NFL draft trades haven’t happened yet, but they will

Coaches and scouts will be solidifying their opinions on prospects this week, priming the path for a covetous trade two months later. We look at the numbers from the past.

With owners, general managers, coaches and other assorted decision-makers at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week, there will be networking among peers who spend the majority of their year ears deep in being concerned about their own teams. It is one of the rare opportunities to have all of the top NFL movers and shakers in one building at the same time.

Not only will specific teams fall in love with specific players, those who become enamored with a player will start trying to figure out what it will take to land that player if he is projected to be gone when they’re going to be on the clock.

Representatives of all 32 teams will have strong takeaways from the Combine – players they’re red hot on and players they cool off over – and the result is that they will go to great lengths to make sure they land a player they covet. The only way to do that is to hope the player is on the board or make a trade to get to him.

As things currently stand, none of the first-round picks have been traded. The only team that doesn’t own its draft pick is the New England Patriots, who surrendered their first-round pick after the Deflategate scandal crashed down around them. The other 31 teams still have their own designated first-rounder.

Don’t expect that to last.

From the historical perspective, 1997 was a big year in the draft in that only three first-round picks were selected by teams other than those assigned to them at the end of the 1996 season. In the 18 drafts since, there hasn’t been a season when at least twice as many picks have been moved.

In last year’s draft, only six picks changed hands and were made by teams other than the ones assigned to them. That has been the low-water mark, as more teams have viewed the first round as a way to move up or down to maximize value in the draft.

In 2014, nine picks were traded. In 2013, that number was 11. In 2012, 16 picks were traded, including the six picks that came after Andrew Luck was taken with the first pick.

In 2011, seven picks ended up being traded. In 2010, 11 picks moved. In 2009, nine picks changed hands. A whopping 14 picks moved in 2008 and, in that season, the Patriots were once again stripped of a first-round pick for their in-house conviction in the Spygate scandal – proving that cheaters can win, but don’t always prosper.

In 2007, 11 of the 32 picks got moved. Nine changed hands in 2006. In 2005, eight got moved and, in 2004, the modern-era record was set when 17 of the 32 picks got shipped – including a trade of rookie QBs Eli Manning and Philip Rivers after the Chargers drafted Manning and the Giants drafted Rivers with the knowledge a deal would be struck.

In the years prior to that, moving first-round draft picks was incredibly commonplace, with 14 changing teams in 2003, 11 in 2002, 14 in 2001, 12 in 2000, 11 in 1999 and eight in 1998.

The Vikings have been no stranger to this process. Since 2004, the Vikings have been involved in first-round trades changing hands in seven of those 12 seasons, including three of the last four drafts.

As the busy work of the Combine gets in full swing today with the power players of the NFL holding sway over Indianapolis, all eyes will be on the interviews (the workouts start Friday). But what won’t be seen is the war-room generals working the corridors and glad-handing their peers with the intention of potentially laying the groundwork to make a first-round trade on draft day when one of them is on the clock and a player a team covets isn’t going to last much longer.

As we sit on the first full day of Combine action, there hasn’t been a single pick moved to another team.

Don’t plan on that staying the case because history says not only is it going to happen, it’s going to happen often.

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