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Mock Draft Tips: Is a blue-chipper like Isaiah Simmons slipping? Here’s what it’ll take to move up

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: If you’re hoping to move up in the draft to land one of the blue-chip prospects, it’s going to cost your team at least a first- and second-round pick — and maybe a whole lot more.


During the 1999 NFL draft, New Orleans traded all of its picks to move up from No. 12 to No. 5 overall to select Texas running back Ricky Williams. To move up seven spots, the Saints gave up its first-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks, and since it didn’t have a second-round pick, the team also gave up its first- and third-round picks in the 2000 draft.

You know the rest of the story.

But it’s not unusual for a team to move up to take a blue-chip prospect, especially when one slides in the draft.

Sometimes it works out: Philadelphia’s multiple trades to select Carson Wentz in 2016 comes to mind.

Sometimes it doesn’t: Washington traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Los Angeles Rams to move up four spots and draft Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick in 2012.

So there’s still a buyer’s beware vibe about moving up.

Still, depending on what happens with the top quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL draft, there could be some movement among the top 10 picks, especially if a blue-chipper starts to slide in the draft.

Who are the 2020 ‘blue-chippers’?

As close to a definition as you can come, a blue-chipper is a prospect who is as safe of a bet — as close to a “sure-thing — as you can come, but also has no red flags and elite, best-in-his-class-by-a-long-shot athleticism and production.

Here’s a good litmus test: If the prospect would be ranked in the top 5 of most drafts regardless of year or position, then he’s probably a “blue-chipper.”

And most drafts have at least one. This year is somewhat unique in that there is an unusually high number of “blue-chippers.” The (highly debatable and subjective) list includes:

You could make the argument that Burrow and Young are the only true blue-chippers in this draft, but Simmons, Okudah and Brown also have received the same kind of hype by many draft analysts.

Who could slide?

So if you include Simmons, Okudah and Brown, that’s five-blue chippers. Not included in the list are two other QBs (Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert) and any of the top offensive tackles (Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas).

Nor does it account for any of the highly touted WR trio of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III of Alabama and CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma. Now add in Utah State QB Jordan Love, and you have 15 players vying for top-10 status.

And that means it’s possible, if not probable, that some combination of Simmons, Okudah or Brown will still be available at pick No. 11 overall, currently occupied by the New York Jets.

 

What would it take to move up?

According to the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, it wouldn’t take much for a team like Dallas to move up from No. 17 to No. 11 if Simmons, Okudah or Brown slide, as there is a number of reasonable trade options.

For example, a trade of Dallas’ picks in the first and second in exchange for the Jets’ picks in the first and fourth rounds works from a trade-value standpoint. (You can try trade options with Calculator Soup.) The same trade works for Jacksonville (pick No. 20).

Other trade scenarios that work include:

  • Las Vegas: A trade of its first (No. 19 overall) and its first two third-round picks (nos. 80 and 81) for New York’s pick at No. 11 is a rare statistical exact match.
  • Miami: A trade of its first (No. 18 overall) and its first second-round pick (39) for pick No. 11 is a near-statistical match.
  • N.Y. Jets (16) or Denver (15), Tampa Bay (14): A trade of first-round swaps plus a third-rounder works for all those teams (it’s a near statistical match for Denver).
  • San Francisco: The team, which owns the nos. 13 and 32 picks, doesn’t own another pick until the fifth round, so a substantial trade to move up two spots is unlikely.

The common theme? Teams in the 20 to 17 range need to give up a second-round pick (except Las Vegas, which would have to give up two of its three third-round picks).

And for teams outside the top 20? The lower the pick, the more likely they will have to give up a future first-rounder and multiple Day 2 picks.

For example, if Kansas City, at pick No. 32 overall, wanted to move up to No. 11 overall, the Chiefs would have to give up its first-, second-, and third-round picks this year, plus its second-round pick next season, for a close match in trade value.

How to ‘win’ an auction

Of course, whatever trade value chart you use, it’s still just a starting point.

Take the case of Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons, a top-five player who could slide out of the top 10 if there’s a run on quarterbacks and offensive tackles.

Say Dallas (no. 17) and Jacksonville (no. 18) offer New York identical trade packages: first- and second-rounders for New York’s pick at No. 11 overall plus its fourth-rounder. By a statistical value, Dallas (-2.69 percent) is already giving up more in trade value than Jacksonville (-1.95) simply by the fact that Dallas’ pick at 17 is three spots lower than Jacksonville’s second first-round pick at No. 20 overall.

So Jacksonville then comes back to New York and says, “We’ll waive that fourth-rounder and still give you our first- and second- for your first.”

Now Dallas, thinking Simmons would be the perfect chess piece in new head coach Mike McCarthy’s beloved “nitro defense,” comes back and says, “OK, we’ll offer our first- and second-round picks this year PLUS our second-rounder next year to move up.”

A bidding war will always drive up the price, especially when dealing with potential blue-chip prospects.

But, as previous famous – and infamous – trades for blue-chippers have shown, the best way to win an auction is to bid $1,000 when the asking price is $100.

And if that blue-chip prospect goes on to make multiple Pro Bowls teams and earn All-Pro selections? Then it’s hard to argue that your team gave up too much to acquire that player.

 

Jake Rigdon (jake@sydwriting.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.



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