Can New England Afford to Trade Up Again in 2013?

The Patriots moved up for both Chandler Jones (left) and Dont’a Hightower (right) in 2012. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

The Patriots currently hold five selections in the 2013 NFL Draft; the current sentiment is that New England will either stay put or attempt to accumulate additional picks by trading down, but is there a chance that Bill Belichick will trade up instead? Read on for more information regarding this possibility.

Last year, New England abandoned their typical routine of trading down or out of the first round in order to trade up twice, using their improved draft positions to select defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, both of whom developed into effective starters during their rookie seasons. The additions of Jones and Hightower were two of the driving forces behind a vastly improved Patriots defense which improved from ranking fifteenth in points per game allowed (21.4) to ninth in 2012 (20.7). New England’s defensive unit also improved from thirty-first to twenty-fifth in terms of yards per game allowed.

These additions seem to suggest that the Patriots should consider making another move up draft boards in 2013, whether to continue their defensive overhaul by targeting one of the draft’s top talents (whether in the defensive front seven or in the secondary), or to inject youth into their wide receiver group (and potentially offset Wes Welker’s departure should he sign elsewhere.) This route is even more attractive when considering that many other playoff teams have similar needs and could be drawn to the same prospects New England may take an interest in.

However, the Patriots are missing selections in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds this season, owing those picks to Tampa Bay (for cornerback Aqib Talib), Washington (for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth), and Cincinnati (for wide receiver Chad Johnson.) Trading up (and sacrificing additional draft picks in order to do so) would limit New England’s opportunities to collect affordable young talent from the draft pool, making it unlikely that the Patriots’ front office will make such a move.

Then again, it’s difficult to put anything past Bill Belichick at this point. If New England were to trade down later in the draft, they could potentially recoup some of the picks sacrificed in a trade. The Patriots have a fairly deep roster which may benefit more from top-end talent than from additional rotational or reserve contributors.

New England’s free agent maneuverings are expected to expose their draft plans more than in previous years. With significant players such as Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, Kyle Arrington, and Aqib Talib set to become free agents, the Patriots will be unable to avoid tipping their hand to some extent, as the players which leave town will need to be replaced during the offseason in order to limit the damage incurred by their dearture(s).

It stands to reason that the more valuable players New England loses, the more draft picks they will need to replace those players. That is, unless they are active in this offseason’s free agent period. Bill Belichick has long been a fan of low-risk free agent signings (Fred Taylor, Torry Holt, Shawn Springs, etc.) and could opt to delve into the free agent pool once again to find some temporary solutions.

Adding veterans on short term, team-friendly deals would be a wise strategy regardless of New England’s draft strategy; it would allow the team greater flexibility to trade up if necessary, or otherwise select the best player available without being restricted to addressing any major weaknesses on the roster. Trading up seems unlikely at this point, but if the Patriots enter the draft with few needs, they could potentially afford to do so.

Regarding compensation, even if the Patriots open holes at wide receiver, offensive tackle, or cornerback by losing some of their top free agents, they may be able to swing trades involving future draft picks, especially because any free agents they lose to other teams would provide New England with compensatory picks. This strategy would have to be accompanied by financial austerity, as the distribution of compensatory picks is influenced by a team’s free agent signings as well as its losses.

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12 Responses to “Can New England Afford to Trade Up Again in 2013?”

  1. steve earle says:

    Regarding deep talent this draft and trading down for more numbers. That has not been very sucessful since our last SB victory. We have lots of good players on the team but fewer play makers then in those days. Last years trade ups gave us two differance makers. Without as many draft picks to work with trading up is unlikely but trading down for more backups and special teams types does nothing to improve the team. What BB will do I do not attempt to predict but standing pat ang picking one or two impact players would do more to improve the team then drafting a dozen mid round guys that may or may not see more then special teams snaps.

  2. MaineMan says:

    I disagree with the notion that a team that’s consistently in the playoffs and contending for a SB berth “needs that ONE Impact Player” to get them over the hump to a ring. Such teams maintain their consistency, their foundation, and their ability to be contenders, and also increase their chances to advance, by continually attempting to moderately upgrade SEVERAL positions each year, and by playing a “long game” when it comes to roster planning for the future. Risking all their current (and perhaps future) chips on one potential (and ONLY potential) “impact” prospect actually imperils that foundation. Those one or two “impact players” are what the lesser teams need – to get them over THEIR hump, meaning, to get them on a track TOWARD consistent playoff contention. Those teams have literally nothing to lose in taking that risk.

    Given that the Pats appear to need to upgrade at least a bit on several units (Secondary, interior DL, WR) and given that they have relatively few draft picks while looking at a draft class that appears to have few potential “stars” but may be deep in potential solid starters at exactly the positions listed above, I have to guess that BB tries to find ways of generating more picks.

    Trading down out of the #29 for another 2nd and a 4th would be SOP for BB. Working a “Tag-and-Trade” scenario for Welker (if the sides can’t come to terms) seems like it would generate at least a 3rd-rounder and may be more likely than many analysts believe. Trading Mallet for SOMEthing seems plausible, now that the Pats finally have Kafka on board, but packaging him + #29 to move up into the top ten doesn’t, at least to me.

    BTW – Wilson wasn’t going to last until the 5th. Within a week after the draft, inspired by the comical and very public befuddlement of Kiper and Mayock, it was revealed (here, IIRC) that five or six teams had expressed very strong interest in Wilson in the final week or so before the draft, and a couple of those teams had him in for visits. Among the seriously interested teams was Atlanta and, more importantly, San Diego. San Diego picked at #49. If BB was going to get Wilson (for better or worse), he could easily have lost him to the Chargers had he not taken Wilson at #48.

    I have to trust BB’s inside knowledge of the process and the interests of other teams over that of the media talking heads – who, that close to the Big Day, are likely too busy with their own TV appearances and tweaking their “Glamor Round” projections to pay attention to such last minute interest. Also, they probably sleep and I doubt that BB does.

  3. James says:

    I just can’t wait till Free Agency and after then we all got a clearer picture of what could happen in the draft.

  4. AM says:

    I really doubt that the team goes into a draft thinking that they need to fill a particular need, other than to “get stronger on defense” or “get better on offense,” although deep drafts in particular areas naturally lend themselves to selections in those areas. The whole “trade up/trade down” dynamic really presents a false choice. The team (and most teams, I imagine) trades up for very different reasons than it trades down.

    Trade-ups happen when there is a top player available on the board within striking distance, with a sizable gap between that player and the next tier on the board, and the team has the ammunition to go get him. Trade-downs happen when the offer price is relatively high, and there is either no player worthy of selection or enough equally rated players that it virtually guarantees a good one will be available at the new slot.

  5. mjp says:

    This draft is very deep at the positions of need for the Pats; CB, S, DT, WR and even Edge-Rusher (two injured FSU players come to mind) and OG/OT types. The comp picks may be attractive and there’s no doubt they would keep them since BB hasn’t shown an affinity for throwing money at Free-Agents.
    I can see the Pats sticking with their picks and landing good players if everything breaks their way.

    However there comes a time when a team this close to a championship has to gamble on impact players (especially given Tom Brady’s age). The foundation is there both in terms of well paid veterans, solid role players and developing youngsters, some of whom are stellar.

    For this reason I would be willing to go beyond what BB did last year, no one thought he would ever trade up in round-1, he did it twice, I propose taking a step further by trading future picks in order to land the impact players we so clearly need.

    If by any chance someone like Dion Jordan falls out of the top-10 I would do almost anything to land him (I proposed trading up 2x for Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt and I believe the Pats were interested in at least trying to trade up once for either player).

    Then if a CB like Xavier Rhodes is sitting in the early part of round-2 I’d trade up again.

    The combination of Jordan who can envelop slot receivers, run with TE’s/RB’s and close in the open field while offering tantalizing speed and athleticism as an edge-rusher with a CB like Rhodes who offers the same physicality in press-man and pedigree as Talib at his best, that is well worth seeing another round of trade backs that result in a plethora of mediocre picks.
    The time is now, last year was the beginning of BB acknowledging this, let’s continue closing in on another ring.

    • mjp says:

      “well worth the risk rather than seeing another round of trade backs”

      Pardon my excitement, I’m a draft fanatic.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Hay There are a bunch of us draft crazy’s! When it comes to the draft BB targets guys he wants, and WILL get them. That being said, BB is also very logical about what he CAN get, and the future of the team.
      So the trick is (as a draft cazy) to figure which plays are targeted, by looking at entangables, IQ, ability to fit the system, as well as all the on the field stuff. BB seems to break this in half 50/50 when evaluing players.
      Then comes the draft; last year we saw S Wilson a 5th rounder taken 2nd. Ebner a not-drafted player, taken 5th. So these were targeted players BB wanted !!
      This year is still early, and after the Combine will be better. But some names come to mind quickly. CB Jordan Poyer, DE/LB John Simon, OG/T Brian Winters,OG/C Barrett Jones,
      DT Joe Vellano, and DE Datone Jones, are just a few players that fit the BB profile.
      Our draft is only 5 picks this year, so what will BB do?? My guess is once BB has his players Targeted, he will trade picks to get them. Many mid-round teams could benifit, by moving up from 2nd round to 1st round,(29).
      Trading up is alittle harder, so are there players you want to move up for, and at what cost? Could QB Mallett be part of a deal to move-up ? Say, QB Mallett and our 2nd pick #59 ,to Tampa, for #13 ?
      Because of our lack of picks this year, and that I think the Targeted players are 2nd-3d rounds, we trade back, say our 1st #29, for a Dallas, Tampa, Chicago, etc. 2nd ,4th, and 4th next year. Arizona may give a 3d #69, and a 3d next year to move-up to #29 to draft QB Glennon.
      So continuing to watch tape and evaluate players will help to better understand which players are targeted.

  6. Charles Lightfoot says:

    Pats will trade down again. Vollmer will be resigned. Demps and Ballard will fill some of the holes on offense. Welker could be resigned if he is willing to take a 2 year 12-14 million dollar deal. If Welker doesn’t sign, Edelman will be brought back. Reed will be the main target in free agency to sure up the back end of the defense. BB will also look to add another vet or two on the defensive side of the ball as well.

    • mjp says:

      Talib’s impact was very likely less to do about his actual play then it was the domino effect it had on the roster, Devin to FS where he was a top-5 FS, Arrington to the slot where he belongs (he cannot play anywhere else) and Dennard sticking to #2’s.
      Talib did have some good performances but many people who have broken down the film have mentioned that Talib’s actual play was not particularly impressive, to that point Devin played close to the same number of snaps at CB and rated out higher than Talib, the difference in the overall Defense’s performance, no Devin at FS (and I don’t believe Dennard had started yet, which means Arrington was the #2).

    • Jim R says:

      Charles, I agree with your assesment. They will move around to get more picks. Good talent well into the 5th round. They will take another step forward this year

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I think they resign Vollmer, FIRST. Vollmer has to know his past injury stuff, has teams questioning if they will pay to much, So I think he stays a Patriot.

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