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Trade Up…Down…Does it Really Matter? Belichick, and 31 Other Mad Organizations Vying to be Right

There were two events that made trading down in the NFL draft popular. First, there was Jimmy Johnson’s trade of Hershel Walker for a bevy of picks that rebuilt the Cowboys in a hurry, and Bill Belichick’s winning Super Bowls with lesser round players shot the practice. The latter’s mastery probably helped increase the popularity of the whole draft, but when Belichick started to started to pile up late-round picks while the talent on his team dwindled, it calls into question the real value of trading down.

Darth Hoodman

Whether or not a team should trade up or not depends on how good their roster is. Last year, Atlanta could afford to move up and take Julio Jones because they had a good quarterback and had drafted well for three years. Belichick may have scolded his former understudy, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff for throwing his draft at a receiver, and granted, Atlanta might have been better off taking a pass rusher. But Dimitroff’s move has good precedent: in 2007, San Diego GM AJ Smith traded four picks to get safety Eric Weddle high in the second round, because he knew Weddle could make their team coming off a 14-2 season. The best player that the Bears got with those picks was running back Garrett Wolfe, who provided four average seasons before exiting for the UFL.

Belichick’s drafting is even stranger when you see why he’s loosing Super Bowls. The teams that beat him, the Giants, do so because they are getting raw, athletic pass rushers at the top of the draft, and where even once labeled as having the worst draft in 2006 when they took Matthias Kiwanuka when they already had two good pass rushing ends, Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. But Belichick goes out and continues to draft defensive backs high in the draft, and with all those defensive backs, he still had to have a wide receiver (Julian Edelman) play corner in the playoffs last year. Sure everyone plays the spread, but the Giants showed Belichick personally that if you can sack the quarterback, your back seven fills itself out.

See Bill?

The Giants, in fact, of why you want to trade up: getting a player (and fore-mostly, a quarterback) who changes your future. And ironically, the Chargers had to trade Eli Manning to the Giants but still got a franchise quarterback (Phillip Rivers), a good kicker (Nate Kaeding), and an outstanding pass rusher for the length of a contract (Shawn Merriman). So at times, trading back has it upside. The Brown wish they could say the same when they trade out of the Mark Sanchez pick, Alex Mack, an All-Pro center, is the only player from that trade on the Browns roster. However, two of the experienced players, safety Abram Elam and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, were serviceable starters who became expandable when the Browns changed coaches and switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3.

There is another paradox I’ve noticed in such mega-draft choices, and that is the blossoming of players acquire with seemingly insignificant draft choices traded with two super-stars. Peter King wrote about this when he reviewed the 2008 Jared Allen trade from Kansas City to Minnesota a year after the trade. The Chiefs netted a first-round pick, two thirds, and a sixth. King speculated at the time that Brad Sullivan, a player the Vikings took with a sixth round pick the Chiefs threw in, would be as good as anyone of the players that the Chiefs had picked. Ultimately, the two players the Chiefs drafted with those picks worked out: left tackle Brandon Albert and running back Jamaal Charles, but clearly, the Vikings didn’t lose any sleep. Similarily, Josh McDaniels handed the Bears a fifth round pick in the Jay Cutler trade that would yield John Knox, a reliable forty-catches-a-year, downfield threat. Obviously, it helped both Knox and Sullivan that they came onto teams that had few draft choices and thus more opportunity to make the roster.

Not bad results

A team’s draft is merely a reflection of how good their front office is. The Lions picked at the top of the draft for years and came up with nothing, while the Colts kept picking pro bowlers at the end of the first round. Pray your organization hires a good GM and coach, and drafts a good quarterback. As long as you hit a first-rounder every year for about four or five years, hit seventy-five percent in rounds two and three, you just need one year where you get a couple of solid players in the later rounds, which is exactly the kind of year the giants had last year. And then hope your great coach doesn’t turn senile.

Will Tebow’s Circus be a Total Jet-Wreck? Plus a Bonus Point on Manning and Elway, and Why Manning Didn’t Consider One Team

Yesterday as The Herd on ESPN Radio was ending, an event occurred that I would subsequently hashtag as a #2bletwitternuke. News of the New Orleans Saints suspensions and the Tim Tebow trade from the Broncos to the Jets broke within seconds of each other, and I was just thankful it happened to be on a day when I was reading 37 corn samples and could just listen to the radio. The Tebow-to-the-Jets trade came completely out of nowhere; ESPN had only begun to discuss it as a possibility that morning.

Peyton Manning, in essence, bailed John Elway out of the second year he had to give Tebow. Denver certainly would have done poorly with their new, first-place schedule, and Tebow would have made them look even more pathetic in defeat. With Manning, Elway could jettison Tebow and declare the first-rounder that was burned on him a semi-bust. Thus end

The price that the Jets paid for Tim Tebow and a seventh round draft choice (a throw-in) was reasonable. The only way the Broncos could have done better would be if the Jets had agreed to a sixth-round choice this year and a conditional choice next year (which probably could have been as high as second rounder, if Tebow had started half the season). Ultimately, Elway can’t get back the three picks that Josh McDaniels traded for Tebow (ironically, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, two of the three players the Ravens got in the trade are viable NFL players. The other, Sergio Kindle, has had more legal troubles than anything else and seems to be the anti-Tebow.)

The Jets seem to be the most abnormal fit for Tebow. Other than running the wildcat for Tony Sparano (which is barely an effective NFL offense anymore), it seems like the Jets are the opposite culture for Tebow. Granted, the one aspect that Tebow and the Jets have in common is that both are outspoken, but unfortunately, they are outspoken for different purposes. The Jets like to make lofty promises of winning the Super Bowl, Tebow likes to make proclamations of Christ to the hilt. And New York isn’t exactly known for religious conservatism. (Tebow’s religion)

Colin Cowherd raised an interesting point on his show that I, as a Lutheran and a theologian of the cross, found interesting. An NFL source told him that, inside the Broncos’ locker room, Tebow was being perceived as an attention-lover, and that part of the reason he wanted to go to New York over Jacksonville was that Tebow wants exposure in a new market. While Tebow often does speak about being humble, one has to question if he is choosing worldly glory over God’s calling. I don’t know the answer to this, but if Tebow’s teammates perceive that he likes the attention, there might be something to that. (My issues with evangelicals) (The Social Church)

Best Buds?

And what about Mark Sanchez? As I listened to the radio chatter, I began to wonder if Tebow-on-the-Jets would lead to Sanchez demanding a trade. Does Sanchez have enough Jay Cutler in him to stand up, walk out of the Jets facilities, and say, “I’m not dealing with this crap. Trade me.” Sanchez has always put forth a team-first image, in spite of any differences he has had with Rex Ryan, a run-first coach. Two thing are for sure-if Sanchez does demand a trade, some quarterback-hungry team (Cleveland, San Francisco) will be more than read to throw a package including a first rounder at the Jets. And second, if Sanchez does leave the Jets due to Tebow, it’s proof that Tebow is self-absorbed on some level. (My Tebow posts)


Bonus Point: Peter King wondered why Manning wasn’t considering the Kansas City Chiefs, which I had thought of myself. The Chiefs have a good young nucleus, with a number of players coming back from injuries, and most importantly, the schedule of a team that finished fourth in their division. With a good draft and the addition of a good pass rusher, Kansas City could win the AFC west with Manning, or at least make the playoffs.


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