We have discussed the Vikings’ potential first round picks in the draft ad nauseam. Whether we target WR, OL, S, or something else could all be moot: what if everyone we want is gone? What if someone trades up right in front of us to grab Josh Doctson or Laquon Treadwell? Trading on draft day is always an option for any team, and the Vikings take advantage often. Since Rick Spielman’s promotion in 2012, we have selected 7 players in the 1st round, 5 of whom were taken with someone else’s picks (Shariff Floyd and Trae Waynes being the only natural Vikings selections). In the same period, Spielman and co. have involved a whopping 46 draft picks and 4 players in 17 exchanges. The man has a reputation for wheeling and dealing, and it’s well deserved.
A lot of people on twitter, reddit, the blogosphere and the like have suggested trading down from pick #23 this year. This is especially considered in the scenario where players A, B, and C are taken. The problem is, it’s not quite that simple. It takes two to tango, and the other team needs to want someone badly enough to give up more capital and get him.
So what could happen this year? For this exercise, I’ll be using this value chart from USA Today’s Draft Wire. I’ve also pulled a community mock draft from Reddit’s /r/nfl_draft. I chose this one both because it’s multiple teams competing (rather than one pundit’s variable opinions), and because I respect the brainpower of the community at /r/nfl_draft. This mock makes sense for this exercise not because it’s necessarily the best mock out there, but because things went terribly for the Vikings in picks 1-22. Treadwell, Doctson, Conklin, Decker, and Spriggs are all gone before the Vikings pick. Now, not all is lost, as Corey Coleman, Michael Thomas, Karl Joseph, Andrew Billings, and Sheldon Rankins are all on the board, and many will say those are acceptable 23rd overall picks. It also helps that the Vikings war room actually did trade back here. So let’s examine this and other trade scenarios, and see what kinds of moves we could witness on April 28. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll leave current players out of these trades.
Trade 1: 1-23, 3-86 and 6-180 to Denver for 1-31, 2-63 and 5-144
I’m starting with this trade because it’s the one that the Vikings war room did in the mock I’m working from. Strictly using the value chart, we convert 908 points into 917 points, and come out to a small 9 point profit, or the value of a late 7th. But the overall value isn’t how we win this trade, it’s with the distribution of value. Moving back 8 spots in the 1st is valued at 160 points, and still allows us to get Michael Thomas, someone who PFF’s Sam Monson has us taking at 23 anyways. It’s not all that different from moving down from 3 to 4 in 2012 (a full 400 point, or mid-2nd round value) and still selecting Kalil, who was mocked almost exclusively to us. Now, we do lose out on Billings, Joseph, Coleman, and other potential targets, but considering the amount of acceptable players left on our board, it was likely that one of them would fall to 31. In exchange, we get 169 points of value, and upgrade our 3rd and 6th to a 2nd and 5th respectively. Value-wise, it’s a very even trade, and one that could make sense on draft day.
On the other side of the coin, this trade is something the Broncos could do. The Broncos are in dire need of a Quarterback, as they’re currently relying on Mark Sanchez and can’t reliably expect the defense to avoid regression to the mean. Lynch has often been mocked to Denver, however, a team like the Cardinals could snatch him up in their search for an heir to Carson Palmer. Even a team like the Steelers could be looking for a more reliable understudy to mitigate the risks of Roethlisberger’s physical play style. Both of these teams have other needs, and the risk of losing out on Lynch is low, but the Broncos don’t have the luxury of taking any risk, lest they be stuck with a Sanchez-Hackenberg competition. With this trade, they leapfrog the Steelers and Cardinals, and they do it at a palatable cost.
Note: should the Broncos trade for Colin Kaepernick or another answer to QB, this would obviously nullify the pick. But trading up for a guy like Billings after losing so many defensive pieces would still be a viable option.
Trade 2: 1-23 to Cleveland for 2-32, 4-99 and 5-141
Trading out of the first round is something Spielman doesn’t like to do, since he loves those 5th-year options. But trading with the Browns always works out for the Vikings, and Spielman’s tendencies do point to us acquiring a higher quantity of picks. This time, we come out at a slight but negligible value deficit, gaining 754 points and losing 760. But the kicker of this trade is that we gain 2 picks (164 points), turning our 8 picks into 10 (Spielman’s golden number). At the top of the 2nd round, we still have access to Michael Thomas, Will Fuller, coveted safeties Vonn Bell and Darian Thompson, OG Cody Whitehair, as well as late-first round prospects Reggie Ragland and Robert Nkemdiche. Similarly to the last trade, we still have access to players we could acceptably draft at 23, but gain a ton of mid-round capital. Spielman could use that capital to trade back into the first, or target the impressively deep class, namely at DL.
Cleveland is a team in ruins that is blowing up their entire operation. They’re in full rebuild mode, and this year will be searching for pieces to build around. They net lose two picks, but considering the 3 compensatory selections they have from Free Agency, they’d be wise to use that capital for another cornerstone player, valuing quality over quantity. This iteration of the Browns war room elected to go with Jalen Ramsey rather than a QB and, select Christian Hackenberg in the 3rd (and presumably wait for a better QB class to come). Keeping with the defensive theme, they’ll trade up to 23 and take Andrew Billings to replace Phil Taylor in the middle. With a vaunted run stuffer and a complete package DB, the Browns would be set up to build a defense that can keep them respectable until the right QB comes along. If I had to guess, the Packers’ pick becomes Reggie Ragland.
Trade 3: 1-23, 2-54 and 4-121 to Seattle for 1-26, 2-56, 3-90
This is the epidome of a Spielman value trade. We shift down slightly in the 1st and 2nd in exchange for upgrading our 4th to another 3rd. I could see Spielman targeting depth over power with a move like this. The overall value is dead even at 1180 apiece, with the most significant gain being the 80 point jump from 1-21 to 3-90. The most attractive part of this deal for both parties is the low risk. Both MIN and SEA can come out ahead in value, nobody is giving up entire picks, and nothing can go too disastrously wrong. As for our slight first round shift, the only commonly targeted player we lose out on is Corey Coleman, and it allows us to go after Andrew Billings, Karl Joseph, Michael Thomas or even Ryan Kelly. In the 2nd, we still have our pick of the litter after only moving down 2 spots. Having two picks in the 3rd round of a deep draft like this could mean a ton of value, and the risk we take to get there is not only mitigated, but also spread across two picks.
Seattle has a deep and complete roster, and will be looking to get more specific pieces on cheap rookie contracts to help them retain current starters like Michael Bennet, Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin (all of whom become UFAs next year or the year after). After losing Bruce Irvin, they would be looking to move up and select Leonard Floyd ahead of the Steelers. His rangy athleticism is perfect for what Seattle used to have Irvin do, and his weakness (gangly frame) can be mitigated by keeping him out of the pass rush. It could even work better for Floyd than it did for Irvin, and will contribute to keeping Seattle’s defense elite.
Trade 4: 1-23, 3-86 and 6-180 to New York Jets for 1-20, 4-118 and 5-157
Most of the discussion about Vikings trades have been about trading back, but I’d be remiss to do an article about draft trades and not include a couple moves up. Say the Vikings are enamored with Doctson and are unwilling to let him slip away. We come out to a deficit of less than 3 points and upgrade two picks at the cost of downgrading one. Granted, upgrading a 6th to a 5th is a small boost, but enough of a deal sweetener to get us to 1-20. In this mock, we only need to move up three spots to select our choice of wide receiver. We leapfrog San Francisco and Los Angeles (moving above Houston and Washington pre-trade, two feasible WR destinations anyways) and can select Doctson or Treadwell. The price for moving up is mitigated by the depth of the draft and it gives us a sure fire opportunity to select the highest WR on Spielman’s board, Doctson or otherwise.
As for New York, they shift below a run of receivers and will most likely be able to select Jason Spriggs at 23, or even Paxton Lynch, should they elect not to continue with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Having three Day 2 picks is a tantalizing offer considering the first round price could be negligible for them. With trades like those, it’s important to separate the numerical value of the selection from the actual players they’d be missing out on. An upgrade into the 3rd supersedes a downgrade from the 5th. This could be one way to move up with both parties walking away satisfied, as those three spots mean a lot more to the Vikings than they do to the Jets.
Trade 5: 1-23, 2-54 and 7-244 to Los Angeles for 1-15 and 4-110
This one is a little more radical, but fun to think about. We give up 1127 points of value for a relatively close 1132, and jump up to 15 overall. We do lose net picks, and would probably plan to rectify that by trading back in the later rounds (not unlike our trades with KC, DET and ATL last year). We also sacrifice our 2nd to get another 4th, which is a pretty huge cost. This employs a different angle at the “deep draft class” idea, allowing us to rely on the depth of the class to get 2nd round talent with our 4th and be aggressive at the top end. At 15, we have our pick of the WR litter, as well as access to Taylor Decker and Jason Spriggs. We could fill Greenway’s imminently empty shoes with Darron Lee or add a big body like Vernon Butler to the defense. In this world we trade up, snag Lee to keep our defense elite, and address our WR problem with a guy like Sterling Shepherd or Tyler Boyd in the 3rd.
As for Los Angeles, they still have the ability to attack their QB problem at 23 with Paxton Lynch, or just take a guy like Michael Thomas to compliment Tavon Austin and wait until next year for better QB options. They also have a shiny new 2nd rounder with which they could snag someone like Jeremy Cash at Safety or Xavien Howard to replace Janoris Jenkins. They could also use that capital to get back into the 1st or upgrade their current 2nd and expand their options further. This isn’t the flashiest decision to make for a Rams team trying to make its way in a new home, but with a stout defense and youth at the core of their offense, they have plenty of reason to be patient.
As the draft approaches and mock draft season intensifies, remember that we root for a team that shuffles around constantly in the draft. Spielman will almost certainly exit the draft with a different list of picks than the one he entered with. While this article only addresses moving our 1st-rounder, Spielman will be looking to move around at every point in the draft. These are only a few of the reasonable scenarios I can think of should we decide that 23rd isn’t the right spot to pick.