The first round of the NFL draft is the most exciting off-field event on the American sports calendar, thanks in no small part to the buzz generated by trades.
There is palpable anticipation whenever NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell states that an unexpected team is on the clock. Over the past decade, an average of six trades involving first-round picks have occurred, either on Thursday night or in the weeks leading up to the draft. Last year, the 49ers, Eagles and Dolphins worked picks-for-picks deals in late March instead of having to agree to terms during the event.
Two or three of these trades usually involve a team moving up for a quarterback. This year’s group of signal-callers is not given as much credit as it deserves, but there is enough demand for young talent at the position that one or two clubs may decide to leapfrog others to get “their guy.”
Here are six trades I could see happening involving Round 1 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft between now and the end of Day 1 in Las Vegas.
If the Seahawks are not interested in acquiring the disgruntled and displaced Baker Mayfield from Cleveland to replace the departed Russell Wilson, they need to come away with one of the top quarterbacks in this draft. Malik Willis (who boasts playmaking ability), Matt Corral (who has a lightning-quick release) or Kenny Pickett or Desmond Ridder (both steady performers) must be on their radar.
Seattle could move into the top three to select one of those quarterbacks, given the past proclivity shown by general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll for trading future assets to acquire a valued player; just two years ago, the team coughed up a package for former Jets safety Jamal Adams that featured multiple first-rounders, including the Seahawks’ original first-round choice this year. I’ll conservatively project, however, that they instead give up two mid-to-late round selections (in addition to the ninth overall pick, secured from Denver via the Wilson trade) to jump ahead of two other teams looking for young passers: Carolina (which possess the sixth overall selection) and Atlanta (eighth). These two franchises are aware of this possibility, as well, so don’t be surprised if one of them leaps into the top three to prevent being leapfrogged.
The Giants would surely love to move down within the top 10 and grab future picks to continue building out their roster under new GM Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll. They could add an offensive lineman like Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu with the seventh overall pick (acquired from the Bears last year) or use both the seventh and the ninth overall picks to double up on defense, selecting cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, safety Kyle Hamilton and/or edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.
UPDATE: The Eagles have agreed to a trade with the Saints that will send two 2022 first-round picks (No. 16 and 19) and a 2022 sixth-round pick (194) to New Orleans in exchange for a 2022 first-round selection (No. 18), a third-round pick (101) and a seventh-round selection (237), as well as a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder.
The Eagles aren’t necessarily out of the quarterback market, either. Jalen Hurts performed well at times last season, but they wouldn’t be the first team to back their quarterback in the offseason, then selected a young passer in April.
If Hurts really is Philly’s guy for 2022 and beyond, though, I suspect GM Howie Roseman will make some moves using his three first-round picks (Nos. 15, 16 and 19), whether that means moving up or down. Jumping into the top 10 for athletic, massive defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who could bolster a porous run defense, is one option. Snatching one of the top two cornerbacks (Gardner, Derek Stingley), a receiver (Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams) or an edge rusher (Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson) could also be on their minds.
The Jets are in a great position to select an elite prospect with the fourth overall selection, then trade down a few spots from their second first-rounder (the 10th overall choice, gained in the Adams trade to Seattle), allowing them to land another quality player while acquiring more selections. They could require the Eagles to hand over a second- and/or fourth-round pick in next year’s draft instead of taking later picks this year; there is typically a one-round premium for pushing off compensation into the future.
In the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, the Steelers signed former Bears and Bills quarterback Mitch Trubisky to an incentive-laden two-year deal. That contract does not scream “long-term starter,” though, suggesting outgoing GM Kevin Colbert might want to add one of the top four young signal-callers mentioned above before leaving his post.
The pressure to move up increases if at least two quarterbacks are picked in the top 10 selections. Pittsburgh will be under the gun to get into the range between the 10th and 12th overall picks, with the Eagles (who hold picks No. 15, 16 and 19) being unpredictable, the Saints (No. 18 overall) and Commanders (No. 11) bringing in older quarterbacks with question marks, the Texans (Nos. 3 and 13) considering whether second-year passer Davis Mills is the answer in 2022 and the Titans (No. 26) potentially evaluating the rookie draft class in the wake of Ryan Tannehill‘s up-and-down 2021 season.
Minnesota has a new administration in place and extended quarterback Kirk Cousins this offseason. Dropping down eight spots and grabbing future draft capital is a good way to re-shape the roster while installing new offensive and defensive schemes. GM Kwesi-Adofo Mensah will find good value at linebacker, receiver, cornerback or along the offensive line with the Steelers’ assigned pick.
No team has traded two first-round picks for a top-15 selection since 2003, when the Saints and Jets both did so to jump into the top 10. Chiefs coach Andy Reid is not shy about making big moves, however, as last year’s trade (with the Ravens) for offensive tackle Orlando Brown and last month’s decision to send elite receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami both show.
Even after signing Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Reid and GM Brett Veach may have interest in adding a speedy receiver like Wilson or Williams to the mix. With further needs at edge rusher and cornerback, Kansas City could make this deal well in advance of the draft with the knowledge it will gain a true first-round talent at one of those spots, regardless of how the first 14 picks shake out.
To even out the trade in terms of pick value, Baltimore gladly sends over one of its five fourth-round selections. It’s a win-win situation for these teams, with the Chiefs maintaining the same number of picks and the Ravens gaining value while still getting two excellent players (say, Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum) on Thursday night.
Teams know Bill Belichick is willing to trade down for extra picks, and his recent acquisition of receiver DeVante Parker from the Dolphins makes a move down from No. 21 even more likely, given the demand for receivers that point in the draft. Green Bay is one of the candidates to deal for the Patriots’ spot after shipping All-Pro receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders.
Why would the Packers trade into the 21st pick when they already also possess No. 22 overall (thanks to the Adams trade)? Everyone else knows the Packers’ situation, as well, so Arizona (No. 23), Dallas (No. 24), Tennessee (No. 26) or Kansas City (Nos. 29 and 30, unless they’ve already traded up) will be on the move to get ahead of Green Bay. Don’t be surprised if the Packers actually use this newly-acquired pick on a potential starting right tackle like Trevor Penning or talented No. 3 edge rusher such as Drake Jackson. They could then select Chris Olave or the any of the top three receivers falling to them with the next selection, filling two big needs in succession.
The value New England will get at No. 28 is similar to what it would get at No. 21, with players like versatile defensive backs Daxton Hill or Jalen Pitre, inside linebacker Nakobe Dean or a receiver like Treylon Burks or George Pickens in their sights. The third- and fourth-round picks can be used to move up on Day 2 or build roster depth, or they can be traded to teams looking to make a “Wimpy” trade (that is, paying the Pats future picks for a player they value today, following the Popeye comic strip character’s lead).
The Jets have two early second-round selections (Nos. 35 and 38) as a result of last year’s trade of Sam Darnold to the Panthers. If they also move out of the top 10, as described above, they’ll be in a prime position to move back into the bottom of the first round for a third Day 1 choice.
Their target will depend upon whom they select earlier in the draft. The Jets have several needs to address — they (and their fans) would be thrilled to pick up an edge rusher, receiver and cornerback in the first round. They could also value linebacker Devin Lloyd with an early pick, or they could use this trade to acquire Nakobe Dean. There will be competition for available players at those spots late in the first round, however, so GM Joe Douglas likely can’t sit back and wait until Friday if there’s a particular prospect he covets.
The return of Tom Brady for another season will enable the Buccaneers to build strength throughout the roster in this draft in anticipation of finding a new passer in 2023. GM Jason Licht and new coach Todd Bowles can add youth on the offensive and defensive lines in the second round (with players like guard Kenyon Green or 5-technique Logan Hall) while, with this move, adding two Day 3 picks to help make up for the fifth- and sixth-rounders that were previously lost in past trades, setting up the next quarterback (whomever that might be) to succeed in the future.
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