Given that the NFL offseason has been dominated by an unprecedented rash of trades, it should be no surprise that 11 teams engaged in eight different swaps during the first round of the NFL draft. It also wasn't exactly a shock that three of those trades involved organizations moving up to grab quarterbacks, with five signal-callers eventually coming off the board during a wild opening round Thursday.
It's obviously way too early to figure out who won those trades in terms of talent, but what we can do is analyze those deals in terms of the draft capital handed out. Teams will say that they're happy with the guy they traded up to grab, given they wouldn't have traded up if they weren't guaranteed a player high on their draft board, but some of the moves we saw Thursday night cost much more than others. Most impressively, we saw two general managers -- one making his draft debut and another on his way out -- manipulate the board to come away with a player at a position of need while nabbing extra picks along the way.
Let's break down those eight deals, starting with a move the Bills have been eyeing since the middle of the 2017 season. I'll be listing the price each team paid to move up by two charts: first, the traditional chart developed by Jimmy Johnson, followed by the empirical chart developed by Chase Stuart at Football Perspective.
The Bills pay handsomely
Buccaneers send: Picks No. 7, 255
Bills send: Picks No. 12, 53, 56
Johnson chart: $1.27 on the dollar
Stuart chart: $1.57
The Bills didn't have to send both of their first-round picks to the Bucs to move up and grab newly controversial Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, but they didn't get a discount by any means. In sending a pair of second-round picks to move up only five spots, they set a massive valuation on their quarterback of the future. By the Stuart chart, the Bills valued Allen as being worth more than the No. 1 overall pick, while the Johnson chart pegged Allen as somewhere between the third and fourth overall pick in a typical draft.
Obviously, there are questions about Allen and whether his arm strength can overcome the worst completion percentage we've seen for a top-10 pick in quite a while. That's beyond the purview of this analysis (although I wrote at length about how the NFL struggles to evaluate quarterbacks and Allen at length earlier this month). In terms of the simple cost in dealing up for a quarterback, the Bills paid more on the dollar, proportionally, than either of the other passer deals in this year's class, although less than the Jets, who paid more than $2.00 on the dollar for what ended up netting them Sam Darnold.
The Bills reportedly had a deal done with the Broncos earlier Thursday, only for Denver to back out when Bradley Chubb was surprisingly still on the board at No. 5 overall. This would have been a much fairer deal at No. 5, and you have to wonder whether the Bills tried to get any discount or just made the same offer for the lesser pick. It would have been nicer to see the Bills send the 65th pick as opposed to the 56th selection, but they didn't give up an extravagant amount to grab their quarterback.
Ravens send: Picks 16, 154
Bills send: Picks: 22, 65
Johnson chart: $1.02
Stuart chart: $1.18
The deal for Virginia tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, on the other hand, saw the Bills pay a premium figure for a talented player who profiles as an off-ball linebacker for Buffalo. By the Stuart chart, the Bills sent the equivalent of a top-seven pick to the Ravens, which is a staggering amount for a position (inside/nickel linebacker) the league generally doesn't value with premium money or draft assets.
While it was a previous administration, the Bills made an aggressive move for a similar player in the recent past when they traded two picks to move up and grab Reggie Ragland in the second round of the 2016 draft. Ragland tore his ACL and then wasn't a fit in Sean McDermott's scheme, causing the Bills to trade Ragland for a conditional fourth-round pick without him ever taking a snap in Buffalo.
Edmunds likely won't suffer that sort of fate, and McDermott built his defense around the likes of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis in Carolina, but if there's any position the Bills should be able to develop talent at for relatively cheap, it should be linebacker. McDermott and Brandon Beane inherited a team bereft of young talent after years of poor drafts under Doug Whaley; while the 19-year-old Edmunds could turn out to be a superstar, this was too much to pay for a coverage linebacker given their holes elsewhere on the roster.
Ozzie keeps dealing -- Tennessee and Philly jump in
Ravens send: Picks No. 22, 215
Titans send: Picks No. 25, 125
Johnson chart: $0.98
Stuart chart: $1.18
The Titans moved up three spots to sneak ahead of the Patriots and grab another inside linebacker in Rashaan Evans, which should make Wesley Woodyard worried about his future in Tennessee. This was the most balanced (and therefore least interesting) trade of the night, although it might tell us a bit about how Mike Vrabel is going to value players in Tennessee. Unsurprisingly, he seems to like players who might remind people of Mike Vrabel.
Eagles send: Picks No. 32, 132
Ravens send: Picks No. 52, 125, 2019 second-round pick
Johnson chart: $1.34
Stuart chart: $1.45
I'm valuing future picks as if they were worth the 16th selection in the round in question and without any discount for time. While the fact that Lamar Jackson came off the board at the end of the first round seems to suggest that the Ravens are taking a flier on a Heisman Trophy winner, this is a pretty significant investment by the Stuart model (which is similar to what an analytically inclined team like the Ravens would use). Baltimore sent the rough equivalent of the sixth overall pick to acquire Jackson and a fourth-round selection, so this is a very nice return for an Eagles organization that had traded away its picks in the second and third rounds.
Drafting Jackson also puts Joe Flacco on notice, although moving on from their middling quarterback will still cost the Ravens a pretty penny. While the Flacco guaranteed money spigot turns off after the 2018 season, Baltimore would still have to account for $16 million in dead money if they cut Flacco next year. It's likely they'll designate Flacco as a post-June 1 release, which would free up $17.5 million in 2019 but push $8 million in dead money onto the 2020 cap.
In all, the Ravens traded the 16th pick, two second-rounders (No. 52 and their 2019 selection), and picks in the fifth (154) and seventh (215) rounds for two first-rounders (25 and 32), the first pick of the third round (65), and a fourth-round pick (132). That's about even money on the Stuart chart.
Oakland deals, for better and worse
Raiders send: Picks No. 10
Cardinals send: Picks No. 15, 79, 152
Johnson chart: $0.98
Stuart chart: $1.35
Cardinals' GM Steve Keim missed out on Patrick Mahomes when the Chiefs traded up last year, so it's no surprise that he made a move of his own this year. He also got himself a great deal in the process, given that he actually turned a profit on the Johnson chart and paid less than either the Bills or Ravens did on the dollar by the Stuart model. It's surprising that the Raiders weren't able to scare the Cardinals into giving up the 46th pick with the threat of the Dolphins lurking at 11. Alternately, 15 and the Cardinals' two third-round picks at 79 and 97 would have been a reasonable ask, given that it would have cost $1.04 on the dollar by the Johnson model.
Raiders send: Pick No. 79
Steelers send: WR Martavis Bryant
This is a swap we can judge, one that also doesn't look kindly upon the Raiders. Nobody questions Bryant's talent, but he already has two suspensions to his name and attempted to overthrow the Steelers locker room last year before losing his job to JuJu Smith-Schuster. He's signed for one more year at $1.9 million before free agency. Even if Bryant stays on the straight and narrow and plays well during his debut season in Oakland, would the Raiders really want to make a long-term commitment to a player with Bryant's track record? Oakland might be able to recoup a comp pick if they let Bryant leave, but that's only if they mostly sit out free agency, which might not be the case. It's difficult to believe that the Steelers had multiple teams willing to offer this much for one year of a player who has more often been frustrating and unavailable than on the field and productive.
The Saints slip, Seattle adds
Packers send: Pick No. 14
Saints send: Picks No. 27, 147, 2019 first-round pick
Johnson chart: $1.56
Stuart chart: $1.87
After nailing the draft over multiple picks last year, the Saints suddenly made the bizarre decision that they wanted to trade away a bunch of selections to go after one pass-rusher. It's reasonable to want Marcus Davenport, but by the Stuart chart, Sean Payton sent something close to the first overall pick in terms of draft capital to acquire an edge rusher to play alongside Cameron Jordan in 2018. If the Saints disappoint this season -- something that can happen unexpectedly with a 39-year-old quarterback -- this could be an even larger boondoggle.
Teams don't make this sort of investment in an edge rusher via trade very often. In terms of teams trading up from the bottom half of the draft with players and/or picks to move up to the top half and grab a defensive end, we've seen four trades over the previous 20 years. Those moves netted Damione Lewis, Jerome McDougle, Derrick Harvey and Brandon Graham. Graham was the only one who turned into an impact player, and it even took him more than five seasons to emerge as a starter. None of those teams gave up an additional first-round pick as part of their move.
The arguments justifying this deal aren't going to work, and they reek of the ill-advised decisions the Saints made in years past. They spent offseasons squeezing players like Jairus Byrd under the cap as part of the idea that they were one player away. They weren't. They dealt first- and second-round picks to the Patriots to grab Mark Ingram, who wasn't effective and healthy for any stretch of time until his fourth season, and that in an offense where players such as Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory had been useful at running back for peanuts.
What are the chances that the edge rusher the Saints might have drafted at 27 (like Harold Landry) will turn out to be better than Davenport? Heck, what are the chances Davenport might have still been on the board at 27? If Davenport doesn't turn into a superstar -- and the odds are against any individual edge rusher turning into a superstar -- the Saints spent far too much to make this move.
Seahawks send: Picks No. 18, 248
Packers send: Picks No. 27, 76, 186
Johnson chart: $1.07
Stuart chart: $1.35
After fleecing the Saints, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst finished off the first round of his debut draft as general manager by coming away with desperately needed cornerback help in Jaire Alexander. The move saw the Packers send something close to the eighth overall pick as part of the swap, but it was a far cheaper move to fill a weakness than the one the Saints made. The Seahawks probably wanted a second-rounder to move down, but the third-rounder will help replace the one they shipped off in the Duane Brown deal.
Combine these two deals and you'll note that Gutekunst moved down four spots in the first round, falling from 14 to 18. For his troubles, the Packers GM was allowed the opportunity to trade the 76th and 186th selections for a first-round chit in the 2019 draft, accompanied by picks 147 and 248. That's a huge return, even if the Packers have to wait a year to realize the majority of the value. Green Bay fans should be delighted by their newly promoted executive's first big night at the helm.