This year’s NFL draft class isn’t all that flashy, but it’s the deepest class we’ve seen in recent years. With so much depth at nearly every position, teams picking in the first round have a lot of options.
While every team has a big board ranking their top options heading into the draft, value is ultimately dependent on how the other 31 teams approach the process.
Need and value typically dictate how a team makes its selection, but the importance of each factor is a hotly debated topic. Reaching for a position of need is almost never a good idea, but we see it every year at the top of the draft, especially at the quarterback position.
Several teams will be in search of a franchise quarterback this offseason, but there isn’t a clear-cut elite quarterback prospect in this draft class. Geno Smith is as close as teams will probably get to a potential franchise signal-caller.
Value should always dictate how teams choose to draft, and finding the right value sometimes boils down to trading back in the draft and obtaining extra picks. NFL fans typically aren’t thrilled with that notion, but some of the best teams in the NFL have developed fantastic rosters by trading down and drafting high-value targets instead of reaching with earlier selections in the draft.
Here’s a look at the selection order for the 2013 draft:
|1. Kansas City Chiefs||9. New York Jets||17. Pittsburgh Steelers||25. Seattle Seahawks|
|2. Jacksonville Jaguars||10. Tennessee Titans||18. Dallas Cowboys||26. Green Bay Packers|
|3. Oakland Raiders||11. San Diego Chargers||19. New York Giants||27. Houston Texans|
|4. Philadelphia Eagles||12. Miami Dolphins||20. Chicago Bears||28. Denver Broncos|
5. Detroit Lions
|13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21. Cincinnati Bengals||29. New England Patriots|
|6. Cleveland Browns||14. Carolina Panthers||22. St. Louis Rams||30. Atlanta Falcons|
|7. Arizona Cardinals||15. New Orleans Saints||23. Minnesota Vikings||31. San Francisco 49ers|
|8. Buffalo Bills||16. St. Louis Rams||24. Indianapolis Colts||32. Baltimore Ravens|
It’s impossible to predict trades this early in the pre-draft process (or at any point, really), but we’ll take a look at some of the teams that would be wise to trade back into the first round based on need, value and player projections.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are going through a major transitional phase right now. Chip Kelly has taken the reins, and you can expect a massive shift in offensive philosophy going forward. A lot will also change on the defensive side of the ball, and Philadelphia has a lot of needs to address there as well.
With the fourth overall selection, it would be easy for the Eagles to fill a major positional need early in the draft. But trading back is probably a better option.
The Eagles need a quality left tackle, No. 1 cornerback and edge-rushing linebacker or defensive end. There will be some excellent options available at the top of the draft, including Eric Fisher, Dee Milliner and potentially Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore. Each player has the ability to be a Pro Bowl starter for several years in Philadelphia.
Still, the Eagles could benefit from finding a trade partner to move back in the draft a pick up some extra selections. This isn’t a particularly deep draft at the cornerback and offensive tackle positions, but there is an extraordinary amount of fantastic defensive linemen and linebackers with which the Eagles could begin building a quality defensive front.
8. Buffalo Bills
The Bills need a new quarterback in the worst way, and with ex-Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone now at the helm, Ryan Nassib may be an option for Buffalo. But not at No. 8 overall.
Nassib will be a developmental quarterback in the NFL, and the same goes for several other “top” quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. Unless Geno Smith is available at No. 8, the Bills should consider trading back and picking up a quarterback later in the draft.
Which NFL team would benefit most from trading back in the first round?
Of course, there’s no guarantee Buffalo will opt for a quarterback with their first pick. But like the Eagles, the Bills have several positions of need outside the quarterback position.
Linebacker, cornerback and defensive tackle could all be in play for the Bills, along with a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker edge rusher. With so much depth at many of those positions, Buffalo could trade back and fill a need with better value later in the round.
Moves like that are contingent on how a team evaluates the talent in the draft, though. Buffalo may target a player it simply can’t pass on with the eighth selection and move on from there. But there will certainly be plenty of options available should the Bills decide to move back in the round.
14. Carolina Panthers
Despite going 7-9 and missing the playoffs last season, the Panthers really don’t have a ton of holes to fill on either side of the ball. They could go a number of ways with the No. 14 selection, but defensive tackle will almost assuredly be in play.
Carolina was No. 14 in the league against the run last season, and finding a run-stuffing defensive tackle in this year’s draft should be a top priority. Fortunately for the Panthers, this year’s class is loaded with quality interior defensive linemen.
Sheldon Richardson, Sharrif Floyd, Johnathan Hankins, John Jenkins and Jesse Williams could all be in play when the Panthers pick—not to mention a handful of others garnering first-round consideration right now. If the Panthers decide to make defensive tackle their top priority, trading back in the first round would be a terrific option.
The “value versus need” debate is only relevant when teams are forced to reach for a player they need to fill an immediate hole. With so many terrific options to fix Carolina’s interior defensive line, trading back to acquire more ammunition (while still selecting a player they want) is a win-win scenario for the Panthers.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kevin Colbert has never been one to do a lot of draft-day maneuvering, and that philosophy has served the Steelers well. Much of the talent on Pittsburgh’s roster was obtained through the draft, but expect some major roster shakeups this offseason.
Pittsburgh went 8-8 last season, missing the playoffs and prompting questions about the Steelers’ long-term sustainability going forward. James Harrison, Casey Hampton and Troy Polamalu are all getting old, and all three have dealt with injury issues the past couple of years. They may not be gone next season, but they won’t be around forever.
Mike Wallace will be a free agent this summer, and Pittsburgh probably won’t have the cap room to bring him back. The offensive line—though young and talented—was once again the shakiest group in the AFC North last season. It’s time to make some changes.
With the Steelers facing financial concerns, rebuilding through the draft seems like a legitimate possibility. They have a lot of holes to fill, and trading back to obtain more draft picks might not be a bad idea.
There is plenty of depth at the defensive end, linebacker and wide receiver positions this year. The Steelers could move back (even just a few spots) and add another pick or two to give themselves extra ammunition to add some cheap young talent. “Cheap” is the operative word, though it’s reasonable to believe Colbert will also be able to find some high-quality pieces in every round this year. His drafting record is terrific.