Today, we’ll continue Monday’s mock draft of trades, starting with the 17th selection. For more details on the (tortured as always) logic behind these deals and the concept of this semi-mock draft, read Part 1.
17. San Diego Chargers
Chargers send: 2015-1-17,1 conditional 2016-4
Vikings send: Adrian Peterson, 2015-2-45
For consistency, I’m notating all picks the same way: year, round, and overall pick number. So 2015-1-32 would be the 32nd overall selection, the final pick in the first round. 2016-1 would be a first-round pick in the 2016 draft; because we don’t know where that pick will land until next year, there’s no pick number.
The Vikings have to do something with Adrian Peterson. They’ve desperately tried to cling to the idea that he’s going to play for them in 2015, but Peterson clearly doesn’t want to stay in Minnesota. They’ve offered him around the league for an exorbitant sum, but teams aren’t lining up to give a 30-year-old running back a $12.8 million base salary and send the Vikings multiple top draft picks, which is what general manager Rick Spielman is reportedly asking for in preliminary trade discussions.
One team that might be able to justify trading for Peterson is San Diego. The Chargers were lost at running back last season, as the now-departed Ryan Mathews missed most of the year with an injury, free-agent acquisition Donald Brown averaged a lowly 2.6 yards per carry before getting Mike Scifres killed in punt protection, and receiving back Danny Woodhead broke his leg. Rookie free agent Branden Oliver was better than Brown, but not by much.
The Chargers are also negotiating a tricky year in their franchise’s history, one that could end with the team staying in San Diego with Philip Rivers or heading to Los Angeles without him. As they transition away from the Rivers era, trading for Peterson would be a interesting distraction gambit. There’s something strange about building your team around a guy who just missed virtually an entire season because of an assault charge, but public opinion around Peterson has seemed to soften. The Chargers could deal for Peterson regardless of what they do with Rivers, trading down from no. 17 to no. 45 while including a 2016 fourth-rounder that could escalate if Peterson plays well in San Diego.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs send: 2015-1-18
Packers send: 2015-1-30, 2015-2-62
Ah, a swap between old friends Ted Thompson and John Dorsey, who make a trade that stands as a near-perfect match on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart we’re using to judge pick value. The Chiefs are still a top-heavy roster, and with major depth concerns on both sides of the football, they can wait on adding a wide receiver in this extremely deep class until the end of the first round. Having been without their 2013 and 2014 second-round picks because of the Alex Smith trade, Dorsey would surely appreciate having a pair of second-rounders in this year’s draft.
As for Thompson, his Packers hardly need much of anything these days. Blessed with one of the deepest rosters in football, Thompson has only a couple of holes to address in this year’s draft. One is at cornerback, where the Packers will start Sam Shields on one edge and Casey Hayward in the slot, but have no obvious replacement for Tramon Williams after he and Davon House left in free agency. Here, Thompson moves up to grab somebody like Marcus Peters, running ahead of cornerback-hungry teams like Philadelphia (no. 20), Pittsburgh (no. 22), and Detroit (no. 23) in the process.
19. Cleveland Browns
Browns send: 2015-1-19, Johnny Manziel
Cowboys send: 2015-1-27, 2015-2-60, 2017-5 (conditional)
Oh, let’s have some fun. The Cowboys might have been smart enough to ignore Jerry Jones and take Zack Martin over Johnny Manziel in last year’s draft, but after a disastrous rookie season for Manziel in Cleveland, Jones can have his cake and eat it, too. This trade basically values Manziel as equivalent to the 105th selection in the draft, the sixth pick of the fourth round. That seems fair. The Cowboys would get a heavy discount on Manziel’s salary, too; they would owe Johnny Football a total of just $3.3 million in base salaries over the next three seasons, leaving this as a low-risk, high-reward trade possibility.
It would be depressing for the Browns to move on from the 2014 first-rounder after one abbreviated season, but Manziel should be treated like a sunk cost. If the Browns don’t think he’ll ever mature into the quarterback they wanted him to be when they drafted him, now is the time to trade Manziel, before his value erodes any further. They’ll have to eat $4.6 million in additional dead money on their cap this year, but Cleveland has $27 million in cap space, so that’s no problem. They do move down as part of this deal, but they pick up a second-rounder and a conditional pick that could turn into a higher selection — let’s say a second-rounder — if Manziel plays 500 snaps for Dallas in 2015 or 2016.
You thought that trade was ridiculous?
20. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles send: 2015-1-20, 2015-2-52, Sam Bradford
Washington sends: 2015-1-5, Robert Griffin
This trade will never, ever, ever happen for about 18 million reasons, but it does make a tiny bit of sense. Chip Kelly loves a project with upside, and Robert Griffin clearly qualifies there. RG3 would be a much better fit for Kelly’s system than Sam Bradford, owing to the success Griffin had as a zone-read quarterback at Baylor and during his debut season with Washington. While the pre-2015 arguments were that Griffin needed to become a more conventional quarterback, that logic clearly didn’t take. The Eagles have bought low on players with injury issues in the hopes that Kelly’s emphasis on sports science will help them to stay healthier, and Griffin could hardly be more injured.
Bradford, himself an injury risk, would fit far more comfortably into Jay Gruden’s West Coast offense than the downfield attack espoused by Kelly. And the picks work in each team’s favor. Washington trades down and acquires an extra second-rounder in the process while moving on from what’s become an organizational nightmare, while the Eagles move up to no. 5, where they could likely draft 6-foot-3 West Virginia wideout Kevin White to fill out their suddenly lackluster receiving corps. This would be crazy, and for sports radio reasons alone, it should never happen. But it’s not as crazy as it first sounds.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals send: 2015-1-21
Saints send: 2015-1-31, 2015-3-78
This is a perfect trade, with 800 points of value on the Jimmy Johnson chart heading in each direction. It fits both teams, too. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis frequently travels up on draft day, while the Bengals have tended to hold on to their picks in recent years. Since 2008, the Bengals have had at least one pick in every round except when they went without a seventh-rounder in 2012.
The Saints would be trading up here to get ahead of the Steelers, Lions, and Panthers, each of whom could be in line to draft a pass-rusher like Vic Beasley. The Bengals, with a relatively deep roster after re-signing defensive end Michael Johnson, could trade down while adding a defensive tackle or outside linebacker at no. 31.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers send: 2015-1-22
Cardinals send: 2015-1-24, 2015-4-123
Pittsburgh could justify using its entire draft on defensive backs. Things are that bad in the secondary. Even though Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor (both of whom recently retired) had names that didn’t remotely match their production over the past couple of years, the Steelers really haven’t had defensive backs who could challenge them for snaps. The only achiever Pittsburgh brought through was Cortez Allen, and he got benched two months after signing a five-year, $26 million extension. Things are ugly.
The best thing the Steelers can do is trade down and try to acquire additional picks. Here, they’re only picking up a fourth-rounder, but it’s also at the relatively low cost of moving down two spots in a draft that should have several cornerback candidates lurking at the end of the first round. The Cardinals move up to get ahead of the Lions at no. 23, who could beat Arizona to Melvin Gordon if so inclined.
23. Detroit Lions
Lions send: 2015-1-23
Buccaneers send: 2015-2-34, 2015-4-109, 2016-3
If the Buccaneers take Jameis Winston with the first overall pick, the next thing they’ll need to do is find a left tackle who can keep him safe. Tampa Bay’s offensive line is patchwork at best, and while it can wait until Friday, the team has likely targeted a specific left tackle prospect to line up on Winston’s blind side in the years to come. Tampa Bay can wait to see if somebody like Florida’s D.J. Humphries falls to no. 34, but with Carolina desperately in need of a left tackle at no. 25, the Bucs move up here to grab a much-needed protector. The Lions, who have already sent their fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Ravens to acquire Haloti Ngata, get an extra pick this year and next to move down 11 slots.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Cardinals send: 2015-1-24, 2015-2-55
Dolphins send: 2015-1-14
I’ve put together a bunch of deals for the Cardinals in which they trade up to grab a running back, either Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. What if they don’t want to grab a running back after all? They could still trade up, but their other candidate might be a pass-rusher. Arizona took a chance on Tyrann Mathieu despite concerns about his marijuana usage in the third round two years ago and came away with an above-average safety.
Here, could the Cardinals trade up and grab a player with similar warning signs in Nebraska’s Randy Gregory? They have gotten by with big blitzes in recent years, but Gregory could be the best pass-rusher in this draft. Trading up to take Gregory would be a risk, but if it pays off, the second-rounder Arizona gave up will seem like nothing.
25. Carolina Panthers
Panthers send: 2015-1-25, 2015-6-201
Cowboys send: 2015-1-27, 2015-4-127
The Panthers should be pretty anchored. It doesn’t make sense for the perennially cap-strapped franchise to trade up and give away draft picks it can use on the cheap talent it desperately needs, and it should be in line to fill an obvious need at no. 25. General manager Dave Gettleman can’t be satisfied with Nate Chandler, Michael Oher, and Jonathan Martin as his tackle rotation, and there should be tackle candidates like Humphries, Ereck Flowers, and Cedric Ogbuehi available in this range.
What the Panthers could do, though, is take the risk of making a modest move down to no. 27. That would push them behind the Ravens,2 who don’t have an obvious need for offensive line help. Baltimore could be interested in a running back or a cornerback, though, and the Cowboys would be close competition for players at both positions. To nab somebody like Gordon or Kevin Johnson, the Cowboys could justify moving up two spots.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Who, to be fair, may very well trade out of the no. 26 slot themselves.
Ravens send: 2015-1-26
Bills send: 2015-3-81, 2016-1
Here is an interesting risk that a team like the Ravens can afford to take on. The Bills clearly want to become very relevant very quickly. They went all in last year, trading two first-rounders for Sammy Watkins before going after LeSean McCoy in a stunning trade this March. Buffalo has no path to a quarterback, but it could justify trading back into the first round to acquire some much-needed offensive line help.
With few tradable assets, though, the Bills would have to kick the can into the future. The Ravens would get a third-round pick for waiting a year and basically betting that the Bills won’t win a playoff game during the 2015 season, something they would need to do to have their pick fall lower than no. 26. It helps here that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has essentially unlimited job security; a team like the Rams, who could undergo dramatic change if they’re not successful in 2015, probably can’t make this sort of deal. Baltimore can wait a year and hope that a team led by EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel craters, which would deliver them a hefty return on investment.
27. Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys send: 2015-1-27, 2015-4-127
Broncos send: 2015-1-28, Montee Ball
We know the Cowboys are going to do something to address their running back position in this year’s draft after losing DeMarco Murray to the Eagles. While they will likely draft a running back this weekend, this trade would give them a buy-low candidate with significant upside.
Montee Ball has fallen out of favor in Denver, where fumble issues and injury woes caused him to tumble down the depth chart in each of his first two seasons. C.J. Anderson has taken over as the primary back in Denver, and while the new Gary Kubiak regime may give Ball a third chance to take over as the starting back, it wouldn’t be out of the question to wonder whether a change of scenery could be best for both Ball and the Broncos. Denver could move up one spot and get an extra pick for a player who doesn’t appear to be in their plans, while Dallas would pay just $1.3 million over the next two seasons to take a look at a back whose patience and versatility should play up in Texas.
28. Denver Broncos
Broncos send: 2015-1-28, 2015-3-92, Demaryius Thomas
Raiders send: 2015-1-4, 2015-5-140
That last Broncos trade was plausible. This one … not quite as much. It’s fun to think about, though. The Broncos weren’t able to come to terms with Demaryius Thomas on a long-term contract extension, which led Denver to franchise tag him this offseason. Denver will pay Thomas $12.8 million this year, and if it decides to franchise him again in 2016, it will owe $15.4 million. The only receiver who will have a larger cap hit than Thomas this season is Calvin Johnson.
Nobody doubts that Thomas is a fantastic wide receiver. But if the Broncos can’t come to terms with him on a long-term deal, this is an alternative. If both Amari Cooper and Kevin White are on the board when the Raiders pick at no. 4, Denver could use Thomas as bait to trade up from no. 28, acquiring their no. 1 wideout of the future in the process. (This trade values the Georgia Tech product as being worth a mid-first-round pick on his own.) Rolling out Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell, and 2014 second-rounder Cody Latimer as a receiving corps would leave Peyton Manning with plenty of options while also providing for a post-Manning future.
The Raiders could also justify making that sort of move. Oakland perpetually has cap space to burn and virtually no path toward acquiring a top-five veteran like Thomas, who would probably agree to a mammoth contract extension as a condition of the trade. At 27, Thomas remains in the prime of his career, so it’s not hard to imagine him serving as a no. 1 wideout for Derek Carr in the years to come. I can’t imagine the Broncos trading Thomas away, especially within the AFC West, but stranger things have happened.
29. Indianapolis Colts
Colts send: 2015-1-29, 2015-2-61, 2016-1, Bjoern Werner
Washington sends: 2015-1-5
Let’s put the Colts all in for Leonard Williams. Brian Burke’s excellent Bayesian mock draft tool estimates there’s a 24 percent chance he’s still on the board at no. 5, where Washington is actually relatively set up front. Washington invested in Jason Hatcher and Stephen Paea at defensive end during the last two offseasons, and while Williams will likely prove to be better than either, it would be tough for Scot McCloughan to justify using so many of the limited assets available to him in one spot with holes elsewhere on the roster.
The Colts, though? They still need run defenders. Williams would give Chuck Pagano a mammoth piece for his front seven, a stout 5-technique end who would step in across from Arthur Jones and give the Colts a fighting chance against LeGarrette Blount when the Patriots and Colts inevitably face off in the playoffs again in 2015. Kendall Langford is sufficiently cheap enough to move into a rotation role. Two first-rounders would be a lot to give up for a defensive lineman, but given the likelihood that those picks will each fall in the twenties, it’s not quite as severe as it might seem on first glance. Indy would also send Werner as a pass-rush flier to Washington.
30. Green Bay Packers
Packers send: 2015-1-30, 2015-4-129
Eagles send: Mychal Kendricks, 2015-2-52
The Packers don’t need much, but inside linebacker looms as a hole they’d like to fill. With Sam Barrington emerging as a cover linebacker, the Packers could use a powerful defender against the run to complement him. Kendricks fits the bill, and while the Eagles don’t seem to be interested in signing Kendricks to an extension, he would fit in well for the Packers, who would then move Clay Matthews back outside. The Eagles probably wouldn’t want to wait until the end of the first round to make this deal, as they would likely use the 30th pick as part of their attempts to trade up for Marcus Mariota. Or Kevin White. Or Amari Cooper. Or somebody. Anybody.
31. New Orleans Saints
Saints send: 2015-1-13, 2015-1-31, 2015-2-44
Jaguars send: 2015-1-3
This is another big move up from the Saints, who deal two first-rounders to Jacksonville to ensure they get the front-seven weapon of their choice. Assuming that the top quarterbacks go 1-2, this would leave the Saints with the entire defensive board in front of them. Leonard Williams? Dante Fowler? Danny Shelton? The Saints could do just about anything they want with the third pick. The Jags get three top-45 picks to scatter around their roster; as good as Williams might be, would the Jaguars be better off if they come away with Gurley, Byron Jones, and Carl Davis?
32. New England Patriots
Patriots send: 2015-1-32, 2015-2-64, 2015-4-131
Browns send: 2015-1-19, Josh Gordon
Let’s finish up by giving Bill Belichick two things he really likes. Belichick has built his defenses around athletic big men along the defensive line, and with Vince Wilfork gone, he needs to replenish what was once New England’s defensive core. Malcom Brown is the sort of run-stuffing interior lineman Belichick craves, and he could slot in next to 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley in the years to come.
Belichick also loves taking shots on troubled players with talent, and he gets one here in Gordon. The draft picks included in this deal imply that Gordon is valued as about a fifth-round pick, and while he certainly has the talent of a first-rounder, the Browns likely want to move on from their oft-suspended wideout. With little leverage, the Browns could avoid cutting him by sending him to New England, where the Patriots will surely hope he’s their next Randy Moss. Trading down would leave the Browns in line to grab a new receiver at no. 32, amid a group that could include USC’s Nelson Agholor and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong.