As part of an occasional series, Fanspeak will offer tips and best practices for its wildly popular and first-of-its-kind On The Clock draft simulator.
Today’s topic: What it takes to trade up in the draft.
You covet Isaiah Simmons.
After watching the Clemson junior dominate opposing defenses the past three seasons, the thought of him wreaking havoc for your favorite team has you dreaming of future playoff wins. Heck, forget playoffs. Now you have Super Bowl aspirations.
Then Simmons runs a lightning-fast 4.39 40 during the Combine, which puts him in the 99th percentile among linebackers, according to MockDraftable. And his broad jump (98th percentile) and vertical (93rd percentile) now puts him in elite company.
Translation: The 6-foot-4, 238-pound linebacker/safety hybrid is unlikely to fall to your spot in the draft.
“Well, I can fix that,” you say. “I can trade up!”
Trading up is easy when you’re using Fanspeak’s On The Clock NFL draft simulator (trades are allowed for premium subscribers).
Trade four future first-round picks to move up? Sure!
In reality, giving up assets – especially multiple first-round picks – can cause people to lose their jobs if the trade sinks the team into a hole so deep that it takes years to dig out of.
Nonetheless, teams take that risk and trade up all the time (a record 40 draft-day trades made last year, for example).
Next, you need to calculate what such a move would take.
So, using that chart, let’s take a look at three teams selecting after pick No. 15 who could be interested in trading up for either Simmons, Brown or Okudah and what those teams would have to give up.
Start with the known factors, and in this case, there are only two:
There are a few other factors to consider, such as:
You also have to favor in the QB situation, as in, who needs one and how many could go in the top 5.
Therefore, regardless of future trades, the only way you can ensure your team will draft high enough to select either Simmons, Brown or Okudah, you have to trade up to pick No. 6 overall, currently owned by the Chargers.
You can use the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart to figure out the trades manually, or you can use CalculatorSoup, which uses the same chart but takes care of the calculations for you. Drafttek also publishes a good trade chart, the Rich Hill Model.
For this exercise, we’ll use the Jimmy Johnson chart and these three teams:
Still want Simmons, Jacksonville fans? Can’t live without Okudah if you’re Dallas? Is Philadelphia desperate to pair Okudah with Slay or add a chess piece in Simmons?
Here’s what it will take for those teams to move up to the sixth-overall pick. (Note: To calculate trading away a future pick, give it the same value as the last pick of a respective round, non-adjusted for compensatory picks. For example, if you want to swap first-round picks and include next year’s first (or multiple firsts, then include the No. 32 pick in your calculations. If you want to include a future third-round pick, then it would be pick No. 96.)
By this example, Jacksonville has the easiest path, but that’s because it used its highest first-round pick, No. 9 overall, to move up. Still, giving up a third-round pick is a pretty steep price to move up three spots.
The Dallas trade that includes giving up next year’s first is intriguing in that Dallas has shown a willingness to trade up in the draft and to trade away future first-rounders. Plus, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network said Dallas is interested in drafting one of the top Ohio State players, presumably Okudah.
The Philadelphia trade isn’t too outlandish, but it would also require the Eagles giving up a lot of good assets. It also means that, assuming the team uses pick No. 6 to take Jeffrey Okudah – if he’s still available – then it must find a walk-in starter at wide receiver in the second round, plus, barring free agency, the soonest it could find a safety would be in the fourth round.
Every team uses a draft chart, but you still see some head-scratching trades.
Let’s look at two trades and compare them to the Jimmy Johnson chart.
In 2012, Dallas traded its first- and second-round picks to the Los Angeles Rams to move up eight slots to the No. 6 overall pick, taking LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
Dallas fans and media alike howled at the time, saying that was too much to give up. But, going by the draft chart, Dallas actually came away as the slight winner in that trade purely from an assets-to-assets perspective.
And then there was the Kansas City blockbuster in 2017 in which the Chiefs traded its first-round pick at No. 27 overall, its third-round pick and its 2018 first-rounder to move up with Buffalo, which owned the No. 10 pick.
Again, strictly going by the trade chart, Kansas City gave up too much, but they were willing to pull the trigger on the trade if it ensured they’d get their quarterback of the future, which turned out to be Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes.
When drafting with On The Clock, the trade chart is a great starting point when it comes to deciding whether to trade up to take a player you feel your team must have.
In reality, though, your team might have to give up more assets than the chart shows, especially if you get into a bidding war. The higher the move-up, the riskier it is for the long-term health of your team.
That’s because there are no consequences for giving up assets when using the draft simulator. For NFL GMs, though, they have to decide if the player they’re moving up to take is worth giving up most of their best draft capital.
The strategy worked like a charm for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are 25 years past its last Super Bowl win and still searching for a long-term answer at cornerback.
Jake Rigdon covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.