April 04, 2016
Peter King of Sports Illustrated believes there is a 50-50 chance the Tennessee Titans will trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He identified the obviously identifiable Philadelphia Eagles among three teams who could make that move.
So … do not assume Tennessee is locked into Tunsil. Robinson certainly could take him. But the top of the draft is in flux, and I will not be surprised if in the next three weeks the Titans move the pick for an extra high pick or picks—even though there’s not the Andrew Luck or Marcus Mariota out there to move up and grab. But there are teams like San Francisco or Los Angeles or Philadelphia that might want a quarterback, and might be desperate enough to overpay for the top pick.
If the Titans are so willing to move out of the No. 1 spot, why anyone would be "desperate enough to overpay" to do so? We'll come back to that.
King's rationale on why the Titans would be willing to trade back makes sense. Sort of. According to King, Tennessee may not be in love with a player they would pick at the top of the draft, and therefore could look to acquire more picks by trading out. The odds-on favorite to be picked number one if the Titans just stayed put, for example, is Ole Miss' Laremy Tunsil. King notes that Tunsil may not be a fit for the Titans' scheme.
It’s been thought that Tunsil was more logical, but there are a few things making Tennessee do more homework on him. He is a natural left tackle, to be sure. But he isn’t a classic downhill left tackle, which the Titans want; they just traded for bullish back DeMarco Murray and want to run the ball significantly. And players with history in a college spread offense, like Tunsil, have to adjust, and that’s no sure thing.
I can certainly buy the spread offense concerns. Projecting offensive linemen coming from spread offenses to the pros is just as difficult as projecting quarterbacks from those types of schemes. However, the notion that the Titans are married to the idea that they want to have a "classic downhill left tackle," and that a washed up DeMarco Murray would factor into their draft plans one iota is either wrong or emblematic of just how stupid NFL teams can be.
Still, when looking at the draft positions of the 49ers (seventh) and the Eagles (eighth), the Titans may believe that the position player they'd get at seven or eight may not be that big of a difference from their perception of the value of Tunsil or Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, the two most logical candidates to be selected first. The Rams, sitting at 15th overall, would clearly have a far more difficult time moving all the way to number one, as Eagles fans learned a year ago when Philly failed to move from 20 to two in an attempt to land Marcus Mariota.
Two teams not mentioned as trade-up candidates were the Cowboys, who are sitting at pick number four and currently employ an aging and fragile Tony Romo, as well as the Browns, who in theory could pay a much smaller price to move up one spot from two to one to secure their guy. In the case of a trade with the Browns, the Titans could still get the top player on their board while also accumulating another pick. They could have their cake and eat it too.
Over the last 10 drafts, 10 teams have traded up to draft a quarterback in the first round. A week ago, we detailed what each of those teams had to give up to secure their quarterback. For convenience purposes, we'll show that chart again here:
When the Washington Redskins moved up to select Robert Griffin III, they skewed perception of what it should cost to move up to draft a quarterback. However, as you can see above, the cost to trade up for a quarterback doesn't have to be exorbitantly high. Certainly, none of the above trades compare at all to what the Redskins gave up to select Griffin. Of course, the Redskins had to trade up to the second-overall pick to get him, which obviously raised the cost.
While trading into the No. 1 spot would likely not be cheap, allow me to go ahead and reveal a spoiler -- Nobody is giving up anything close to what the Redskins gave up four years ago so that they can draft either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff.
Wentz and Goff are great quarterback prospects worthy of being drafted highly, in my opinion, but certainly they are not Andrew Luck. If the Eagles have interest in making a move to the top spot, competition from other teams vying for a quarterback could raise the cost some, but it's difficult to imagine anyone doing whatever is necessary to get that top pick.
Last year was a good year for the Titans to be picking in the top two. This year their No. 1 overall status is nowhere near as strong, and surely rest of the league knows it. Overpaying to land the top spot would indeed be "desperation," or perhaps better stated, a failure to recognize that the decreased value of that spot.