One of the most exciting, and unpredictable, elements of the NFL draft is when a franchise comes out of nowhere with a trade of draft picks in order to move up and grab a player they see as a game changer for their organisation. At the same time, other franchises see this as an opportunity to collect extra tickets in the draft lottery by moving down.
Here we’ll try to predict the unpredictable, by making some educated guesses as to which general managers could be busy working the phones on draft night to either move into position to pick up a much-coveted player, or to hoard additional selections.
Potential trade up teams
Indianapolis Colts: from 13th overall to 3rd/4th overall
It’s clear that the Colts haven’t been enamoured with the level of play provided by quarterback Jacoby Brissett after taking over as the full-time starter following Andrew Luck’s shock retirement.
With the 13th overall pick the top QB options are likely to be off the board by then. If general manager Chris Ballard wants to upgrade the position through the draft it’s going to require a change of his draft philosophy.
Indy have enough talent on the roster to enable them to win enough games to avoid picking within the top 5 within the next few years, so at some point Ballard will need to be more aggressive.
Ballard’s record in the draft indicates him valuing the number of picks over their draft position. In 2017, he made 8 picks, in 2018 11 picks and in 2019 10 total picks. As mentioned previously, the Colts have a solid core of players and have picked up some franchise cornerstones like Darius Leonard and Quenton Nelson, but beyond that they could do with adding a number of immediate difference makers to propel this franchise back into playoff consideration.
It will also cost the Colts a lot to move up. According to the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart at Drafttek.com, if the Colts want to get the second highest rated QB by acquiring the Lions pick at 3, they will have to give up their first, both seconds and a fifth rounder. That could be a little rich for Ballard. Swapping with the Giants could allow Ballard to keep one of his seconds but give up a third instead. The Colts can’t afford to wait for a QB lower than that because it’s likely that the Panthers or Chargers would take a signal caller if they fell to them.
This could all change if the Colts, as many predict, sign Phillip Rivers in free agency. But even then Ballard’s hand may be forced if there’s an early run on receivers in the first round. Adding difference makers on offence alongside T.Y. Hilton and that elite offensive line is a necessity, regardless of who is under centre when the new season kicks off.
Denver Broncos: from 46th overall to 27th overall
Every year there’s a team that moves back up into the later picks of the first round. A sneaky proposition this year could be the Broncos. They might feel they have found their quarterback of the future in Drew Lock, but they have a number of other positions to address and 12 opportunities to do so this year. That gives president of football operations John Elway a lot of flexibility to move around, particularly given that 5 of those draft picks are in the first 100 selections.
If the Broncos are going to build around Lock, they need to add a receiver alongside Courtland Sutton and reinforce the offensive line, again. At 15 overall, the Broncos could be in a good position to address either of those offensive concerns, whether it be a speedy receiver like Henry Ruggs or an offensive tackle to take care of their signal caller’s blindside, such as Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.
However, Denver also has to address its needs at cornerback, particularly given the impending departure of free agent Chris Harris Jr. The 27th overall pick could be a good opportunity to choose from the defensive backs ranked behind Jeffrey Okudah, such as Kristian Fulton or Jeff Gladney.
Helping this scenario is the fact that the Seahawks and their general manager John Schneider are no strangers to moving out of the first round. That could particularly be the case given their needs at pass rusher. That seems to be a fairly polarised position with their being a big gap between Chase Young and other edge rushing prospects. Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll might therefore feel the player they would pick at 27th overall, could be available in the early second round.
Philadelphia Eagles: from 21st overall to 11th overall
The Eagles are seriously depleted at wideout, especially if rumours of the impending trade or release of Alshon Jeffrey are true. They could be going into next season with Nelson Agholor, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and DeSean Jackson as their starting trio of wide receivers. All of those players come with question marks around their production, potential and durability.
The wide receiver class is regarded as deep but many see the top of the position group as comprising of some really enticing prospects such as CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy. There are a number of receiver-needy teams picking well ahead of Philly, such as the Jets (11th), the Raiders, (12th), the Broncos (15th) and the Dolphins (18th). That means general manager Howie Roseman has a long way to trade up if he wants to guarantee getting the receiver that he wants.
A potential trade partner could in fact by the Jets. They only have 7 selections in this year’s draft and need to upgrade nearly every position but quarterback. Moving up 10 spots could mean Roseman needs to hand over his first, second and third round pick, or package up either one of the second or third rounders with some future selections. In fact, arguing Roseman is likely to be involved in a trade is the equivalent of saying it will get cold in December: its going to happen.
The only questions are how many picks will be involved and what the swap of positions will be.
Miami Dolphins: from 5th overall to 3rd overall
It will be fascinating to see what the Fins do this year. They have 14 total selections including 6 in the top 70 selections of the draft. General manager Chris Grier might take the approach John Dorsey did when he took over in Cleveland, and cash in all those early round selections. Or he might use the flexibility those 14 picks accord him to move up and down the draft board.
On paper Miami has one of the most talent deficient rosters in the NFL and it will take more than just one draft to restock. Grier knows that, as does head coach Brian Flores who is also in this for the long haul. Nonetheless, the Dolphins have a great opportunity to add some real difference makers, especially in the first and second rounds. In addition to that, if Grier sees a prospect he really values he has enough ammunition to move up and select him.
The glaring positional need for Miami is at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick proved to be a decent enough stopgap last season, but with upgrades around him, he’s likely to perform well enough to stop the Dolphins from having the opportunity to select Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence if he declares for next year’s draft.
Therefore, it could be necessary to make the move for a signal caller this offseason. Whilst Miami is picking 5th overall, they may want to avoid the Chargers or Panthers usurping them and moving ahead of them to select the next quarterback after presumptive number one overall pick Joe Burrow. The most mooted fit is Tua Tagovailoa, especially if the medical team in South Beach are happy with his recovery from his recent hip surgery.