This week, I would like to step away from fantasy football for a moment and look at something I have been thinking about in the NFL. Let’s take a look at a couple of past trades that have happened in the NFL.
2000 – Cowboys give up two first round picks for Joey Galloway.
2008 – Cowboys give up first, third, six, and seventh round picks for Roy Williams.
2011 – Falcons give up two firsts, a second, and two fourth round picks for Julio Jones.
2012 – Redskins give up three first round picks and a second round pick for RG3.
These trades got me thinking - what players in today’s NFL would be worth giving up two first round picks? Obviously this is a loaded question (and COMPLETELY hypothetical in this context), as most teams would give up two first round picks without hesitation for an Aaron Rodgers or an Andrew Luck. But let’s take the quarterbacks out of this conversation, as we all know what an elite quarterback can do for a team, and I would imagine that a quarterback-hungry team would give up considerably more for an elite QB. You will also not see any running backs here. The value of the running back position has really dropped in recent years as teams have found value at that position in all rounds of the draft.
So, with that in mind, what players out there are worth two first round picks? The answer to this question obviously has a couple caveats. First you would have to consider the age and health of the player that you are trading for - an older and/or oft-injured player is not worth the risk. Then you have to consider where the picks are - two picks at the end of the first round are a completely different story than two picks in the top ten. You also have to consider how many other holes you need to fill on your team - if you are half an offense and defense away from true Super Bowl contention, then trading multiple picks is not going to get you there.
Other than the QB, I cannot think that there is a player that the Jaguars, Redskins, or Jets would give up two first round picks to get, as those teams all have multiple holes to fill before they are true Super Bowl contenders. But what about teams like Seattle, Dallas, Indianapolis, or even New England? Would any of those teams give up two first round picks to get them over the edge or keep them in contention? I would venture to say that right now Seattle would lean towards giving up two first round picks for a Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown, and Dallas and Indianapolis would love to add a Justin Houston or JJ Watt off the edge to help their defense.
For the sake of argument, we will assume that your team is only a player or two away from making a legitimate Super Bowl run, and will assume that you can take on any contract that you trade for. Assuming you have a quarterback that is capable of leading you to a Super Bowl, as an NFL general manager, would you give up two first round picks for one player?
Not all first round picks will pan out and turn into NFL stars - or even starters - for their respective teams. The value of first round picks is that they are under team control, and can be more affordable than filling gaps in free agency. Team control in today’s NFL, along with a good cap number, is worth its weight in gold.
For me to give up two first round picks, I need a player that will change the way that I coach, that will enable me to change my entire offensive or defensive philosophy. I need a player that makes everyone around them better, and will make the other team also change their game plan. I need a game changer not only on the field, but in weekly game planning as well. This list is nothing more than my opinion, and the great thing about an exercise like this is that everyone’s opinion will be different. Some will say that they would definitely trade for these players, and others would NEVER trade two first round picks.
So here are a few players that I feel are game changers, and in the right (hypothetical) situation, players that I could see giving up two first round picks for if it allowed my team to go to the Super Bowl.
JJ Watt: You could make an argument that most teams, whether in Super Bowl or contention or not, would give up two first round picks for JJ Watt right now. Watt is a defensive game changer that changes not only the defense you run, but makes teams change what they do on offense to account for him. Watt is the total package, and is also a highly valuable brand name in his own right that allows a team to market him off the field. Of all the players on this list, he is probably the easiest one for me to see being traded for two first round picks.
Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown: In past years, I would put Calvin Johnson on this list, but age and injuries would not allow me to give up two first round picks for him anymore. This is where Bryant and Brown step in. In a passing league, these two are game changers. They MUST be accounted for on every down, and from every spot on the field. They open up the field for other receivers and help the running game. They are true weapons with the ball, change the offense that they are in, and make defensive coordinators plan accordingly. Both of these players have the ability to make an average offense instantly become above average. They are truly impactful.
Richard Sherman: At a premium position, Sherman is a premium commodity. As with Calvin Johnson, Darrelle Revis would have would have been here for me in the past, but I personally do not feel like he is still worthy of this list. Sherman is a shut-down corner, and allows a defensive coordinator to lock down one half of the field. All season long, the best quarterbacks in the league avoided him. He changes what teams do on offense, allows a defense to play more aggressively knowing that they do not have to account for the person that he has in coverage. He is young, brash, intelligent, and turning into a player that knows how to market himself, making him even more valuable.
Justin Houston: Once again, the current NFL is a passing league. How do you stop the great passing offenses in New England, Green Bay, and Indianapolis? You get after the quarterback, put pressure on them and force them to make quicker decisions - something that Giants have done twice in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady, I might add! Justin Houston fills that role for a defense. Houston forces an offense to keep a tight end in, or to use a running back to help slow him down, taking one more player out of a potential downfield play. He forces an offense to account for him, and allows a defense to shore up holes in the secondary with quicker pressure up front. Pass rushers, and impactful pass rushers are game changers on both sides on the ball.
A couple of other players that I considered:
Luke Kuechly: A true quarterback of a defense, that is constantly around the ball and always making plays. But is a middle linebacker impactful enough for two first round picks? His play says he is, but I am just not sure with the linebacker position.
Ndamukong Suh: With no doubt, Suh is a game changer. A force on the defensive line who requires double teaming, he is a huge impact player that needs to be game planned by opposing teams. My question for him though is the behavior - are the incidents on the field worth the risk of the picks?
Tyron Smith: One of the elite defensive linemen in the league that can make a difference in both the pass and run game. But is an offensive lineman worthy of two first round picks? I tend to lean towards yes for someone like Smith, but just couldn’t add him to list him in the first list yet.
This column was written by Ryan Thyer. Follow him on Twitter: @BigNoahD05