Realistic trade-down scenarios for the Giants

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Many of us, myself included, love to do mock drafts, and this year especially there is great interest in the New York Giants using one of their two high Round 1 picks to get extra draft capital, and specifically an extra first-round pick in 2023 to put them into position to draft a quarterback.

But what is a realistic amount of capital to expect in the draft trade? Mock draft simulators vary wildly in their answers to that question. Pro Football Focus permits users to get outrageous hauls of picks, Pro Football Network is somewhat better, and the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator is fairly conservative in what it will allow. In the actual NFL draft, trades depend partly on how desperate the GM trading up is, partly on the shrewdness of the GM trading down, and partly on the traditional sources of information that GMs use to evaluate appropriate compensation in a trade. (See the Philadelphia Eagles-New Orleans Saints trade as an example of one GM, Howie Roseman, getting an outrageously good return after fleecing the Indianapolis Colts on the Carson Wentz trade a year earlier.)

Supposedly, GMs still use the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart or something like it to evaluate potential trades. This was the first of its kind, but today it is considered to be too biased toward overvaluing the top 5-10 picks. A number of alternative trade value charts that try to remedy this have been proposed, all of which value the very top picks less and later picks more but give fairly similar results to each other. Here, I use the Fitzgerald-Spielberger trade value chart, which takes an objective approach: It looks at second contracts given to players (or not) after their rookie contracts end and considers the value of the second contract to be an objective indicator of how the NFL itself values that draft pick in hindsight.

(An interesting third approach, originally described in the paper The Loser's Curse, looks at the "surplus value" of NFL draft picks and trades by comparing the salaries paid to picks when drafted to their performance-based monetary valued afterward. It concludes that the sweet spot for getting the best return on investment monetarily is draft picks in late-first to early-second round. This is because the agreed-upon first year salaries of NFL draft picks drops off so sharply from No. 1 to No. 32 and beyond, while the actual performance-based value of the draft pick decreases more slowly. PFF has its own version of this using their WAR metric.)

So, how much might the Giants reasonably ask for in proposed trades for No. 5? Let's consider four viable trade partners, each of them in need of a quarterback: Atlanta (at No. 8), Seattle (No. 9), New Orleans (No. 16), and Pittsburgh (No. 20). The goal here is for the trade partner to get ahead of Carolina to ensure getting the quarterback the franchise wants. Here's what a fair return for No. 5 would be from each team based on the Fitzgerald-Spielberger value chart, and an advantageous return for the Giants would be from the Jimmy Johnson chart (because that chart is biased toward the higher picks but is relevant because that's how GMs operate). I consider two possibilities, one that involves only added picks in 2022 and another that gets a first-round pick in 2023. For the latter, I make the traditional assumption that a Round 1 pick in 2023 equals a mid-Round 2 pick in 2022, i.e., No. 48):

Trade 1: Falcons-Giants

JJ: Atlanta gets No. 5 (1700 trade value points), Giants get No. 8 + No. 58 (1720 points)
or Atlanta gets No. 5 + No. 112 + No. 147 (1803 points) and the Giants get No. 8 + 2023 Round 1 (1820 points)

F-S: Atlanta gets No. 5 (2184 points), Giants get No. 8 + No. 214 (2227 points)
or Atlanta gets No. 5 + No. 81 (2957 points), Giants get No. 8 + 2023 Round 1 (2984 points)

Trade 2: Seahawks-Giants

JJ: Seattle gets No. 5 + No. 112 (1770 points), NGiants get No. 9 + No. 41 (1840 points)
or Seattle gets No. 5 + No. 112 (1770 points), Giants get + No. 9 + No. 153 + 2023 Round 1 (1800 points)

F-S: SEA get #5 + #182 (2547 points), NYG get #9 + #152 + #230 (2585 points)
or SEA get #5 + #112 (2793 points), NYG get #9 + 2023 rd. 1 (2925 points)

Trade 3: Saints-Giants

The Saints have no 2023 Round 1 pick after their trade with Philadelphia, so I consider only a trade that gets the Giants additional 2022 picks.

JJ: New Orleans gets No. 5 + No. 112 + No. 182 (1789 points), New York gets No. 16 + No. 19 (1875 points)

F-S: New Orleans gets No. 5 (2184 points), New York gets No. 16 + No. 98 (2271 points)

Trade 4: Steelers-Giants

JJ: Pittsburgh gets No. 5 (1700 points), New York gets every Steelers draft pick (Nos. 20, 52, 84, 138, 209, 226, 242) (1448 points)
or Pittsburgh gets No. 5 (1700 points), New York gets no. 20 + 2023 Round 1 + 2023 Round 2 + 2023 Round 3 + 2024 Round 1 (1712 points)

F-S: Pittsburgh gets No. 5 (2184 points), New York gets No. 20 + No. 52 (2237 points)
or Pittsburgh gets No. 5 + No. 182 (2547 points), New York gets No. 20 + No. 242 + 2023 Round 1 (2738 points)

Some reactions:

- If teams actually do still base draft trades on the Jimmy Johnson chart, then moving down a few slots from #5 (i.e., trading with Atlanta or Seattle) should only get the Giants an extra second-round pick, and maybe only if Joe Schoen throws in a Day 3 pick, if the Giants are interested in a pure 2022 trade. If the Giants are interested in a trade that nets an extra 2023 Round 1 pick, it can be done only by giving up some 2022 Day 2/3 draft capital.

- If, instead, teams begin to use one of the other trade value charts like Fitzgerald-Spielberger, Rich Hill, etc., then a fair trade-down gets us much less when trading with Atlanta or Seattle. In fact it gets the Giants virtually nothing that most fans would consider worth trading for. That's because the newer charts incorporate the empirical evidence that the draft is a crapshoot and you lose little by trading down.

- A fair trade with New Orleans is almost certainly unlikely to happen. They have no 2023 Round 1 pick, which eliminates one motivation for a trade. Some may see the No. 5 for No. 16 + No. 19 (with the Giants No. 112 and No. 182 thrown in) in the Jimmy Johnson scenario and get excited. Imagine having Nos. 7, 16 and 19! The Giants could get a top-tier offensive lineman, top-tier cornerback, and top-tier edge defender. Who wouldn't love that for the Giants? Answer: The front office. Three first round picks would make the 2022 draft class even more difficult to fit under the salary cap, necessitating more releases or restructures. And GMs think ahead to Year 5, when they will be faced with fifth-year options for all three picks if they succeed and then second contracts to negotiate all in the same year. This is surely one of the reasons Howie Roseman traded one of Philadelphia's Round 1 picks to the Saints.

- In the Jimmy Johnson world, it is impossible for the Giants to make a fair trade with Pittsburgh using only 2022 assets. The Steelers could give us all seven of their 2022 picks and it still wouldn't be enough to be worth it for the Giants. There's a way to make it worth it if Pittsburgh eviscerates its draft capital for the next two years. A fair trade with Pittsburgh in the Fitzgerald-Spielberger world would get New York only an extra Round 2 pick in 2022, or Pittsburgh's 2023 Round 1 plus a swap of late picks in 2022.

I only did calculations for trading the No. 5 pick, but you can assume that the results would be noticeably worse for trading the No. 7 pick, at least in Jimmy Johnson world, where No. 5 is worth 1,700 points and No. 7 is worth 1,500 points. That 200-point difference equates to the No. 78 pick in the draft. In Fitzgerald-Spielberger world No. 5 is 2,184 points and No. 7 2,014 points, the difference being equivalent only to the Mr. Irrelevant draft pick (i.e., it recognizes that on average there is in effect no difference of note between those picks).

The examples above are for fair trades -- trades that benefit both sides about equally. The Giants have to hope that GMs still live in Jimmy Johnson world, because in that Bizarro world top 10 picks are much more valuable than they are in the real world. One of these days teams will wise up, as will fans who continue to believe that trading out of the top 10 would be a terrible thing to do. We mock Dave Gettleman for being in "full-bloom love" with a player like Saquon Barkley. But let's face it - we all do that. We have the Ekwonu lovers, the Penning lovers, the Sauce lovers, the Linderbaum lovers, you name it. The evidence is there in print if you look through BBV comments and Twitter posts.

But there's one saving grace for Giants fans in a year in which they hold two top 10 picks. Teams often don't make fair trades. That's because teams who need a quarterback will do what they have to do to get one. And if you hit on a great quarterback by trading up, it doesn't matter what you gave up. No one is re-evaluating the two trade-ups that Buffalo made to get Josh Allen. On the other hand, people continually rag on the New York Jets for the draft haul they gave the Colts to move up and get Sam Darnold. Both teams did what they thought they needed to. You can't predict the future.

So the trade examples I calculated above are not what I expect to happen this month. They are just a baseline for considering what is or is not fair value if/when Schoen decides to move down. We are all Jimmy Johnson fans for the next three weeks.

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