Early draft trades staggering since 2007

Rick Spielman has gained the well-earned reputation for trading draft picks, but that’s all the rage in the NFL since 2007.

With the time winding down on the draft, a lot of the recent chatter – or seemingly about the only story on the NFL’s official website – is who is going to make the offer the Vikings can’t refuse in exchange for Adrian Peterson.

Trade talk is going to increase and come to a head on draft weekend, especially early, as teams target specific players they want but are convinced will be gone before they can make their next pick.

The Vikings are no stranger to making moves on draft day. Thanks to trades, they’ve set a NFL record by having seven first-round choices in a three-year span. Nobody in the history of the NFL has had that many picks – not even the Dallas Cowboys, who famously fleeced the Vikings in the Herschel Walker trade.

Rick Spielman has been deeply involved in the Vikings’ draft process since 2007 and he has been as wheeling-and-dealing a general manager as the league has seen over his tenure. One of the reasons is a remark he made a couple of years ago when asked by Viking Update why he always seems to be moving up or down in the draft.

His response was pretty simple.

“The draft is the currency of the NFL these days,” Spielman said. “With the salary cap so high for every team, they can pretty much afford anyone they want to bring in. The draft is filling out your roster with young players who will be the future of your franchise.”

As a result, when a team sees a player they covet and don’t think he will last, they make a move. That’s how the Vikings got Harrison Smith. It’s how they got Cordarrelle Patterson. It’s how they got Teddy Bridgewater.

But what makes this year so unusual is that there is going to have to be a trading frenzy to keep up with the amount of moves in the first two rounds that have become part and parcel of teams targeting specific players and using draft picks as the way to barter to get the job accomplished.

Since Spielman took over in 2007, there hasn’t been a draft in which at least 20 picks have been made by teams that weren’t initially assigned them at the end of the previous season. Some teams trade forward to get picks – the Vikings got a first-round pick in 2013 as part of a 2012 trade for Percy Harvin. But when you look at the raw numbers, it’s amazing how many teams move up and down in the draft’s first two rounds.

Here are the numbers since 2007 and they don’t include picks that were used in the supplemental draft and those that were taken away from teams like New England and New Orleans for their roles in scandals. Even with 64 picks in the first two rounds, the numbers are staggering. The numbers reflect draft picks that were made in the first and second round that ended up being made by teams that didn’t initially possess them.

2007 – 10 in the first round, 19 in the second round.
2008 – 14 in the first, 11 in the second.
2009 – Nine in the first, 15 in the second.
2010 – 11 in the first, 15 in the second.
2011 – Eight in the first, 12 in the second (in a year without free agency due to the lockout).
2012 – 16 in the first, 12 in the second.
2013 – 11 in the first, 13 in the second.
2014 – Nine in the first, 13 in the second.

What makes this year so unusual is that, eleven days before the 2015 draft starts, of the 64 picks in the first two rounds, only two of them have been involved in a trade. Cleveland gets the 19th pick from Buffalo as part of the draft-day trade that allowed the Bills to move up to draft Sammy Watkins last year. New Orleans gets the 31st pick from Seattle as part of the Jimmy Graham trade last month.

If history has taught us anything, you will likely be able to rip up your mock draft to shreds sometime Thursday night, because those who currently have the picks may be just about as likely to make their picks as not make their picks. It’s what they do. The money window is getting ready to open and teams are going to spend their picks – whether on players or on the ability to get more currency later in the draft.


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