So this caught my eye bright & early today…
DeCosta: "In general, trading up is dangerous. It's a little bit risky. I'd like to have 10, 12, 14 picks in every draft all things being equal." DeCosta said the team has studied the various trade ups historically and it's "50/50" in terms of the ones that have worked out.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) April 9, 2020
I was instantly intrigued. I’ve been doing my own dives into the draft day trade market over the past few years and, with all due respect to Eric DeCosta and his team, I’m going to respectfully disagree with this sentiment.
For starters, this is a sweeping generalization to say trading up is a 50/50 proposition. The amount of picks moved up the board is going to be a major factor in determining what is successful, as is the position being traded for (do QBs have a bigger bust rate that drags the overall rate of success down?) Also determining what is successful versus unsuccessful in a trade surely matters too.
So how about a quick dive?
I think a 10-year sample size is fair, and I’m going to work with the time frame of 2006-2016 (2017- present can’t be assessed as success/fail just yet). I’m also only looking at trades in the Round 1 Pick 24 to 32 (R1P24-R1P32) range, or essentially +/- 4 from the Ravens’ current pick at R1P28 in the 2020 draft, and only pick-for-pick type trades with no actual players involved.
With that criteria in mind, here are the trades in that range:
So we’re looking at 18 total trades up the board from a team in the R1P24-32 range from 2006-2016. There’s quite the range in total picks moved, from just three slots jumped, to 20 slots shot up the board, and compensation obviously matches accordingly.
Take a quick look at the players that the ‘trade up’ teams moved up the ladder for… Quite. The. List.
In determining winners and losers of these deals, let’s just hit the obvious ones first.
Trade Up WINNERS
PIT (Santonio Holmes), NYJ (Darrelle Revis), DAL (Mike Jenkins), BAL (Joe Flacco), DAL (Dez Bryant), ATL (Julio Jones), NE (Dont’a Hightower), NE again (Chandler Jones), ATL again (Desmond Trufant), NO (Brandin Cooks).
Trade Up LOSERS
So far, we’re looking at 10-3 in favor of this collective group of trade-up teams, with seven trades left to assess. Let’s go chronological with these last few…
(2009): Baltimore sends R1P26 & R5P162 to New England for R1P23. The Ravens selected OT Michael Oher at R1P23, New England traded out of R1 to accumulate more picks.
Analysis: This is a tough one, folks… So the Pats dropped down from R1P26 (the Packers selected Clay Matthews with this pick) to R2P41 (Dareus Butler) and added R3P73 & R3P83. They then took R3P73 and again traded down, this time with the Jags. The Jags took Derek Cox… Patriots got a 7th Round pick to draft… Julian Edelman. They also got a future (2010) 2nd round pick, which they flipped to Oakland (Lamarr Houston).
Oh, and with that pick the Pats drafted some bro named Rob Gronkowski. Yes, it’s a convoluted web that led here but in essence, the Pats were able to turn R1P26 into Edelman and Gronk, while the Ravens took Michael Oher. I’ll cherish my Super Bowl-winning Left Tackle, but c’mon man…
Trade Up Result? LOSS
Analysis: Matthews may have never blossomed into stud RB, but seven years in the NFL, a 2011 Pro Bowl nod, and a pair of 1,000+ yard rushing seasons is not too shabby. Comparatively, Odrick spent six seasons in the NFL, started roughly 65% of games, but never put up much more than serviceable stats. Miami did also grab Koa Misi with the added 2nd Round pick, who also went on to play six seasons (all in Miami) but I’m giving the edge to the Bolts here.
Trade Up Result? WIN
Analysis: Say what you want about Reid’s outspoken demeanor, he’s been a solid NFL safety for the entirety of his career. Seven seasons, and started all but one game when he’s been healthy, with a rookie year Pro Bowl bid to boot! And while typically I’d lean towards that being enough to justify San Fran winning this trade… Travis Frederick is on the other side. Six NFL seasons, five Pro Bowl nods and started all 96 games in his career (missed 2018 season). On top of that, the Cowboys used the 3rd round pick to add Terrance Williams, who had a solid five-year career in Dallas as a WR2/3.
Trade Up Result? LOSS
Analysis: BOTH LOSERS.
Trade Up Result? WASH
Analysis: Neither player was worth their pick, in my opinion, but the edge clearly goes to Tomlinson, who has started 71/79 games in his career and is still kicking. As for Shane Ray? Well, Ravens fans can tell you what happened to him…
Trade Up Result? LOSS
With all trades assessed, the final tally is…
11-6-1 in favor of the teams trading up and their return on investment.
With that exercise behind us, I still get why Eric DeCosta has his hesitations. After all, watching the Jaguars trade all the way up the board to grab Derrick Harvey, then proceed to fall flat on their face, is enough of a first hand precautionary tale to scare you away from making the same mistake. On the flip side, the Ravens moving up to nab Joe Flacco in the same year shows me Baltimore isn’t afraid to go get their guy if he’s falling too…
Perhaps EDC really does believe the juice ain’t worth the squeeze in a trade up, or perhaps he’s just blowing smoke to keep 31 other franchises guessing when it comes to the Ravens game plan in this draft. Ultimately, I think there’s three common trends we see here in order to be successful when trading up:
1. Only the Ravens know how to trade up and take a QB (Lamar Jackson feels that too)
2. You have to see the guy you covet as a truly generational talent to move up (lots of Pro Bowl & All Pro nods on this list)
3. If you can convince Cleveland to be your trade partner, there’s no way you can outright lose the trade