The trendy thing for many couch draft gurus to say about the Steelers is that the team should trade down and accumulate second- and third- round picks. It sounds great, especially if some premier prospects get snatched up before the Steelers get to pick. This year in particular, though, it will be harder than ever for a team like Pittsburgh to trade down, especially in the first round.
Why? Let’s take a look at why this year’s draft is particularly tricky to navigate via trade.
First of all, let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill. Here are the prospects that the Steelers will snatch up should they be available at pick No. 17, in order of likely preference. If these guys are around, a trade is off the table as far as I'm concerned. As a disclaimer, I do not think that most of the players at the top of the list will be available, but the Steelers will spring for them if they slide as some draftniks predict.
1. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
2. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
3. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
4. Star Lotuleilei, DT, Utah
There are other prospects that Pittsburgh could stand pat and select, but these are the slam dunks in the first round that will have the team sprinting the selection card to the podium. If the Steelers still want to trade out of the first round, here are some of the obstacles that they face in trying to do so.
On Draftcountdown.com’s Trade Value Chart, the Steelers’ 17th overall pick is worth a measly 950 points. To put this in perspective, the first overall pick is worth 3000 points, and the 33rd pick is worth 580. Simply put, Pittsburgh would have difficulty racking up these second- and third-round picks by merely moving its first pick.
A trade that makes sense from a trade value standpoint, and maximizes high picks for Pittsburgh, would be to head down to No. 29, landing the team’s second- and third-rounder in the process. The Steelers would have to throw in their sixth and seventh to make the values work. Sounds great, right?
It’s not going to happen.
New England sits at No. 29. This is a team that trades down, not up. If the Patriots were foolish enough to make this trade, they would not pick again until the fifth round of the draft—they traded their fourth-rounder to Tampa Bay for Aqib Talib. I can’t imagine that Belichick and Co. would be comfortable with that scenario.
That was a specific, in-depth scenario, but it serves a point—draft day trades are not nearly as easy to wrangle as a lot of people think. It requires the perfect storm just to make the values and teams fit, let alone the players.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: I don’t think that there are any quarterback prospects who are worth drafting in the top 25.
Typically, with bad teams tending to overvalue quarterbacks, and staying bad because of it, there are teams to pick on when it comes to trading down. This year, I’m having trouble seeing it.
I would love for this to be incorrect. However, most of the teams that would even consider drafting a quarterback in the first round are picking in the top 10 anyway. In order to snag a pick from them, Pittsburgh would have to trade out of the first round entirely.
If a team like Kansas City or Buffalo decides to pass on its quarterback of the future (or, more likely with this class, quarterback of the next three seasons or so) with its first pick, what is its incentive to trade back into the first round? The teams behind them will not be threats to select quarterbacks, and guys like Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Bray, Matt Scott and Landry Jones will still be there at the top of the second round.
There’s no reason for teams to cough up valuable draft picks when they can land these prospects with their second- or even third-round selections.
If the Steelers are going to trade down, it won’t be with a team trying to land a quarterback. An unlikely, yet possible scenario is if these teams do take a quarterback in the first round, they may covet a top-tier receiver to pair with them. If Keenan Allen or Cordarrelle Patterson are players that these teams covet, the door is at least partially open for a trade if they’re available. Once again, it’s a tough match to make.
The Steelers aren’t the only team that wants to get multiple picks in the second and third rounds. The reasoning for this is that there is almost equal value in the early-middle sections of this draft as there is in the first.
Pittsburgh’s not going to pull the wool over teams’ eyes in this draft.
Look at big trades up in recent memory. Do you see a Julio Jones, a Trent Richardson or a Robert Griffin III in this draft? Neither do I. Teams this year will stand pat and try to make the most of their current draft position to land the best prospect available.
The fact is: There are some great prospects and a ton of good prospects in this draft. Certainly, there’s an All-Pro or two in there as well. The problem is that few teams, if any, know who they are for sure. If teams aren’t in love with any prospects, there’s little incentive to give themselves fewer shots at getting it right.
The Steelers would love to trade down, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on it. More likely, Pittsburgh will need to absolutely nail its first-rounder and disregard “draft stock” or “value.” This year, those words mean much less than usual.
If the Steelers love Tavon Austin, they will not care one bit if he is projected to go in the 20s. The same goes for Jonathan Cooper, Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins or any prospect in the entire draft. Unless you know beyond all doubt that the prospect you want will be available at the time of your next selection, it doesn’t matter if you take them first or 32nd.
They will not be there next time, so it’s better to land the prospect you want while you can.
In a perfect world, the Steelers would trade down and rack up the draft picks in the 2013 NFL Draft. As it stands, I just can’t see it happening.