Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Looking Back at Notable Draft Moves: Part Two

Picking up where I left on in my previous post about draft day moves, let's take a look at the next few years for the notable moves up the board and what the result was.

I stopped with judging such moves with the 2012 draft, as it remains to be seen what will happen with the 2013 and 2014 draft classes. I will briefly touch upon a couple of moves, though, to see what direction they might be heading.

As we will learn, there were more moves up the board which either offered a mix of good and bad, or didn't really set the franchise back (at least not as much as other moves, anyway).
2009: The Jets trade up for the sixth overall pick.

The New York Jets finished 9-7 in 2008 and just missed the playoffs, so the belief was that they were just the right coach and the right quarterback away from making such a trip. So Mike Tannebaum made the move up the board to select quarterback Mark Sanchez. To get the sixth overall pick from the Cleveland Browns, the Jets sent their first- and second-round picks, along with three depth players (Abram Elam, Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff) to make the move up the board.

The Jets went to the AFC conference championship in back-to-back seasons, but then became a mediocre team. Sanchez didn't show much improvement as a passer, and thus wasn't worthy of being the No. 6 overall pick. With that said, what really hurt the Jets was their lack of depth, as the Jets made just three selections in the 2009 draft, trading away three of their remaining picks to move up in the third round to select running back Shonn Greene.

Honestly, the move is a bit hard to judge, because the Jets didn't trade away their whole draft for Sanchez, and the move up to select Greene probably did more harm. Also, the players the Jets traded away never became impact players. On the other hand, Sanchez didn't pan out and the Jets became mediocre in the long term.

Honestly, there's a mixture of good and bad that came out of the deal to draft Sanchez. It's understandable if one calls it a bad move because of what happened to the Jets in the long term, but it wasn't just that move that proved costly, and it's not necessarily the most costly. Indifferent.

2009: The Packers trade up for the 26th overall pick.

Before we get to the Green Bay Packers, a little backstory: The Ravens moved up from the 26th spot in a draft-day trade with the Patriots. The Packers then acquired the 26th overall pick from New England -- a trade back into the first round as Green Bay already had the ninth overall pick -- by sending a second-round pick (42nd overall) and two third-round picks. To complete the trade, the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to the Packers. Then comes the player the Packers selected: linebacker Clay Matthews. Green Bay finished the draft with eight total selections.

Packers GM Ted Thompson doesn't trade up like this often, but this move paid off for him. Matthews is Green Bay's top defensive player and considered one of the best in the game. Green Bay also got mileage out of two other selections: B.J. Raji and T.J. Lang. And after missing the playoffs in 2008, the Packers have not missed the playoffs since and have won a Super Bowl.

This is another move up the board in which it's easy to make the call: Good move.

2010: The Chargers trade up for the 12th overall pick.

The San Diego Chargers were emerging from the mediocre AFC West as a team considered to have a good shot at going to the Super Bowl. That might have prompted them to make the move up the board, in which they got the 12th overall pick from the Miami Dolphins. To make the trade happen, the Chargers sent the 28th overall pick, plus their second- and fourth-round picks, and linebacker Tim Dobbins, while the Dolphins sent their fourth- and sixth-round selections along with the 12th pick. San Diego tabbed running back Ryan Mathews with the 12th pick, and finished the draft with six selections.

Mathews was a frustrating player, as he had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but missed too many games with injuries. Linebacker Donald Butler has been a solid starter, and cornerback Darrell Stuckey was a solid depth player, but over the long term, the Chargers never did reach the Super Bowl. Instead, they slid into mediocrity and both general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner lost their jobs in 2012.

It's another draft-day trade up the board that's tough to judge. Again, you could lean toward it being a negative, as Mathews didn't live up to expectations, but it wasn't exactly a move that massively set the franchise back. Indifferent.

2010: The Broncos trade up for the 25th overall pick.

The Broncos' 2010 draft was interesting, as they twice moved down the board, before moving up a couple of spots for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Then comes the trade that got far more people talking: To get the 25th overall pick from the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos dealt a second-, a third-, and a fourth-round pick. The player they chose: Tim Tebow.

We all know the story about Tebow, who provided anything ranging from excitement to frustration, depending on the week and whoever you talked to. In the long run, though, the coach who drafted him (Josh McDaniels) was gone after the 2010 season and the Broncos traded Tebow to the Jets in the 2012 offseason for fourth- and sixth-round picks.

The flipside is that the move up the board didn't really jeopardize the Broncos' draft situation. Earlier in the first round, when they twice moved down, they gained two third-round picks and one fourth rounder, and when the draft was finished, they made nine total selections. Of those selections, they got mileage out of Thomas, offensive guard Zane Beadles and wide receiver Eric Decker.

There will be those who point to Tebow's fans as not worth the headache, but they aren't relevant to my criteria. What's relevant is that Tebow wasn't the long-term solution at quarterback, but he had his moments and the Broncos didn't hurt their overall draft in moving up for him. Indifferent.

2011: The Falcons trade up for the sixth overall pick.

The2011 offseason was mostly quiet because most time was spent getting a new collective bargaining agreement settled. The draft took place as usual, though, and the Atlanta Falcons made headlines with a bold move up the board. To get the sixth overall pick from the Cleveland Browns, the Falcons dealt the 26th overall pick, a second-round pick, two fourth-rounds picks, and their 2012 first-round pick. For all this, the Falcons drafted Julio Jones. They finished the 2011 draft with six total selections.

Here's yet another move up the board that's difficult to judge. Jones is a talented receiver, coming off his best season as a pro, with 104 receptions for 1,593 yards. But while the Falcons were coming off a 13-3 season, and made the playoffs the next two seasons, they followed with back-to-back losing seasons. The lack of a first-round pick in 2012 may have cost them a chance to get an impact player then. And the rest of the 2011 draft didn't generate much, other than backup running back Jacquizz Rodgers and depth player Cliff Matthews.

Jones has been a quality player, but his presence hasn't been the difference between the Falcons simply making the playoffs, and reaching the Super Bowl. It's a move up the board that definitely falls right in the middle in terms of its impact. Indifferent.

2012: Washington trades up for the second overall pick.

You should be familiar with what happened on March 24, 2012. That's the date when the St. Louis Rams found a taker for the second overall pick. The Washington franchise came calling, dealing their first-round picks for the next three seasons (the 2012 pick was sixth overall), plus a 2012 second-round pick. The player Washington wanted: quarterback Robert Griffin III. Washington made nine total selections in 2012.

Again, I imagine everyone knows the story here. RG3 delivered plenty of excitement as a rookie and Washington made the playoffs, but RG3 tore his ACL down the stretch and tried to play through it. The result was an awful 2013 season that cost head coach Mike Shanahan his job, and since then,RG3 has struggled, with some doubting he really has what it takes to be a worthy starter.

Washington didn't hurt its overall 2012 draft, getting a good starting running back in Alfred Morris and decent depth players such as offensive lineman Tom Compton and linebacker Keenan Robinson. On the other hand, the other two first-round picks Washington sent to St. Louis could have come in handy in finding additional impact players.

Washington did pick up the option year on RG3's rookie contract, but that may be less because they think he can revive his career, and more because they aren't convinced they can find a better option in the draft or free agency next year. I lean towards the negative here, because losing those first-round picks from the past two seasons hasn't helped the team. But maybe it's not too late for RG3 to turn it around. Bad move, at least for now.

2012: The Browns trade up for the third overall pick.

When the first day of the draft started, everybody knew Andrew Luck and RG3 would be the first two players off the board. The buzz now focused on who would be next, and rumblings surrounded one player drawing interest from multiple teams, to the point that Cleveland swapped picks with the Minnesota Vikings to move up one spot. To get the third overall pick, the Browns sent the fourth overall pick, plus fourth-, fifth-, and seventh-round selections to Minnesota. Cleveland selected running back Trent Richardson, and finished the draft with 11 selections.

On the surface, this would appear to be a bad idea, given what we know about Richardson. But looking a little deeper, Richardson ran for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season, which gave Browns fans some hope. The Browns then appeared to give up quickly on him the next season, sending him to the Colts for a first-round pick in 2014. That was when we saw Richardson go downhill in terms of production, and Browns fans who were frustrated felt some relief in getting a high pick for him.

As far as the 2012 draft overall went, the Browns found a starter in offensive lineman Mitchell Stewart, and decent depth in defensive linemen John Hughes and Billy Winn, and wide receiver Travis Benjamin. So it wasn't like the move to get Richardson put the Browns in a bad draft position.

The truth is, the Browns' issues with failing to make the playoffs have less to do with the move to get Richardson, and more to do with constant turnover in the front office, and an owner that has done such a haphazard job of overseeing the team. Richardson may not have been an impact player, but the move to get him was far from one of the worst draft moves ever made. Indifferent.

And briefly looking at moves the last two years:

2013: The Rams trade up for the eighth overall pick -- The St. Louis Rams got that pick from the Buffalo Bills, along with the Bills' third-round pick, for the 16th overall pick, a second-round pick, the Rams' third-round pick, and a seventh-round pick. They selected wide receiver Tavon Austin, who has been a fine return man, but has yet to become an impact player at receiver. Perhaps 2015 could be the year?

2013: The Falcons trade up for the 22nd overall pick -- The Atlanta Falcons got this pick, plus a seventh-round pick in 2015, from the St. Louis Rams, for the Falcons' first- (30th overall), third-, and sixth-round selections. Atlanta selected cornerback Desmond Trufant, who has emerged into a pretty good player. So far, so good.

2013: The Vikings trade up for the 29th overall pick -- The Minnesota Vikings traded back into the first round to get this pick from the New England Patriots, sending their second-, third-, fourth-, and seventh-round selections. The Vikings selected wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson, who was fine as a rookie, but seems to fall out of favor with the coaching staff last season. He'll need to break out this year for the Vikings' move to pay off.

2014: The Bills trade up for the fourth overall pick -- The Buffalo Bills got the pick from the Cleveland Browns, who got from the Bills the ninth overall pick, and first- and fourth-round picks in 2015. Buffalo selected wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who had a solid, but not spectacular, rookie season. Watkins still has plenty of upside, but only time will tell if the move was worth it.

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