In the current NFL landscape, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out the competing value of two sides of a trade. There are so many factors that go into any decision to trade a player that one usually finds very little common ground when comparing the returns of one deal to the next.
Asante Samuel from Philly to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick. Brandon Marshall from the Dolphins to the Bears for a third-round pick. DeMeco Ryans and a third from Houston to Philly for a third and a fourth. Tim Tebow and a seventh from Denver to the Jets for a fourth. Keith Rivers from the Bengals to the Giants for a fifth. Carson Palmer from the Bengals to the Raiders for a first and a second. Brandon Lloyd from the Broncos to the Rams for a conditional sixth that could become a fifth.
Try to parse that collection of 2011 and 2012 trades and decide which players are the most valuable…and good luck.
The Buccaneers made a significant trade on Thursday at the NFL’s deadline, sending cornerback Aqib Talib to the Patriots along with a seventh-round pick in 2013 for a fourth-round pick in 2013. The Bucs had an extra seventh in hand, so they are left with the usual number of picks plus an extra fourth. Forget how the Talib trade compares to any other deals, considering how they are all over the board, and simply ask: Is there value in a fourth-round pick?
To the Buccaneers, there is great value in a fourth-round pick, and that has been evident in the last few years.
In 2010, Tampa Bay used a fourth-round pick on WR Mike Williams, who has been a starter, and a productive one, since the opening day of his rookie campaign. Just seven games into his third season, he already has 155 catches for 2,171 yards and 18 touchdowns. This year, with the addition of Vincent Jackson on the opposite side, Williams has had the opportunity to unlock the big-play potential in his game, and he has averaged 17.4 yards per catch and scored four touchdowns already.
In 2011, the Buccaneers traded up in order to get in position to draft Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker. Stocker has not yet become a big part of the team’s passing attack, but he still plays extensively due to his blocking skills. In fact, he started nine games as a rookie and has opened four of the team’s first seven games this year because he is so prominently featured in two-TE sets. The Bucs envision Stocker being an integral part of their offense for years and his role will only increase if he finds a way to become more involved in the passing attack.
This year, the Bucs didn’t make a fourth-round pick. That does not mean, however, that the round was irrelevant in their efforts to get their targeted players. Tampa Bay came into the 2012 draft without a fourth-rounder, having traded it to move up for Stocker (showing again the value of those picks). That didn’t last long, however, as a trade down two spots in the first round, from #5 to #7, brought them a high fourth-rounder from Jacksonville. After taking their man, S Mark Barron, at #7, Tampa Bay was able to flip that fourth-rounder back to Denver in order to move up from #36 overall in the second round to #31 overall in the first round. That’s how Tampa Bay ended up with RB Doug Martin, who was just named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month.
The Bucs also got a later fourth-round pick back in the deal with Denver, and once again that proved very useful. When Nebraska LB Lavonte David was still on the board in the second half of the second round, Tampa Bay packaged its high third-rounder with that fourth-round selection from the Broncos and was able to move up to grab their man. David has started all seven games at weakside linebacker for the Buccaneers and already has 51 tackles.
Fourth-round picks miss, just like picks at every part of the draft, including high first-round selections. Tampa Bay’s 2009 fourth-rounder, DE Kyle Moore, had just 32 tackles in two seasons with the team, though he remains in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. But that same round produced a number of very productive NFL players, including Brian Hartline, Andre Brown, Mike Thomas, Louis Murphy, T.J. Lang, Henry Melton and Austin Collie.
Trade values are difficult to establish these days in the NFL, but it is never hard to see the value in a draft pick, and fourth-rounders have been particularly useful for the Buccaneers in recent years.