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Mock Draft Tips: Sometimes it’s better to take the player you want as soon as he’s available

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: Do you think the player you want will still be there if you trade down a few slots to pick up an extra draft pick or two? Warning: You better be OK with the possibility that he’s not still there when you go back on the clock.


The New York Giants were in an enviable position last year when it was their turn to draft.

Armed with the No. 6 pick overall, the best remaining pass rusher was available (Kentucky’s Josh Allen, who would go on to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.) The best TE (T.J. Hockenson of Iowa) and offensive tackle (Jonah Williams of Alabama) also were still on the board, as was the best-remaining defensive tackle (Ed Oliver of Houston).

But the Giants made it clear beforehand that quarterback Daniel Jones of Duke would be their guy, and that indeed wound being the pick.

Analysts and fans alike may have cringed at the pick at the time, but there’s a reason why the Giants were so steadfast in their pursuit of Jones: They needed a QB, and they liked him as a future replacement for Eli Manning.

Sure, the Giants still had pick No. 17 in the first round, but hoping either Jones or Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins would still be available was risky. Same goes for assuming they would be in a position to nab one of the top rookie QBs again any time soon.

Detroit may be in the same position this year with Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah.

Should they trade the pick?

Detroit, like the Giants the year before, is in an enviable position with the No. 3 overall pick. The top two players are LSU QB Joe Burrow and Ohio State Edge Chase Young. The only scenario Young would still be there at No. 3 is if a team below them trades up to draft a QB.

But that still leaves a number of great options at pick No. 3, including Clemson LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Auburn DT Derrick Brown, Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs and Okudah.

Does Miami at pick No. 5 want Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon QB Justin Herbert badly enough to move up? What about the Los Angeles Chargers at pick No. 6?

Detroit figures, if it plays its cards right, then it can trade down a few spots and still get one of the premier players in the draft.

But according to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, Okudah is atop the Lions’ wish list.

From Miller:

“The Lions will be a hot destination for teams hoping to trade up in the 2020 draft. The clear expectation from inside sources around the league is that the Lions would love to slide back to No. 5 or No. 6 overall and still get a cornerback like Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah.”

Here’s the problem with that strategy: What if a team offers the Giants a trade package it can’t refuse and swoops in to take Okudah?

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too

A consolation prize of Wirfs, Simmons or Brown wouldn’t be a tough sell to Detroit fans.

And, if either Miami or Los Angeles is willing to make the deal, it would still net Detroit an extra draft pick (or more). According to Calculator Soup, a trade that has Miami sending its No  5 pick and its first second-round pick, No. 39 overall, is a mere statistical match. For the Chargers, a trade of its No. 6 pick and its second-round pick at No. 37 overall also works for Detroit’s No. 3 pick.

The best-case scenario is obvious: Detroit trades down a few slots and still takes Okudah while picking up another high second-rounder, netting the team a haul of something like Okudah, Iowa DL A.J. Epenesa at pick No. 35 and Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor at pick No. 39.

But Detroit also has to look at worst-case scenarios if Okudah is unavailable at picks 5 or 6.

That would leave them with a haul of something like Simmons at pick 5, Epenesa at pick No. 35 and TCU’s Jeff Gladney at 39.

Can they live with that? If the answer is “yes,” then a trade down is the right move.

But if Okudah is someone the team feels it can’t live without, then Detroit needs to follow the Giants’ lead from a year ago and simply take their man when their pick at No. 3 comes up.

 

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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