,780 points. But if you throw in your 3rd-round pick this year as well, you've reached 3,000 points on the button. But you're also then at a disadvantage relative to the team picking 5th who wants to deal, because you're 5 spots behind them in the order. Willing to give up that 2nd-round pick next year as well? You might have to if you want to sniff a deal.

So what do you say? Now that it's all on the table, who is ready to make a deal at the end of the season?

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Kyle Crabbs