On its own, it’s hard enough to predict how the NFL Draft might go. It requires not only a solid knowledge of many hundreds of college football prospects but also the specific needs of 32 NFL teams.
Adding potential draft trades to the equation makes it all the more difficult. Some analysts traditionally shy away from the additional challenge by completely ignoring the possibility they will happen.
But in 2021, multiple teams have already made draft trades — apparently in order to secure one of the many quarterbacks who will be available. That’s emboldened some analysts to propose trades in their mock drafts — even some for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, which definitely won’t be seeking a new starting quarterback this season.
Option 1: Trading up
Considering that the team released both of its starting offensive tackles in early March — and that the team would be selecting 31st after making the Super Bowl in February — some have felt that the obvious move for the Chiefs would be to trade up to select a rookie left tackle who could immediately begin protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ blind side.
In an article about potential draft-day trades published last week on NFL.com, draft analyst Chad Reuter proposed that the Chiefs trade their 31st pick (plus one of their fourth-round picks and one of their fifth-round picks) for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 25th pick.
Assuming the top four tackles are off the board by 25, Kansas City could target Samuel Cosmi or Alabama left tackle Alex Leatherwood here. Jacksonville could use a tackle, as well, but with Cam Robinson playing on a franchise tag, the Jags can afford to trade back and find a value at 31, or select a receiver (LSU’s Terrace Marshall, Florida’s Kadarius Toney) or a cornerback like Eric Stokes.
Reuter had actually proposed the same trade (without detailing the compensation) in a late-March mock draft. In that one, Kansas City selected Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins and Jacksonville took Leatherwood. If the Chiefs were able to acquire Jenkins by giving up their extra third and fourth-round picks, it would likely be a solid move.
But here’s the problem: if Jenkins is the Chiefs’ target, they’d probably never get the chance to pull the trigger. NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt has ranked him as the draft’s 21st best player. Pro Football Focus has him at 26th. In their 2021 KC Draft Guide, our AP Nerd Squad ranked him 17th. In most mock drafts, Jenkins rarely lasts into the 20s — much less through the 24th pick.
Likewise, trading up just to get either Cosmi or Leatherwood — as Reuter suggested more recently — would make little sense. Brandt, PFF and our Nerd Squad all figure both players will be available well after the 31st pick, so trading up would likely be a waste of draft assets.
If the Chiefs really want to grab one of the top-rated offensive tackle prospects, they’ll have to make a bigger move. The Atlanta Falcons have already indicated a willingness to trade away the fourth selection, which would give Kansas City the pick of the litter at tackle — including Oregon’s Penei Sewell. Such a move, however, will be very costly. The Chiefs would have to give up the farm to make it — at least a first-rounder in 2022 and a big chunk of their 2021 draft assets. Unless they see Sewell (or perhaps Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater) as a slam-dunk generational talent, this seems very unlikely.
I looked at several other trade-up possibilities, but the Chiefs are hamstrung by a basic problem: they simply don’t have the assets to be an attractive trading partner to a team with a more valuable first-round pick and a small number of other picks. If the Chiefs held an early second or third-round pick as the result of a previous deal, it might be a different story — but Kansas City just doesn’t have that capital.
Option 2: trading back
As noted, players like Cosmi and Leatherwood might be available well into the second round. That could also be true for players like North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz, Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg or Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield. As long as the Chiefs think they’ll be comfortable with players like those, it’s possible they could consider trading back from 31.
Sports Betting Dime’s Matt McEwan has proposed one such trade. In his mock draft 1.0 — which is based entirely on betting odds for when individual players will be drafted — he projects the Chiefs will trade their 31st pick to the Falcons. While McEwan doesn’t specify the compensation, he’s likely thinking the Falcons will give up pick 35 in the second round and pick 108 in the fourth round so they can get back into the first and take running back Najee Harris.
That may sound like something the Falcons are unlikely to do — but McEwan also thinks the Denver Broncos will swap their ninth pick for Atlanta’s fourth to take quarterback Justin Fields. To make the deal, the Broncos would have to give up their second-rounder (40th overall) — or at the very least, their third and fourth-round picks at 71 and 114. With those selections in hand, that might make a later deal with the Chiefs more palatable to the Falcons.
Then there’s “Trader Jerry.” A few days ago, ESPN’s Todd Archer suggested that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — currently holding 10 picks — could be wheeling and dealing on draft day. Archer thinks the Cowboys will stay put at 13 and select a defensive player — because he could end up being one of the very first defenders taken in 2021.
But after that?
The Cowboys’ second-round pick is at No. 44. What if they gave up No. 44 and their pick at No. 75 or No. 99 to move up earlier in the second round, or even to the tail end of the first round, to draft, say, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore? No team wants to be as thin at defensive tackle as it appears the Cowboys are, and Barmore could fix that issue.
Barmore — in particular — might not available with the 31st pick; Brandt, PFF and the Nerd Squad rank him between 14th and 53rd. But if he — or some other player Jones fancies — is available, we know he will move heaven and Earth to make the deal. We like to think that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has a whole chapter devoted to him in the best-selling book NFL GMs Who Will Fight For ‘Their Guy’ — but let’s face it: Jones is on the cover.
Most — if not all — of the second-tier offensive tackles will likely be on the board for Atlanta’s 35th pick. One or two could be gone by the time Dallas’ 44th selection comes up. So the Chiefs might very well be in the position to get the tackle they need — along with an extra pick or two later in the draft.
All of this is, of course, highly speculative. The two most important pieces of information we need to judge whether Kansas City will make a draft-day deal for an offensive tackle — namely, how badly they think they need a top prospect for the position, along with which tackles they grade most highly — are completely unknown to us. And it still could be that the player the Chiefs need will simply be available to them at 31.
Still... the possibility of an exciting draft-day trade is definitely there.