"Go west, young man," was the advice Horace Greeley gave to those seeking fortune in 1865.
In general, I’m a "trade down" within the first round advocate (not out of the first round), especially if doing so will yield additional picks in Rounds 2-4. Here’s why:
1. At a macro level, there is as much quality available late in the first round as there is early in the first round.
2. Starters on rookie contracts are the most valuable asset in the NFL, so more is better.
3. Dave Gettleman drafts well.
Late First Round Quality
Most teams hope their first round draft picks develop into elite players. One way to define an "elite" player is one who makes the Pro Bowl at least twice in his career.
When reviewing players drafted in the last 12 years (2005-2016), a total of 168 players have made the Pro Bowl at least twice per pro-football-reference.com.
Of those 168 players to be selected to multiple Pro Bowls, 91 (54%) were drafted in the first round. Another 29 (17%) were selected in the second round, 17 (10%) in the third round, and the remaining 31 (18%) were drafted in the fourth round or later.
The vast majority of elite players will be selected in the first round. This seems like common sense, and the data backs it up.
But what is really interesting about the first rounders who became multiple Pro Bowlers is this:
Since 2005, players drafted at the end of the first round are just as likely to be selected to multiple Pro Bowls as those drafted at the beginning of the first round.
Multiple Pro Bowlers Drafted Since 2005 - 1st Round
|Draft Position||Multiple Pro Bowlers||Percentage|
Based on the last 12 drafts, it really hasn’t mattered if teams select at the beginning or the end of the first round when predicting the likelihood of snagging a player who will make multiple Pro Bowls.
That's why I advocate trading down in the first round, but not out of the first round.
The Value of Rookie Contracts
If the Panthers can trade the 8th pick for something later in the first round with an additional pick (or picks) in Rounds 2-4, the payoff could be huge if they draft wisely.
Good players are still available in the Rounds 2-4. Not only can they make the roster and contribute rather quickly, but their salary cap numbers are incredibly low, making them some of the most valuable assets in the NFL.
For example, here are the salary cap figures for the Panthers 2016 second and third round draft selections, per Over the Cap.
|James Bradberry||2nd Rd||$720,152||$900,190||$1,080,228||$1,260,266|
|Daryl Worley||3rd Rd||$645,724||$775,724||$865,724||$950,724|
Both Bradberry and Worley were major contributors as rookies in 2016 and appear to have bright futures.
In the 2019 season, Carolina could potentially have two fourth-year starting CBs with a combined cap hit of just $2.2 million.
Landing starters on rookie contracts, especially those selected after the first round, opens up a ton of cap space to address roster needs elsewhere. The more draft picks the Panthers have to find players like Bradberry and Worley, the better, especially with GM Dave Gellleman leading the process.
Dave Gettleman Drafts Well in Rounds 2-4
Gettleman has an excellent track record of finding solid players in Rounds 2-4.
Here is a summary of all of the picks Gettleman has made in Rounds 2-4 since taking over as Carolina's GM in 2013 along with the 2016 salary cap figures for each player.
|Name||Year||Drafted||Position||2016 Cap Hit||Status|
|James Bradberry||2016||2nd Rd||CB||$720,152||Started as rookie, led team w/10 passes def.|
|Daryl Worley||2016||3rd Rd||CB||$645,724||88 tackles as a rookie ranked 4th on team|
|Devin Funchess||2015||2nd Rd||WR||$1,254,748||844 rec yds and 9 TDs in first two seasons|
|Daryl Williams||2015||4th Rd||OT||$664,280||Filled in as starting RT in 2016 with OL injuries|
|Kony Ealy||2014||2nd Rd||DE||$967,318||76 tackles, 14 sacks, 6 FF in 3 seasons|
|Trai Turner||2014||3rd Rd||OG||$753,620||2 Pro Bowl selections in 3 seasons|
|Tre Boston||2014||4th Rd||S||$701,367||16 starts, 108 tackles in 3 seasons|
|Kawann Short||2013||2nd Rd||DT||$1,473,289||2015 Pro Bowler, 22 sacks in 4 seasons|
|Edmund Kugbila||2013||4th Rd||OG||N/A||Waived in 2014 after 2 yrs on IR, never played|
Between 2013 and 2016, Dave Gettleman has drafted nine players in Rounds 2-4. Eight of these players have become starters or regular contributors, and two have made the Pro Bowl. The only player who did not pan out was the injury-plagued Edmund Kugbila.
The total cap hit in 2016 for these eight starters/contributors drafted in Rounds 2-4 in the Gettleman era?
Just $7.2 million.
That’s the type of value that allows teams to sign their studs to contract extensions or bring in free agents while still having ample roster depth.
Carolina should be trying to acquire additional picks in Rounds 2-4 to give Gettleman more opportunities to find another Trai Turner or Kawann Short.
What Can Carolina Get By Trading Down?
Again, the ideal for me is to trade the 8th pick for a mid-to-late first round selection while acquiring additional picks in the second, third, and/or fourth rounds.
So just what can the Panthers potentially get by trading down in the first? Here are some examples from 2016 draft day trades:
By trading back just a couple of spots in the first round, Carolina could still wind up with a pick somewhere between 10th and 15th while acquiring an additional pick (or picks) in the second, third, or fourth rounds.
With Gettleman’s eye for finding value in Rounds 2-4, I’d take that deal in a heartbeat.
With all of this being said, if on draft day the Panthers are on the clock with the 8th pick and they are relatively certain a player is available who will become a franchise cornerstone, then you draft the franchise cornerstone with the 8th pick!
Luke Kuechly was drafted 9th overall in 2012. If a Kuechly-caliber player is available 8th overall this year, then the Panthers should take him without trading down.
In the Cleveland-Tennessee trade example above, Cleveland traded the 8th pick to Tennessee who used the pick to select offensive tackle Jack Conklin who became an All-Pro as a rookie. If a Conklin-caliber player is available with the 8th pick this year, then the Panthers should take him.
But the challenge with the draft is the whole process is an inexact science. Drafting is educated guesswork. There are no guarantees. The more guesses (picks) a team has, the more likely they are to guess correctly.
This is especially true for teams that tend to draft well, like the Panthers have recently done.
So unless another Luke Kuechly is available 8th overall, then trade down, G-man.