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The Julio Jones Trade: Winning the Battle, Losing the War?

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Dec 6th

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patchick

Moderatrix
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Great post. BB gets lambasted on this board and in the media for trading back, amassing picks, adding solid complementary players, and building a team, rather than going for the splashy moves. Every. Single. Year. As. You. Say.

Because every single year this team looks like a Superbowl contender, so that one splashy move could "put them over the top"! Of course, it's resisting the splashy moves that puts them in the position to compete for championships every year.

They get plenty of picks wrong, as all teams do. But their fundamental draft philosophy has been a consistent winner.
 

ZoisKing

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
I think it depends on what level your football is at. If you are a true contender for the postseason every year, then trading multiple pieces to get the guy who takes you to another level (i.e., our team and a Randy Moss type receiver) makes sense.

However, if you're the Falcons or Redskins you need a lot more than one player. What is a wide receiver going to do for you if you don't have a team. I live in the Atlanta area now, and all I hear on sports radio is how they are bereft of talent, and some fairly consistent talk about whether trading for Julio was the right thing to do (and paying Roddy White as well). I would emphatically say no.

The Redskins traded away an unbelievable package for RG3. It blew me away when it happened, and I popped a cork for the Rams. They went from terrible to a team in just a few seasons, largely off of one trade. Best trade I can remember. Amazing.
 

patchick

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I think it depends on what level your football is at. If you are a true contender for the postseason every year, then trading multiple pieces to get the guy who takes you to another level (i.e., our team and a Randy Moss type receiver) makes sense.

However, if you're the Falcons or Redskins you need a lot more than one player. What is a wide receiver going to do for you if you don't have a team. I live in the Atlanta area now, and all I hear on sports radio is how they are bereft of talent, and some fairly consistent talk about whether trading for Julio was the right thing to do (and paying Roddy White as well).

With all respect, I think you have the causality backwards. IMO the Falcons "need a lot more than one player" BECAUSE they were "true contenders" who traded a bunch of picks to get that "Randy Moss type receiver," believing that would "take them to another level."

Remember, in 2011 the Falcons were coming off a 13-3 season. They had the hottest young QB in the league and were considered the class of the NFC. Then they followed your prescription to the letter.

3 1/2 years later, you can see the impact of all those sacrificed draft picks on their talent pipeline.
 

mayoclinic

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With all respect, I think you have the causality backwards. IMO the Falcons "need a lot more than one player" BECAUSE they were "true contenders" who traded a bunch of picks to get that "Randy Moss type receiver," believing that would "take them to another level."

Remember, in 2011 the Falcons were coming off a 13-3 season. They had the hottest young QB in the league and were considered the class of the NFC. Then they followed your prescription to the letter.

3 1/2 years later, you can see the impact of all those sacrificed draft picks on their talent pipeline.

I think it's a fallacy to think that any team is "one player away". Injuries, unexpected circumstances (like finding out that your top move TE is an alleged multiple murderer), changes in caliber of play, FA losses, age and many, many other factors almost always make it almost impossible to ensure that your roster is that stable. Teams go from the top to the bottom and vice-versa all the time (except for the Patriots).

I remember several years in the 2006-2008 range when draftniks described the Pats as a "team with no obvious needs". That was far from the truth.

John Abraham and Tony Gonzalez got old, Sean Weatherspoon got hurt, Brent Grimes got hurt and then left in FA, the OL fell apart and wasn't as good as expected, etc. There were just way too many holes to be fixed by mortgaging your draft over 2 years for one split end, no matter how talented.
 

ZoisKing

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
With all respect, I think you have the causality backwards. IMO the Falcons "need a lot more than one player" BECAUSE they were "true contenders" who traded a bunch of picks to get that "Randy Moss type receiver," believing that would "take them to another level."

Remember, in 2011 the Falcons were coming off a 13-3 season. They had the hottest young QB in the league and were considered the class of the NFC. Then they followed your prescription to the letter.

3 1/2 years later, you can see the impact of all those sacrificed draft picks on their talent pipeline.

I'd forgotten that the Falcons were on a good streak of winning seasons at that time. I could have used another team as a better example. My point remains the same though. If you are a legit contender then moving up to get a difference maker makes sense. If you need more than a few pieces and need to build a team then I'd collect as many assets as possible.
 

mayoclinic

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My point remains the same though. If you are a legit contender then moving up to get a difference maker makes sense. If you need more than a few pieces and need to build a team then I'd collect as many assets as possible.

There's a big difference between "moving up" and making the kind of huge move that Atlanta made.

I can't think of that many trade ups by "legit contenders" that would fit - perhaps you have some in mind. SF trading up for Jerry Rice in 1985 qualifies, but that was 30 years ago. That was also a much smaller trade: #28, 56 and 84 for #16 and #75. Other than the Atlanta trade, I can't think of many blockbusters where a "legit contender" gave up so much for a potential "difference maker" to "take them to another level".
 

Hammer of Thor

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
I'd forgotten that the Falcons were on a good streak of winning seasons at that time. I could have used another team as a better example. My point remains the same though. If you are a legit contender then moving up to get a difference maker makes sense. If you need more than a few pieces and need to build a team then I'd collect as many assets as possible.

I don't know, I would still sort of disagree. Just look at right now - the two teams with the best record in the NFL right now are the Patriots and Cardinals, and fans of each team could craft up a 6 - 12 item list of must-haves and want-to-haves. If that's what the best teams look like, imagine what the Jags and Raiders look like?

My view on this topic is a slightly modified version of Mayoclinic' and Patchick's view. The essential question is evaluating whether the team is better with:
(1) the traded-up player and no one else,
(2) the current position with extra picks at the normal draft positions,
(3) players acquired from trading down,
(4) players and future picks acquired from a trade-out.

And this evaluation needs to take into account things like salary cap impact as well as just talent.

Generally for option 1, you're going to see modest trade-ups that mirror what Mayoclinic mentioned -- like the trade-ups for Chandler Jones and Donte Hightower. You'll rarely see a Julio Jones type trade. But that said, I wouldn't rule it out completely because there *are* scenarios where that might be the best option. That would be a case where:
- The draft's top 10 is historically good, where all 10 players would be picked in the top 3 in any other year
- The players in the rest of the 1st round are historically bad and would be 2nd rounders in other years
- The players in subsequent rounds are also historically bad and would be drafted one round later in typical years
- All of the other teams in the NFL recognize the previous two points, so no one wants to trade into this draft by trading future picks
- Next year's first round is anticipated to be very weak
- The team is not projected to have salary cap concerns over the next two years

In that case, a Julio Jones type trade in option 1 above could potentially have better value than the other 3 options. But the key points are that - it has nothing to do with being a legit contender looking for one player to push them over the top, but rather it has to do with the quality of help you can provide your team -- and that this type of scenario is very rarely seen, so such a move should be rarely seen.
 

ZoisKing

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
There's a big difference between "moving up" and making the kind of huge move that Atlanta made.

I can't think of that many trade ups by "legit contenders" that would fit - perhaps you have some in mind. SF trading up for Jerry Rice in 1985 qualifies, but that was 30 years ago. That was also a much smaller trade: #28, 56 and 84 for #16 and #75. Other than the Atlanta trade, I can't think of many blockbusters where a "legit contender" gave up so much for a potential "difference maker" to "take them to another level".

I'd say that many legit contenders got to where they are by not making those kinds of deals. I can't think of any off the top of my head, I'd have to research it.

It makes more sense to stay where you're at, or trade back and collect assets. The Patriots have almost exclusively followed that model and, in my opinion have won more times than not with it. The 2009 draft hurt us, and in hindsight would have been one to stay put in. When they have moved up, it wasn't a blockbuster type deal.
 

patsfaninpa

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
There's a big difference between "moving up" and making the kind of huge move that Atlanta made.

I can't think of that many trade ups by "legit contenders" that would fit - perhaps you have some in mind. SF trading up for Jerry Rice in 1985 qualifies, but that was 30 years ago. That was also a much smaller trade: #28, 56 and 84 for #16 and #75. Other than the Atlanta trade, I can't think of many blockbusters where a "legit contender" gave up so much for a potential "difference maker" to "take them to another level".

You're right. Not too many. Maybe, GB moving up for Clay Matthews qualifies. They moved up from 41-26. I like a deal like you have in your recent mock. If we stand pat at 32 and get a good DT or OL. I'd like to move up from 64 if there is a good pass-rusher in mid-2nd. A lot of players fitting that pass-rushing profile could be available in that area. While, not many good dt's will fall that far. Plus, we have those 3 picks in about a 10-12 pick stretch. Move-up makes sense. Like we did 2x in 2012.
 

mayoclinic

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You're right. Not too many. Maybe, GB moving up for Clay Matthews qualifies. They moved up from 41-26. I like a deal like you have in your recent mock. If we stand pat at 32 and get a good DT or OL. I'd like to move up from 64 if there is a good pass-rusher in mid-2nd. A lot of players fitting that pass-rushing profile could be available in that area. While, not many good dt's will fall that far. Plus, we have those 3 picks in about a 10-12 pick stretch. Move-up makes sense. Like we did 2x in 2012.

That kind of trade makes complete sense, and is entirely different.

The Pats have traded up in the top 50 picks for Jones, Hightower and Gronkowski. All very good moves.

Trading up is not necessarily a bad idea. Trading multiple 1st round picks and more to move up for a "difference maker" generally doesn't work out well.
 

patchick

Moderatrix
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It seems like the general opinion is the value of the JJ trade was too much to give up. I agree.

I think it was too much, but that's just what a winning team has to give up to move up for a marquee top-10 player. Which is why I'm agin' it. :)
 

ZoisKing

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
Here's my question to those opposed to the Julio Jones trade. Would you be equally opposed to the same trade, but for JJ Watt?

In that case I would seriously entertain the idea of it. He seems to be a generational talent that would fill a definitive need for this team right now. We have pretty good depth at most positions and having him come in and work with our current d line crew might make us a tremendous defensive team.
 

mayoclinic

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Here's my question to those opposed to the Julio Jones trade. Would you be equally opposed to the same trade, but for JJ Watt?

Would I have traded 17+60 to move up to around #10 for JJ Watt in 2011? Probably (again, I liked Watt a lot, but favored Cam Jordan at the time). In retrospect: absolutely. No brainer.

Would I have traded 17+60+125 in 2011 plus 1st and 4th round picks in 2012 (which ended up as 31 and 126, both used to draft Dont'a Hightower) at the time? No way. Way too much to give up. In retrospect? Not sure. Watt is a generational talent, but we got 3 starters (Solder, Hightower and Ridley) out of those picks plus a reserve tackle in Cannon. Anyway, hindsight doesn't count - no one had Watt pegged as a generational talent in 2011, or he wouldn't have lasted until #11.
 

Hammer of Thor

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Here's my question to those opposed to the Julio Jones trade. Would you be equally opposed to the same trade, but for JJ Watt?

Good question. Let's say it was hypothetically 2011 again but we knew what we know now about Watt - that he'd be taken 6th overall, he is a dominant player, and it would cost us the same to move up from 17 to 6. Here is what the actual trade would have been for Watt (2011 1st, 2nd, 4th plus 2012 1st, 4th):
- Solder
- Pick that was traded for Ridley and Cannon
- Pick that was traded with a 3rd rounder that became Malcolm Williams and in 2012 Tavon Wilson
- Both 2012 picks that were packaged for Hightower

I think this is reasonably representative of what a team could "expect" from a draft -- that is to say, I don't think I'm cherry-picking a particularly strong Patriots draft with this one. As good as JJ Watt is, Soldier and Hightower are a few of the real core players on our team right now. And Ridley and Cannon are good guys to have as part of the full top-to-bottom 53 man roster view. And even Tavon has some uses.... And the big thing is that they're all on cheap contracts. If we think we could have found a reasonable LT on a reasonably cheap contract then it might be worth considering. But I don't think we could have.
 

mosi's man

Practice Squad Player
Here's where hindsight gets tricky: If we actually knew what we know now about Watt he'd go #1 overall, with a bidding war.


as usual, you are right on the money. the thing that bugs me most when i hear nitwits analyze BBs philosophy of trading down is that they complain that he's too arrogant and feels like he doesn't need great players to win, or just wants to save money, when it's so clearly the opposite. BB recognizes the limitations of any pre-draft evaluation, his or anyone elses, at determining which players will succeed in the nfl, so rather than place too much stock in his analysis, he diversifies and thereby hedges his bets. it's the right approach for anyone who recognizes their limitations. it's actually a sign of humility.
 

patchick

Moderatrix
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BB recognizes the limitations of any pre-draft evaluation, his or anyone elses, at determining which players will succeed in the nfl, so rather than place too much stock in his analysis, he diversifies and thereby hedges his bets.

Yep, every team and every talent assessor, even the best, miss a lot of the time. So when we say "If you could go back and draft X player in Y trade," we should remember that we're not just getting the player in the trade, we're getting the elimination of risk.

Back in 2011, there was no J.J. Watt as we now know him available in the draft. There was a probabilistic mix of J.J. Watt, Vernon Gholston, and points in between. (Gholston was consistently projected higher than Watt in pre-draft mocks, after all.) As you say, it would be the height of arrogance to believe that you'll never get the short end of that stick.
 

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