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2014 Nfl Draft Economics

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The Atlanta Falcons can't just draft Jadeveon Clowney. And they can't simply trade for him. But they can pursue him. The question is: should they?

The answer's complex and a lot depends on the compensation involved. A report out there pegs the Falcons needing their 2014 first-round pick (No. 6 overall), their 2014 second-round pick (No. 37 overall) and their 2015 first-round pick.

More on that in a second. First the pros and cons of acquiring Clowney.

Optimists of the deal point to Thomas Dimitroff's success in making a previous move up the draft board for elite talent. Grabbing Julio Jones in the 2011 NFL Draft cost Atlanta quite the bounty but you can reasonably make the case they won that trade. Would the Browns give up Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Owen Marecic and a fourth-round pick straight-up for Jones right now? Yes, yes they absolutely would.

Jones didn't win the Super Bowl for Atlanta but he was leading the NFL in receiving yards per game in 2013 when he suffered a season-ending injury against the Jets. He's a game-changing, transcendent talent.

Clowney could be the same type of talent and he fits a position of need for Atlanta. Drafting for need is dumb unless the best player in the draft plays the same position. And, man, does Clowney check both boxes. He's the consensus top player and he gets after the passer like few players we've seen come out of college football. He single-handedly made it OK to use the word "freak" again during draft profiling. Atlanta was terrible rushing quarterbacks in 2013, finishing with just 32 sacks, 29th in the league.

See? Many reasons to love this potential move. But it's not all puppies and sunshine up in here.

Just like you can point out the Falcons won the deal for Julio, you can point out they also lost the Julio deal. How does that work? Well, the Falcons shouldn't get credit for the Browns being terrible at drafting football players. With the Taylor pick, Cleveland could've landed Cameron Jordan (drafted three picks later) or Muhammad Wilkerson (drafted nine picks later). With the Little pick, Cleveland could've gotten Randall Cobb (drafted five picks later).

We don't even need to go further: would Cleveland trade Mo Wilk and Cobb for Julio? No the Browns wouldn't, and they definitely wouldn't if they had to also throw in another first-round pick.

Atlanta suffered in 2013 because it lacked depth. Hitting on a group of players (admittedly easier in hindsight) with the picks the Falcons shipped to Cleveland would make them a much stronger and deeper team right now.

Back to Clowney. The question becomes whether Atlanta is "one player away." It's hard to fathom that it is, primarily because no team is a single player shy of constructing a perfect roster in today's NFL. There's a churn that comes with building a constant competitor and it involves successfully selecting cheap, quality players in the draft, retaining the right personnel and avoiding high-cost whiffs in free agency.

The Falcons had one of the worst six records in the league last year, so it's not like they were knocking on the door. There were lots of injuries last season and Atlanta should be luckier with those in 2014. Atlanta also played lots of young players last season, so its overall talent and depth should improve based on a year of experience.

Losing picks to land Clowney would sap that depth though. Let's take 2015's first-round pick off the table. If Dimitroff's giving up that to move up five spots it's too much and I suddenly hate the deal. (Unless the Texans and Falcons SWAP first-rounders next year in an awesome game of draft roulette. Now that would make 2014 interesting.) Personally I think giving up a second-round pick in 2014 would actually be an alright deal for both sides. Houston is only moving down five spots, they can still get a player they want and there's no added pressure on a quarterback they drafted in the top spot over Clowney.

But that might not be enough to actually pull it off. So let's give Houston three picks: Atlanta's No. 6 pick, Atlanta's second-round pick (No. 37 overall) and Atlanta's fourth-round pick (No. 103 overall).

We're also taking the hindsight approach and giving the Falcons better picks than the Browns took because, well, they're not the Browns. Sorry, Cleveland. (Also, Pete Prisco graded the Cameron pick higher than the Taylor pick and the Cobb pick higher than the Little pick at the time. It was just a Browns thing, y'all.) For the 2014 picks I usedNFL DraftScout's prospect rankings and picked in the pick range or below overall.

And, for the record, I love Julio Jones and supported the trade for him at the time.


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