San Francisco 49ers: Top 10 Trading Partners in the 2014 NFL Draft

Bryan KnowlesContributor IIIMarch 27, 2014

San Francisco 49ers: Top 10 Trading Partners in the 2014 NFL Draft

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    With 11 picks in this year’s NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers are in great position to trade up in the first round.  The move makes logical sense.  They have plenty of picks, but few holes on their roster—if they were to use all 11 selections, some players simply wouldn’t make the team.

    In addition, their two most pressing needs are at cornerback and wide receiver.  There are plenty of first-round caliber talents lurking out there in this year’s draft, but many mock drafts have something of a run on those positions happening in the late teens and early twenties.  If the 49ers want to get a good player, they’ll likely have to move.

    Specifically, the Kansas City Chiefs at #23, the Cincinnati Bengals at #24, the San Diego Chargers at #25 and the Cleveland Browns at #26 could be in the market for cornerbacks or wide receivers.  Jumping those four, at least, makes a lot of sense.

    However, it’s one thing to say that the team is likely to make a trade, and another to attempt to predict who they will trade with.  After all, it takes two teams to consummate a trade, and there a lot of variables to take into account.

    With that in mind, I’ve attempted to rank the ten most likely trading partners for the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s NFL Draft.  Four factors were considered when making the list:

    • Usefulness of the trade to San Francisco.  Trading up with Houston at #1 would give the 49ers their choice of anyone in the draft, while only trading up to #28 with Carolina wouldn’t give the team much more of a choice than they had back at #30.
    • Expense of the trade.  Trading up to #1 would essentially mortgage the future, forcing the team to give up multiple first-round picks and hampering their ability to pick in the future.  Conversely, trading with New England at #29 would likely cost the 49ers only a fifth-round selection.
    • The other team’s positional needs.  The other teams know the 49ers would likely be trading up to grab a cornerback or wide receiver.  This is fine to a team like New Orleans, who has no need at those positions.  Someone like Kansas City, who will almost assuredly be taking a wide receiver, would be less likely to agree to such a trade.
    • The other team’s draft assets.  St. Louis is loaded with picks, holding 12 to their name.  They don’t really need to trade down to grab more picks.  Kansas City, on the other hand, only has six.  They might be willing to move back just so they could acquire more players.

    Keeping all four factors in mind, here is the list of the 10 most likely trade partners for the 49ers.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (#22)

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Eagles have two things going for them as a trade partner.  First and foremost, they’re low on draft picks.  They only have six selections this year—they received no compensatory picks, and traded away their sixth-round pick in a series of exchanges that brought them Darren Sproles.

    Secondly, moving up to #22 is a fairly cheap move.  If we use the traditional draft value chart, the 49ers first-round selection (#30), their original third-round selection (#94) and their fourth-round selection (#129) would be enough to pry the pick free from Philadelphia’s hands.  That would leave the 49ers with five picks in the first two days.

    It’s not a perfect fit, however.  Most notably, the Eagles might decide they want a cornerback themselves.  They signed Nolan Carroll this offseason, but their secondary needs help.  They might decide just to stay put.

9. Atlanta Falcons (#6)

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    What a blockbuster trade this would be!  Dashing up to the front of the first round, the 49ers would have plenty of possibilities.  They could take Mike Evans out of Texas A&M and shore up their receiving game.  They could select Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State and have a shutdown corner.  Only Sammy Watkins would likely be out of their reach.

    The Falcons wouldn’t mind if the 49ers took a top corner or receiver, either—they don’t have a real strong need at either position.  They might trade right back up and still get an offensive lineman like Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan.

    It would seriously mortgage the future for San Francisco, however.  The Draft Value Chart indicates that to move all the way up to #6, the 49ers would probably have to give up their first-round selections both this year and next year.  They would have to be completely sold that a player like Evans is better than anyone coming out in 2015.

    In addition, the Falcons already have ten picks in this year’s draft, thanks to compensatory selections.  They might be fine just sitting where they are now.

    This is probably the biggest move the 49ers could realistically do; getting into the top five is likely out of the question.  It would be a bold statement, and one that could easily backfire.  If you like risk, however, this is the trade for you.

8. Baltimore Ravens (#17)

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    Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

    Why not let the Harbaugh brothers work their magic again?  They’ve already established a good trading relationship, exchanging Anquan Boldin before last season.  Keep the pipeline going.

    There’s nothing that sticks out as too dangerous trading with the Ravens—it’s not overly expensive, it allows access to a number of players the 49ers wouldn’t have a hope of getting at #30 and it would give the Ravens more to work with as they bounce back from a sub-par season.

    On the other hand, nothing jumps out making the Ravens a great choice, either.  It brings players like Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham into play, but so would a cheaper trade four or five slots later.  Baltimore has eight picks, which isn’t fantastic, but isn’t bad, either—it’s about average in this year’s draft.

    The trade would likely cost the 49ers their first-round pick (#30), as well as the second-rounder they got for Alex Smith (#56).

    What makes the trade stand out as being likely is the relationship with the Harbaugh brothers.  It’s not the ideal trade for either team, but it might be one of the easier agreements to make.

7. Arizona Cardinals (#20)

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Arizona could use some more draft picks.  They only have six, having traded their seventh-rounder for Carson Palmer last season.  While that was certainly worth it for them, it does leave them fairly bare when it comes to this year's draft.

    They also sit at #20, which is good for the 49ers.  When you’re moving up more than ten slots in a draft, you begin to run into more and more expensive prices.  To get up to #20, however, the chart is kind.  The first-round selection (#30), Tennessee’s third-round selection (#77) and the fifth-round selection (#170) are enough to move up to #20.

    Is that still optimal, however?  One of the advantages of trading into this part of the draft is going before Kansas City, who will likely take a wide receiver.  The other big receiving stumbling block is the Jets at #18, and this doesn’t propel the 49ers past them.  Is #20 really that much better than trading at #21 or #22?

    The reason the Cardinals rank ahead of the Eagles at #22 is almost strictly because of need.  The Cardinals don’t need a cornerback, so they might be more willing to swap places with the 49ers than Philadelphia is.  On the other hand, the 49ers are divisional rivals—that might be enough to swing the balance away from the Cardinals.

6. New York Giants (#12)

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    Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

    From here on out, all the trades make total sense in terms of need.  The odds that any of the six remaining teams would be in the market for a cornerback or receiver are fairly low.  That’s enough to boost them over the likes of Arizona, Baltimore or Philadelphia on the list.

    Trading with the Giants also pushes the 49ers past not only the Chiefs, but the Jets and Steelers as well.  That gives San Francisco extra options to work with—players like Kyle Fuller and possibly even Mike Evans could fall down into this range, as opposed to the high-teens.

    It does come at a price, however.  This is about as far as the 49ers could trade up without having to give up any selections in the 2015 draft, if they so choose.  The chart spits out a value of the 49ers’ highest picks in each of the first three rounds#30, #56 and #77.  That’s a lot to ask.

    If Evans drops, this might feel like a much more enticing trade.  I’m not sure he’ll get out of the top-ten, but if he does, the Giants should expect a phone call from San Francisco to at least test the waters.

5. Buffalo Bills (#9)

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    If the 49ers do want to move into the top 10, trading with Buffalo makes more sense than trading with Atlanta.

    Moving up to #9 is obviously going to be cheaper than going to #6.  While it could still cost the 49ers their first-round picks this year and next year, they could get something in return from Buffalo—perhaps a second- or third-rounder in 2015, to help offset the loss of a top pick.

    Buffalo also didn’t receive any compensatory selections, as opposed to Atlanta’s three.  That might make them more interested in gaining extra picks in this year’s draft, as opposed to next.  It gives the 49ers more room to negotiate terms.

    The only downside, compared to the Atlanta trade, is the possible loss of players like Mike Evans or Darqueze Dennard.  Neither Tampa Bay nor Minnesota are desperately in the market for a receiver or cornerback, but both could end up taking one in a “best player available” sort of scenario.

    It’s still a huge move, and one that would strain San Francisco’s resources.  The potential payoff, however, could be huge.

4. Chicago Bears (#14)

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

    There are a few teams between the Bills and Bears that could take players the 49ers covet.  Most notably, Detroit at #10 could be a landing spot for a big-play receiver to go alongside Calvin Johnson.  That’s a bit of a downside, there.

    Of course, the benefit of going with the Bears rather than the Bills is the cost involved.  A first-, second- and third-rounder is probably enough to pry this pick from Chicago.  That’s a lot better than trading a whole boatload of picks to the Bills, or losing picks next season.

    In addition, it’s about the same price it would take to go and trade with the Giants at #12, without any real penalties for waiting.  At #13, St. Louis is more likely to take the top safety in the draft to shore up their secondary, not swipe a player the 49ers need.

    The Bears are in need of a defensive tackle, and there’ll be plenty of names down at #30 for them to take—Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Ra’shede Hageman would all be available.  While the price is a little steep for San Francisco, the fit works for both teams.

3. Miami Dolphins (#19)

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Never underestimate the importance of communication between teams.  The 49ers and Dolphins have already made a swap this offseason, with the 49ers acquiring Jonathan Martin.  That puts their front offices on good terms, and might make it easier to swing another deal on draft day.

    The Dolphins don’t line up with San Francisco’s needs at all.  They re-signed Brent Grimes, taking them out of the cornerback market, and their big signing last season was Mike Wallace.  What do they care if the Chiefs, Bengals, Chargers and Browns run on those positions?  They need linemen, and lots of them.

    That means they need draft picks, and they only have their original compliment of seven.  They could swap first-round picks with the 49ers and pick up a pick at the end of the second round, as well.  That could still land them Cyrus Kouandjio or Xavier Su’a-Filo at the end of the first round, and give them more room to work with later.

    Because of their lack of interest in cornerbacks and receivers, they’re a more logical choice in the 19-22 range than Arizona or Philadelphia.  Don’t be surprised to see this call be made on draft day.

2. Dallas Cowboys (#16)

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    If it worked once, why not do it again?

    Last season, the 49ers and Cowboys made a deal, exchanging first-round picks.  The 49ers got Eric Reid with their selection, and that worked out swimmingly.  The Cowboys are fairly happy with their pick, Travis Frederick.  Why not try and see if you can work something out again?

    The big advantage of trading with Dallas is the fact that it jumps the New York Jets.  Mock drafts have the Jets looking for someone to catch the ball, be it Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham or Eric Ebron.  It’s almost a foregone conclusion that they’ll be taking someone to catch the ball.

    If the 49ers do want to pass the Jets, the Cowboys are a more logical trading partner than the Ravens at #18.

    First of all, the Ravens might decide they want a receiver of some kind to replace the departed Anquan Boldin.  They might not want the 49ers moving up to grab one if they could have him instead.

    Secondly, Dallas needs a lot of young, cheap players.  They had to make some serious cuts to get under the salary cap, and more may be on the way in the future.  Good, cheap draft choices could help make those cuts less painful.

    Dallas has a whopping six picks in the seventh-round of the draft, but that’s not an ideal place to find starting talent.  Trading back with San Francisco could get them an extra pick in the middle of the second round, and maybe even a pick on the third day of the draft as well.  Like the Bears, they could still pick up a defensive lineman with the 49ers’ old pick, and be fairly satisfied.  It makes total sense for this to happen.

1. Green Bay Packers (#21)

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    If the 49ers are going to trade up, the Packers are the most logical destination.

    Trading with the Packers moves the 49ers over the four major problem teams listed in the opening slide—Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego and Cleveland.  It does not propel them past the Jets at #18, but New York can’t take all the solid receivers with just one pick—there’ll still be a receiver or two left, if that’s the direction they choose to go.

    In addition, jumping the Jets does nothing if the 49ers want to take a cornerback.  If that’s the case, all moving up with the Cowboys or Bears does is cost more picks for an equivalent return.

    The Packers might be in the market to move down.  What they need is a safety, but if they stay put at #21, they’re not getting either Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor.  They could reach for someone like Jimmie Ward, but he’ll likely be available at #30. Alternatively, they could drift back and try to get someone like Deone Bucannon in the second round.  It’s a matter of maximizing value for their picks, rather than reaching and trying to grab someone ten slots before anyone else would.

    For the 49ers, the trade would come relatively cheaply.  The Draft Value Chart suggests it would cost the first-round selection (#30) and the earliest of their three third-round selections (#77).  That sounds worth it to have their choice of Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett or Marqise Lee.  It’s a relatively minor expense that would increase their choices dramatically.

    Any of the top four names on the list would be logical trading partners—the Bears at #14, the Cowboys at #16, the Dolphins at #19 or the Packers at #21.  If I had to bet, however, I’d guess Packers GM Ted Thompson and 49ers GM Trent Baalke will be the ones to make the actual move come draft day.

The Rest

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    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    If you’re interested where the other 19 first-round picks above San Francisco came on my list, I’ve put them all here.  That way, if the 49ers trade with a team not on the list, you can know just how wrong I was.

    1. Green Bay (#21)
    2. Dallas (#16)
    3. Miami (#19)
    4. Chicago (#14)
    5. Buffalo (#9)
    6. NY Giants (#12)
    7. Arizona (#20)
    8. Baltimore (#17)
    9. Atlanta (#6)
    10. Philadelphia (#22)
    11. Minnesota (#8)
    12. Tampa Bay (#7)
    13. Jacksonville (#3)
    14. Pittsburgh (#15)
    15. Cleveland (#4)
    16. St. Louis (#13)
    17. Houston (#1)
    18. Oakland (#5)
    19. Cincinnati (#24)
    20. St. Louis (#2)
    21. Tennessee (#11)
    22. NY Jets (#18)
    23. New Orleans (#27)
    24. Detroit (#10)
    25. San Diego (#25)
    26. Cleveland (#26)
    27. New England (#29)
    28. Carolina (#28)
    29. Kansas City (#23)