Is trading Down in the NFL Draft Fools Gold?


Rick Gosselin who is a terrific draft coverage guy–someone who relies on his great sources to give readers an insight into the big board of teams (and a guy who consistently wins the Huddle Report mock draft challenge and top 100) wrote a recent article basically saying that trading down is a bad idea..especially for the Dallas Cowboys.

The two words any Cowboys zealot should never want to hear from Jones, when spoken in any context, are “trade down.”

Trading down helped Jimmy Johnson build a dynasty at Valley Ranch in the early 1990s. But since Johnson’s departure in 1994, every trade down by the Cowboys in the first round of a draft seems to have pushed the franchise further away from another Super Bowl.

Gosselin went through and detailed all of the trades down that the Cowboys have made since Jimmy Johnon saying that in nearly every case that they traded down they passed up an excellent player and ended up with two average players.

Understand that when you trade down, you are leaving behind a better player on the draft board. You get quantity in the form of extra picks in a trade-down but you are losing the quality of the choice you are vacating.

And you win in this league with quality, not quantity. The higher the pick, the better the player. There are more Hall of Famers who were first-round draft picks than all of the other rounds combined.

The draft was implemented to ensure competitive balance. The worst teams got the highest picks. When you trade down, you are giving up the competitive advantage the NFL built in for you.

The Cowboys went into the 1995 draft with the 28th overall pick but traded it to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a pair of second-round choices. The Bucs took linebacker Derrick Brooks and the Cowboys wound up with running back Sherman Williams and guard Shane Hannah.

This is something I was wondering too. Every year there seems to be two teams that continuously trade down: The New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. These teams have seen plenty of success (especially the Patriots), but it seems to be in spite of their drafting track record (New England especially) and not because of it. The Eagles have actually traded up a lot as well, they just move all around the board. The Patriots always prefer to have more second round picks than one first round pick, but the players the Patriots have gotten by moving down have not been terrific for the most part. Eventually the Patriots might want to consider staying put and grabbing the best player on the board.

There are three teams I can immediately think of that have not moved up or down in the draft, just remained where they are and grabbed the best player who came to them year after year in every round. Those three teams are the Steelers, Packers, and Giants. Occasionally they’ll move a few spaces here or there, but for the most part these teams enter the draft with 7 -10 picks (based on compensatory selections) stay where they are and grab players they want. These three teams aren’t trying to accumulate draft picks or out-smart people on the trade value chart–but what they have done is won five Superbowls (and been to six) in the last since 2006.

It’s always interesting to me how fans from every single team want to trade down and accumulate picks, but if a team can just remain where they are and hit on their picks–trading down isn’t necessary.

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