This trade came in at what seemed to be the most random time imaginable, 15 slots before pick No. 147 was set to go on the clock. To a division rival. What the hell?
TRADE: Dolphins trade their No. 147 pick to Patriots for their Nos. 196, 204 and 250 picks
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) April 30, 2016
Normally, when you see a team trade up like that, it’s to take a particular player that had fallen to that spot. That really didn’t appear to be the case here. Instead, the Patriots were just looking to trade in some of their late-round picks in exchange for a couple higher picks.
Things got weirder, though, when the Patriots turned around and sent pick No. 147 to the Seahawks in exchange for a future fourth-rounder. What in the world were they up to here? Why trade up for that Dolphins pick if they were not going to use it?
I might have a theory.
New England, of course, was docked their first-round pick because of the DeflateGate scandal, but owned 11 picks at the start of the draft, including four in the top 100 picks. However, much of the volume of the Patriots’ draft capital came in the latter portion of the weekend — including five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders.
When you consider the Patriots didn’t get their first-rounder, you’d think that they’d look to add some depth in the sixth and seventh, but instead they’re jettisoning off those picks in exchange for future picks. In what’s widely considered to be a very deep draft, that strategy goes against the norm. But that’s typical for the Patriots.
While some teams have upwards of 200 players on their “draft board,” New England regularly pares theirs down to around 50-75 guys. As Daniel Jeremiah noted on his Move the Sticks podcast a couple years ago, if all 50 of those guys with “draftable grades” go off the board, New England’s M.O. is to start offloading the rest of their picks that year for future capital.
“In New England … It’s 75 guys [on their board], so when you think about how many guys are picked in the Draft [250+] they only have 75 guys that they want to take,” Jeremiah said.
“That’s why a lot of time you’ll see them, they get in the fifth, sixth, seventh round, they’ll start punting picks. They’ll say, oh, just give me something for next year, we don’t have anyone we want. They won’t make our team, why are we going to waste a pick on a guy that’s not even going to make our team?”
It makes sense for what they believe in.
It looks like that’s what New England is doing today. They may not be able to move all their picks, but it would certainly explain the rationale in trading up into an arbitrary spot in the fifth round before immediately turning around and trading that for a future pick. Not many teams are going to give up a future pick for a sixth-rounder, so Bill Belichick and the Pats had to move up before they could move out.
If that’s in fact what the Patriots were doing here, pretty interesting strategy. Belichick and company have never been shy from zigging when the rest of the NFL zags.
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