The Raiders Will be Able to Trade Down with the Third Pick

One of the topics on this blog has been the likelihood of the Raiders trading down with the third pick. Many seem to doubt that it will be possible to trade down and one of the reasons given is that this is a draft without "star" power but it is deep. Therefore, the thinking goes, teams won’t be willing to trade up and instead will sit and wait for players to fall to them.

Everyone knows why the Raiders may be interested in trading down. It is obvious that Reggie McKenzie intends to rebuild the Raiders through the draft. That is his philosophy and given the salary cap situation there really isn’t much of a choice in the near term. The Raiders have a number of needs but likely only 8 picks (including compensatory picks projected by Levi). Thus, there is a need for more picks and more picks fit Reggie’s strategy to revive the team on the field.

But the thinking is that no other team will have much of an interest in trading with the Raiders. I disagree with that view and believe it is almost certain that the Raiders will be able to trade down at least once and may trade down more than once.

My first point is that teams use to be unwilling to trade up to the top picks because of the financial commitment required to sign players taken at the top of the draft. That view was significantly changed with the collective bargaining agreement signed before the 2011 draft. That CBA significantly reduced the contract terms for drafted rookies beginning with the 201 draft. For example, the third pick in the 2010 draft was Gerald McCoy and he signed a 5-year, $63 million contact ($35 million guaranteed) with Tampa Bay. The third overall picks in 2011 and 2012, Marcell Dareus and Trent Richardson, each signed 4-year contracts worth about $20.5 million (approximately $13.5 million of that guaranteed). Thus, the CBA reduced the guaranteed money for the third pick to about 39% of the money guaranteed to Gerald McCoy in 2010. Clearly, top draft picks now represent much less of a financial risk and that makes the Raider’s pick #3 much more attractive to potential trade partners.

But the theory goes that there is no RG III in this draft so other teams won’t be willing to give up picks to move up in the draft. That view misperceives that way the draft works. Obviously, there is no player who will command the price that the Redskins paid to the Rams for the second pick to obtain RG III. But, in the 2012 draft there EIGHT OTHER draft day trades that involved teams moving up and down in the draft order. These transactions do not include prior trades that involved 2012 picks (the Raiders trade of their pick for Carson Palmer, the trade of an Atlanta pick to Cleveland in the 2011 Julio Jones trade, and the 2011 trade between New Orleans and New England involving Shane Vereen and Mark Ingram). Thus, including the RG III trade there were nine total trades that in involved movement of position on draft day.

The particular reasons for all of these trades obviously vary. But basically it is because no matter how deep the draft is at any position teams see qualitative differences in players. Here is an example to explain what I mean. A team may feel like there are four players at a particular position that grade as first-round picks but they see a big difference between the qualities of the top two players compared to the bottom two players. That difference may be great enough to motivate the team to expend picks to move up to acquire one of the top two players. They may prefer to pay to move up rather than wait for players #3 and #4 to fall to them. No matter how deep the draft is at that position they want one of the top two players.

In this draft, the players at left tackle may provide the Raiders with that type of trade opportunity. Many draft rankings list Luke Joekel and Eric Fisher as the top two tackles followed by Lane Johnson and D.J. Fluker. Some mocks drafts have Joekle going to Kansas City and Philadelphia taking Fisher with the 4th pick. That scenario would present an opportunity for the Raiders. Any team interested in Fisher would want to jump the Eagles by trading with the Raiders for the third pick. In fact, the Eagles might be willing to trade the 4th pick and give a pick or two to the Raiders as a defensive measure to guaranty they acquire Fisher. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some picks for moving from #3 to #4 like Minnesota did last year in its trade with Cleveland when Cleveland wanted Trent Richardson?

The point simply is that there will be there will be potential trade partners interested in acquiring the Raiders third pick because they desire some particular player over others. The teams that are interested in the Raiders pick will depend on how the draft unfolds. To show the frequency of trades, last year picks number 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 14, 15, 21, 25, 27, 29, and 31 were involved in draft day trades that involved shifting draft positions.

Of course, the Raiders need to get value in any trade down. What is it worth to trade picks? Again, the RG III trade isn’t really relevant because of his special value. Other trades may provide a better indication of what might be obtained. Here are some examples from last year: Cleveland gave Minnesota 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks to move from the #4 to the #3 draft spot. Tampa Bay received a 4th round pick from Jacksonville to move down from #5 to #7. St. Louis received a 2nd round pick from Dallas to move from #6 to #14. Seattle received a 4th and 6th round pick to move down from #12 to #15. Cincinnati received a 3rd round pick from New England to move down from #21 to #27. And Denver received a 4th round pick from New England to move from #25 to #31.

To sum things up, there will be opportunities to trade down on draft day. Reggie McKenzie will have the opportunity to pick up additional draft picks if that is what he seeks. The decision about whether to move down will obviously depend on Reggie’s evaluation of the player choices at #3 and the deal that is offered. It will be fun to watch on April 25th.

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