Tomorrow, the 2018 NFL draft will finally start and the its first round already projects to be a wild one. Who will the Cleveland Browns pick at number one? How many quarterbacks will come off the board on day one? What in the world will the New England Patriots do? It would not be a surprise if the answer to the latter question ultimately involves trades: New England has never been afraid to make moves early in the draft (or late, or in the middle).
The team has plenty of ammunition to manipulate the board to its liking as it currently holds the sixth-most valuable draft capital in the league. Hence, everything is possible. Almost everything that is, as at least one scenario drawn up by ESPN's Bill Barnwell in his recent all-trades mock draft appears to be way out there in the realm of wild projections that look intriguing but would go against the Patriots' modus operandi.
Let's take a look at the four trades – each working independent of each other – New England is part of in this mock:
Browns get: 1-23; 1-31; 2-63; 2019 first-round pick
Patriots get: 1-4
Moving up into the top picks of the first round is intriguing but only makes at least some sense if the team targets any of the consensus top four quarterbacks to enter the draft – USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, Wisconsin's Josh Allen – and identifies him as the clear-cut heir to Tom Brady. Otherwise, this blockbuster trade makes little to no sense from the Patriots' perspective.
What also adds to this thought is the capital New England would have to give up to acquire the fourth overall selection: The three 2018 picks combined would be worth more on the draft value chart than pick number four. Adding a first-rounder next year would make the trade even more lopsided in Cleveland's favor. Sure, a multi-year starting quarterback is worth a lot but giving up this much does not look like something the Patriots under Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio would do.
Patriots get: WR Odell Beckham Jr.; CB Eli Apple; 3-69; 2019 fourth-round pick
Giants get: 1-23; 1-31; 6-198; RB Mike Gillislee; WR Chris Hogan
The biggest of Barnwell's trade ideas sees the Patriots acquire two players and mid-round draft picks from the New York Giants in exchange for the team's two first-rounders, a rotational running back and the team's number two wide receiver. Safe to say, this is a lot to digest. Let's start with Odell Beckham Jr., who the Giants reportedly put on the trade block earlier this offseason. And while he is expected to return to the team, a trade could still happen if New York's asking price of two first-round selections is met.
New England does just that in this scenario and would bring in one of the best wide receivers in the NFL to basically fill and upgrade Chris Hogan's role as an X-receiver in the offense. Despite getting more than just Beckham Jr. in return, though, trading away two first-rounders simply does not look like the Patriots conducting their business – especially considering that Beckham Jr. is entering the final year of his contract; and it appears unlikely the team will make him one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL.
Two first-rounders and more for a possible one-year rental simply is too steep of a price. However, that does not mean that all aspects of the trade should be disregarded as Eli Apple is an interesting case. After falling out of favor in New York, the 10th overall pick of the 2016 draft could be had via trade without giving up one or both day one selections. Seeing New England move a day two pick to acquire the talented cornerback would not be that big of a shocker.
Vikings get: 1-23; 2-63; CB Cyrus Jones
Patriots get: 1-30; 3-95 [sic; Barnwell probably means 3-94]; 5-167; CB Trae Waynes
One of the more realistic trade scenarios proposed by Barnwell sees the Patriots and Vikings strike another day-one trade similar to 2013's that involved wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Here, the Patriots move down seven spots to pick up an additional mid-round selection and bring the 11th overall selection of the 2015 draft on board. The difference in value between what New England gives up and receives would be equivalent to the 56th overall selection.
Considering that Waynes – coming off his best season and still on his rookie deal – would be an intriguing addition to the Patriots defense, trading away a theoretical second-round pick would make sense. Of course, there are multiple variables in play from the board at number 23 to the team' evaluation of Cyrus Jones, but overall this appears to be one of the more plausible scenarios Barnwell draws up.
Patriots get: 1-9
49ers get: 1-23; 1-31; 2019 third-round pick
If the Patriots are looking to move into the top-10, the 49ers might be the trade partner of choice. After all, the teams' front offices have a healthy relationship ever since New England shipped quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the West Coast. In order to get Garoppolo's successor, the team might be willing to give up three draft picks as Barnwell proposes – but it still would only make sense if one of the top four players was still available at number nine.
After all, there is a noticeable drop-off behind the top quartet. A player like Louisville's Lamar Jackson would therefore, at least at the moment, likely not be worth investing all this capital in. As a result, New England would likely be better off waiting for the board to fall after the Buffalo Bills pick what is expected to become a quarterback with the 12th overall selection. Trading up into the mid-teens would be a better strategy to get one of the tier-two passers – but still one the Patriots' likely won't use.