As we have crept nearer to the 2013 draft, close observers of the team have narrowed down the list of likely choices at pick #18. Sure, we'd all love for one of the blue-chip tackles to fall to Dallas, but the more realistic targets are guys like Sheldon Richardson, Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper and Kenny Vacarro. If the team picks any of these fine fellows, most of us will be okay with the pick.
But what happens if those guys are off the board? What will the Dallas war room do? Pick a top player at an already-stocked position? Reach for a need? Panic and start guzzling single malt scotch? Perhaps they might opt for several of these at once; a more viable option would be to trade out of the eighteenth spot somewhere into the twenties, picking up draft picks along the way. Certainly, this strategy requires a willing partner; for the sake of this exercise, I'm going to assume that teams are interested in moving up to select a player who plays a position at which the Cowboys are already stocked with young talent. For the sake of argument, let's say, cornerback, shall we?
Okay, now lets look at general possibilities. The closer teams are to the Cowboys pick, the less they’ll have to give up. According to Jimmy Johnson's well-worn draft value calculator, the eighteenth pick is worth 900 points. I’ve used this useful pick value calculator to figure potential draft pick swaps, assuming that the Cowboys will trade back only if the trade gives them at least a slight points advantage. I’m also assuming that Dallas won't accept a trade involving future draft picks.
Remember that the cowboys currently own the following selections: 18 (first); 47 (second); 80 (third) 114 (fourth); 151 (fifth); 185 (sixth). To move up to the eighteenth pick, teams in the 19-31 range will have to give up anywhere from a fifth to a second-round pick, depending on how far they'd need to move. Note that, because San Francisco has so many picks, and is at a significant distance from eighteen, there are three viable trade-down options, each of which offers a different combination of swapped picks. More on that later.
Dallas 18 (900 pts) for New York Giants 19 + 152 (906.8 pts):
Dallas 18 (900) for Chicago 20 + 117 (910)
Swap fourth rounder for a third:
Dallas 18 + 114 (966) for Cincinnati 21 + 84 (970)
Dallas 18 +114 (966) for St. Louis 22 + 78 (980)
Swap fifth rounder for a third:
Dallas 18 + 151 (931) for Minnesota 23 + 83 (935)
Dallas 18 (900) for Indianapolis 24 + 86 (900)
Third and a fifth:
Dallas 18 (900) for Minnesota 25 + 83 + 214 (901.8)
Third and a fourth:
Dallas 18 (900) for Green Bay 26 + 8 + 122 (900)
Third, fourth and a fifth:
Dallas 18 (900) for Houston 27 + 89 + 124 + 160 (901.4)
Swap fourth rounder for a second:
Dallas 18 + 114 (966) for Denver 28 + 58 (980)
Swap a fifth and a sixth for a second:
Dallas 18 + 151 + 185 (949.4) for New England 29 + 59 (950)
Swap a sixth for a second:
Dallas 18 + 185 (917.4) for Atlanta 30 + 60 (920)
Swap a sixth for a second and a fifth:
Dallas 18 + 185 (917.4) for San Francisco 31 + 61 + 157 (921.6)
Swap second, fifth and sixth for second and third:
Dallas 18 + 47 + 151 + 185 (1379.4) for San Francisco 31 + 34 + 74 (1380)
Swap second for second, third and fourth:
Dallas 18 + 47 (1330) for San Francisco 31 + 34 + 93 + 128 (1332)
Which of these scenarios is most likely? This is a tough draft to figure. I could see a record flurry of trades. I can also envision a paucity of swaps. On one hand, reports have scouts struggling to agree in terms of the grades they are giving players. Consequently, a team might see tremendous value in a guy that others don’t, and engineer a trade way up the ladder to get him. On the other hand, if most of the guys in the 15-40 range grade out fairly evenly, it seem unlikely that a team is going to give up a second day pick to get a player with the same grade as the player they could have drafted had they stayed put.
I do think we can narrow the field a bit by looking at how many picks different teams own going into the draft. For example, Indianapolis, Denver and New England, with four, five and five total selections, aren't likely to spend them all trading up. I think we can eliminate these as possibilities. Also, the way that Houston's picks fall, they'd have to clean out their draft cupboard to make a fair trade, so I'll rule them out as well.
On the other hand, the teams most likely to jump any distance to pick eighteen are those with multiple picks to spare. Minnesota, who sits at both 23 and 25, has eleven selections, and might want to move up to get a better quality player. Atlanta, at 30 is a likely candidate; rumors have them looking for a trade up, and GM Thomas Dimitroff has shown that he will spend what it takes to go up and get a guy he wants. And finally, San Francisco has eleven picks, more than can probably make an already stacked roster. Might they opt for quality over quantity, especially if a player at a position of need like safety Kenny Vacarro was on the board? Unless they can find teams to give them future picks for some of those choices, they're going to have to move up at some point.
And where does Dallas stand? If I'm trading back, I want a premium pick for my troubles - a second or third rounder. When we were making picks for our FPW mock, our email thread was filled with comments about how pleasantly surprised we were to see such quality on the board well into round three. Indeed, the quality and depth in this draft is such that a team with multiple seconds and thirds can find starting caliber players.The nice thing is that all three of the most likely trading partners wold have to spend at least a third to move up.
The safer of these is a trade with the Vikings, which would net the Cowboys either a third for a fifth (moving back to 23) or a third and a fifth (to 25). However, I'm not sure the players in that range are any better than those that will be selected at the end of the round, so if I'm trading back, I'm shooting for a sweet spot right at the end of the round: picks 30 or 31. Trading with the Falcons could bring in another second rounder (giving Dallas picks 30, 47 and 60); a trade with the 49ers would bring in myriad possibilities, which could leave the Cowboys with the following combinations:
Option I: 31, 47, 61, 80, 114, 151, 157
Option II: 31, 34, 74, 80, 114
Option III: 31, 34, 80, 93, 114, 128, 151, 185
Because it presents so many delicious possibilities, I'm really intrigued by the thought of a trade with San Francisco (assuming, of course, that the 'Niners were remotely as intrigued by such a deal). Sure, the Cowboys would lose out on that key mid-first round guy. But to have that many premium picks in one of, if not the, deepest second day in recent memory, would go a long way toward giving this team the young, deep roster it needs, not only to compete in the rugged NFC, but also to get out from underneath its potentially crushing salary cap situation. That's what they call a win-win, people.