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NFL Draft rumors: Teams are trying to trade down in the first round. Could the Patriots go the other way?

Related: If the Patriots want to move down in the draft, the Cowboys might be a willing trade partner

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is not particularly top-heavy. While there are some building-block players such as Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton available, the consensus view on the draft class is that its strength lies in its depth rather than its number of generational prospects.

Day 2 selections might therefore carry more value than they might in other years, and a series of reports confirms this notion.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “multiple teams in the top half of the draft have inquired with others to try to trade back in the first round.” Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, meanwhile, noted that “the meat of the draft class is in the second and the third round” and that “no one is going to want to move up.”

Of course, trading down works in theory. However, it always takes two to tango: you can trade down all you want, but if you don’t find a willing partner to work with you no move will materialize.

Therein lies a lot of power, at least compared to other drafts: if there is a competition between teams trying to move down the board, moving up might be cheaper than it has been previously.

If you don’t already know where this is going, you probably have not followed Bill Belichick in years past.

Belichick and the New England Patriots operate based on a simple principle. They are trying to maximize value, no matter where they find it. In the early 2000s, they invested in 3-4 personnel because it has been devalued. In the early 2010s, they did the same at the tight end position. Nowadays, they are going after safety/linebacker hybrids.

If there is an opportunity to stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of the market, the Patriots will try to do just that.

“We’re always looking for value, no matter where it is,” director of player personnel Matt Groh recently said. “We want our 21st pick to be valuable, just like we want our 54th pick to be valuable, and kind of commensurate with where we see that player helping our franchise. ... Hopefully your first-round pick is coming in and providing something for you right away and similarly with the second and third round picks.”

As far as this year’s draft is concerned, trading down appears to be the popular move. The Patriots also are more likely to move into that direction given that there are multiple positional needs that need to be addressed. However, nothing can ever be ruled out when it comes to the team’s willingness to capitalize on a depressed market.

At the end of the day, it all depends on the board. If a high-upside talent such as Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis or Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams falls into New England’s range, climbing up the board at a comparatively reduced cost might make sense even with the general depth of the draft class lying elsewhere.