I have always advocated trading down, to get more picks, because draft picks have a spin of the wheel randomness to them.
Matt Miller lays out that teams are now more willing to trade picks, instead of hoarding them, because when you trade for an existing NFL player, you know what you are getting. Versus drafting a Zay Jones in the draft...who looked great on paper, but doesn't pan out.
There was a time, not too long ago, when NFL front offices wouldn't part with draft picks for anything. Want to trade for a starting-caliber quarterback? Better not ask for a first-round pick in exchange for him.
Case in point: The San Francisco 49ers acquired Jimmy Garoppolo, a highly coveted quarterback who was on the last year of his rookie deal, for a second-round pick. First-round picks were kept at all costs, and this was October 2017.
Then something changed. NFL teams started sending picks off for players at a high rate. Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach helped start the trend by sending late-round picks in exchange for formerly highly valued players such as linebacker Reggie Ragland (acquired for a conditional 2019 fourth-rounder from the Buffalo Bills) and offensive lineman Cameron Erving (acquired for a 2018 fifth-rounder).
The idea of sending Day 3 draft picks for players who were either proven or had high potential in their pre-draft reports took off. We still see moves like this today, as evidenced by the Los Angeles Rams trading a 2021 fifth-rounder for center Austin Corbett, who was the No. 33 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Why, though, has the NFL become more trade-friendly in the last few seasons?
Former Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner believes it's because of the miss rate in the draft: "With teams only hitting on 50 percent of first-round picks and virtually no team without cap room, the value of a proven veteran has gone up and an unknown draft pick has gone down. When cap was tight, teams needed to hit on cheaper draft picks to be able to afford veterans. Now you can build a much higher percentage of your team with established players."
The Rams are attempting to load up for a Super Bowl run with this mindset. The Chiefs traded for cornerback Kendall Fuller and defensive end Frank Clark as huge parts of their defensive identity. The Cleveland Browns traded for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a massive move.
Even though the results haven't been immediate, these remain some of the NFL's most promising teams. They’re shifting into win-now mode by being aggressive in the trade market.
They're able to do that because a good number of young and aggressive general managers are viewing draft picks as risky. Would you rather be the Rams with two late first-round picks that might not make huge impacts or the best young cornerback in football, Jalen Ramsey, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars?
For many general managers, taking the proven asset over the unproven value of a draft pick is the way to go. Which begs the question: Who is next?
Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams is the object of many teams' affection, but the front office has, to date, expressed no interest in trading him. The same is true for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, who will be a free agent after the season. A few teams (the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, most likely) would be interested in Green, but the Bengals say they aren't trading him.
Some teams would like to be buyers at the deadline, and already we're seeing reports that the Miami Dolphins would be willing to trade impending free-agent running back Kenyan Drake. But the current expectation from league insiders is that the big deals are done unless the Redskins or Bengals change course as the Tuesday deadline looms.
The Scout's Report
—Speaking of trades, the Los Angeles Rams had a quick but effective makeover this week by adding Jalen Ramsey, Austin Corbett, Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-rounder in exchange for Marcus Peters, a 2020 first-rounder, a 2021 first-rounder, a 2021 fourth-rounder and a 2021 fifth-rounder.
As mentioned above, this is the new-age thinking of flipping late-round picks for players (Young, Corbett) who were highly valued in their pre-draft process.
Corbett was the No. 33 overall pick in 2018 and graded No. 40 on my Big Board. He wasn't able to crack the lineup in Cleveland, but a different offensive scheme might fix what has kept him off the field. Similarly, Young has been a healthy scratch at times in Baltimore, but he was drafted No. 122 overall in 2018 (graded No. 291 on my board) and has athleticism at a position of need in L.A.