This year’s NFL Draft offers some odd scenarios. The top-two teams need a quarterback, but there are questions about whether any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft are that “franchise player” that moves the needle. Both places are looking at making trades or free-agent signings, but the more likely scenario is both Cleveland and San Francisco will trade away their picks.
The reasons are different, but interlocked. For the Browns, the fact is they need more than just a quarterback, and the first overall pick brings quite the haul. We saw that last year when the Rams traded away a lot to get Jared Goff. The same is true for the second pick, where even uncertainty about who to pick and a lot of dubious scouts made the Eagles move to come up and get Carson Wentz very bold.
The fact is that both the Browns and Niners can have their cake and eat it too, all by making smart moves with their first-rounders. This isn’t a knock on Myles Garrett or any of the other top-10 picks. What this comes down to is a pure value equation. On one side, they’ll have to decide whether DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky is a worthy top pick and then they’ll have to decide whether the offers outweigh that value.
I asked several front office types around the NFL for their opinions, and these are the deals and reasons they gave me. Let’s look at a couple possible – even probable – scenarios:
Cleveland deals the first overall pick to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo and picks.
The Browns get their quarterback, but not one out of the draft. Garoppolo was a later-round pick, but his three games as a starter and a lot of scouting has several teams, including the Browns, in the hunt for the Patriots backup. The picks would allow the Browns to gain some valuable middle-round picks.
One personnel director thinks the first overall is too much. “I could make a better case to deal that second pick (the Browns) have, but if the Pats want (Myles) Garrett, they have to get to the first pick. That means they’ll have to give up a lot of picks and they’ve never done that. I don’t think Belichick and Co. make a Mike Ditka move.”
Another thinks Garoppolo rates better than any of the quarterbacks on the board. “If he’s in this draft, with what we know, he’s better than Trubisky and isn’t as risky as Watson. The Pats get points for foresight. If the Browns really like Garoppolo, they make this deal and ignore the value charts a little.”
Chicago trades up from third to first with Cleveland in return for their first- and third-round picks.
Going from three to one might not seem like a big deal, but for the Bears, it could be the difference between getting their man and not. While most don’t believe the Browns will select a QB with their top pick, the Niners are focused on the position, either through the draft or trades. Failing a deal for one of the reported targets, the Niners are bound to take a QB, giving themselves the pick of the litter. Would the Bears be willing to give up some value in order to be able to make their own top selection?
They would if history is a guide. One scout says this unique QB class factors into the thinking: “There’s several good quarterbacks in the draft, but none of them are the same. Trubisky’s a pocket guy. Watson moves around. Kizer’s a tweener with an arm. (Pat Mahomes II) is one you can dream on. So if one type, not just one guy, is what you need, you can’t wait to see if Hue (Jackson) or Kyle (Shanahan) is going to want the same thing.”
The deal wouldn’t have to be very big. By dropping to three, Cleveland could still end up with Garrett or Jonathan Allen and would likely have a quarterback available with their second first-rounder. Adding a third-round pick would get them another player that could help them win games next year.
San Francisco deals the second overall pick to New England for Garoppolo and picks.
Everything said about the Patriots deal with Cleveland holds true here. The question is whether they value anyone as highly as Garrett. Scouts think that Allen would be a great fit into Matt Patricia’s defense, but how much will they give up to get a guy who doesn’t upgrade the team’s most glaring weakness, the pass rush? Allen isn’t going to be a sack monster, but his all-around play and low-key personality fit well.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Garoppolo is something of a fading asset. “If the Pats don’t deal him now when his value is high, they probably don’t get as much next year,” said a personnel director. “He’s a free agent next year, so if you can wait a year you can get him without giving up more than a lot of cash.”
San Francisco deals the second overall pick to Arizona for their first rounder, plus more picks.
The Niners could use the help, but if they get their QB in a deal, this pick’s value – even as the “second QB” slot – goes up. The Arizona Cardinals know they won’t have Carson Palmer for long and upgrading the backup is also a key given his injury history. While some teams are losing faith in Trubisky, he’s the kind of pocket passer that could step right into Palmer’s pocket and let coach Bruce Arians, known for his young quarterback tutelage, groom his next guy.
For the Niners, they pick up a couple extra picks – let’s say a second and a fifth – for dropping back. They can still get a quarterback there, or they can stay focused on defense with a top corner or pass rusher likely to be available, while adding in extra bodies to help Shanahan. One interesting possibility at that slot could be Jabrill Peppers. Is the outstanding safety going to appeal to John Lynch or not? No one in the NFL seems to have a read on Lynch’s preferences in this draft.
Cleveland deals the first overall pick to Houston for their first-round pick this year and next year.
Yeah, this one would be bold, but one NFL staffer suggested that while the team would be giving up a lot, it’s one scenario that would help them get past the Brock Osweiler mess. Osweiler would still be the quarterback, even after Houston took another one, but it would be something akin to the Philadelphia pick of Wentz last year after picking up Sam Bradford. At worst, the new quarterback could work his way in and be in place for 2018 and if he pushes Osweiller aside, that finishes the case for cutting him after 2017.
For Cleveland, they pick up two top picks, though lower than they would with any of the other teams. There’s still good value, and with their other first-rounder, Cleveland would be able to lock up two starters for a lower salary slot. Both this year’s draft and the next do have good value past the top-20, so these are years where a team can be comfortable with playoff-deep picks.