How the Browns and Eagles could shake up the draft with a QB trade
The Browns and Eagles look like a pair of teams that could make some noise before the 2016 NFL Draft.
When filling out a mock draft, No. 1 and No. 2 are pretty easy. Go Laremy Tunsil to the Titans (they want to protect Marcus Mariota) and go a quarterback to the Browns (they want to add a name to the world's saddest jersey).
It’s really simple because it’s really obvious. But maybe there’s a factor here everyone is missing. Specifically, the economic principles of the NFL as it relates to "Moneyball” and new Browns front office executive Paul DePodesta.
This brings us to a piece from Lance Zierlein on NFL.com relating to the Browns’ No. 2 spot in this draft. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if the Browns actually trade out, as one NFC executive posited.
"Don't be surprised if a team like the Eagles makes a really strong move up the board to get [Carson] Wentz. I don't think he's worth it, but I think they do. Everyone thinks you have to move ahead of Cleveland, but [DePodesta] will want to get as many picks as possible out of this draft. It wouldn't surprise me if a team moved directly to Cleveland's spot for Wentz."
Quarterbacks are the primary currency in football. But just because you need a quarterback doesn’t mean you take a quarterback. Especially when the second-most valuable currency in the NFL is selections in the draft.
The proof is in the pudding for the Browns, who have unsuccessfully drafted quarterbacks over and over and over and over again since 1999.
Instead of treating time like a flat circle, what if the Browns decided they wanted to burn it all to the ground (they started by letting their free agents walk out the door) and rebuild in a Epstein-ian fashion, accumulating as many draft picks as possible and using those picks to acquire talent.
It's a fundamental strategy, and tried and true to boot. There's also little downside. The Browns have been terrible and people expect the Browns to be terrible.
The latest news on Thursday, with Cleveland making huge headlines and signing Robert Griffin III to a two-year deal, doesn't even change the strategy. If anything it emboldens Cleveland to take the best player at No. 2.
If Sashi Brown, DePodesta and Hue Jackson actually convinced Jimmy Haslam to give them time -- something which exists in a bizarre vacuum in the NFL -- they could theoretically add as many picks as possible and just wait it out until the right quarterback comes along.
This is kind of a smart way to do things. It’s just not practical in today’s NFL because people like to keep their jobs.
This is the season of smokescreens, so believing anything anyone says is silly. There is some logic here, however.
Teams will be interested in Wentz, obviously. It's impossible to know how high or how low certain teams are on certain prospects. The Eagles have Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, which, well, is an argument for Wentz actually.
And we’re all just riding along assuming the Browns will take a quarterback at No. 2. They have to because they need a quarterback. But ignoring talent and selecting for need is exactly why the Browns are the Browns. Ignoring need and selecting talent on a barren roster is the most logical move of all.
DePodesta is a former baseball executive, but that simplifies his work. He’s analyzing markets and trying to determine how to exploit various factors in order to gain a competitive advantage.
And the biggest competitive advantage any NFL team can have -- at least in the draft -- is sticking to its board and taking the best possible players.
This is what Ozzie Newsome does with the Ravens. It’s what Bill Belichick does with the Patriots. Ditto for Ted Thompson and the Packers, Kevin Colbert and the Steelers, Dave Gettleman and the Panthers, Steve Keim and the Cardinals, John Schneider and the Seahawks.
Stop me if you already noticed the common thread between these organizations. (Hint: they win a lot of football games.)
Wentz’s value is high. He’s going to require a top-10 pick at minimum. Howie Roseman already made a play up to No. 8 (vis-a-vis a Byron Maxwell trade), which means he’s in position to make another bold move if he wants. Getting to No. 2 wouldn’t be cheap, but if DePodesta is forward-thinking he’d have to consider dropping down a couple spots for a reasonable price.
Then all of a sudden there’s a scenario where the entire first round is thrown for a loop by the Browns doing something smart. Because the draft needs some more surprises obviously.
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