In the 2014 NFL draft there was one huge draft day trade in the top 10 that had everyone talking, and there’s a very good chance when draft analysts look back on 2014 years from now, this trade will be scrutinized as much as any other action in the draft (perhaps short of how the Bortles experiment works out for Jacksonville and whether he is the franchise QB they desperately need or another Blaine Gabbert level of disaster). The Buffalo Bills traded up to the Browns’ #4 spot in the draft, giving the Browns the 9th pick in the 1st round, and then their 1st and 4th round pick in 2015.
What each team got from the trade
The Bills got the player they coveted, WR Sammy Watkins, who many predict to not only be the top receiver of this draft but will be one of those rare talents who can instantly step in as a top flight #1 receiver. This gives them a strong trio of receivers with Robert Woods and free agent acquisition Mike Williams. This pick also allowed them to trade veteran WR Stevie Johnson to the 49ers for a conditional 4th round pick in 2015, which could jump up to a 3rd round pick depending on production, so I’m including this as part of the package even though it wasn’t technically a “direct” result of this trade.
The Browns moved down in the draft to position #9 where they would trade up one spot for CB Jason Gilbert, a shut down corner who should be an instant starter and may very well give the Browns the best tandem of cover corners in the league. In addition to this, the Browns still have the Bills’ 1st and 4th round picks in next year’s draft.
Why the Browns won with this trade
This should be a fairly obvious one. The Browns lack both top tier talent and depth, but they are a long way from a purely bare cupboard. There is talent on this team on both sides of the ball, and CB Jason Gilbert makes their defense scary good – you can never have enough great corners in today’s NFL. In addition to this they have the Bills first and fourth round picks next year, giving them even more building blocks for the future – and there’s always the chance the Bills’ first round pick could be a top ten pick once again.
Why the Bills won with this trade
Many commentators have harped on the Bills for giving up too much to move up and get their player. The problem is when you look at the situation with the Bills and the team going on sale, it’s all but guaranteed based on similar past situations that the General Manager and coaches will be replaced by the new owner with “their people.” This gave GM Whaley the ability to take a big risk, since if the Bills do anything short of make the play-offs, he can assume he’s replaced.
If quarterback EJ Manuel can take another big step forward, the Bills have the tools now to be pretty scary on offense. They have a very solid and potentially explosive 3 WR set, not to mention a good stable of running backs after adding Bryce Brown at good value to help step in for injury or reps behind Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Since in theory there is “no tomorrow” for this GM, why not make a splash and take an explosive play maker to take a serious run at the play-offs? If they don’t make it, the new administration has to deal with the lack of draft picks. If they do sneak in, they probably saved their jobs and now have a play-off caliber team. It was the smart move for their position and gives them the best chance of improving the team now and being there in the future to continue the rebuilding process.
What’s the bottom line here?
This is a trade where both sides can consider themselves winners. The Bills get a big time play maker and have enough teams with holes on the schedule to make a run if everything clicks right. They made the big splash and are giving their young quarterback the tools to succeed while showing they’re committed to turning things around quickly. Whether that’s with the Bills in the future or with another team, they weren’t afraid to make their move.
The Browns picked up a great player and instant starter in the trade, not to mention two more draft picks in the future that can be used to help continue the rebuilding process in Cleveland. This was a shrewd draft move that got them the player they coveted, let them trade down to still pick up a possible franchise quarterback, and still have more picks in the future. That’s a huge win.
Both teams find themselves in different situations, but for what each needed, this trade worked out well for both – in one of those rare ones where there are two winners and no obvious losers.