Trading down isn't always a good idea

As many of you know, Adam Stites, Justin Wendel, and I are participating in a live Twitter mock draft called MockThree.  As I'm writing this, we just executed a trade to move down from pick 16, but it was a horribly difficult decision to make.  Despite what some people seem to think, it is NOT easy to trade down in the draft.  Here's what transpired:

Going into the draft, we had Christian Ponder as the #12 overall player on our draft board.  He was the highest player in the third tier.  We went into the draft wanting to make sure we got a first-round quarterback, but we really weren't super-picky between Ponder, Jake Locker, or Colin Kaepernick.  We just wanted to make sure we got one of the three; however, Ponder was our highest-rated QB.  Locker was next, then a gap, and then Kaepernick.

The Jaguars team started contacting teams about potential trades several days before the draft.  Some teams seemed interested in moving up:  Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Chicago, New England, and the New York Giants expressed some interest at one point or another.  Many teams said they weren't at all interested in moving up:  Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, the New York Jets, and Seattle all told us they had no interest in moving up.  We followed up with all of these teams on day one of the draft just to confirm their lack of interest and were given the same answer:  no thanks.

As the draft progressed, we were offered several deals to move UP in the first round; Tennessee and Dallas wanted third-rounders in addition to pick 16 to move up.  However, the player we would've wanted to move up for, Prince Amukamara, was off the board by that point.  We declined.  Dallas eventually made a trade; they dealt pick 9 to...the Kansas City Chiefs!  But wait...the Chiefs had said they didn't want to move up!  Well, they just didn't want to move up to 16.  At pick 12, New England pulled the trigger on the exact deal we had offered them to move from 28, but they were able to pick four slots earlier.  The Patriots picked Aldon Smith, and our list of potential trade partners had shrunk by one more.

With pick 15 on the clock, we started really hitting the "phones" (the Twitter phones, I guess).  We were having no luck.  All the teams that had previously said no reiterated that they had no interest.  Out of the teams that had expressed some interest, Baltimore came back with a flat "no".  Chicago said "no thanks".  The Giants weren't willing to move up at all; their pick was almost up and they felt they'd get the guy they wanted.  We were down to Tampa Bay, and when we finally got a hold of the Tampa Bay GM he said that the guy they wanted, Aldon Smith, was gone, so they didn't have any interest in moving up.  In short, we were stuck.  Nobody wanted to move up to 16...that is, until I was contacted by New England.

New England asked if we would be interested in moving down one spot for a small price.  We were excited; we could gain extra picks and still get Ponder!  We were excited...until we received the offer:  their 2012 6th-rounder.  We were no longer excited.  I casually suggested that we might be interested in moving down to pick 33 if the price was right.  They seemed interested, and the negotiations went from there.  I conducted most of the negotiations on my own and then relayed them back to my GM team; it's not easy to keep everyone in the loop using Direct Messages on Twitter.

The initial offer from New England was 33 (the first pick in the second), 92 (their third-rounder), and their 2012 3rd-round pick.  We weren't fans of that; the third-round pick was basically a 4th, and their 2012 3rd was likely to be a relatively low pick.  We countered by asking for 33, 74 (the early 3rd they got from Minnesota for Randy Moss), and their 2012 3rd.  While not an ideal trade, it still allowed us to pick up some value and move down.  New England countered by asking us for a mid-round pick to go with 16, but I refused; I already felt we were getting a less-than-ideal trade.

The Patriots eventually agreed to do 33, 74, and their 2012 3rd-rounder for pick 16.  I presented the deal to my two assistant GMs, and they both seemed excited.  I, however, had some second thoughts.  What if we missed all the QBs?  We were putting all our eggs in the basket that one of Ponder, Locker, and Kaepernick would still be available at pick 33.  As I thought about it, I figured one of them should likely make it there, but we probably wouldn't get to choose which one we wanted.  What's more, we also decided that if we did the trade we'd have to try to trade back up if two of our three quarterback targets went off the board to make sure we got the third one.  It was a tricky situation.  I was hesitant to do the deal, but my assistant GMs both felt it was the right move to make, and after being assured that we'd be aggressive in trying to move back into the late first for a quarterback I relented and accepted the trade.  We traded pick 16 for picks 33, 74, and New England's 2012 3rd-round pick.

The moral of this story is that entering the draft with a "must...trade...down" philosophy is a BAD idea.  We went into this draft wanting to move down from pick 16, thinking we could probably get the guy we wanted in the mid-20s.  However, to move down, someone has to want to move up, and the teams that want to move up aren't as easy to find as you'd think.  The one team that really had the ammunition to move up, the Patriots, used it...to move up to 12.  We were left out in the cold.  It came down to taking a less-than-ideal trade or taking no trade at all, and even though we took the deal, I think I would've felt more safe about staying where we were and picking Ponder, who was the highest-ranked player remaining on our board.

MockThree picked back up this morning with a handful of offensive tackles and Ryan Kerrigan coming off the board.  Then it was time for the shocker:  Tennessee moved back into the first round to Indianapolis' pick to take...CHRISTIAN PONDER.  We had just been hosed.  Moving from pick 16 to 33 had cost us our guy.  We thought that other teams would value Locker and even Kaepernick higher than Ponder; we had no idea that Ponder would be "the guy" for someone else.  We started scrambling; with Ponder gone, the trade talk heated up across the board.  Philadelphia picked Jimmy Smith, after they were done, New Orleans, Miami, and Atlanta all started shopping their picks like mad to teams who would want a quarterback.  Washington, Minnesota, Carolina, and probably some silent stalker teams were on the horn to New Orleans and Miami trying to hammer out a deal for a quarterback.  We had come to a tentative deal with both Atlanta and Miami depending on what happened with New Orleans; however, we were afraid New Orleans would trade their pick to Washington or Minnesota and give them Locker, who we had ranked as the 13th overall player.  We offered the same deal we had with Miami to New Orleans just to see if they were interested.  New Orleans informed us that they didn't want any 2012 picks (as was in our Miami offer), but they'd prefer a 2011 6th to a 2012 3rd (okay, whatever works).  We took the deal:  pick 24 and their 7th in exchange for 2.01, 4.24, and 6.17, and took Jake Locker.  It worked out okay; we'd gotten our second target.  However, that doesn't mean we weren't still upset that we had lost our first target.

Basically, the moral of the story is:  trading down ISN'T always a good idea!  Recouping value for the pick is great, as long as someone doesn't jump up and steal the guy you wanted.  Just remember that when a GM makes a pick that seems like a reach:  you don't know how far down the available trade offers would've caused him to have to drop, and he very well could've risked losing the player he wanted if he moved down too far.  In terms of the 2011 draft, our war room was unanimously in favor of Gene Smith staying put at pick 16 and picking the quarterback of his choice as opposed to dropping down and letting player availability dictate his choice.  Sometimes trading down isn't a good idea.

 

 

Just a side note:  once MockThree is completed, I will share our collaborative big board with you guys so you can see what our rankings looked like.  It's divided into tiers and ranks players up to around 230.  Stay tuned!  You can follow all the MockThree action by searching for the #MockThree hashtag on Twitter and going to the website at http://mockthree.wordpress.com.   Let me know if you want to know anything or have any feedback for us about MockThree; we'd love to hear it!

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