Three NFL teams traded up in 2017 to draft their quarterbacks of the future. The Chicago Bears landed Mitchell Trubisky. Patrick Mahomes II went to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Houston Texans picked Deshaun Watson.
The deals left their trade partners — the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, respectively — in position to control the 2018 draft. The situation, especially for the Browns and Bills, is almost a repeat of 2016-17. In that cycle, the Los Angeles Rams traded up to draft Jared Goff, and the Philadelphia Eagles moved to grab Carson Wentz, putting the Browns and Tennessee Titans in strong position the following year.
In honor of Todd McShay’s first mock draft of the season, let’s examine the accumulated draft capital from the 2017 trades and assess what it means for the Browns, Bills and 49ers at the quarterback position. The NFL won’t confirm full draft order until the spring, and some in-season trades are contingent on performance markers that won’t be calculated until after the season. What follows is our best estimation of teams’ total draft picks, ranked by which teams have the most draft capital after trading down, then by which have the most after trading up. The data at Pro Sports Transactions and Tankathon were most helpful.
2018 assets acquired via trade: The Texans’ first-round pick, projected by ESPN’s Football Power Index to be No. 6 overall. The Browns also own the Texans’ second-round pick, acquired for quarterback Brock Osweiler, along with another second-round pick from the Eagles (Wentz), a fourth-round pick from the Carolina Panthers (punter Andy Lee) and a fifth-round pick from the Chiefs (offensive lineman Cameron Erving).
2018 draft situation: Up to 12 picks, including five in the first two rounds.
Analysis: The hiring of general manager John Dorsey made clear that it is time for the Browns to draft a blue-chip quarterback after two years of accumulating picks via trades down. The only questions are: Who, how many and will Dorsey supplement the pick(s) with a veteran acquisition? After losses in 28 of their past 29 games, the Browns have earned the chance to draft the top quarterback in what is expected to be a strong class.
2018 assets acquired via trade: Chiefs’ first-round pick. The Bills are also likely to own the Rams’ second-round pick (receiver Sammy Watkins), the Eagles’ third-round pick (cornerback Ronald Darby) and the Jaguars’ sixth-round pick (defensive tackle Marcell Dareus).
2018 draft situation: Up to nine picks, with four in the first two rounds. The Bills traded their third- and seventh-round picks to the Panthers as part of the Kelvin Benjamin deal while shipping their sixth-round pick to the Rams along with Watkins.
Current QB situation: Tyrod Taylor is signed for 2018 at $16 million, but his temporary midseason benching suggests that the new regime in Buffalo is not a fan. Backup Nathan Peterman is signed through 2020.
Analysis: New general manager Brandon Beane has been active on the trade market, so the Bills’ draft capital could fluctuate in the coming months. FPI is projecting their first-round picks to be Nos. 15 and 21, but the Bills have enough resources to move up without wiping out their entire draft.
2018 assets acquired via trade: The Bears’ third-round pick.
2018 draft situation: Up to nine, including four in the first three rounds.
Analysis: Garoppolo’s initial performance suggests that the 49ers could commit to him this offseason, either through a long-term deal or by applying the franchise tag. FPI projects their top pick to be No. 4 overall, which makes them a mark for another team looking to trade up in order to draft a quarterback. General manager John Lynch might have acquired his quarterback of the future for a high second-round pick, leaving him plentiful resources to continue building around the QB.
Other notable teams:
New York Jets: Four picks in the first three rounds, thanks to the additional second-round pick they acquired from the Seattle Seahawks for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. The Jets have a total of seven picks.
Now let’s take a quick look at the next-year aftermath of trading up for a quarterback.
2018 draft assets lost via trade: Third-round pick.
Total 2018 draft picks: Seven.
Analysis: The Bears are in the best position of the three teams that traded up, in part because they moved up only one spot to draft Trubisky. But they probably also need the most roster work of the three. Trubisky ranks last among 33 qualified quarterbacks in QBR, but it has been difficult to project his future based on what the Bears have surrounded him with.
2018 draft assets lost via trade: First-round pick.
Total 2018 draft picks: Four.
Analysis: The Chiefs must decide whether to promote Mahomes this offseason, which would perhaps allow them to trade Alex Smith (signed through 2018) to replenish (partially) their draft class. But when the dust clears from this season — a season that started promisingly with a 5-0 start but has since been a struggle — it will be fair to examine the impact of devoting the top of the 2017 class to a player who wasn’t likely to provide immediate help.
2018 draft assets lost via trade: First-round pick.
Total 2018 draft assets: Five, but none in the first two rounds.
Analysis: The Texans gutted this draft with quarterback deals. In addition to the Watson trade, they in essence sold their second-round pick to the Browns to get Osweiler’s $16 million cash and cap hit off their books. The Texans’ collapse can largely be attributed to injuries, and Watson was arguably the most impactful 2017 draft pick in the league until he tore his ACL. But Houston’s resources with which to supplement the roster this offseason are limited.