"You never trade a dollar for four quarters" - Bill Simmons
You had to do it, guys. We FINALLY start coming to an agreement as to what to do with this blasted number one pick in a "Luck-less" draft, and what do you do? You start quoting Ed Werder of all people!
So now, we are faced with the possibility of trading down out of #1. But is this a wise decision? Well, we have the will to find out, and, if you look hard enough on the Internet, there's always a way.
Time to go back in time to 1994, the first year that the NFL draft was abridged to seven rounds. Why? Because that's twenty years of data. Using ProFootballReference.com's Weighted Career Approximate Value (WCAV; a metric designed to make comparing players of different positions and eras a little more apples-to-apples), let's look at some trades of the magnitude we are considering and see if the dollar won, or the quarters?
The dollar: Bryant Young, WCAV 89
The change: Wayne Gandy, 68; Brad Ottis, 11; Ernest Jones, 2
The Rams traded away a defensive lineman who was on the Second Team, All-1990's for a pretty good tackle and two guys you'd've never heard of. Winner: Dollar
1997: Rams trade 6, 67, 102, 207 to Jets for 1
The dollar: Orlando Pace, 101
This is a clear win for "change". Ignore the fact that the four quarters ended up drafted by four different teams. (I considered factoring in the secondary trades, but decided against it.) The Rams traded up for a Hall of Fame left tackle, but had they stayed put, could've gotten a Hall of Fame left tackle AND a good guard. This is what Team Let's-Get-Mack-At-6 is hoping for. Winner: Change
The dollar: Ricky Williams, 77
The famous Ricky Williams trade, where EIGHT picks were spent on Ricky. And, to be frank, it's sad how close this is. The picks that were given to the Skins add up to 111, an average of 13.875. Furthermore, if you look and realize that 35 of the points from those late-round TE's came after they went to new teams, it comes out about even. As much crap as people gave Mike Ditka, I think knowing what I know now, I'd take Williams over Arrington, a bust QB, two late-bloomer tight ends, and pocket lint. Winner: Dollar
2000: Redskins traded 12, 24 to 49ers for 3
The dollar: Chris Samuels, 59
The change: Shaun Ellis, 71; Ahmed Plummer, 26
I included this as a parallel to a possible deal where the Browns toss us 4 & 26. And for the record, in this case, the trade down worked. Samuels was the top OT prospect that year by a mile, but he did not meet his expectations. He made some Pro Bowls, but more was expected from him, just like if Clowney "only" make a couple Pro Bowls but is never a transcendent pass rusher, he'll've failed to meet the lofty potential placed upon him.Winner: Change
2001: The Falcons trade Tim Dwight, 5, 67, next year's 48 to Chargers for 1
The dollar: Michael Vick, 88.
The change: Tim Dwight, 15(since after trade); LaDanian Tomlinson, 129 (20th all-time since 1950); Tay Cody, 4 (great dime blitz corner in Madden 2005); Reche Caldwell, 20
Yep. The Bolts did not suffer for trading down, and they got decent return on the bonus picks. Winner: Change (though I think both sides can accept what they got)
2004: Giants trade 4, 65, next year's 12, 144 for 1
The dollar: Eli Manning, 85
Before evaluating this trade, I think I was with a lot of people that thought the Bolts should have just avoided all the drama and just drafted Philip Rivers. But the return on investment was huge by drafting the consensus best player and holding him for ransom. Winner: Change
What I noticed when seeing whether or not a trade down worked out for the original team, I saw that out of the six deals I find comparable to this potential scenario with Clowney, the two that favored staying put featured collections of picks in which there was no strong prospect to replace the loss of the one blue-chipper. Yes, the Redskins took the Ricky Williams bounty and flipped it around to get Champ Bailey, but if you just look at the picks themselves, there was no one half as good as Ricky Williams. And when the Rams traded out of 7 in 1994, there was no one that was on the level of Bryant Young, and it ended up costing them.
The four in which trading down were successful had that replacement superstar in common. Walter Jones, Shaun Ellis, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Philip Rivers. Let's especially zoom in on Jones and Rivers. In both circumstances, the team sitting at the top of the draft gave away the right to draft the top prospect, and instead got essentially the #2 prospect at the position and picks. I bring this up to demonstrate my findings: Trading down only works if we can get Khalil Mack. He's the only guy who I feel projects the same way Jones and Rivers projected as far as "being almost as good as that #1 guy".
Herein lies the problem. Mack will NOT be there at 6. It won't happen. If we are going to work this, it would either be swapping places with the Rams or having a gentleman's agreement with the Jaguars that if the Rams pass on Mack for Watkins/Robinson or trade the pick to a QB-needy team, the Glitter Kitties take him and a deal is made. In the case of the former, we probably only get a third rounder out of them, but that's still something for the only guaranteed trade in which we still get Mack. For the Jacksonville trade, we definitely get their 2nd and could argue getting the 3rd, but probably not.
A bigger question to discuss is this: do you think St Louis or Jacksonville would trade up for Clowney when they have Mack in hand?