Highlighting the Trade Hot Spots of the 2019 NFL Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2019

Highlighting the Trade Hot Spots of the 2019 NFL Draft

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    JASON DECROW/Associated Press

    With the calendar turning to April, we've officially reached NFL draft month. From here, the drama and intrigue will only increase—as will the number of smokescreens surrounding the 2019 draft.

    Some of the smoke will cover up which prospects teams are actually interested in drafting. Some will cover up teams' interests in making draft-day trades. Teams don't like to prematurely admit their willingness to move out of draft slots because doing so can hurt their potential trade value leverage.

    Where there's smoke, there's often fire. Some spots in the draft just make too much sense as trade points to be believably off limits. Few teams tipped their hands before last year's draft, but 16 of 2018's 32 first-round picks ended up being made by teams who didn't originally own the selection.

    We'll examine the trade hot spots in the 2019 draft, along with why deals at those spots make sense for all parties involved.


No. 1: Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals GM Steve Keim
    Cardinals GM Steve KeimAssociated Press

    The first overall pick in the draft is always a potential hot spot because whichever team owns it has their pick of the proverbial litter. The Arizona Cardinals are in possession of No. 1 right now, but they haven't ruled out moving the selection.

    "I think everything's on the table," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, per Grant Gordon of NFL.com. "When you have that first pick, you've gotta turn over every stone and look at every scenario that's out there, and so we're definitely doing that."

    Presumably, a team moving up to No. 1 would do so to secure a potential franchise quarterback. It's a smart move if a team believes it has identified its guy, but it's not a move that will be cheap.

    Say the Oakland Raiders fall in love with Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and want to trade up from the fourth pick to the first. According to DraftTek's 2019 trade value chart, such a move would also cost Oakland the 27th and 35th overall picks in order to be a fair deal. Teams selecting after Oakland would have to surrender even more capital.

    This means only a few teams would likely be interested in moving up No. 1, but the Cardinals could net a ton of value by agreeing to make a deal.

No. 2: San Francisco 49ers

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    49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan
    49ers head coach Kyle ShanahanMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    On one hand, it would make sense for the San Francisco 49ers to hang on to the second overall selection. They desperately need an edge-rusher, and there should be an elite edge prospect available—especially if Arizona (or another team) goes quarterback at No. 1.

    On the other hand, the 49ers could potentially land a haul if Kyler Murray slips out of the top slot or if a team is set on jumping the New York Jets at No. 3 to grab the top quarterback on its draft board. This wouldn't be an unprecedented scenario.

    Two years ago, the Chicago Bears traded up to snag Mitchell Trubisky at the two spot. The year before that, the Philadelphia Eagles moved up to nab Carson Wentz at No. 2. Even if Murray is off the board, a team might move up to secure Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins or Missouri's Drew Lock.

    While staying put and grabbing a sack artist like Ohio State's Nick Bosa or Kentucky's Josh Allen would be a sensible move for San Francisco, passing on a bevy of picks or players to move down could be tough.

    "You never know. I think it's always realistic," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said on The Adam Schefter podcast. "We'll do anything to improve our team."

    Of course, this becomes an even hotter spot in the draft if every signal-caller remains on the board.

No. 3: New York Jets

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    Jets GM Mike Maccagnan
    Jets GM Mike MaccagnanMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    The New York Jets' No. 3 selection appears to be an obvious trade target for teams looking to secure a quarterback. It becomes even more obvious if neither the Cardinals nor the 49ers deal their picks ahead of the three spot.

    There's a chance the Oakland Raiders are interested in moving on from Derek Carr and selecting a quarterback in this year's draft. According to The MMQB's Albert Breer, the Raiders are having private workouts with both Murray and Haskins.

    A quarterback-needy team may be very interested in moving ahead of the Raiders and dealing with the Jets to do so. According to Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, New York is open to moving the selection.

    "Yeah, I think I would be open to any team as long as the trade made sense to us," Maccagnan said, per Herbie Teope of NFL.com. "There is nothing that would stop us from doing that."

    Unlike Arizona, there has been zero buzz about New York dealing its 2018 first-round quarterback and going after a new quarterback in 2019. If two of the top defenders are off the board when the Jets select, the potential trade haul would almost certainly be more appealing than taking the second- or third-best player on their draft board.

No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians
    Buccaneers head coach Bruce AriansChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Just like a quarterback-needy team may want to get in front of the Raiders at No. 4, one might want to jump in front of the New York Giants at No. 6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have bigger needs than at quarterback, currently hold the fifth selection.

    Now, it's worth noting that the Giants don't seem determined to take a quarterback in the 2019 draft. They eventually need to find Eli Manning's replacement, but they may not be sold on getting him this April.

    "And as a team source told SNY this week, there are so many good defenders at the top of the draft, the Giants are leaning in that direction with the sixth overall pick," SNY's Ralph Vacchiano wrote.

    Of course, if the leaguewide feeling is that the Giants are leaning toward a defender at six, Tampa's pick at No. 5 could be just as coveted. Say a defender like Josh Allen or Alabama's Quinnen Williams is still there at five—they could realistically be the top player on a team's draft board and a prime target to trade for.

    A team also might want to jump up to No. 5 if it's interested in an inside linebacker like LSU's Devin White or Michigan's Devin Bush. This is a position of need for the Buccaneers so Tampa can leverage that knowledge to up the value of their pick.

    "It’s in the Bucs’ best interests to lead teams to believe there is someone they covet at the No. 5 slot, even if they’re open to trading the pick," Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times wrote.

    For several reasons, No. 5 could be the biggest pivot point in Round 1.

No. 15: Washington Redskins

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    Redskins head coach Jay Gruden
    Redskins head coach Jay GrudenAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins traded for journeyman Case Keenum earlier this offseason, but they should still be in the market for a quarterback come draft weekend. This means their pick, at 15th overall, is very much in play as a trade-up or trade-away.

    The possibility of Washington moving No. 15 becomes all the more real if the Cardinals do pull the trigger on Murray up top.

    "One team that has been somewhat forgotten in the Josh Rosen talk—should the Cardinals select Kyler Murray—is the Washington Redskins, who are doing genuine due diligence on top rookie QBs despite acquiring Case Keenum," ESPN's Chris Mortensen said, via Twitter.

    Washington also may want to trade down from 15th depending on who is still available there and how the Redskins have them graded. The Cleveland Browns were willing to deal the 17th overall pick because they didn't believe they'd get an actual first-round talent there.

    "I had heard that the Browns considered there to be 15 players that are first round players in this year’s draft," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein said on the Move the Sticks Podcast. "That sounds about right."

    If another team sees the 15th pick as a last opportunity to get a first-round talent—or if Washington doesn't believe one is still there—a deal could be struck.

Nos. 24 and 27: Oakland Raiders

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    Raiders GM Mike Mayock
    Raiders GM Mike MayockMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Raiders have not been shy about their quest for draft capital, which is why both Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper were dealt over the last year. While they seem unlikely to trade away the fourth overall pick, they may not be so hesitant to deal either pick No. 24 or pick No. 27 if doing so would result in additional draft ammunition.

    One of these picks could be sent to a team selecting at the very bottom of Round 1.

    For example, should a tight end like Iowa's T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant sit on the board at No. 27 with the New England Patriots determined to land him. According to the trade value chart, the Raiders could rightfully ask for the Patriots 97th overall pick (in Round 3). Making this deal would still leave the Raiders with three first-round selections while also landing them another potential starter in the third round.

    The prospect of landing future picks may be even more enticing for the Raiders, who already own two first-round selections in next year's draft.

    As previously mentioned, however, these picks could also be used to move up to No. 1, should the Raiders be dead set on landing Kyler Murray.

No. 32: New England Patriots

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    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
    Patriots head coach Bill BelichickMatt Rourke/Associated Press

    The Patriots might be willing to move up from the 32nd overall pick. They might also be willing to move down, depending on the offer. The final pick in Round 1 is going to be a heated spot if a quarterback like West Virginia's Will Grier is still available.

    "If you talk to the people within the National Football League, you will know that they are much higher on Will Grier than those that are writing about the draft," Fox Sports' Joe Klatt said, per Fox College Football.

    The reason No. 32 is so valuable when a quarterback is involved is because it provides a team with a fifth-year option. A team trading up from the top of Round 2 into the bottom of Round 1 will be able to control that quarterback for an additional year before having to commit to a sizable second contract.

    This is why the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round last year to grab Lamar Jackson at 32, and it's why the Minnesota Vikings made the same move to grab Teddy Bridgewater at the same spot in 2014.

    So if, for example, the Giants don't grab a quarterback at the top of Round 1, they could still grab one at the bottom of Round 1 by giving up something like a fourth or a future third and moving up five spots.

No. 33: Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury
    Cardinals head coach Kliff KingsburyMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Just as the last pick in the first round is frequently a hot trade target, so is the first pick in Round 2. There are a couple reasons for this, the first being that one team or another will inevitably be shocked by a prospect falling out of the first round.

    The second is that under the current draft format—first executed in 2010—there is nearly a full day between the first and second rounds. That's a lot of time for the team owning the 33rd overall pick—currently Arizona—to wheel and deal ahead of actually going on the clock.

    This doesn't guarantee that the team owning the first pick will deal it before the start of Round 2. It last happened in 2015, when the Giants traded with the Tennessee Titans to grab safety Landon Collins at 33. However, this will be a spot worth watching during the lull between Thursday and Friday night's draft action.