The excitement of a trade being made during the first round of the NFL draft is one of the things that makes the event must-watch television. Typically, five or six trades happen on Thursday night, with trade partners perhaps trying to meet a key need for a championship chase or attempting to accumulate draft capital (while still landing an outstanding player).
Many deals for top-10 picks in recent drafts have happened in the weeks leading up to the event rather than while teams are on the clock. The Jets moved from the No. 6 overall pick to No. 3 overall a month before the 2018 NFL Draft (they ultimately chose Sam Darnold). The 49ers and Dolphins completed swaps in March 2021 (San Francisco traded places with Miami to move from No. 12 to No. 3, then Miami traded with Philadelphia to jump back to No. 6) to bring in a quarterback (Trey Lance) and elite pass-catcher (Jaylen Waddle) in that year's draft, respectively.
This year, the Panthers have already sent the ninth and 61st overall picks, as well as a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick and receiver D.J. Moore, to the Bears for this year's top overall selection. Carolina will, presumably, select a quarterback at that spot to stabilize the position.
Here are five additional trades involving Round 1 choices that I could see happening between now and the end of Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City on April 27.
- No. 3 overall pick (Round 1)
- No. 4 overall pick (Round 1)
- No. 79 overall (Round 3, from WAS)
- No. 106 overall (Round 4)
- 2024 third-round choice
The Colts have cycled through a string of veteran quarterbacks since Andrew Luck retired in 2019. Unless general manager Chris Ballard ends up acquiring Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, he'll likely be in the market for an elite prospect to lead the squad into the future, whether it's Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young.
Now that QB-needy Carolina and Houston occupy the top two spots of the draft, the Colts have a decision to make: Do they swap picks with Arizona? Or do they potentially watch Detroit, Seattle, Las Vegas or Atlanta move into the No. 3 position and grab a third quarterback off the board? If Ballard chooses the former option, it makes sense to consummate the deal before the draft, to ensure access to a top young passer.
This outlined trade mirrors the deal between the 49ers and Bears in 2017, when Chicago moved up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky second overall. While the results of that trade could be viewed as a bad omen, in this potential scenario, Ballard and his crew would be focusing on the here and now, choosing to believe in their evaluation process. Plus, Ballard might be able to recoup one or two of the lost picks through other trades.
- No. 10 overall (Round 1, from NO)
- No. 23 overall (Round 1)
- No. 87 overall (Round 3)
- 2024 first-round choice
There's never been a draft in which four quarterbacks were selected among the first nine overall picks. With C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young considered by many observers to be the top two passers in the class, it seems likely that Will Levis or Anthony Richardson (both talented in their own right) will be available at No. 10, much like Justin Fields in 2021, when the Bears traded for the 11th overall pick to select him.
Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell might covet one of the top quarterback prospects in the class, with the idea that said prospect will take over for Kirk Cousins, who turns 35 in August and is headed for free agency after the 2023 season. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman has made at least one trade involving a first-round pick in all but one of the past seven drafts. If the Eagles aren't interested in something like the above deal, the Vikings could still call other teams in the middle of the first round if they like one of the available signal-callers.
Moving from the late first round into the top dozen overall picks for a quarterback is not unheard of -- in addition to the Bears jumping from No. 20 to No. 11 for Fields, the Chiefs (who grabbed Patrick Mahomes after going from No. 27 to No. 10 overall) and Texans (who selected Deshaun Watson after going from No. 25 to No. 12) made similar moves in 2017. Kansas City had a solid veteran on the roster (Alex Smith) when trading up -- a similar situation to the one in which Minnesota finds itself. Not that I'm projecting Levis or Richardson to be as successful as Mahomes, but they both certainly have the potential to be longtime starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
- No. 20 overall (Round 1)
- No. 27 overall (Round 1)
- No. 91 overall (Round 3)
- No. 137 overall (Round 5, from ARI)
The Bills are hungry for a Super Bowl win after losing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs the past two seasons. The Chiefs leaped ahead of them to draft cornerback Trent McDuffie at No. 21 last year, and you can bet Buffalo GM Brandon Beane doesn't want something similar to happen again. (Beane had to make his own move to get corner Kaiir Elam two picks later.)
Beane could go in several directions at No. 20. Linebacker Trenton Simpson could step in for free-agent loss Tremaine Edmunds (for whom Beane traded up in the 2018 NFL Draft) in the middle of the Bills' defense. They need to strengthen the defensive interior, so Calijah Kancey or Adetomiwa Adebawore could be targets. Finding more pass-catchers for Josh Allen wouldn't hurt, either, whether they look at receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers or Jalin Hyatt, or a tight end like Dalton Kincaid or Michael Mayer to pair with Dawson Knox.
Seattle GM John Schneider has a history of moving back in the first round. At No. 27, the Seahawks can still find an offensive lineman, cornerback or edge rusher who meets their needs. As for where the third- and fifth-rounders factor in, Schneider also has a history of trading mid-round selections to climb the ladder in Round 2, doing so to acquire players like defensive tackle Jarran Reed in 2016, receiver D.K. Metcalf in 2019 and edge rusher Darrell Taylor in 2020.
- No. 25 overall (Round 1)
- No. 31 overall (Round 1)
- No. 95 overall (Round 3)
The most difficult thing to do in sports is stay on top. The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs know the Bengals and Bills will be knocking on their door, with another seven or eight teams keeping their eyes on the prize in the ultracompetitive AFC.
GM Brett Veach and coach Andy Reid might feel another difference-maker on offense is needed to keep the train rolling. Even if they think Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney can take the spots of free-agent departures JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, an additional receiver could come in handy if injuries hit again this season. At least one of the top wideouts should be available at 25, with Zay Flowers and Jalin Hyatt the most likely candidates.
The Giants moved down twice in the second round last year, accumulating fourth- and fifth-round selections to build roster depth. GM Joe Schoen must have learned during his time as an assistant to Beane in Buffalo about the value of dropping a few spots in exchange for a top-100 selection, especially when the team can still find a center or corner prospect waiting to become the final pick of the first round.
- No. 30 overall (Round 1)
- No. 38 overall (Round 2)
- No. 109 overall (Round 4)
- 2024 third-round choice
In 2014, Minnesota traded into the final spot of the first round to selected Teddy Bridgewater. Four years later, in 2018, Baltimore moved into the 32nd spot for Lamar Jackson. If time is truly a flat circle, then now, five years after that, it's time for another team to make an aggressive upward move for a quarterback near the end of Round 1.
Even if the Raiders don't select a QB seventh overall, they could still presumably be in the market for an up-and-coming signal-caller after signing Jimmy Garoppolo to a mid-level starter contract (three years, $72.75 million), not least because the veteran has missed time due to injuries, while 2022 backup Jarrett Stidham signed with Denver. In this scenario, former Tennessee and Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker would be the most likely target, if he has not already heard his name called at the podium in Kansas City.
Roseman and the Eagles have been down this road before -- in 2018, in fact, when they received second- and fourth-round picks and a future second-rounder from Baltimore, allowing the Ravens to select Jackson. Las Vegas gives up a future third in this package, not a second, because Philadelphia loses just eight spots in this deal instead of 20, as in the 2018 Ravens trade. I know I already tabbed the Eagles to trade down from the 10th overall spot, but it is plausible for them to move out of first-round choices multiple times, as Baltimore (2018) and Seattle (2017, 2019) recently did.