NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
Yesterday, we discussed some of the motivations and prerequisites involved in New England making an unexpected trade up from their 29th overall draft pick. Today, read on for a look at some reasons for a potential trade down, as well as some teams which have an appealing stockpile of selections in this year’s NFL Draft.
With just five picks in this year’s NFL Draft, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would be wise to consider investigating potential trades which would help replenish New England’s shortage of selections. The Patriots could very well enter the draft with holes at a variety of starting positions, as well as some openings in important reserve or rotational roles, which makes Belichick’s proclivity for accumulating extra picks a logical option.
The four most important free agents for New England this season are wide receiver Wes Welker, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Aqib Talib, all of whom were essentially starters in 2012 (Arrington played some games in the slot, but his snap count was among the highest on the team.) Losing any of these players could create a draft need, with the possible exception of Vollmer, whose departure may be mitigated by further development from 2011 fifth-round pick Marcus Cannon.
In addition, several important reserves are set to hit the market, namely running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Julian Edelman, offensive guard Donald Thomas, and safety Patrick Chung. As of now, New England’s depth at wide receiver, along the offensive line, at linebacker, and in the secondary reflect a need to either re-sign impending free agents or personnel in the offseason, whether through free agency or via the draft.
Currently, free agency may be the only route by which the Patriots can address these needs; they hold three valuable draft picks (their own in the first, second, and third rounds), but none in rounds four through six, where rotational or reserve players could potentially be acquired. This year’s deep draft class could allow New England to find contributors in these rounds, which may motivate the Patriots’ front office further.
New England’s most valuable bargaining chip this year is easily their first-round selection, which could very well entice teams with a wealth of picks. The Patriots themselves should be looking to shop the pick for an important reason other than to increase their draft opportunities: not much premier talent is projected to make it to their selection at this point, except potentially at wide receiver, along the defensive line, or in the secondary, all personnel groupings which are plentiful with college prospects through the first three or four rounds.
So who may be interested in New England’s choice? It’s possible that teams such as Cincinnati, Miami, or San Francisco may be interested in moving up the draft board, as all of the above hold additional picks from other organizations. Cincinnati is in possession of Oakland’s second-round pick (#37 overall), Miami holds Indianapolis’ second-rounder (#54 overall) as well as Chicago’s third-round choice (#82 overall), and San Francisco’s deep draft stock s highlighted by a third-round selection from the Carolina Panthers (#74 overall.) In particular, San Francisco’s roster depth could push them toward a move up the board.
Aside from those teams, the Patriots may also field offers from teams picking in the early second round which wish to trade back into the first round for a quarterback prospect. One such option is the Kansas City Chiefs, as Bill Belichick traditionally makes at least one draft-day trade with head coach Andy Reid. Additionally, teams picking in the mid-forties could package their second and third-round picks for a fair deal according to the trade value chart.
New England has historically been willing to consider trades down which involve future first-round picks; that could be another option in April. In a draft class which is considered somewhat weak in the second half of the first round, it may be difficult to obtain a 2013 second-round choice in the deal (mirroring the trade made with New Orleans in 2011), but such a deal may nonetheless offer the Patriots an opportunity to gain day two or three selections while entering the 2014 NFL Draft with an extra first-round choice. Such a move would set the stage for future maneuverability.