Every year, I offer up my own piece of vaguely NFL draft-related content by producing a mock draft consisting entirely of trades. There are 32 picks in the first round and for each of those selections, I try to construct a trade that makes sense for two or more teams given their respective needs and team-building styles. These trade ideas, all of which are created in good faith, almost always make fans angry. Not a single one has actually come to fruition.
Am I holding out hope that this year will be different? Not really, but the biggest trade of the offseason gave me a little belief. There are plenty of three- and four-team trades in this column each year, and what amounted to a three-way swap between the Dolphins, 49ers and Eagles would hardly have been out of line with what we usually see in this space. The Dolphins traded down and still left themselves in position to grab an impact receiver, the Eagles picked up an extra first-round pick, and the 49ers moved up to build around a cheaper, more reliable quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo. You might not like the trade, but you could see the logic for each side involved.
With that move to spark us, let’s do this again. Thirty-two picks, 32 trades. Each of the trades exists in its own universe, so you’ll see a pick dealt more than once or a team move up or down in multiple deals. Picks in the 2021 draft will be notated with the round and the overall selection, so “2-47” would be the 47th overall pick, which comes off the board in the second round.
I try to use a combination of the traditional Jimmy Johnson draft chart and the more modern, quantitatively built draft chart created by Chase Stuart to underpin each pick’s value, using history to see where teams have typically been willing to pay over the odds.
In a typical year, finding a trade that makes sense for the first overall pick is the toughest part of the article. This year is no exception:
Jump to a pick:
1. JAX | 2. NYJ | 3. SF | 4. ATL
5. CIN | 6. MIA | 7. DET | 8. CAR
9. DEN | 10. DAL | 11. NYG | 12. PHI
13. LAC | 14. MIN | 15. NE | 16. ARI
17. LV | 18. MIA | 19. WSH | 20. CHI
21. IND | 22. TEN | 23. NYJ | 24. PIT
25. JAX | 26. CLE | 27. BAL | 28. NO
29. GB | 30. BUF | 31. KC | 32. TB
Before you get started, I know. There’s no way to make a Jaguars trade out of the first overall pick make sense. I asked a few people around the league where Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence would stand on a trade value board as he enters the NFL and the responses ranged from five to 15. He is the best quarterback prospect we’ve seen since Andrew Luck, and the Jaguars are going to have him for at least three years on a rookie deal before they even have to worry about talking extension. This pick might be worth something in the ballpark of $100 million in surplus value over the next five years.
To be a completist, though, we have to make a trade. Let’s imagine a scenario in which, like John Elway and Eli Manning before him — eventual No. 1 picks who were traded away from the teams that drafted them — Lawrence decided that he didn’t want to play in Jacksonville. If the Jaguars were going to trade this pick, they could have undoubtedly amassed a haul of selections from a team such as the 49ers. Given the disappointment of missing out on Lawrence, I would rather make a move for a superstar quarterback. Deshaun Watson would have made sense, but the sexual assault allegations against the Texans star means he’s off the trade market for the time being. Dak Prescott re-signed with the Cowboys, so he’s out. Realistically, we’re looking at 11 quarterbacks who are still on rookie deals.
Of those 11, we can rule out Sam Darnold, Drew Lock, Jalen Hurts and Daniel Jones, who haven’t done enough to justify being a significant part of a trade. Joe Burrow is coming off of a serious knee injury, which would put him off-limits. Tua Tagovailoa is coming off an…