NFL Players Who Should Be Traded on Draft Day
The 2018 NFL draft will begin Thursday night, and a flurry of trades are sure to happen between Commissioner Roger Goodell's opening and closing announcements.
Many trades will include picks only, but there's an opportunity for buyers and sellers to accomplish their goals. Some teams want to stockpile assets while clearing out extra cap space, while others want to take advantage of available money and extra picks.
There are five players who stand out as most likely to be traded on draft day. We've found their best fits and probable value based on money, production, scheme and positional value.
To give some recent history, the following players have been moved during the three-day event since 2013: cornerback Jamar Taylor, running backs Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy and LeGarrette Blount, and wide receivers Steve Johnson and Davone Bess.
Whether a contender is looking for that missing piece, a rebuilding team wants to take a low-risk flier or a franchise is after an established star, the price has to be right. This offseason has been filled with unusual trade activity, so it only makes sense that it'll continue through the draft.
Earl Thomas, FS, Seattle Seahawks
Ever since star safety Earl Thomas told Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to "come get me" after their December matchup, rumors have swirled.
ESPN's John Clayton told Dennis and Cowlishaw (h/t SportsDayDFW.com) it could be "Dallas or probably nothing" and second- and fourth-round picks would be potential compensation.
The Cowboys now have the cap space to make a deal work after releasing receiver Dez Bryant. Thomas, originally from Orange, Texas, turned in an impressive 2017 season after suffering a broken leg the previous year. He's still one of the premier ball hawks who can transform a secondary's alignment possibilities, and the Cowboys are one of several teams that could use such an impactful player.
For Thomas, a new team represents a fresh start with a contender, whereas the Seahawks appear to be rebuilding after losing several defensive stalwarts. He'll also be up for an extension this offseason considering he's scheduled to hit free agency next year.
Byron Jones' possible move to cornerback should give the Cowboys extra motivation to get a deal done during this draft. Other teams should be interested for the right price, too, although there hasn't been as much public traction as there has been with Dallas.
As the Seahawks try to rebuild, extra assets will be the focal point of any move. Both the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants have the need for a dynamic, rangy safety like Thomas to go with their downhill enforcers—Reshad Jones and Landon Collins, respectively.
Potential Suitors: Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants
Jamar Taylor, CB, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns have churned through several starters this offseason as new general manager John Dorsey attempts to flush the losing culture after a 1-31 stretch.
Jamar Taylor may be the next guy moved, as the team made him the third-highest-paid corner on the team after signing both T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines this offseason. Taylor is on the books for an affordable $5.3 million this year, which should be attractive to teams needing a versatile veteran without breaking the bank.
Taylor is a mediocre outside corner who can hold his own as a depth piece, or he can slide into the slot and provide a bigger impact. With Briean Boddy-Calhoun in tow and enough draft picks to find a replacement with higher upside, there's not much incentive to keep Taylor.
Finding a landing spot is easy.
The Minnesota Vikings have zero outside corner depth behind Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander has yet to prove himself as a viable starter. They have the cap room to absorb Taylor's contract and would immediately bolster the unit.
The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals both lost veteran corners this offseason and have yet to solidify those holes. The Broncos could afford to tinker with Taylor as a slot and boundary corner with Chris Harris Jr., who played well in 2017 in limited outside corner snaps.
The Cardinals have a more pressing need after allowing Tramon Williams to walk, and Taylor would presumably start across from Patrick Peterson. Compensation would likely resemble the Browns' trade of defensive tackle Danny Shelton and a 2018 fifth-round pick for the New England Patriots' 2019 third-round pick.
It's a modest move, and veteran teams would benefit from filling a hole with a stopgap talent while not losing anything significant.
Potential Suitors: Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals
Arik Armstead, DL, San Francisco 49ers
On one hand, it's not time yet for the San Francisco 49ers to feel as though they have to trade former first-round pick Arik Armstead. The 24-year-old is entering a critical fourth season with the team after a massively disappointing first three years, but he was always an athletic project who was a risky selection because of his inconsistent nature.
But the 49ers do need to consider moving the 6'7", 292-pounder if they receive a decent offer because there's a chance they'll get nothing out of him on the field in 2018. Armstead is not a great fit in the 49ers' defensive scheme and projects better as a 5-technique who can be stout as opposed to an upfield rusher who can pressure the quarterback consistently.
General manager John Lynch was noncommittal on Armstead for his fifth-year option, per Cam Inman of the Mercury News, but he does figure to start as a strong-side end if he's on the team. Nevertheless, the 49ers would be wise to find a more well-rounded pass-rushing threat.
There's a need for his skill set elsewhere, and it's not a great draft for those types of prospects. He's in an affordable one-year contract window and could command an early Day 3 pick from the right team.
Both the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs could use a young defensive lineman to groom and can afford to take a risk on him. Neither has much depth, and trying to unlock Armstead's athletic upside could pay off massively.
A deal that also make sense: the 49ers send Armstead and the No. 143rd pick to the Tennessee Titans for defensive end Kevin Dodd and the No. 199 pick. Both players would benefit from the scheme change and a fresh opportunity.
Potential Suitors: Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans
Kevin Dodd, DE, Tennessee Titans
As teased earlier, the Titans should consider trading defensive end Kevin Dodd.
It made little sense when they drafted him 33rd overall in 2016. He's a prototypical 4-3 end, and the team hasn't prioritized his development since selecting him. He's better off elsewhere as a rotational edge-rusher where he can earn playing time, and the Titans can add to their stash of only six draft picks.
Dodd worked well in tandem with Shaq Lawson as the primary creator for the Clemson Tigers, and it's likely he'll be more of a cleanup rusher if he earns the opportunity. He has great size and length (6'5", 277 lbs), and he plays hard. He had a good enough athletic profile to suggest he should be a contributor in the right situation.
That's still worth a Day 3 pick for potential suitors, and there should be a handful who will be interested in a 25-year-old with two years remaining on his rookie deal—4-3 heavy teams like the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots make the most sense.
The Raiders could afford to send several of their eight Day 3 picks to entice the Titans. The 49ers have Armstead and five Day 3 picks to combine in a deal. The Lions and Patriots aren't loaded with picks in 2018, and making a deal work could force them to dip into their 2019 pool, which is less attractive.
A Raiders offer of picks Nos. 159, 173 and 185 for Dodd should at least get a conversation going, and they wouldn't be overpaying even if they had to consolidate some of those picks and move their fourth-rounder instead.
Potential Suitors: Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots
Kareem Jackson, CB, Houston Texans
There's been little clarity on how the Houston Texans plan on handling their overcrowded and expensive secondary since they signed safety Tyrann Mathieu and corner Aaron Colvin in free agency.
Incumbent Kareem Jackson is in a contract year, set to make $9 million at 30 years old and without a clear role in the unit. While he may need to take a reduced salary to make a deal work, he'd be a nice upgrade elsewhere as the Texans look to collect more assets to rebuild their offense.
Jackson is a Band-Aid solution for a team needing a slot presence. He's been inconsistent throughout his career, at times looking terrific and others simply guessing where the receiver is going. That's going to limit what the Texans can expect for him in addition to his salary, but he's a veteran who is in position more often than not and is much better than most rookie slot defenders.
The Green Bay Packers stand out as the best possible landing spot, as alluded to in the past, but other suitors would emerge for the cost of a fifth-round pick or less.
The 49ers and Cardinals are also matches for Jackson. The Buffalo Bills are stocked with picks, and while a trade-up for a quarterback will hurt, moving a late-rounder for Jackson would considerably upgrade their unanswered questions at the slot position.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also make sense as long as they're still considering Vernon Hargreaves as a boundary corner. The Buccaneers are short on picks, but like Buffalo, it's unlikely they'll find a similar talent in the sixth round. Moving in for Jackson is favorable as they try to make the playoffs in 2018.
Potential Suitors: Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers