Ask the fans of all thirty-two teams what their draft preference is and you're liable to hear at least half respond with a simple two-word phrase: "trade down". The idea of stockpiling draft picks is perfect in theory, but rarely works in practice. It takes a rare combination of a worthy player, perceived value, and agreeable terms -- all finalized within minutes in order to make a deal on draft day. The Carolina Panthers would love to trade down. They have needs all over their roster, holes to fill, and desperately need an influx of talent. It's impossible to predict three months out what could happen on draft day, but there's one scenario that could prompt a trade-down for the Panthers.
If you're a team in need of a quarterback, then that is your biggest need. It doesn't matter if you have the league's worst signal caller, or a mediocre one -- teams in need of quarterbacks have to get one. Many believed the Panthers shouldn't take a QB out of need in 2011, and while there aren't always success stories behind drafting for QB need, it's a position that organizations have to keep throwing things at the wall to get something to stick. Case in point Seattle, where the Seahawks tried trading for QBs, signing them as free agents, and drafting until they finally hit gold with Russell Wilson.
Barring an unforeseen circumstance, Geno Smith will be the first quarterback off the board -- that's a given. Whether that's #1 overall to Kansas City, or further back in the top five -- he'll be taken early. From there it gets a lot more interesting. Provided a team isn't head-over-heels with any other QB, it's unlikely they'll use a top 15 pick on one. Instead, there could be no fewer than six teams in the top ten who need QBs, but will wait until the second round to get one. This is where the water gets muddy, and where a trade is possible.
Everyone has a basic list of the QB talent in the draft, but the majority believe the second, third, and forth QB spots will be taken by Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, and Zac Dysert. There's also a chance someone like Matt Barkley could impress at pro days. If you're a QB needy team who didn't choose one in the top-ten, and was hoping to pick one in the second round -- now you have a dilemma. Is the second-best guy on your board going to make it through the teens, all the way to your next selection?
Enter Tyler Wilson. Most analysts have him as the second-best QB on the board, he's a tough competitor who was surrounded by lacking talent as his career at Arkansas went on. As it stands most are mocking him to either Arizona or Buffalo in the top ten, but there's a chance he could move a little further down to the mid-teens. This is where teams start to get itchy trigger fingers.
What could the Panthers expect in a trade down? This is where it gets even more difficult, because in the scenario of a team moving back into the first round for a second selection, it means Carolina is trading out of the round. Initially it's a loathsome move for a team with needs, but if it means netting a high second round pick, recouping the third round selection traded for Frank Alexander, and getting a future 1st round pick -- they'd be stupid not to make the move.
Dave Gettleman is still in evaluation mode, and with his football background it might behoove the team to give him a full season to use that pro personnel background to analyze the team beyond film. Committing to a top-15 pick is quickly admitting that there's a sole obvious need, and there are myriad. In a trade-down it buys the team time, builds for the future, and does something Marty Hurney never did on draft day -- show patience. Sure, it would be a let down on Thursday night, but it could mean a lot for future Sundays.