The Bills, Patriots and other quarterback-hungry teams will probably be on the hunt to move up.
During the 2017 NFL Draft, there were six trades on the first night, beginning with the No. 2 pick getting dealt to the Chicago Bears. Those deals — as well as trades for Sam Bradford and Brandin Cooks that included first-round picks — reshaped the draft order for the first round in 2017.
Teams picking near the top often have many needs to address after a rough season and not enough picks to fill those holes. Teams at the bottom often feel like one more elite talent is all it takes to push them over the top.
But the biggest deals typically happen because of quarterbacks.
The Bears, Chiefs and Texans all moved up in 2017 to secure their respective quarterbacks of the future. In a quarterback-heavy draft class that will likely see at least five passers selected in the first round, the 2018 NFL Draft could feature plenty of wheeling and dealing.
Here are a few teams that could be in business:
Trade up candidates
The Bills keep insisting that they aren’t desperate to find a quarterback this April. After all, they’re perfectly set for the future with … [checks notes] … AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman?
Bills Owner Terry Pegula: “We are looking at all positions in the Draft. It could be a quarterback, but we are in good shape with AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman.” pic.twitter.com/HhwKy6PQSy
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) March 27, 2018
#Bills GM Brandon Beane said he still thinks it would be a successful draft even if they don’t come away with a franchise quarterback.
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 16, 2018
Forgive me if I’m not convinced.
Buffalo already inched closer to the top of the draft order when they traded Cordy Glenn to the Cincinnati Bengals in a deal that included a swap of the No. 12 and No. 21 picks. But to get a franchise quarterback, the Bills probably have to climb higher.
Most draft projections have three quarterbacks going in the top five picks, so the Bills will need to give the New York Giants a call if they’re hoping to get a passer before the New York Jets take one at No. 3 overall. Otherwise, Buffalo could look to slide into the top 10 and take the fourth passer off the board — which could be UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady will be 41 before the 2018 season begins and the passer groomed to take his place, Jimmy Garoppolo, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2017 season.
While Brady hasn’t given reason to believe that his play will drop off soon, the history of every other quarterback in NFL history has. So there’s high urgency for the Patriots to find another passer to add to the depth chart with Brian Hoyer.
After trading Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams, the Patriots are set up with the No. 23 and No. 31 selections. That’s a perfect spot to land a player like Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph or cross their fingers that Louisville’s Lamar Jackson slides to the end of the first round.
But if the Patriots really want to make sure they find a top talent at the position, the team probably needs to use its draft capital to climb high enough for Rosen or Jackson.
Kansas City Chiefs
Trading Marcus Peters was a choice that left the Chiefs with a big hole at cornerback and so far this offseason, the team hasn’t done much to address that. It acquired Kendall Fuller in the trade that sent Alex Smith to Washington, but he’s a slot cornerback. And hoping David Amerson can step in to save the day as a starter is optimistic, at best.
The best case scenario for the Chiefs would be to discover a starting-quality cornerback in the 2018 NFL Draft, but the problem is that Kansas City won’t be on the clock until the No. 54 pick thanks to a trade last year that landed the team Patrick Mahomes.
Coming all the way up to get Ohio State’s Denzel Ward is unrealistic, but if the Chiefs have their eye on Iowa’s Josh Jackson, UCF’s Mike Hughes, or Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, don’t be surprised if Kansas City strikes at the opportunity to climb into the end of the first round or the top of the second round to get their target.
Trade down candidates
New York Giants
The Giants have three attractive options for the No. 2 pick:
- Take a quarterback to eventually take over for Eli Manning.
- Take N.C. State pass rusher Bradley Chubb or Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and get an immediate contributor.
- Trade the pick to a team hunting for a quarterback.
If the Giants love a quarterback, the first option may be tough to ignore. But it assumes that New York isn’t convinced 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb isn’t already that player.
And landing Chubb or Barkley would help the Giants in 2018, but if a trade package includes multiple first-round picks, it could be enough to pry the pick from New York.
The Giants are in the driver’s seat, and are perfectly positioned for some serious price gouging.
The Colts added three second-round picks by moving down three spots in a deal with the New York Jets. But the Indianapolis roster needs a lot of work and the Colts are reportedly looking at the possibility of moving down further, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks.
It makes sense for a team that’s slowly building for the long haul under Chris Ballard, but it would likely mean passing up on Chubb, Barkley or Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. So a deal involving the Colts would likely require a quarterback to slip out of the top five and into the striking range of a passer-hungry team like the Bills or the Arizona Cardinals.