The problem with every mock draft, every year, is the first draft-night trade. There’s no accounting for it. All we know is that it will happen, that it won’t be the last, and that it will instantly undo all the weeks and months of predicting and prognosticating that went into everyone’s favorite pre-draft exercise.
Last year, it took less than 15 minutes for the Chicago Bears to blow up every mock draft there was by trading up one spot from No. 3 to No. 2 to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Something similar will happen again this year, although we don’t know where and when. But it’s a good bet that when a team does trade up in the first round later this month, it will be for a quarterback. This year’s class features five quarterbacks likely to go on Day 1, and four who could be gone in the top five picks.
So, who are our likely culprits? Which teams are lurking, waiting to make that move up the board to muck up the mocks? The Jets had the decency to make their move early, jumping up from No. 6 to No. 3 a couple of weeks ago by sending three second-round picks to the Colts, but all that did was make things more volatile. If you want a quarterback, it’s clearer than ever that you’re going to need to be prepared to trade up.
With that in mind, we present the teams most likely to trade up for a quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft.
This is the most obvious choice. The Bills already moved up from No. 21 to No. 12 in a deal that sent left tackle Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati, and they still hold the No. 22 overall pick. Having two first-rounders gives Buffalo a unique ability to maneuver in the first round, and having unproven options AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman on the roster gives the team motivation. Problem is, the old draft value chart developed by Jimmy Johnson assigns a point value of 1,200 to the No. 12 pick and 800 to the No. 21 pick, which adds up to 2,000 and is therefore a bit less than, say, the 2,600 points assigned to the Giants’ No. 2 pick. So if the Bills want to jump the Jets, it’s going to take more than just their two 2018 first-rounders. Buffalo might be better off eyeing the Browns’ No. 4 overall pick, though by that point, the Bills could be left with their fourth-choice quarterback.
This one is a little bit tougher, as Arizona is sitting at No. 15 overall, and a move into the top five would be ultracostly. The trade-chart value — and yes, we recognize this isn’t a be-all/end-all — of the Cardinals’ first three picks is 1,675 points, which would land somewhere between the fifth (1,700) and sixth (1,600) overall picks. The Cardinals likely would need to offer this year’s first-round pick as well as next year’s as a starting point for negotiations if they wanted to get into that top-four mix. Maybe they’ll get more aggressive if one or two of the big four QBs slips out of the top five or six. The Cards are heavily invested in Sam Bradford as this year’s starter and have Mike Glennon as the backup, but they have yet to address their long-term future at the position.
The commitment to Case Keenum is really only one year, and with 2016 first-rounder Paxton Lynch looking like a shaky bet, the Broncos could be in the quarterback market at No. 5 overall. But if there’s someone they really like at the top of the draft, don’t count the Broncos out of the running for that No. 2 overall pick the Giants own. With the Jets sitting at No. 3 and obviously eyeing quarterbacks, it’s entirely possible some team will get scared that the Jets will take the same guy that team likes, and overpay the Giants for the pick right in front of the Jets. Moving up from No. 6 to No. 3 cost the Jets three second-rounders. Moving up from No. 5 to No. 2 likely would cost the Broncos at least that, especially if they’re not the only team in the market.
Even before Tuesday’s trade with the Rams, we expected the Patriots to be in the quarterback market late in the first round. It didn’t seem reasonable to think they could get all the way from No. 31 to the top five, but now that they have the 23rd and the 31st picks, along with two second-rounders, it seems as if nothing is impossible. With Jimmy Garoppolo now plying his trade in San Francisco, there’s no long-term successor in place for Tom Brady. The Patriots absolutely should be a factor if Lamar Jackson makes it into the middle of the round, and it’s entirely possible they could get even higher up in the round if they decide they want to do it.
Sitting at No. 11, the Dolphins aren’t in great position to move up. They have Ryan Tannehill for at least one more year, and if that doesn’t go well. they could end up with a long-term need at the position. But for now, let’s look at the Dolphins as a team that becomes interested if someone like a Baker Mayfield or a Josh Rosen starts to tumble out of that top five or six range, and the move-up price isn’t as steep as it would be to get Miami from No. 11 to No. 2.
Work with me here a second. There’s only one spot the Giants could move up into, and it’s the No. 1 spot. This would be somewhat similar to the move the Bears made last year to get from No. 3 to No. 2, and the Giants would need a specific motivation to do it. In this imaginary scenario, let’s say the Giants like Sam Darnold the best of all the available quarterbacks, and that the Browns are planning to take someone else, like Josh Allen. The Browns telegraph their desire to other teams in the hopes of creating a market for the pick, and they’re able to convince the Giants that another team — maybe the Jets? Broncos? Bills? — will come up for Darnold if the Giants don’t. If that works, the Giants could slide up into the first overall spot to make sure they get the guy they believe is the long-term successor to Eli Manning. Farfetched? Maybe. But not impossible. Last year, the Bears gave the 49ers two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick to move up from No. 3 to No. 2, which gives you some idea what it might cost. And hmmmm … didn’t the Giants just pick up a third-round pick from Tampa Bay in the Jason Pierre-Paul trade?