Barring several trade backs, the Los Angeles Rams are set to pick three times on day two of the NFL Draft. That first selection comes at the 36th overall pick and following the first round, there will be a plethora of options on the table.
One of those options and a popular one at that, will be a trade back. While picking up more picks, potentially closing the gap between 77 and 167 overall is nice in theory, there are many things to consider. Does the value of a pick at a lower spot and an extra selection outweigh the value of the player that you are already in position to get?
In this instance, the answer is likely no when it comes to the Rams.
The Rams have the opportunity to take a high-impact day one starter with the 36th overall pick. Odds of that happening even 10 picks later drops significantly. Think about it this way: Would you trade a potential high-impact starter for an average starter and a depth player? That’s likely what we’re looking at if the Rams were to trade back from 36 to 45 and pick up an extra fourth-round pick.
That’s not to say that they can’t find an impact starter at a position such as 45 for example. The odds of it happening are just much lower. There are examples of this exact situation in recent years.
2017 - Bears trade pick 36 to Cardinals, move back to 45
CHI Receives: TE Adam Shaheen, RB Tarik Cohen, CB Jeremy Clark
ARI Receives: S Budda Baker
In 2017, the Chicago Bears traded the 36th overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals for pick 43 in exchange for a fourth and sixth-round selection. The Cardinals ended up with Budda Baker who has been a staple on their defense. Meanwhile, Shaheen’s best season didn’t come with the Bears and his career high for receiving yards in a single season was 150.
Cohen showed some promised before an injury derailed his career. Still, the Cardinals got the better end of this deal.
This would be an exact situation that the Rams would be looking at. You could argue that the Bears should have taken Joe Mixon. However, they didn’t and that’s the part of the point. The chances of finding a Budda Baker and Pro Bowl caliber player is much higher 36 than 45.
Honorable Mention: Rams trade pick 37 to Bills, move back to 44
Rams Receive: TE Gerald Everett, S John Johnson III
Bills Receive: WR Zay Jones
The Rams likely ended up on top of this deal, but none of these players ended up being pro-bowl caliber players.
2018 - Raiders trade pick 41 to Titans, move back to 57
Raiders Receive: DT PJ Hall, DE Arden Key
Titans Receive: EDGE Harold Landry
There wasn’t a lot of movement between picks 32-40 in 2018. However, the Las Vegas Raiders did trade the 41st overall pick to the Tennessee Titans for picks 57 and 89. The Raiders then moved up to 87 with the Rams to take Key.
The Titans without question got the better end of this deal. While the Raiders ended up with a second and third-round pick, Landry has made a Pro Bowl and is an impact player off of the edge. PJ Hall is currently in the XFL and Key made his biggest impact in 2021 with the San Francisco 49ers.
2019 - Raiders trade pick 35 to Jaguars, move back to 40
Raiders Receive: CB Trayvon Mullen, CB Isaiah Johnson, TE Foster Moreau, DE Quinton Bell, WR Hunter Renfrow
Jaguars Receive: OT Jawaan Taylor
Bills Receive: OT Cody Ford
This trade is a little complicated as the Raiders traded down from 35 to 38 with the Jacksonville Jaguars before moving down to 40 with the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders ended up with Trayvon Mullen who was traded after three seasons.
Taylor meanwhile just signed a big contract with the Kansas City Chiefs to be their starting right tackle and Ford also was traded after three seasons with the Bills. This draft-day trade is mostly a wash. While the Raiders ended up with Hunter Renfrow later on, the player they traded down to select never made a significant impact.
Honorable Mention: Rams trade pick 31 to Falcons, move back to 61
The Rams traded down several times in 2019 before finally making their pick at 61. After trading away the opportunity to select players like Elgton Jenkins, AJ Brown, and Erik McCoy, the Rams ended up with Rapp, David Long, Bobby Evans and Greg Gaines. Rapp and Gaines were good role players, but they traded out of a lot of talent.
2020 - Browns trade pick 41 to Colts, move back to 44
Browns Receive: S Grant Delpit, C Nick Harris
Colts Receive: RB Jonathan Taylor
Again, there wasn’t a lot of movement between picks 32-40 in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, the Browns did trade back from 41 with the Colts while picking up an extra fifth-round pick. It’s to be determined what Delpit becomes. Last season, he was Pro Football Focus’ 46th ranked safety out of 68 with 50 percent of their teams’ snaps.
Taylor meanwhile is one of the best running backs in the NFL and won the rushing title in 2021. It’s pretty clear that the Colts got the better end of the deal trading up in this spot.
2021 - Falcons trade pick 35 to Broncos, move back to 40
Falcons Receive: S Richie Grant, C Drew Dalman
Broncos Receive: RB Javontae Williams
Williams will be coming off of a pretty significant injury. WIth that said, the Broncos are the early winners of this deal. The Falcons traded back and picked up a fourth-round pick. Grant was PFF’s 43rd ranked safety in 2022 while Dalman was their 27th ranked center.
Honorable Mention: Bengals trade pick 38 to Patriots, move back to 46
Bengals Receive: OT Jackson Carman, DT Tyler Shelvin, OT D’Ante Smith
Patriots Receive: DL Christian Barmore
This is another similar structured trade that the Rams would be looking at with the 36th overall pick. The Bengals received two fourth-round selections. Carman had a rough rookie season and wasn’t much better in 2022. Shelvin was cut during roster cutdowns in 2022 and Smith is a depth player.
Meanwhile, Barmore has had flashes of dominance. He only played 29 percent of the defensive snaps for the Patriots in 2022, but he’s expected to take a big step forward following a knee injury last season. Given the potential with Barmore, the Patriots ended up with the better end of this deal.
2022 - Giants trade pick 36 to Jets, move back to 43
Giants Receive: WR Wan’Dale Robinson, S Dane Benton, LB Micah McFadden
Jets Receive: RB Breece Hall
Falcons Receive: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie
The Giants ended up trading back once again with the Falcons. It’s tough to gauge the trade here given that these players just finished their rookie season. Still, Hall showed a lot of promise at running back before his injury while Robinson finished with 227 yards receiving.
What does this mean?
This isn’t to say that the Rams absolutely shouldn’t trade back. Depending on what the board looks like, it should be under consideration. With Will Levis still on the board, that scenario may actually work out in the Rams’ favor especially as there is a need for quarterback behind Stafford. “Hey, Tennessee — Do you want Will Levis? Give us your second, third, and fifth round pick or we might take him instead.” Snead holds a lot of leverage in trade discussions if Levis is still on the board at 36.
Again, this exercise is just to help weigh the value of the potential player in the top player vs. the trade package in return. In the above real-life examples, most of the time it was either a wash or has worked out better for the team that traded up than the team that moved back. The Rams in 2017 may be the best and only recent example of the trade back working.
There will be plenty of options for the Rams at 36 and some of those players could end up being day one impact starters. After missing out on Dalton Kincaid, the Rams could look at a tight end such as Luke Musgrave out of Oregon State. From an athletic standpoint, Musgrave compares very favorably to Travis Kelce. Would you trade away the opportunity to select Kelce at tight end?
On the defensive side of the ball, someone like Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore makes a lot of sense to pair with Aaron Donald. Coincidentally, Adebawore compares athletically to Donald. Would you trade away the opportunity to draft another Donald on the defensive line?
The idea of more draft picks sometimes become more valuable than the draft picks themselves. At the end of the day, a fourth round pick is likely a depth player and mid-second round pick is an average starter. It’s important not to fall into that trap. That’s the point here.
With the current state of the roster, high-impact starters are the types of players that the Rams need. They just to make sure not to trade themselves out of that talent.