The Atlanta Falcons need to trade up in the 2014 draft. Their depth has allowed them the ability to do so without losing out on potential starters. Thomas Dimitroff has also shown willingness to trade up in the past, and it’s very simple why.
Trading up is a good move. Trading up is how you secure the best possible talent for your team now and in the future. Trading up is how you make sure the Falcons don’t have a perennial need for the guy that you just traded up for.
By trading up, you get the guy who likely fits your scheme and team personality better than players rated lower on the board. The Falcons have traded up three times in the past six years to secure their guy. And for the most part, it’s paid off well.
In 2008, they traded up for Sam Baker. He’s gone on to play in 70 games for the Falcons, starting 61 of them. When he’s healthy, he looks like a top 15 NFL tackle. His issue has been staying healthy. However, it wasn’t a horrible pick and the trade up just made sense.
In 2011, the Falcons traded up for Julio Jones in a move that surprised many. And it’s a move that may have robbed the team of some depth. However, the Falcons still wound up with arguably one of the NFL’s top five wide receivers.
In 2013, the Falcons traded up for Desmond Trufant. While the Rams may have gotten a bit more value than the Falcons in this one, Atlanta still wound up with a franchise cornerback. Trufant was arguably the best rookie in 2013, and his future is extremely bright.
The Falcons have also been wildly successful because they are willing to be aggressive and get their guys. They will have assessed every risk, reward and situation for a possible deal by the time draft day rolls around. So if Dimitroff wants to move up, he’s probably making a calculated move.
Trade up, because everyone wants to trade down
Supply and demand. The market dictates the price.
So if everyone wants to trade down in the draft this year, no one will trade down in the draft this year. Because in order to trade down, someone has to want to trade up. With most teams wanting to trade down, the Falcons could turn this into a game of lowest bidder by the time May rolls around.
In doing so, it wouldn’t cost nearly as much to trade up as people are expecting it to. Sure, it’s still going to be three or four total picks to move up, but the Falcons have 10 picks in this year’s draft and there’s no way all of them wind up on the roster come opening day.
Atlanta could wind up giving up as little as their third-round pick this year and second-round pick next year as part of the move up for their guy. And paying a price like that is more than worth it to go up and get a once-in-a-generation talent.
Trading up for Clowney carries risk, but so does every pick
Let's be honest here. If the Falcons trade up, it's not going to be for Greg Robinson at tackle or Khalil Mack at outside linebacker. It's going to be for Jadeveon Clowney—a man regarded as the best pass-rushing prospect to come out of the draft in almost a decade.
Clowney gets spoken of as if he’s going to be the next Albert Haynesworth off the field by some analysts. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. He’s the kind of guy that lives, breathes and sleeps football. He’s someone that the Falcons would absolutely love to have on and off the field.
But he does have questions about how he will act when he gets money in his hands. Then again, we’re looking at 20- to 23-year-old men who have been regarded highly most of their lives. There are always going to be questions about how they handle themselves once they get paid.
No matter how grounded guys like Jake Matthews, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack and Greg Robinson may seem, we don’t see what happens once they cash that first check. So there will always be questions about these top-of-the-draft athletes.
The question here is whether the risk for Clowney will be worth trading up for. And honestly, it is. The Falcons just need to make sure that they don’t get completely ripped off the way Washington did in 2012 in their trade with the St. Louis Rams to take Robert Griffin III at No. 2.
Falcons built depth through free agency
When the Falcons went into free agency, they had very little in the way of starting-caliber depth. However, that changed by re-signing all three of their defensive tackles—Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry—along with two key offensive line reserves, Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson.
The Falcons continued to build their depth by bringing in new starting right guard Jon Asamoah, new starting nose tackle Paul Soliai, defensive lineman Tyson Jackson, cornerback and return man Javier Arenas and playmaking return specialist Devin Hester.
By making sure they had a roster with the right amount of veteran experience, the Falcons improved their depth tremendously from where it was just a year ago. On top of that, they showed that they are trying to get away from their former "stars-and-scrubs" model of the past. Retaining and signing key guys is important to help that.
...And through the beatings of 2013
It wasn’t just free agency that helped the Falcons' depth, getting crushed for most of 2013 helped them build it as well. Players like Lamar Holmes, Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman, Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu, Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant all got meaningful snaps they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Even Zeke Motta, Darius Johnson, Drew Davis and Jacquizz Rodgers got to show what they can do as starters for the Falcons. And while, yes, the talent level had a massive drop-off once all the big injuries came last season, Atlanta’s depth developed because of it.
Getting those guys out there in real game action was invaluable for their future success. The Falcons finally have some non-rookie depth with actual experience rotating in. That’s something they didn’t have heading into the 2013 season when 12 rookies made their 53-man roster.
10 picks aren't making the roster
No team in the NFL is just one player away from the Super Bowl. The Falcons already have a roster with playoff caliber talent on it, though. They lost eight games in 2013 by one score or less. And when you look at the 49ers game, they could have won it if not for the pick-six by Navorro Bowman.
So that one impact player could mean the difference in those scores. That one impact player could make the difference in being 8-8 and out of the playoffs, or 10-6 and in. With that in mind, you go up and get that one player to put the team over the top.
Ten draft picks aren’t going to make the Falcons roster no matter how you cut it. The Falcons currently have 60 players under contract. And of that, there are only eight or nine roster spots toward the bottom of the roster that will be up for competition in camp.
So by spending 10 picks in the draft and cutting three of them, the Falcons could acquire the same amount of new talent by spending eight picks—with two spent in trade—and cutting one of them.
When you are only really looking to bring in two or three starters through the draft, and plan to use the rest of the picks for depth competitions, do you really need that many picks? Especially when you factor in the successes of Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow as undrafted free agents. It’s just not necessary.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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