[size=18px]Art of the draft deal[/size]
By Gil Brandt
NFL.com Senior Analyst
(March 27, 2006) -- What goes around in the NFL does not always come around. That axiom, however, is true in the case of quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson.
In 1987, the Patriots and Raiders made a multi-pick trade on draft day in which New England moved down to get the Raiders' fourth-round pick. The Patriots used that pick to draft Gannon ... who eventually made his way to the Raiders and led them to Super Bowl XXXVII. (The Raiders, by the way, used the third-round pick they got from New England that year to select Penn State running back Steve Smith.)
Eventually, that 1992 trade involving Brad Johnson benefited the Bucs AND Vikings.
In 1992, Tampa Bay thought nothing of sending Minnesota its ninth-round draft choice in exchange for veteran linebacker Jimmy Williams. The Vikings used that late-round pick to select Johnson, who would later find his way to Tampa Bay in time to help them win Super Bowl XXXVII. Johnson returned to the Vikings in 2005 and should be the Week 1 starter in 2006.
These quirks of draft history prove one thing: Teams never know exactly what they're getting into when they trade draft picks. Still, that doesn't stop them from trying to make it as exact a science as possible.
The art of draft-day trades has evolved over the years. At the 1961 draft, it was as simple as 49ers coach Red Hickey walking over to the Colts table at the hotel ballroom where the draft was being held. "I'll give you one of our tight ends, Monty Stickles or Dee Mackey, in exchange for your first-round pick," Hickey proposed to Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank. In a matter of 10 minutes, Ewbank decided he'd take Mackey, and the deal was done. Hickey calmly walked back to the 49ers' table and then used the acquired draft pick to select quarterback Billy Kilmer.
Gil Brandt, center, was well prepared when Tampa Bay didn't take Tony Dorsett, right, in 1977.
That's the way most draft-day deals were done back then. Eventually, teams began to map their strategies well in advance. In 1977, for instance, when I was with the Dallas Cowboys, we and the Seattle Seahawks had worked out a deal for the second overall pick as early as 10 days before the draft. But it was contingent on the player we wanted -- Tony Dorsett -- being available. We were pretty sure the Buccaneers were going to take running back Ricky Bell with the first pick, but the trade was not consummated until Tampa Bay made its pick official.
More so this year than ever, we're going to see a lot of activity. (We've already seen some with the Jets-Falcons-Broncos three-way trade involving John Abraham.) Anytime you have a good number of quarterbacks projected to go in the first round, there will be more action -- and we could see three get taken in the first 10 picks this year.
If, for example, the Texans can move down from No. 1 to No. 4, they'll still be in great shape. They might not get who they want, but they'll be in the same plateau and save themselves millions of dollars.
You can be sure that much of the trade talk already has transpired. And to make things more of a science, teams have their own systems of "ranking" every spot in the draft. That way they can mix and match picks like a puzzle.
For instance, let's examine the 2004 draft-day trade between the Giants and Chargers. The Giants wanted Eli Manning, whom the Chargers took with the No. 1 overall selection. They got him, but they gave up their pick (fourth overall, who was Philip Rivers), a third-round pick in 2004, and first- and fifth-round picks in 2005. (San Diego took Shawne Merriman with New York's first-round choice last year.)
Was it worth it? For now it's too soon to really tell, but one way we can figure out who got the edge of this trade is to consult the following chart, which is one NFL team's value chart, obtained by NFL.com.
Click here for chart
According to this chart, the first overall pick is worth 3,000 points and the fourth overall pick is worth 1,800. The third-round pick the Chargers got, which they used on Nate Kaeding, was the No. 65 pick overall, worth 265 points. The first rounder they got from the Giants this year is No. 12 overall, worth 1,200 points, and the fifth rounder was 144th overall (San Diego traded it to Tampa Bay). That was worth 34 points.
Do the math, and for the 3,000 point pick the Giants got, they gave up picks totaling 3,299 points. That's not bad considering they unloaded two first-round picks plus two more picks for Manning's services.
Here's another example: In 2003, the Bears dealt the No. 4 overall pick to the Jets for their pair of first-round picks, Nos. 14 and 22. According to the chart, the Bears gave up a pick worth 1,800 for picks totaling 1,880. That's about as close to even as can be. The Bears used the picks on DE Michael Haynes and QB Rex Grossman while the Jets took DT Dewayne Robertson.
Of course, how these trades work out is another matter. And it often takes years to evaluate that sort of thing. But it's amazing to see how the process has evolved over the years. And you can be sure that when trades are consummated this weekend, more went into it than the 15 minutes between picks.
Art of the draft deal