The Buffalo Bills sit at pick 30 in the 2021 NFL Draft, and while we’ve discussed trading up in the first round, a more lucrative move may be to move back to the top of the second round and then use that new draft capital to move back up higher in the second or third rounds to get a better caliber player in those rounds.
The value of pick 30 lies in the fifth-year option. Having team control over a player for five years plus the franchise tag is one year better than four years plus the franchise tag (duh). It’s also helpful with cost-management.
In 2018, the Baltimore Ravens traded all the way up from 57 to snag Lamar Jackson at the end of the first round specifically for the fifth-year option. Jackson is slated to cost $23 million on the fifth-year option in 2022 where the franchise tag is $25 million. If Jackson hadn’t made the Pro Bowl in 2019, his number would be just under $19 million. And they can delay his long-term deal, which should hover near $40 million per year by another season. It’s a $15-20 million swing.
We saw it play out even more in 2019, when two teams traded down slightly in the bottom portion of the first. The Seattle Seahawks traded out of pick 30 and received the New York Giants’ 37, 132, and 142nd picks while they needed picks to provide depth. The Los Angeles Rams similarly needed bodies, and traded from 31 down to 45, picking up a third-rounder in the process.
Moving down just a few spots from pick 30 to pick 33 would net the Bills a late fourth-rounder in compensation from the Jacksonville Jaguars, for instance. Moving to pick 37 would generate the equivalent of a late third-round selection from the Philadelphia Eagles (or Zach Ertz). The San Francisco 49ers at 43 could move up by including their picks in the late third and the early fourth round, leaving Buffalo with a lot of Day 2 capital to move around.
Moving down 10-15 spots could still nab Buffalo one of the top players still remaining on their board at number 30 in addition to trading back up in the second or third rounds to get another player they like as a potential starter or rotational player. If there are four cornerbacks and four pass rushers they like at 30, trade down to the top of the second then trade up from the bottom of the second and end up with a guy at both positions.
General manager Brandon Beane has done way more trading up than trading down in his tenure as the Buffalo Bills general manager. In this instance, he might be trading down just so he can trade up later on knowing his roster won’t have a ton of open spots.