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NFL Draft: Art Of The First Round Trade

NFL Draft: The Art Of The 1st Round Trade


One of the more interesting occurrences at the NFL draft each year is when a team moves up, sometimes even just one or two spots, in the first round in exchange for what is usually a sizable package of picks/players. We all remember when Dan Snyder gave up his firstborn, along with a 1st, 2nd and 4th round pick to the Rams to move up and draft RGIII and how that turned out. But what about the other deals? They happen nearly every year and can have a massive impact on the trajectory of a franchise. Which side generally fairs better? The team that moves up to get their guy? Or the team that stockpiles assets? Let us find out:


  • Only trades involving 1st round picks in the last 10 years
  • Only trades that involve one team clearing moving up to draft one or two specific players
  • Used my discretion and didn’t include some of the more uneventful deals (trust me, you don’t need my thoughts on when the Jags moved up five spots to draft Blaine Gabbert and the Redskins took Ryan Kerrigan in their place)

(Kerrigan has quietly had a solid career, Skins won the trade)

Texans move up 12 spots for Deshaun

Texans receive:
» 2017 first-round pick (No. 12): Deshaun Watson

Browns receive:
» 2017 first-round pick (No. 25): Jabril Peppers
» 2018 first-round pick

Analysis: Jabril Peppers is looking like a good pro and the 2018 first round pick (#4) is yet to convey. But, for a team that hasn’t has a good quarterback since 2007 Derek Anderson (seriously, look it up, guy threw for 29 TD’s and made the pro bowl that year, people forget) trading out of a spot where they could have taken a guy who looks like a future franchise quarterback, is a loss for the Browns. The Texans would do this trade again if they had the chance. 1 point for trading for your guy.
1-0 for trading up 

Bears trade 4 assets to get Trubisky

Bears receive:
» 2017 first-round pick (No. 2): Mitchell Trubisky

Niners receive:
» 2017 first-round pick (No. 3): Soloman Thomas, DE, Stanford
» 2017 third-round pick (No. 67) — traded to Saints, the Niners got a 2018 2nd rounder (turned out to be Alvin Kamara)
» 2017 fourth-round pick (No. 111) — traded to Seahawks to help move up 3 spots later in the draft  (turned out to be Tedric Thompson)
» 2018 third-round pick

Analysis: The Bears seem to be happy with Trubisky, but the jury is still out on whether he is truly a franchise QB. The biggest missed opportunity in this deal was when the Niners traded away pick #67, which turned out to be Alvin Kamara. A backfield of Jimmy G and Kamara playing together for the next ten years would be terrifying. Anyway, we don’t know enough about either side to pick a winner, I will mark this as a draw. No points awarded

(the next three are combined into one)

Eagles move to draft Wentz

Eagles receive:
» 2016 first-round pick (No. 2): Carson Wentz
» 2017 fourth-round pick which was then traded to the Vikings

Browns receive:
» 2016 first-round pick (No. 8): Traded to Titans
» 2016 third-round pick (No. 77): Traded to Panthers
» 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 100): Traded to Raiders
» 2017 first-round pick (turned out to be Jabril Peppers)
» 2018 second-round pick

Rams get Goff

Rams receive:
» 2016 first-round pick (No. 1): Jared Goff
» 2016 fourth-round pick (No. 113): Traded to Bears
» 2016 sixth-round pick (No. 177): Temarrick Hemmingway

Titans receive:
» First-round pick (No. 15): Traded to Browns
» 2016 second-round pick (No. 43): Austin Johnson
» 2016 second-round pick (No. 45): Derrick Henry
» 2016 third-round pick (No. 76): Traded to Browns
» 2017 first-round pick (turned out to be Corey Davis)
» 2017 third-round pick (turned out to be Jonnu Smith)

Titans trade for Conklin

Titans receive:
» 2016 first-round pick (No. 8): Jack Conklin
» 2016 sixth-round pick (No. 176): Traded to Broncos

Browns receive:
» 2016 first-round pick (No. 15): Corey Coleman
» 2016 third-round pick (No. 76): Shon Coleman
» 2017 second-round pick (turned out to be Deshone Kizer)

So, who ended up with what?

Eagles: Carson Wentz and a 4th round pick who was then traded to the Vikings

Rams: Jared Goff and Tamarrick Hemmingway

Titans: Jack Conklin, Derrick Henry, Austin Johnson, 2017 1st rounder Corey Davis, 2017 3rd rounder Jonnu Smith

Browns: Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, via the Texans deal: Jabril Peppers, Deshone Kizer, 2018 1st and 2nd round pick

Analysis: Trades are not a zero-sum game. The Titans moved out of the #1 spot because they didn’t need a QB and were able to get pro bowl level talent in Jack Conklin and Derrick Henry, a trade they would do again. Yet, on the other side of the same deal, the Rams netted their franchise quarterback in Jared Goff and the Eagles secured their QB of the future and MVP candidate, Carson Wentz. The only clear loser here is the Browns. After trying to stockpile picks by trading down, Jabril Peppers is the only player of significance they have drafted thus far. Although they still have picks to convey, the Browns did not fare well in this deal, whiffing on Corey Coleman (probably), Shon Coleman and Deshone Kizer.

Titans and Browns moved back

Eagles and Rams moved up

2 points for moving up for your guy (Rams/Eagles). 1 point for moving back (Titans).

3-1 in favor of trading for your guy

Browns deal for Manziel

Browns receive:
» 2014 first-round pick (No. 22): Johnny Manziel

Eagles receive:
» 2014 first-round pick (No. 26): Marcus Smith
» 2014 third-round pick (No. 83): Traded to the Texans, turned it into Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart


No points awarded………yet #ComebackSZN

The RGIII Deal

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 6.49.53 PM

Analysis: The history of this trade is fascinating. It looked like Washington’s move wasn’t all that crazy when RGIII burst onto the scene in year-one. But, with him never again reaching that level, it became clear that giving up so much was a poor business decision for Dan Snyder and company. With that said, despite getting quality players like Alec Ogletree, Janoris Jenkins, and Michael Brockers, the Rams current roster, outside of Brockers, is not really built around this trade at all. Additionally, the top pick they received from this deal, Greg Robinson, turned out to be a bust. Still, the Rams handily won this deal. 1 point for moving back

3-2, trading up still leads

Browns move 1 spot

Browns receive:
» 2012 first-round pick (No. 3): Trent Richardson

Vikings receive:
» 2012 first-round pick (No. 4): Matt Kalil
» 2012 fourth-round pick (No. 118): Jarius Wright
» 2012 fourth-round pick (No. 139): Robert Blanton
» 2012 seventh-round pick (No. 211): Scott Solomon

Analysis: Matt Kalil hasn’t quite been the franchise left tackle he was hoped to be, but, he still has had a solid career as an NFL starter since day 1. The same cannot be said for this guy:

(He went left)

1 more point for moving back

Tie ball game, 3-3

Jags snag Blackmon

Jaguars receive:
» 2012 first-round pick (No. 5): Justin Blackmon

Buccaneers receive:
» 2012 first-round pick (No. 7): Mark Barron
» 2012 fourth-round pick (No. 101): Omar Bolden

Analysis: Part of my dumb brain still thinks that Justin Blackmon has a chance to be a good pro. I absolutely loved him coming out of Oklahoma State (remember that story about that sick little girl he befriended, I do) and thought he was a surefire pro-bowler. But, alas, I am dumb and Justin Blackmon is quietly one of the biggest busts of the last 10 years. Mark Barron has been a very solid to good pro since entering the league. Point to the Bucs and trading back.

Moving back takes the lead, 4-3

Falcons get Julio

Falcons receive:
» 2011 first-round pick (No. 6): Julio Jones

Seahawks receive:
» 2011 first-round pick (No. 26): Jon Baldwin
» 2012 first-round pick (No. 22): Brandon Weeden
» 2011 second-round pick (No. 59): Greg Little
» 2011 fourth-round pick (No. 124): Owen Marecic


Match up for the ages here. We have this guy:

VS. this guy:

After a long deliberation, I grant 1 point to the Falcons and going to get your guy


P.S.: It gets even worse for the Browns. They then traded Jon Baldwin and their 3rd round pick to the Chiefs for number 21 overall pick Phil Taylor. The 3rd round pick turned out to be Justin Houston.

Jets move up 12 spots to get Sanchez

Jets receive:
» 2009 first-round pick (No. 5): Mark Sanchez

Browns receive:
» 2009 first-round pick (No. 17): Josh Freeman who was then dealt for Alex Mack
» 2009 second-round pick (No. 59): David Veikune
» Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff, Abraham Elam

Analysis: I almost marked this as a draw. Despite being much maligned, Sanchez did lead the Jets to an AFC Championship game and had some memorable moments in New York. But, Alex Mack has been a pro bowl level center for most of his career and I can’t help but leap at the chance to finally award Cleveland the winner of one of these deals. 1 point for moving back even though I have absolutely no idea who Kenyon Coleman (what’s up with the Browns and guys with the last name Coleman), Brett Ratliff, David Veikune, and Abraham Elam are.

5-4, moving back

Jags give up 4 picks for Derrick Harvey

Jaguars receive:
» 2008 first-round pick (No. 8): Derrick Harvey

Ravens receive:
» 2008 first-round pick (No. 26): Duane Brown
» 2008 third-round pick (No. 71): Tavares Gooden
» 2008 third-round pick (No. 89): Steve Slaton
» 2008 fourth-round pick (No. 125): Arman Shields

Ravens then traded Brown and Slaton for the #17 pick and who did they pick?

This guy:

*googles Derrick Harvey*

Yeah, the Ravens won this trade. 1 more point for moving back

Final Score: 

6-4 in favor of trading back


I expected trading back to have a larger margin of victory. Trading up to get ‘your guy’ is a risky move, and we vividly remember the swings and misses as they become reoccurring stories lines for downtrodden franchises.  Yet, when you actually look at the trades over the last ten years, a fair amount of the risks have paid off. The issue is, I was grading this trades as simply having winners and losers when there is obviously a spectrum on both sides. I would imagine that when a team misses on a guy they trade up for, it has longer and more profound negative effects on a franchise. With that said, the amount of trade-ups that appear to have worked remains surprising. If you really like a guy, rolling the dice and trading up may not be all that crazy.

Eric Olson is a washed up former Division 1 football player. He played ball for Northwestern University from 2012-2016, where he started over 30 career games at Right Tackle. Between injuries (two elbow and two ankle surgeries) and not wanting to have his head bashed-in any longer, he decided to not seriously pursue the NFL and entered the corporate world where he currently works at a consulting firm in downtown Chicago. In an effort to keep his love of sports alive without getting the rush of playing them, Eric writes (mostly) in-depth articles on various sports stories and trends (he also degenerately gambles on them). While his primary focus is football, Eric covers (and gambles on) all sports and will be contributing to the Sports Gambling Podcast website moving forward.

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