Realistic Draft-Day Trade Possibilities for the Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s nothing more unpredictable in the NFL draft than a trade. They happen quickly, in the moment. In most cases, they have to do with either a particular player being regarded so highly a team cannot pass on him, or a player it covets has fallen further than anticipated.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting on nine selections. And of those nine, six of them can be traded. This is because compensatory picks cannot be traded, and Pittsburgh was awarded three. This gives Pittsburgh some ammo to make a move up if need be.
However, in talking about trades, Pittsburgh could just as easily start the draft with a move back, accumulate an extra pick or two and then use them to maneuver on Day 2 of the draft.
But how exactly are draft trades determined? How is the value established? Well, former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson came up with a trade value chart during his tenure in Dallas that is still used on some level today. Here’s a version of the chart, courtesy of ProFootballTalk.
The chart gives a value to each pick so that teams can create packages that balance, indicating something of a fair trade. It is far from a perfect system, but as a gross template, it works.
Here’s a look at four moves the Steelers could realistically make during the NFL draft.
Trading Up with the Buffalo Bills
Pittsburgh is in a position where it needs to draft a cornerback. How early is a matter of debate, but there’s a real possibility that the Steelers could target one in the first round.
The problem is, looking at the teams selecting ahead of them, both the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions could be in the market for a cornerback as well. If the Steelers stand pat, they could be looking at the third cornerback on their board when they select at No. 15. Admittedly, far from an ideal scenario.
If they want to be certain to get the cornerback they want, if could take brokering a deal with the Buffalo Bills to move up ahead of both the Lions and Titans. What would the cost be? Going off the chart, the value of Buffalo's ninth pick is 1,350. Pittsburgh’s pick has a value of 1,050.
Pittsburgh sending Buffalo its second-round pick, and the Bills giving up their third-round selection, could recoup the 300-point difference.
A trade like this would still give the Steelers three choices in the first 97 picks and, more importantly, allow them to target a player in the top 10 who could really impact this team.
Payers to Target at No. 9
- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
- Anthony Barr, OT, UCLA
- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Trading Back with the Arizona Cardinals
Perhaps, rather than making a move to the top of the round, the Steelers would rather slide back. One possible trading partner is the Arizona Cardinals. When the Steelers go on the clock there is a real chance one or two of the top quarterbacks are still sitting on the board.
This means a team like Arizona, the Cleveland Browns or even the Houston Texans could be wanting to move up and draft one. Working a trade with the Cardinals would be the most conservative of the moves, and that sort of fits the Steelers and their front office.
A slide back to No. 20 would most likely net Pittsburgh the Cardinals’ third-round selection and give Pittsburgh four picks in the first two days of the draft. On the other side, the Cardinals could go up and get their pick of the remaining quarterbacks on the board.
However, if Pittsburgh moves back, who could the team target? A player like defensive tackle Louis Nix III from Notre Dame or Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller would both be excellent values at this point. However, the list of exceptional prospects at this point would be considerable.
Players to Target at No. 20
- Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
- Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
- Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Working a Trade with the San Francisco 49ers
Of all the possible scenarios being tossed around, making a deal with the San Francisco 49ers to drop down to the 30th pick makes the most sense for both sides.
Why would the 49ers want to move up? For one thing, they have 11 draft picks, and it’s impossible to think they will use them all. Also, the 49ers have a very clear agenda in this draft, and that includes drafting a wide receiver early.
If San Francisco moved up to No. 15, it could possibly target LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks. Both would provide the 49ers with an explosive weapon on the edge for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. They could also be targeting a top cornerback here like TCU’s Jason Verrett.
The cost? Probably one of San Francisco’s two second-round picks, in addition to its first-round choice, for Pittsburgh’s first-round pick. If Pittsburgh could snag an extra selection in the second, it could fill three significant needs in a very efficient manner.
Players to Target at No. 30
- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
- Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
- Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
2nd-Round Swap for a Cornerback with the Redskins
Things aren’t terrible for the Washington Redskins, but only having six picks means they could be in a trading mood. If Washington can slide back a little and pick up an extra pick or two, why wouldn’t it? This team has more holes than a leaky tug boat, so when it comes to draft philosophy, quantity might outweigh quality on some level.
A trade like this would net the Redskins a fifth-round pick, and the Steelers happen to have two of them. That pick would be very valuable for the Redskins, and a move like this could net Pittsburgh a star, particularly at cornerback.
This cornerback class has been touted as talented and deep. Which it is. However, outside of the top nine or 10 guys, there are significant questions about each of their games. If Pittsburgh passes on a cornerback in the first round, getting one here would be a priority. And the drop-off in talent from the Redskins' pick to their original pick could be quite significant.
Players to Target at No. 34
- Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
- Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
- Lamarcus Joyner, CB, FSU
- Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
Move Back into the First Round
Following a similar line of thought as the move back with the 49ers, Pittsburgh could stay at No. 15 and make their pick, then if a player they covet falls, move back up to pick No. 32 with the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle has no significant needs that they couldn’t fill a little later in the draft. The Seahawks are likely targeting interior offensive line or possibly a tight end. Both of these positions will be plentiful at pick No. 46.
The main difference is, moving from their current second-round pick back into the first round would likely require them to toss in a third round pick. Since Pittsburgh cannot trade their 2014 third-round pick, they could offer their 2015 as additional compensation.
A move like this would mean a player the Steelers have very highly rated slides to the end of the round, and they couldn’t risk missing out on them. Even though this is only two picks later than the 49ers trade, the reasoning for the move is that there is an even better player sitting there.
Players to target at No. 32:
- Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
- Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
- Marqise Lee, WR, USC
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU