As editor Jeff Hartman wrote the other day, the Steelers have more needs than just the defensive secondary in the upcoming NFL draft. Depending on what happens with the free agent market, the Steelers could find themselves with multiple holes in the defensive backfield, the offensive line, the defensive line, linebackers (edge and the middle) and even TE. With all of these needs, would the Steelers be better served trading down from either their first or second round pick to stockpile more picks to address these needs? I think they should.
Not to be forgotten also is that for renting Brandon Boykin for the season and acquiring Josh Scobee and then cutting him (for good reason mind you), we gave up our 5th and 6th round picks this year. While we will probably get a compensatory pick at the end of the 7th (last) round for Brice McCain, it leaves us with picks in round 1-4 and then two very low 7th rounders. We need more draft picks, but how do we get them?
Lets look first of all at the 25th pick the Steelers have in the first round. Going back over the past 10 years, the best player taken in the 25th slot might very well have been the Steelers selection of Santonio Holmes. Other 25th picks that panned out were Vontae Davis and Dont'a Hightower. But this was also the slot that saw Tim Tebow, Mike Jenkins and Jon Beason selected. The Steelers have a record of not whiffing on 1st round picks (giving Jarvis Jones the benefit of the doubt and forgetting Ziggy Hood). But there is no guarantee that we strike gold here.
On top of that there is wide disagreement on what type of player to take. Do we go with a CB? A safety? An edge rusher? Maybe we go O-line or even a blue chip TE? It is far from a lock on who or even what we should draft in Round 1 with the 25th pick.
If past years are any indication, there will be a team who drafted higher in the first round (maybe a top ten pick) who wants to sneak back into the first round and grab a "must have" player for themselves. Without a clear cut direction, the Steelers could find themselves in the right place at the right time to trade down out of the first round here. Maybe the Steelers could grab a high 2nd round pick along with another high 3rd round pick for this slot?
So giving up the 25th pick, the team could wind up with a pick between 32 and 42, let's say. In addition, they also get a top 10 3rd round pick to add to an already existing 3rd pick. This scenario gives the Steelers two 2nd rounders and two third rounders (with one from each round being much higher than our own picks in those rounds) instead of the first rounder. That would be 4 of the first 100 picks.
There are other permutations of this strategy we could do as well. Maybe along with the 25th pick we flip flop our 3rd round picks (take the higher 3rd rounder, giving the team we trade with our 3rd rounder) but pick up another high 4th round pick too. This results in two 2nd picks, a high 3rd pick and two 4th round picks.
Of course, the Steelers could keep the 25th pick and trade their 2nd round pick. I don't think the team will get as much in return for this one, maybe an extra 6th round pick. But hey, they drafted a WR named Antonio Brown in the 6th round.
The bottom line is that while no one wants to part with a first round pick, if there isn't a solid direction and player in mind, why not go for quantity over quality. They say that it is a deep draft for DBs, maybe this scenario has the team getting two solid players instead of one?
As we get closer to the draft and the free agent market plays itself out, there will be a better idea of how many real needs next years team is going to need. Stockpiling some picks by trading down may be the strategy that gives the Steelers the best chance at filling them all.