It’s time for one of my favorite annual traditions. After reading dozens of NFL mock drafts without a single trade in sight, I’m compelled to go way too far in the opposite direction. I present the 2022 mock draft of trades, where I’ll provide a plausible (to me) swap for each of the 32 picks in the first round.
Of course, if a mock draft of picks is hard, a mock draft of trades is nearly impossible. It would be a surprise if even one of these deals comes to fruition over the next couple of weeks. The realistic goal of this piece isn’t to predict the future; it’s to try to get a handle on draft value, where teams could look to move to address their weaknesses given who picks when and discuss some of the veterans who might be trade candidates in the months to come.
I’ve tried to look at both the historical value of how each NFL decision-maker has approached the draft and how much it has cost to move around in years past to inform these deals. Naturally, teams are willing to pay over the odds for quarterbacks, but given this draft class, the deals are more modest than they might have been a year ago. While most teams now rely upon independent versions of a draft value chart, I used the classic Jimmy Johnson chart to objectively measure these deals, since teams still use that as a common language.
One important thing to keep in mind: Each of the trades exists in its own universe, so you’ll see a pick dealt more than once or a team move up or down in multiple deals. I’ll also suggest scenarios in which a player comes off the board at different points in a round or where teams approach picks in various ways. Picks in the 2022 draft will be notated with the round and the overall selection, so “2-47” would be the 47th overall pick, which comes off the board in the second round. Future picks are notated with their year and round.
Let’s start with the top pick, where I suspect the Jaguars would be open for business if anybody wanted to call:
Jaguars get: 1-4, 1-10, 2-38, 5-146
Jets get: 1-1, 2-33, WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
Most years, the trade for the No. 1 overall pick is the most difficult (or most nonsensical) deal of them all. When there’s a franchise quarterback available for a team that desperately needs one, there’s no deal that makes any sense. Last year, with the Jaguars able to select Trevor Lawrence at the top of the draft, I had to pitch a deal in which the Chargers sent Justin Herbert and Derwin James to Jacksonville in return for the pick. It was more of an exercise in what Lawrence was worth than a realistic trade proposal.
This year, the needle has moved all the way in the other direction. It’s difficult to conceptualize a trade for the No. 1 pick because there really doesn’t appear to be much interest. Without a franchise quarterback or a clear best prospect in the class, this is probably the least valuable top pick since 2013, when the Chiefs took Eric Fisher ahead of the Jags, who took Luke Joeckel at No. 2. Neither player turned out to be the best offensive tackle in that class, as Lane Johnson (No. 4 to the Eagles), Terron Armstead (No. 75, Saints) and David Bakhtiari (No. 109, Packers) ended up as better options.
With three edge rushers atop Todd McShay’s most recent mock, there are only a couple of logical moves to be had here. One would be for the team picking second or third to move up and grab the pass-rusher of its choice if it thinks the Jags will take that player. The other would be for a team outside the top three to move up to grab that superstar ahead of the teams at Nos. 2 and 3.
Enter the Jets, who pick fourth and finished 30th in the league in pressure rate a year ago. At its best, Robert Saleh’s defense in San Francisco was built around a deep, devastating group of defensive linemen. Even after the 49ers had used first-round picks on Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas while trading for Dee Ford, general manager John Lynch still used the No. 2 overall pick on Nick Bosa in 2019. That move worked out well.
The Jets have begun to follow that path. John Franklin-Myers plays the Armstead role. Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and Thomas — who signed with the team last month — will be in the rotation at defensive tackle. General manager Joe Douglas spent big on Carl Lawson last offseason, only for Lawson to tear his Achilles and miss the season. Lawson will be back, but the 27-year-old has no guaranteed money left on his deal after this season. If Saleh wants to build a 49ers-caliber line — and he thinks there’s a guy like Bosa at the top of the draft — this would be the his chance to move up and get that edge rusher.
So here, the Jets use their extra picks from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold deals to move up to the top spot, where they could get Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who is ESPN’s consensus top prospect. They also move up five spots in the second round and add another wide receiver to the mix with Shenault, who was buried by Jacksonville’s barrage of additions at the position this offseason. This deal values him as being worth a pick in the middle of the fourth round by the Jimmy Johnson chart.
The Jags would miss out on Hutchinson, but they would add a second top-10 pick and still be in position to land a player such as left tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) as a long-term replacement for franchise-tagged tackle Cam Robinson. (Robinson could become trade bait for a team needing a left tackle, including Carolina or Seattle.) Teams are often overconfident about their ability to identify the best player in a draft, and that should be even more true given the makeup of the 2022 class. Jacksonville isn’t one player away, and it can still address its own concerns on the edge as this draft goes along.
Do I think this trade would actually happen? It’s more plausible than most of the usual trades for this pick, but it’s not particularly likely. The Jaguars will likely take an edge rusher, but there’s a decent chance that the Lions or Texans go off-script or make a deal of their own for someone to grab a player at another position. The Jets could very well stay put and end up with Hutchinson, Travon Walker (Georgia) or Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon) at No. 4.
If these two teams were going to make a deal, though, the Johnson chart pegs this as a reasonable price, especially in a market in which the top pick isn’t as valuable as usual.
Lions get: 1-1
Jaguars get: 1-2, 2-34, 2023 fourth-round pick
And as a bonus this year, let’s throw in a second possible swap for the No. 1 pick. The Lions are probably on the edge rusher train after recording just 30 sacks a year ago (30th in the NFL), and there has to be at least some local sentiment for going after Aidan Hutchinson, who grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, and played his college ball at the University of Michigan. He already has talked about how much he admires Lions coach Dan Campbell.
Of course, there’s a chance the Lions can stay put and land Hutchinson if the Jaguars prefer Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux among the top edge rushers. With Hutchinson the betting favorite, though, the evidence seems to point toward Jacksonville taking him. If the Lions want Hutchinson, they can hope the Jags are bluffing or that the public is wrong, but are they willing to pay to guarantee keeping him in-state?
We’ve seen teams trade up for this sort of move in the past. In 2017, the Bears sent two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the 49ers to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 to draft Mitch Trubisky. San Francisco hadn’t yet traded for Jimmy Garoppolo at that point, so it was plausible that the 49ers could pick a quarterback or trade that pick to a team that wanted Trubisky. San Francisco general manager John Lynch was able to leverage that fear into three midround picks, which eventually yielded the two best players in the deal in Alvin Kamara (in a separate deal with the Saints) and Fred Warner.
With this trade, the Lions send their second-round pick and a future fourth-rounder to move up and lock in their guy. This doesn’t feel like much to move down one spot, but it’s a win on both the Johnson and Stuart chart for the Jaguars, who would still be able to take Walker. This deal won’t look good if Hutchinson turns into the best edge rusher in the class, but given how overconfident teams typically are at the top of the draft, the Jags are better off moving down a spot and adding a valuable selection at the top of the second round.
Texans get: 1-16, 1-19, 2-49
Saints get: 1-3, 4-107
When the Saints made their deal with the Eagles to get an additional first-round pick in this draft, the easy assumption was to believe that they were gathering ammunition to go after a quarterback. It’s possible that the Lions or Texans could take one, but the most likely landing spot for the first passer off the board is the Panthers at No. 6. The Saints might only need to move up to No. 5 to land a passer, but if the Texans play their cards right and scare New Orleans into thinking another team might be willing to trade up to No. 3, the Saints might have no choice but to move up there.
The Texans could use one of the defensive linemen or cornerbacks at the top of this class, but after trading away so much draft capital during the Bill O’Brien era, they need to amass extra selections. They’ve been linked to Ikem Ekwonu, but with Laremy Tunsil on the roster for two more seasons, it would be curious to draft a college left tackle and move him to the right side.
The Jets went after Tyreek Hill in their search to find Zach Wilson a superstar wideout — and struck out. Here, they make an alternative move. Metcalf is a different sort of receiver, but he would give the Jets the sort of X receiver they were hoping to get with Davis when they signed him last offseason. They would probably also be on the hook for a new extension just north of $25 million per season — and they could prefer one of the wideouts in this draft class — but this is a chance to trade for an established star while retaining significant draft capital. Plus, dealing Davis would leave only a nominal amount of dead money on the salary cap.
For the Seahawks, this would be an acknowledgement that they don’t want to pay a wide receiver that sort of money, especially with Tyler Lockett in the middle of a four-year, $69 million pact. This deal values the difference between Metcalf and Davis as worth 1,015 points on the Johnson chart, which is close to the 16th overall pick in a typical draft. That’s less than the implied value of Hill or Davante Adams, but those deals didn’t see a wideout going the other way.
Seattle would get Davis, a big, toolsy receiver who can run block and was able to stretch teams vertically at his best in Tennessee. The No. 5 overall pick in 2017 is signed for two years and $23.5 million, so he’ll make less than half of what Metcalf is likely to see on his new deal. The Seahawks would move up from No. 9 to No. 4, where coach Pete Carroll can fill one of the biggest holes on his roster by drafting cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Cincinnati). They also would get a juicy pick in the mid-30s to use as a trade chip.
I don’t think the Seahawks should trade Metcalf, but if they’re going to do it, this deal would allow Carroll & Co. to further remold the team in their desired image.
Giants get: 1-8, 2-43, 2-58
Falcons get: 1-5, 3-67
I suppose the Giants, Lions or Texans could do something surprising and draft a quarterback, but if we’re looking at a relatively chalky top of the draft, the first real spot for a passer to come off the board would be with the Panthers at No. 6. The Falcons lay in wait at No. 8, and while they signed Marcus Mariota as a short-term replacement for departed franchise icon Matt Ryan, they don’t have their quarterback of the future on their roster.
Atlanta needs just about everything — and I could see it tanking in 2022 and using a top-five pick on a quarterback in 2023 — but if there’s a quarterback the franchise truly loves in this class, it needs to move up. By using one of their second-round picks, the Falcons move up three spots ahead of the Panthers to draft Malik Willis (Liberty) or Kenny Pickett (Pitt). There’s always a chance the guy they want could fall to No. 8, but teams are understandably more aggressive about going after quarterbacks than they are about players at other positions.
The Giants aren’t one player away, and this deal would leave new general manager Joe Schoen with five picks in the first two rounds. Since the Falcons would be moving up for a quarterback, the Giants would still be in good shape to land at least one of the players they wanted at No. 5 with pick Nos. 7 and 8. If Carolina also takes a quarterback, the Giants could get the player they desired while picking up extra picks in the process.
Panthers get: 1-11, 2-47
Commanders get: 1-6, 2023 third-round pick
On the other hand, as Underdog Fantasy’s Josh Norris has noted, the Panthers are the only team left with the cap space to absorb the contracts of Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield without needing to do any restructuring. The only other teams that might realistically be in the market for a veteran quarterback are Seattle and Pittsburgh, and if either of them drafts a signal-caller, Carolina might be able to buy low for the services of one of those 2021 starters as the only landing spot in June or July.
The Panthers could draft a left tackle at No. 6, but having already traded away their second-, third- and fourth-round picks, this would be a chance for them to move down and recoup some of that missing capital. It wouldn’t be a surprise if general manager Scott Fitterer & Co. made a deal like this and then traded down a second time. If they want to draft a quarterback, they could make a move down and still manage to grab one later in Round 1.
For Washington, this would be a move to jump the Falcons at No. 8 and go after one of the star Ohio State wideouts in this year’s class, Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave. Since the Giants are on the board at No. 7 and probably wouldn’t be too interested in helping out their division rivals, the Commanders would need to move up to No. 6 to form a one-two duo of Buckeyes with Terry McLaurin. The good news is that Washington coach Ron Rivera probably has the number to Carolina’s war room memorized.
Giants get: 1-20
Steelers get: 1-7, 2023 first-round pick
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has been on the recruiting trail looking at quarterbacks this offseason, and while his team could stay put and draft one at No. 20, the Steelers would probably be inclined to move ahead of the Falcons and Seahawks to take their man. I’m not sure Pittsburgh would start a rookie such as Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett immediately with Mitch Trubisky in the fold, but with a great defense and in a division with Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, it can’t afford to bide its time and go with a low-ceiling quarterback option.
Tedy Bruschi and Kimberley A. Martin explain why Daniel Jones is on borrowed time heading into his fourth season with the Giants.
Some Giants fans would probably prefer to get immediate draft capital, but with the franchise rallying around quarterback Daniel Jones for 2022, it is probably better off adding first-round picks in next year’s draft. If Jones struggles again, the Giants would have extra capital to work with in 2023. That first-rounder would go toward either moving up for a quarterback or surrounding a new passer with a player on the same contractual schedule. This deal is a win for New York on the Johnson chart, accounting for both the delayed return on that 2023 pick, the uncertainty of where it will land and the added cost that comes when one team knows the other is moving up for a passer.
Falcons get: 1-12, 3-77
Vikings get: 1-8, 6-213
The Vikings are probably not likely to trade up often under new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, but this would be a small move to take a cornerback, most likely Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU). There’s a chance Stingley could fall to Minnesota at No. 12, but after the 20-year-old ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, it seemed to lock him in at the bottom of the top 10. The Vikings would be looking at the Seahawks and Jets as possible enemies to move past with this trade.
Cornerback is one position the Falcons don’t need to address, given that the best player on their roster last season was second-year standout A.J. Terrell. With their cap and roster in ruins, Atlanta needs as many meaningful draft picks as possible. This deal would give it six of the top 82 picks in this draft, allowing general manager Terry Fontenot to either restock the roster or trade some of those picks for better selections in 2023.
Seahawks get: 1-28, 2-59, QB Jordan Love
Packers get: 1-9
I pitched an opportunity for the Seahawks to trade up earlier in the top 10, but we know general manager John Schneider’s philosophy is usually to trade down and take extra selections in the first three rounds. Seattle could use a left tackle such as Evan Neal (Alabama) if one is on the board at No. 9, but this would be a chance to add an extra pick in the top 60 and go after a quarterback prospect.
Schneider cut his teeth under Ron Wolf in Green Bay, so my suspicion is that he and Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst at least share some thoughts about scouting quarterbacks. Trading for Love would give the Seahawks a passer with two years left on his rookie deal and an essentially blank slate, given that his career to this point has consisted of garbage time and a spot start against the Chiefs. This deal values Love as being worth the 52nd pick in a typical draft, which is about fair given that half of his rookie deal is in the books.
We’ve seen the Packers trade up in the first round in recent years for Love and Darnell Savage, but jumping all the way from No. 28 to No. 9 would be a more significant move than the ones Gutekunst has made. Then again, given their need at wide receiver after trading Davante Adams, they are in a more desperate spot at a key position than they’ve been in years past.
Getting into the top 10 would get the Packers ahead of the Jets, Commanders, Eagles and Saints, all of whom could consider a wide receiver. Trading Love would hurt, but when Green Bay signed Aaron Rodgers to a massive extension this offseason, it closed the book on Love becoming the starter of the future. The Packers would still be in the market for a backup, but their first priority needs to be finding a significant weapon for the reigning MVP.
OK. I don’t think Murray is going to get traded, and my strong suspicion is that he’ll end up signing an extension with the Cardinals in August. For a situation in which there shouldn’t be any sort of antagonism, though, the public remarks and posturing surrounding the situation have been surprisingly virulent. Most of the league’s star young quarterbacks do their fourth-year extensions without this sort of drama. The fact that he has deleted (and then restored) the Cardinals from his social media, released a terse statement and been subject to reports of a possible holdout points toward a souring relationship.
If that relationship eroded to the point at which the Cardinals felt it was necessary to move on, this would be the sort of trade they would likely have to consider. Murray has been spectacular at his best over three seasons in Arizona, but the 2019 No. 1 overall pick has struggled for consistency. He ranks 13th in the NFL in QBR over the past three seasons, a mark that includes his value as a rusher. Strictly as a passer, Murray ranks 18th in passer rating and 21st in adjusted net yards per attempt over that time frame, trailing Teddy Bridgewater in both categories. Plenty of teams would be interested in him and understandably so, but it’s not as if the former baseball star has been Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert so far.
By Jets standards, though, Murray might as well be Joe Namath. It’s way too early to draw any final conclusions about Wilson, but in this scenario, they would jump the line to upgrade under center. It would take some cap massaging to get this deal done, but the Jets would send their young quarterback and two first-round picks to the Cardinals to lock in one of the league’s most exciting players. Crucially, they would be able to hold on to the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft.
If the Cardinals had to deal Murray, this would be about a fair haul. Two first-round picks is a good start, especially given that the Jets might send another top-10 pick back to the Cardinals in 2023. Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick a year ago, and while he wasn’t anything exciting as a rookie, he would have a higher grade than anybody in the 2022 class. Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury would be starting over with a promising quarterback prospect and two extra first-round picks. I’d rather have Murray, but if the Cardinals have had enough, this would be the alternative.
Commanders get: 1-15, 3-83, 5-162
Eagles get: 1-11
If the top tackles and wide receivers come off the board before the Commanders pick here, they would be stuck in a difficult spot. Edge rusher would probably be the play, but the one thing Ron Rivera’s team doesn’t need is help along the defensive line. The Texans and Ravens could both be in the edge rusher market, but the Eagles love to stack their line under general manager Howie Roseman, and they need a long-term replacement for Brandon Graham. This could be a landing spot for Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State).
I try to avoid trades within the division, if only because we know teams typically avoid helping the teams they see most often. There are two arguments here to make me think otherwise. One is that we’ve seen the Eagles trade within the NFC East, including a draft-day deal with the Cowboys in this range a year ago. The other is that the Commanders need to add draft capital after swapping second-rounders and trading away their third- and fifth-round selections.
Vikings get: 1-17, 3-79, 2023 fourth-round pick
Chargers get: 1-12
Are the Chargers one piece away? The biggest hole on their roster is at right tackle, where Bryan Bulaga wasn’t able to stay healthy after signing with L.A. from Green Bay in 2020. The Chargers nailed their first-round pick last year when they took left tackle Rashawn Slater; here, they would be moving up ahead of the Texans and Ravens to get someone to patrol the right side, perhaps Charles Cross (Mississippi State).
The Vikings are in an uncomfortable space between rebuilding and competing as a product of the Kirk Cousins deal; they need to add pieces in the secondary, which is something they can do later in the first round. This move would leave the Chargers without their second- and third-round picks, but if it helps keep Justin Herbert upright, they won’t mind.
Texans get: 1-7, 4-112
Giants get: 1-13, 3-68, 3-80
The Texans have to decide how they want to build their core after moving on from Deshaun Watson. One way to do that would be to try to surround second-year quarterback Davis Mills with stellar talent. In this scenario, general manager Nick Caserio could draft one of the top two tackles to play on the right side at No. 3, then move up to grab a wide receiver — likely either Garrett Wilson (Ohio State) or Drake London (USC) — at No. 7. Even if Mills doesn’t live up to expectations in 2022, the next quarterback who takes over would be happy to see a line with Ikem Ekwonu and Laremy Tunsil and a receiving corps built around Wilson (or London) and Brandin Cooks.
The Giants would end up with seven of the first 81 picks in this draft, allowing general manager Joe Schoen to put his stamp on the organization immediately. The Bills (his former organization) found useful players such as Gabriel Davis, Spencer Brown and Taron Johnson in the middle rounds after general manager Brandon Beane arrived in 2017. The Giants will hope that Schoen can find similarly talented prospects to supplement the roster after turning to free agency for those roles in previous years.
Ravens get: 1-23, 2-55, 2023 fourth-round pick
Cardinals get: 1-14, 4-141
The Cardinals have generally focused their efforts over the past two years on adding targets around Kyler Murray and athletes in the middle of the field, but as we saw in their late-season fade, they need help at cornerback. Byron Murphy Jr. has been solid in the slot, but Marco Wilson, a fourth-round pick in 2021, was forced into the lineup before he was ready a year ago, and Robert Alford is a free agent. General manager Steve Keim imported former Vikings first-rounder Jeff Gladney, but the Cardinals don’t have the corners to keep up in a division with Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Moving up here would get Arizona in position for one of the defensive backs expected to come off the board in the 10-15 range, potentially Derek Stingley Jr. or Trent McDuffie (Washington). Baltimore would get to add an extra second-rounder by moving down, where it can address the front seven more cost effectively.
Eagles get: 1-20, 2023 second-round pick
Steelers get: 1-15, WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Hope you like the Eagles and the Saints, because those two organizations hold four of the next five picks. This would be a smaller move for Pittsburgh, which would need to move up only five spots in this situation to get ahead of the Saints at No. 16 in the potential quarterback wars.
Arcega-Whiteside would be a flier for a team with a great track record of developing wideouts, while adding a 2023 second-round pick would give the Eagles a chance to score extra capital in the case they need to move up for a quarterback then.
Saints get: 1-7, 3-67, CB James Bradberry
Giants get: 1-16, 1-19
I know we all saw the Saints get an extra first-rounder in 2022 from the Eagles and assumed they were going after a signal-caller, but is there a scenario in which New Orleans moves up for someone who isn’t a quarterback? We’re only a few years removed from the organization trading up and using two first-round picks to acquire edge rusher Marcus Davenport in 2018. That move hasn’t quite worked out to the extent the team would have hoped, but with a hole at left tackle after losing Terron Armstead in free agency, moving up for one of the top tackles might make sense.
With the rival Falcons not making a trade at No. 8 and the Seahawks in the market for a left tackle at No. 9, the Saints would probably need to get to No. 7 if they wanted to draft Evan Neal. Getting there would probably cost them both of their first-round picks, but they could also address a weakness across from Marshon Lattimore at corner by adding Bradberry, who is in the final year of his contract. The Giants would end up eating some of Bradberry’s base salary to get this done, but adding an extra first-rounder would be a boon.
Adam Schefter says the trade with the Saints better positions the Eagles to potentially draft a QB in the 2023 NFL draft.
Chargers get: 1-32, 2-34
Lions get: 1-17, 3-79
As Mel Kiper Jr. noted in his most recent mock, the Chargers really need only to add a right tackle and aren’t in a good spot to take one here. Having traded their second-round pick to the Bears for Khalil Mack, they could stand to trade down and add one of the best second-round picks to their portfolio. They can attack the line of scrimmage with two picks in the 30s.
Detroit general manager Brad Holmes comes from the Rams organization, and L.A. has typically treated late first-round picks as opportunities to get more valuable picks or players. Moving up here would get the Lions ahead of the Steelers if they do want to grab a quarterback, or land them in front of the Eagles and Saints if Detroit wants to take a wide receiver.
I’m not sure either of those teams will actually use an early pick on a wide receiver, but we could also see some of the teams drafting later in the first round move up for a wide receiver. Here’s one of those teams in the next deal …
Eagles get: 1-29, 2-62
Chiefs get: 1-18
While the Eagles have been linked to wide receivers and could certainly take another wideout to support Jalen Hurts, I can’t imagine them using another high pick on a receiver. They used a second-round pick in 2019 on JJ Arcega-Whiteside and back-to-back first-rounders on Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith. You could argue they haven’t exactly finished the job given the struggles of Arcega-Whiteside and Reagor, but Philadelphia should probably use its first-rounders to address other positions.
Just as the Packers need to consider trading up to get one of the best wideouts in this class, the Chiefs might very well be in the same situation after trading Tyreek Hill. Patrick Mahomes can still count on throwing to Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but Kelce is 32, Smith-Schuster is on a one-year deal and Valdes-Scantling has never been a primary receiver. Would the Chiefs get ahead of the competition for a target such as Chris Olave here?
Saints get: 1-24, 3-88
Cowboys get: 1-19, 6-194
We’ve already gone through scenarios in which the Saints trade up for a quarterback and a left tackle. This time, let’s wonder about what happens if they can’t land their man. We saw the Chiefs jump ahead of the Saints to grab Patrick Mahomes in 2017, so if that somehow happens again, New Orleans would probably be better off trading down and adding extra picks to help recoup some of the capital it lost as part of the swap with the Eagles.
This could be a spot for teams looking to move up ahead of the Steelers for a quarterback, but we also might see this as a landing spot for teams that want to draft Devin Lloyd (Utah) and get ahead of the Patriots at No. 21. The Cowboys value off-ball linebackers more than most other teams, and while their investments in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith didn’t live up to expectations, they don’t regret taking Micah Parsons, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year. Drafting Lloyd would allow Dallas to use Parsons as a pass-rusher more frequently and land the Cowboys a long-term replacement for Vander Esch, who will be a free agent in 2023.
Steelers get: 2-61, 4-134, QB Jimmy Garoppolo
49ers get: 1-20, 3-84
Here’s a creative way for the Steelers to land a veteran quarterback and get back to competing in the AFC North. They don’t have the cap space to afford the $25 million remaining on Garoppolo’s deal in 2022, and the 49ers need draft capital after trading three first-rounders for Trey Lance. We can satisfy both of these teams’ needs if they manage to split the money.
To get this to work, the 49ers would convert $16 million of Garoppolo’s base salary into a roster bonus and pay it immediately, bringing his salary down to a far more palatable $8.2 million. The Steelers would move down 41 picks for the privilege. This deal would value Garoppolo and the $16 million San Francisco is eating as something close to the 27th pick in a typical draft.
The Browns paid about $16 million for the equivalent of a high second-round pick when they ate Brock Osweiler’s deal in 2018, and that was for a quarterback who wasn’t expected to start. Garoppolo is a much more talented signal-caller, but he’s coming off a shoulder injury, and the 49ers don’t have much leverage given the paucity of teams that can both absorb his deal and need a starter.
There’s no way these teams could make this move on the fly, so this would have to be agreed before the draft. The Steelers would need to get a look at Garoppolo’s recovery from surgery, and the 49ers wouldn’t restructure his contract unless they were sure a deal could be done. This is probably too messy to actually happen, but there’s a universe in which both sides could benefit.
Patriots get: 2-39, 2023 second-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick
Bears get: 1-21, 2023 fourth-round pick
Here’s an opportunity for Bill Belichick to take advantage of another team’s desperation. The Bears need to add pieces around second-year quarterback Justin Fields, but with a dismal cap situation and no first-round pick, the most notable addition general manager Ryan Poles has been able to make this offseason is Byron Pringle. That won’t do. Chicago could move ahead of its division rivals in Green Bay to add a wide receiver or interior lineman here.
The Bears could get this done by sending picks Nos. 39 and 48 to the Patriots, but with unlimited job security, Belichick would probably prefer a 2023 second-rounder from a rebuilding organization. Landing two picks in the 30s for the 21st pick is an easy win for Belichick, who has been doing this for a long time. New England would likely look to hit the interior of its offensive line or the secondary after trading down.
Packers get: WR Chase Claypool (from Steelers), 4-114 (from Falcons)
Steelers get: 1-8, 6-190 (from Falcons)
Falcons get: 1-20 (from Steelers), 1-22 (from Packers)
It’s the first three-team trade here! There are other ways for each of these teams to accomplish their goals, but this gets all three organizations what they want have coming out of this draft.
Let’s start with the Packers, who add a valuable young receiver set to make just $2.7 million combined over the next two seasons. Claypool didn’t take a leap forward in his second season, but he has the size and physical tools to win at all levels of the field, and he’d get a massive upgrade at quarterback when it comes to deeper routes. The Packers have been rewarded for their patience in the past; remember that Davante Adams himself was seen as a disappointment after his second season and didn’t post a 1,000-yard campaign until his fifth year. Claypool’s early success makes him a slightly better bet than the average rookie being drafted in the 20s.
The Falcons need to amass draft capital. If they aren’t going to draft a quarterback at No. 8, they’re better off trading down and getting an extra first-rounder. Even with fourth- and sixth-round picks, this deal is a net victory for Atlanta on the Johnson chart. It is in a position to target the best prospect available, which could be a quarterback at this point of Round 1.
For Pittsburgh, this is using what the organization does well to replenish its biggest weakness. The organization has an incredible track record of finding receivers in the middle rounds, with Claypool the latest member of a group that includes Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson. The latter is due for a massive extension, which would make it difficult for the Steelers to then offer Claypool a similar deal the following offseason. There was at least a little friction between Claypool and the organization last season, and while I don’t think it was enough to force a trade, this would be a chance for Pittsburgh to get a significant draft pick in return.
In this scenario, the Steelers sacrifice Claypool and the No. 20 pick to move up and get their quarterback of the future. They can use their second- or third-round pick to draft Claypool’s replacement, sign Johnson to an extension and move forward with a transitioning core on offense. This deal values Claypool as being worth something in the ballpark of the No. 34 pick in a typical draft.
Cardinals get: 2-33, 3-70
Jaguars get: 1-23, 2023 fourth-round pick
Arizona has already traded away its fourth- and fifth-round picks, so trading down would probably be the right move if given the opportunity. (Don’t take this as a suggestion that the team will actually make that move in real life.) With the Cardinals needing to address both their edge and cornerback in this draft, moving down would give them four picks in the first three rounds.
Carson Wentz‘s numbers with the Eagles were dramatically influenced by the health of his offensive line, something I’m sure new Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson will have in mind as he develops Trevor Lawrence. The Jags signed Brandon Scherff to play guard, but they also lost starting center Brandon Linder to retirement. Trading up here would get them ahead of the Cowboys and Titans, each of whom could be in the market for guards or centers, to grab a lineman such as Zion Johnson (Boston College) or Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa).
Cowboys get: 1-14
Ravens get: 1-24, 2-56, 5-176
Jerry Jones said he could trade up in this draft, so while he could be bluffing, let’s take the Cowboys owner at face value. Dallas could add a wide receiver to replace Amari Cooper, a defensive tackle or help in the secondary. I wonder if the Cowboys would try to trade up for Kyle Hamilton if the Notre Dame safety falls, although I’m not sure he would fall enough for Dallas to make that move without giving up an exorbitant amount of draft capital.
We’ve seen star safeties fall further than expected, though, like when Derwin James dropped all the way to No. 17 for the Chargers in 2018. If Hamilton gets to No. 14 this year, the Cowboys could sneak ahead of the Eagles and Saints and pounce for one of the draft’s most intriguing players. They brought back Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker, but Hamilton would be a long-term building block and a solution for slowing down mobile quarterbacks. The Ravens could add front-seven help even after moving down.
Bills get: 2-40, 2-41, 4-109
Seahawks get: 1-25, 2-57
The obvious position to target for the Bills in this draft is cornerback, where Tre’Davious White is coming off a torn ACL and Levi Wallace left in free agency. One option would be to try to trade up for Derek Stingley Jr. or Trent McDuffie, but it’s plausible they approach this problem by adding multiple cornerbacks to the roster. Trading down could get Buffalo two viable starting corners early in the second round. General manager Brandon Beane could also instead use one of those picks to make a more reasonable bet on a running back, as taking Breece Hall looks better at No. 40 than it does at No. 25.
If the Seahawks draft a cornerback or left tackle at No. 9, this would be a move up to go after a quarterback or an edge rusher. Then again, knowing how Pete Carroll is approaching this offense, maybe this would be their time to trade up for Hall.
Titans get: 2-38, 3-69
Jets get: 1-26, 4-143
This is a logical landing spot for a trade down. The Titans have turned into one of the league’s most top-heavy teams and need to add depth to supplement their roster. They don’t need an edge rusher, and they pick ahead of the Buccaneers and Chiefs, teams that will both likely be looking at defensive line help. Tennessee could target offensive linemen and a reliable backup for running back Derrick Henry if it trades down.
Which team trades up depends on what happens at the top of the draft. If the Jets don’t pick an edge rusher at No. 4 or 10, this would be a place for them to move ahead and grab a player such as Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) or George Karlaftis (Purdue). They could also be in the market for a cornerback, and trading up here would get them ahead of the Chiefs, who could transition from acquiring failed first-round picks at cornerback via trade to using a first-round pick on a corner of their own.
Buccaneers get: 2-47, EDGE Montez Sweat
Commanders get: 1-27, 2-60
The Buccaneers, all-in for what might be Tom Brady‘s final season, need to find pass-rushers who can make an instant impact. They can draft one and hope to land a difference-maker, but another way to approach it would be to make a move for Sweat, who would be under contract for $2.1 million in 2022 before an $11.5 million option in 2023. His numbers weren’t overwhelming in 2021 — five sacks and 13 knockdowns in 10 games — but the 2019 first-rounder had nine sacks and 20 knockdowns the year before. Sweat and 2021 first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka would be Tampa’s new starting duo on the edge.
Washington would obviously love to keep its line of first-round picks together, but it has already given out a big deal to Jonathan Allen and will have to pay Chase Young as early as next year. The Commanders also need to recoup some of the draft capital sent away in the Carson Wentz deal. This trade values Sweat as being worth the 35th pick in a typical draft, which is reasonable for an edge rusher with a track record of good production with one year (and an option) left to go on his rookie deal. The Commanders could use this pick to draft a quarterback if someone they like is on the board or go after offensive linemen to protect Wentz.
Packers get: 1-21, 3-85, WR N’Keal Harry
Patriots get: 1-28, 2-59
There’s something a little weird about the Packers trading up to No. 21 when they also pick at No. 22, but this would be a way to attack if there are two prospects who stand out as their pick approaches. General manager Brian Gutekunst has extra picks in the first, second and fourth rounds, so Green Bay has more draft capital than most teams if it wants to be selective. It can move up here, draft a wide receiver with one of its two first-round picks and simultaneously take a flier on Harry, who needs a change of scenery after a disappointing tenure with the Pats.
New England would get another one of the second-round picks Belichick loves while remaining in position to address the offensive line or secondary at No. 28. Moving on from Harry might be seen as a plus by some Patriots fans; this deal values him as being worth the 216th pick in a typical draft. The Packers would decline Harry’s fifth-year option and give him a shot for 2022, when he’s signed for a modest $1.9 million, only 36% of which is guaranteed.
I pitched a trade like this a couple of weeks ago and no less of an authority than Lamar Jackson ixnayed it, but there are reasons for both sides to consider this. Would the Ravens be willing to do a deal with their conference rivals and hand them a player at a position of need? Remember that they sent Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs a year ago. If a trade makes sense for the Ravens, they won’t let involving the Chiefs stand in their way.
From Baltimore’s perspective, it’s fair to wonder about Brown’s future. We’ve seen him deliver explosive games, but his best performance is still the one we saw in his NFL debut, when he cooked Minkah Fitzpatrick for 147 yards and two touchdowns in 2019. Brown has been inconsistent and failed to top 60 receiving yards once during the second half of last season, when he was without Jackson.
Excuse my French real quick sir…. But HELL NAW❗️ https://t.co/uf1KyvaB8R
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) March 23, 2022
Brown is a valuable player and a talented wideout, but the Ravens just signed Mark Andrews to a big contract and used a first-round pick on Rashod Bateman last year. Given the leap in the wide receiver market, their run-heavy focus on offense, and the likelihood they are going to need to go year-to-year with franchise tags for Jackson, can they really justify paying Brown more than $20 million per year on a new deal? Baltimore needs speed at receiver, but that’s a role it can try to fill with Hardman, who would be a lesser version of Brown on a cheaper deal.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, can unlock more out of Brown than the offense we saw in Baltimore. He isn’t quite as effective of a route runner or as difficult to handle after the catch as Tyreek Hill, but he’s good enough to be a significant part of an excellent passing offense. The Ravens would find it difficult to justify extending Brown, but the Chiefs would have more of a reason to make that move. There’s also the possibility that playing with Patrick Mahomes in an Andy Reid offense would take Brown to new heights.
General manager Brett Veach might prefer to just draft a receiver such as Treylon Burks (Arkansas) or Jahan Dotson (Penn State) and reap the benefits of getting a less expensive player for the next several seasons. Given Brown’s production when he and his starting quarterback have been healthy, though, he could be one way to attack a sudden weakness for Kansas City.
Chiefs get: 2-43, 2-58
Falcons get: 1-30, 3-94
While the Chiefs already have plenty of draft capital after the Tyreek Hill trade, Andy Reid & Co. are going to need to use this draft to add multiple contributors on the defensive side of the ball. If they take a wide receiver at No. 29, trading down would leave them with four second-round picks and a third-round compensatory selection. As tempting as it is to go after the biggest name possible with these two first-rounders, the Chiefs would be in position to address every level of their defense and even add a tight end such as Trey McBride (Colorado State), who could be the long-term replacement for Kelce.
At this point of the first round, teams are likely going to be calling about trading up to grab quarterback prospects, as the Packers did for Jordan Love in 2020 and the Ravens did for Lamar Jackson in 2018. If the Falcons don’t take a quarterback earlier in Round 1, moving up here would get them a shot at a passer to develop behind Marcus Mariota. If Kansas City can get a desperate team to toss it a 2023 first-round selection, that would be an even better straight-up deal for this pick.
Bengals get: 2-37, 4-107
Texans get: 1-31
The Bengals generally hold on to their picks or make small moves down in the draft, so I’ll endorse the latter here. The Texans would be moving up to grab a wide receiver ahead of the Lions, who pick at No. 32 and then again at No. 34.
The AFC champs brought (most) everyone back on defense and upgraded their offensive line, but even after adding multiple starters, they could stand to use an early pick on line depth. Cincinnati will be able to do that at No. 37 and grab an extra fourth-rounder for its patience.
Lions get: 1-14, 4-141
Ravens get: 1-32, 2-34
Let’s finish up with getting the Lions that wide receiver. Their quarterback of the future probably isn’t on their roster, but having Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, T.J. Hockenson and a wideout such as Chris Olave would give Jared Goff plenty of options in Detroit.
Landing one of the top edge rushers at No. 2 and an impact wideout at No. 14 would be an exciting haul for the Lions, while the Ravens would have plenty of options for defensive line help with picks Nos. 32 and 34.