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2012 NFL Draft: The History of Trading Up, Bill Parcells, the Seahawks Plan and the Rams Deal

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Pete Carroll coached the Jets before Bill Parcells and the Patriots after him.  If we're lucky, Parcells will never coach the Seahawks.
Pete Carroll coached the Jets before Bill Parcells and the Patriots after him. If we're lucky, Parcells will never coach the Seahawks.

Come away with me down the internet rabbit hole to a simpler time. Or maybe it was more complicated. I don't know, how does one define a "simple time"? Give me a break. It was 1997 alright? Geez.

That year, the Jets were coming off of a 1-15 season. I got to the Jets 1997 draft because of Neil O'Donnell. How? Because I was looking for "game manager" quarterbacks and sorting every NFL season where a player had >15 TD passes, <13 INT, and <7.0 yards per attempt. I found O'Donnell, I clicked on his player page, I noticed his disastrous '97 season.

Game Manager - O'Donnell - Jets - 1997- Draft - RABBIT HOLE!

The 1996 Jets were an interesting team. They were coming off of a 3-13 season and being that they were the Jets, they wanted to turn things around quickly. They signed O'Donnell to replace Boomer Esiason (O'Donnell was coming off of a Super Bowl loss to the Cowboys), they signed WR Jeff Graham (1,301 yards in 1995 with the Bears), and they made-over their offensive line with Jumbo Elliot, David Williams, and Harry Galbreath.

They also drafted Keyshawn Johnson with the number one overall pick and WR Alex Van Dyke with the 31st. With up-and-coming players RB Adrian Murrell and WR Wayne Chrebet on the team already, it was all about ready, set, GO SCORE SOME POINTS!

Go ahead Jets. Go. Go... Is anyone listening to me? I said go score some damn points.

The Jets finished 27th in scoring offense and they went 1-15. Whoops. (This could also be an indictment on the strategy of rebuilding a team by just making a lot of fancy free agent moves, but we'll stick to the draft.)

New York needed to find yet another way to turn their franchise around and they made the most obvious move, firing the head coach of two years Rich Kotite, and replacing him with the legendary Bill Parcells. This move would end up costing the Jets their first round pick in 1998 since he was still under contract with the New England Patriots, but luckily the Jets were able to hang onto the first overall pick in '97. (Not that it would have been advisable to draft another WR but imagine if the Jets had kept the 1998 pick, 18th overall, and drafted Randy Moss.)

The important thing for New York was that they got their man and Parcells immediately set forth to turn around a team that had won four games in two seasons. He had two options in front of him: Keep the draft pick at 1 and get a premier player OR trade down and start filling the roster with "volume" as Parcells put it.

If Peyton Manning hadn't returned to Tennessee, then the choice would have been obvious and modern NFL football would be changed forever. But Manning did go back to school and so there was only one player that seemed to be staring a franchise in the face as a number one pick: Orlando Pace.

Take the offensive tackle that Jets draft director Dick Haley said "could anchor the position for 10 years and then go to the Hall of Fame." or "Get volume."?

Parcells chose volume. How did it work out?

(Thanks for continuing! Please note that what follows turned into my longest FG article ever!)

The Jets ended up making a deal with the St. Louis Rams for the number six overall pick, a third, fourth, and seventh. This was only moving down five spots but also gave Parcells three additional players to bring into the fold. However, he wasn't done there. He moved from six down to eight with the Buccaneers and grabbed another fourth round pick. Finally, he moved the Rams third to the Broncos for a third, a sixth, and a seventh.

Parcells took one pick and turned it into seven players. Genius?

This 1998 article in The New York Times, published before a Jets-Rams game, breaks down the deal in further detail. The Jets decided to not draft Pace and instead get a bounty of players that ended up being: LB James Farrior, WR Dedric Ward, RB Leon Johnson, DT Jason Ferguson, DE Terry Day, QB Chuck Clements, and TE Lawrence Hart.

Was it worth it? Well, I guess that depends on how you define "worth it." Let's start with the careers of those players as best we can describe:

The easy side of the story is Orlando Pace. He's one of the greatest left tackles of all-time and had 12 mostly outstanding seasons with the Rams, surely on his way to the Hall of Fame. How do you really define the value of an offensive lineman, other than to say "We know that guy was a brick wall."? Let's just say that he was a three-time All Pro and a seven-time Pro Bowler, if that helps.

On the other side you've got:

  • Farrior. Still in the NFL, he has had an excellent career, mostly for durability but also by having a couple of outstanding seasons.
  • Leon Johnson. Kick Returner/Punt Returner/Sometimes ran it and caught a few passes. Johnson played in the NFL for seven mostly forgettable seasons.
  • Day. He played in one career game.
  • Clements. His career numbers: 2 rushes for -3 yards (possibly on kneel downs?)
  • Jason Ferguson was the surprise value. As a 7th round pick, he played seven years for the Jets and had some very productive seasons.
  • Dedric Ward. He had his moments and caught 54 passes for 801 yards in 2000, by far his greatest season.
  • Hart. A 7th rounder in 1998, he played in one game.
Out of that group, be as honest as you can: Farrior was a great pick. Ferguson was a great value pick and outstanding production for a 7th rounder. Johnson and Ward had their moments of value. The other three did nothing.

Now look at it even further: Farrior made 43 starts for the Jets in five years and has made 154 starts in ten years for the Steelers. His lack of full-time dominating production in New York is the reason he was able to walk away and that can't be ignored compared to drafting an elite left tackle that might not have ever been allowed to leave the Jets. Farrior didn't start very often for the Jets and Pace would have likely been the full-time left tackle from day one.

This 2008 PRF Article broke down the trade as well and assigned value to each team involved in all of the trades, naming "winners and losers" of the deal in terms of Career AV. This conclusion is pretty amazing to me:

Winners and Losers

               carAV	perAV	draftAV
Jets	        58	 49	 39
Bucs	        51	 39	 51
Broncos	       -25	-21	-21
Rams	       -45	-32	-25
Seahawks       -39	-34	-44

Chase Stuart actually came to the conclusion that the Jets came out way ahead in the deal and were the overall winners of the day. Meanwhile, Seattle trading up for Walter Jones left them at "the bottom" of the draftAV pile. And if Chase doesn't mind, I'll take exception to this statement on Jones:

After Tim Brown and James Lofton, he's in the next tier of top sixth picks with Lomas Brown, Torry Holt, John Riggins, Kevin Carter and Richard Seymour.

Jones takes a backseat to no man. Brown and Lofton were great players (I really wish I could have seen James Lofton play) and even in 2008 this was a ridiculous statement. Greatest LT ever.

Here's the real issue though with Stuarts evaluation of the winners and losers of the 1997 draft trades (besides the fact that no other publication has really picked up AV as a stat): He is basically acting as if the teams that didn't acquire certain players didn't have other players at those positions. The hypothesis is that Seattle missed out on Warrick Dunn and guard Frank Middleton. It's as if Stuart is saying that Seattle got 0 AV from the RB and G situations.

In 1997, Seattle had Chris Warren and Lamar Smith at RB and Pete Kendall at G. (Having a hard time getting down for sure the other starter at G. James Atkins or Derrick Graham.) The point being, at the time Seattle didn't have a need for those positions and over the course of Dunn and Middleton's careers, Seattle had some pretty good play at G and RB. It's not an AV of 0 though.

So, Stuart's evaluation of the trade says that the Jets did the right thing by trading one player for seven but also counts Farrior's entire career and not just the short time he spent with New York. Still, by this evaluation it could be said that Parcells did the right thing by trading down and not getting the elite player at left tackle. I can't help but disagree with every ounce of rational thought that I have.

You know what the most important thing to me is, looking at that list of winners and losers? Take a close look, I'll be waiting.... Did you notice anything? A pattern? A coincidence that's not a coincidence?

Broncos, Bucs, Rams, Seahawks... Broncos, Bucs, Rams, Seahawks.... Broncos, Bucs, Rams, Seahawks.... since 1997....

Super Bowl winner, Super Bowl Winner, Super Bowl Winner, Super Bowl Runner-Up (should've been a Super Bowl Winner.)

And the Jets? Well, we know that they haven't been to the Super Bowl since 1968, their only ever appearance in the game that matters. But how close did they get during the years that mattered that were affected by this trade? Parcells would coach for three years in New York before retiring in 1999 and spending one more year as the Jets general manager.


In his first year, Parcells turned the Jets from 1-15 to 9-7, though they missed the playoffs by losing three of their last four games.

In his second year, the Jets acquired Vinny Testaverde and Curtis Martin. They signed Martin to a 6-year, $36 million offer sheet and for the second year in a row they had to give up their first round pick to the New England Patriots, in addition to a 1999 second round pick.



Okay Bill, so your strategy in year one was "we need volume" and then your strategy in year two was "Fuck it, we need stars"? Don't get me wrong, I agree with your assessment of Curtis Martin, who was a star, but you really didn't take any of those draft picks lost into consideration?

In a way, Bill Parcells is responsible for the Patriots dynasty, he just wasn't the coach for the team anymore. First he took them to the Super Bowl in 1996 and then decided that the Patriots "wouldn't let him buy the groceries" so he goes to a division rival who will let him make the shopping list but it costs the Jets their first round pick in 1998. Then he signs Martin away from the Patriots in '98 and it costs them a 1st and a 2nd. Those players? Damien Woody and Kevin Faulk.

(Both of those drafts, in case you were wondering, were under the Pete Carroll regime. The first pick that the Pats grabbed for Parcells compensation turned into RB Robert Edwards.)

Then Carroll was fired after going 8-8 and who do the Patriots hire? The Jets defensive coordinator (Bill Belicheck) to be head coach and he hires Jets offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to do the same job in New England while also snagging DB coach Eric Mangini. After a 5-11 season in 2000, Belicheck hired away Jets D coach Romeo Crennel to be the defensive coordinator and in 2001 the Patriots won the Super Bowl, along with two more in the next three years.

Did they do it by drafting a bunch of good players or by striking gold? Matt Light, Richard Seymour, Tom Brady, Woody, Faulk, and Tebucky Jones were all acquired in drafts from 1998-2001. Lots of good players or a few great ones? I'd rather have a few great ones... To be fair, the Jets did have "volume" again in the 1998 draft, having acquired extra picks in the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th rounds, but the only true impact player out of the TWELVE players taken was tackle Jason Fabini. Parcells opted for a shitload of volume instead and the Patriots became a dynasty. OK.


In 1998, the Jets actually began to hit on all cylinders and after an 0-2 start they finished 12-4 and won the AFC East while finishing with one of the top offenses and defenses in the NFL. They beat the Jags in the divisional round before facing the Broncos in the AFC Championship game.

New York had a 10-0 lead in the third quarter but collapsed in the second half and lost 23-10 and committed six turnovers. Denver (a 1997 "draft day loser") won their second straight championship.

Expectations were high in 1999 but Vinny Testaverde was lost for the season after only 15 pass attempts. New York turned to a familiar Seattle face, Rick Mirer, and subsequently started the season 4-8. After the year (they finished 8-8) Parcells retired for a little while and the Jets have actually had some success since then. New York has gone to the playoffs in six of the last eleven seasons, but they still lack an appearance in the game that matters.

Meanwhile, those "draft day losers" after 1997 ended up winning four of the next six Super Bowls.

Back to the initial trade that was just the Rams moving up to acquire the best player in the draft and an elite talent in Orlando Pace... St. Louis went from having one of the worst offenses in the NFL to the greatest offense of all-time from 1999-2001 thanks to a number of players, but one of the most important was easily Pace.

The Rams paid for elite and what they got back was elite. The Jets went for volume and they passed on Pace and moved down to six. There, they could have drafted Walter Jones but they opted instead to move down another couple of spots and the Hawks paid to get up and draft Jones. From 2002-2005, the Hawks were one of the top offenses in the NFL and it would be hard to imagine that happening without Jones or even with a left tackle that was just "really good." Having a LT that could play with defenses like rag dolls was a difference maker for Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck.


(The funny thing is that the three best left tackles of the last twenty years are arguably Jones, Pace, and Jonathan Ogden. The Jets passed on the first two in 1997 and also picked Keyshawn Johnson over Ogden in 1996.)

The Jets moved down and ended up having one "elite" season but still haven't gotten over the hump. Nobody knows what would have happened for sure if the Jets had just taken Pace but I have a hard time imagining that they would have been any worse for it.

What Does Any Of This Mean and Why Do I Care?

Well, let's not forget that the division-rival Rams have just opted for a similar move to what Parcells did after trading away the #2 pick for four draft picks. The major differences between the two deals are obvious: The Rams acquired three firsts and a second (better value than what Parcells got) and have no need for Robert Griffin. However, it could be argued that they should have negotiated with the Browns and gotten less in terms of volume, because there might only be five "elite" players in this draft and trading down to six will definitely cost them Matt Kalil. (They could have also just stayed at two and taken Kalil, the "elite LT")

It also has to do with Seattle. Should they still try and move up? Should they move down for "volume"? Should they get out of the first round entirely and acquire a 2013 1st round pick if possible in an effort to move up next season?

Let's take a look back at all of the major draft day trades since 1990 in which a team moved up to #1 (or close to #1) and how those fared. This won't take as long as looking at the Parcells trade of 1997, I promise:

1990: Colts trade a 1991 1st, 1998 5th, Andre Rison and Chris Hinton to the Falcons for the #1 overall pick, Jeff George.

The Colts got Jeff George and the Falcons used the draft picks on Mike Pritchard in 1991 and I can't tell exactly who they used their 5th round pick on because draft trades back then are hard to track. (Kind of still are.) Falcons moved down to 20 and picked WSU running back Steve Broussard. The Falcons went to the playoffs in '91 but suffered for a few more years. (Edit: I forgot to remind everyone that Andre Rison was a stud.)

The best thing you could say about George and the Colts is that he sucked enough for the franchise to tailspin (mostly) until drafting Peyton Manning in 1998.

1990: Seahawks trade #8 (Chris Singleton), #10 (Ray Agnew), #64 (Jimmie Jones) and '91 #101 (David Rocker) for #3 (Cortez Kennedy) and #29 (Terry Wooden)

I know that Cortez is a Hall of Fame DT. I know that Terry Wooden was a hell of a linebacker for a few years. Don't know much about the other guys. Clear winner here is the team that traded up for elite talent. The Patriots took a linebacker but moved out of a position that would have allowed them to acquire Junior Seau.

1991: The Cowboys, Vikings, Patriots, and Herschel Walker

Try to follow here, because I certainly am having a hard time. The Cowboys traded Walker, a 1990 3rd, a 1990 5th, a 1990 10th, and a 1991 third to the Vikings for a Jesse Solomon, David Howard, Issiac Holt, Darrin Nelson, Alex Stewart, a 1990 1st, a 1991 first, a 1991 2nd, a 1992 first, a 1992 2nd, and a 1992 3rd.

Following a 3-13 season in 1988 they drafted Troy Aikman #1 in 1989. Dallas went 1-15 that season but forfeited the #1 pick in the 1989 supplemental draft to acquire Steve Walsh, another quarterback. (They traded Walsh to the Saints for a '91 1st, '91 3rd, and '92 2nd)

Dallas used fancy maneuvering in 1990 and moved the Vikings first, plus a 49ers 3rd to move up four spots in the first to draft Emmitt Smith. In 1991, Dallas moved the 11th overall, the 41st overall, Ron Francis, David Howard, and Eugene Lockart to the Patriots for the #1 overall pick, Russell Maryland. In 1992 they moved around and ended up grabbing a pick that became Darren Woodson and another that became CB Kevin Smith.

Lesson? The Vikings didn't do shit with Herschel Walker (obviously, it's their own fault) and the Cowboys went "so damn crazy it just might work" on their draft picks and ended up winning three Super Bowls. The Cowboys got elite talent and you can say that it was just great evaluating or pure dumb luck but the teams they traded with didn't get much out of the deals.

1992: Bucs trade the #2 overall pick to the Colts for QB Chris Chandler

In a move that seems absolutely unbelievable as of today, the Bucs traded the #2 overall pick for Chandler (a 3rd round pick just two years earlier that had a tiny bit of success) and the Colts drafted LB Quentin Coryatt. What's more unbelievable is that the Bucs cut Chandler during the season in 1991. Coryatt disappointed (though he wasn't terrible) in his career but that's nothing compared to trading away a pick that high for a QB that you cut a year and a half later. (The Colts also had the #1 pick that year and took Steve Emtman. All in all, disappointing results for the Colts.)

1995: Panthers trade #1 (Ki-Jana Carter) to the Bengals for #5 (Kerry Collins) and #36 (DE Shawn King)

Collins was "whatever" for the Panthers and Shawn King was unimpressive, but Carter? The Bengals moved up but passed on Tony Boselli and Steve McNair.

1997: Raiders trade Daryl Hobbs, #10 pick (Chris Naeole), #39 (Jared Tomich), #107 (Pratt Lyons) to Saints for #2 (Darrell Russell) and #166 (John Fiala)

Not sure what to think. Naeole was a solid guard, but a guard is a guard. Russell, if he could have kept his head on straight, could have been one of the best DTs ever.

1997: Seahawks trade #11 (Michael Booker), #41 (Bryron Hanspard), #70 (OJ Santiago) and #100 (Henri Crockett) to Falcons for #3 (Shawn Springs) and #63 (Frank Middleton, sent to the Bucs)

Seattle didn't only deal for Walter Jones, they moved up to acquired Springs as well. Springs = Elite-talent CB, Booker was out of the league by 2001.


1998: Chargers move up from 3 to 2 and it costs them two 1st's, a 2nd and two players

The Cardinals had San Diego right where they wanted them and the QB-hungry Chargers traded the #3 (Andre Wadsworth), #33 (Corey Chavous) the #8 in 1999 (David Boston), Eric Metcalf and Patrick Sapp for... Ryan Leaf.

Leaf was elite-level on talent but had the worst attitude in NFL history. The Cardinals drafted Wadsworth (bad pick) over Charles Woodson and Boston over a lot of other better players (though he of course had his moments) but Ryan Leaf is Ryan Leaf.

1999: Saints trade whole team to Redskins for Ricky Williams

Ditka. Ditka. Sausage. Ditka. Draft Picks. Ditka. Weed. Ricky. Ditka. Saints. Stupid.

You know what I never realized? The Redskins acquired the #5 pick from the Panthers (and also their 2000 first round pick) because the Panthers just had to have DT Sean Gilbert. Ridiculous.

Then Ditka sent over eight draft picks, including two firsts and two thirds just so they could draft Ricky Williams. I am still fascinated that team would trade all of that not for a #1 overall pick, but for a FIFTH overall pick. Williams wasn't even the first running back taken!!!! (Edgerrin James)

It didn't just end up costing the Saints their 1999 draft, but also the #2 overall pick in 2000 which ended up being LaVar Arrington. Also, the Redskins moved the Saints 1st, 3rd, and a few of their own later picks to move up from 12 to 7 so they could draft Champ Bailey. (The Bears took Cade McNown at 12.) How did the Redskins still fail to become great? QB play I guess.

2001: Falcons trade Tim Dwight, #5 (LaDanian Tomlinson), #67 (Tay Cody) and 2002 #48 (Reche Caldwell) to the Chargers for #1 (Michael Vick)

Who wins? I got to go with the Chargers on this one, even though Vick didn't really disappoint on the field he'll never carry the "franchise value" of LT.

(Also that year, the Seahawks traded Joey Galloway for draft picks that netted them Shaun Alexander, Joey Galloway Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and Dennis Norman.)

2004: Giants trade #4 pick (Philip Rivers), #65 (Nate Kaeding), 2005 #12 (Shawn Merriman) and 2005 5th rounder (Jerome Collins) for Eli Manning at #1.

At this point, how can I argue against two Super Bowls. Giants aren't mad. Chargers probably aren't mad either. They both got something out of the deal. If anything, the Chargers should have stayed at one, taken Larry Fitzgerald, and given Drew Brees more time. (Hindsight)

That's finally the end of this rabbit hole.. Let's wrap this mother up!

You know what's funny? A team hasn't traded into the top four (or around the top four) since 2004 until this year with the Rams and Redskins. And look at how often it used to happen. Teams began to value elite talent a lot more than they used to. There's plenty of trades to acquire volume, but look at the cost of moving up to acquire the best of the best? When a team is really down on it's luck it can't exactly afford to risk missing out on an elite talent, although I think the Rams have done just that.

They might not need RG3 (I like Sam Bradford just fine) but they needed Matt Kalil. They could have really used Justin Blackmon. They could use just about any elite player, like a Morris Claiborne, but they'll be "settling" in 2012 in hopes that the picks in 2013 and 2014 give them a more balanced amount of good to great players. Will the Redskins be one of the worst teams in 2012 and give the Rams another top pick or will Washington win 10 games and give the Rams a pick in the bottom third?

As for the Seahawks, they sit at 12 right now and there is talk about trading down to acquire more picks if the right player isn't available at 12. This isn't a bad move but I'm also not sure that acquiring an extra "3rd" is the kind of move that's going to bring Seattle to the next level. I guess it all really depends on what happens on draft day and who is available and what other teams are offering. Should they move UP though?


We know that Andrew Luck and RG3 aren't available, that much is clear. The next crop of elite is Kalil, Claiborne, Trent Richardson, and Blackmon by most talent evaluators thoughts. On another level, I believe that David DeCastro and Luke Keuchly are seen as elite for their respective positions, but those positions aren't coveted as highly as QB, LT, RB, WR and CB if you can find elite talent there. We also know that Seattle has Russell Okung, so Kalil makes little sense. Some people don't even believe that Blackmon is better than Michael Floyd, so that doesn't seem worth investing into.

Seattle has invested a bunch of money into it's RB position, so trading up for Richardson doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, and neither does acquiring Claiborne when our secondary is already our best unit.

The Seahawks need a pass-rusher in the worst way but people are split on the DE and OLB class this year, making it questionable if they should move up to acquire Quinton Coples, Courtney Upshaw, or Melvin Ingram, if Seattle had to. It's also important to note that just because WE don't see a guy like Ingram as "elite" or one of the top three players in the draft that Pete Carroll and John Schneider don't. They might and if they thought that Upshaw or Ingram or Coples was going to be the next 15-sack monster, then they might want to move up.

In fact, if that's what they thought, then I believe that they absolutely have to even if it does cost a few extra draft picks. Why? Because it's become pretty clear that having elite talent is a lot better than having a few extra solid players. Having elite talent at one position, as we see over and over again, raises the level of play for the players around him.

We've seen how Earl Thomas affects the other players in the secondary and allows other guys on defense to be free to do other things and worry about less. We've seen how having an elite left tackle can transform an offense. We've seen how an elite quarterback can raise the production of his wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs.

Seattle should only trade down if they don't see a potentially great player at 12 or if they are unable to move up into the top 10 in order to draft a player that they view as elite. The extra draft pick compensation might not honestly be worth it just because they can grab another project in the middle of the draft. Even if it's three extra picks. I believe that the successful model has become pretty clear: You get elite talent in the draft and you get volume in free agency. Any player that you can draft in the third could potentially be replaced by a mid-level free agent that's out there right now.

When trying to fill your last 13 roster spots, it can be by late picks that you already have or through free agency. Hell, we've already seen Seattle and other teams strike gold with undrafted free agents alone. It's never likely, but it's not crazy to believe that "volume" can be acquired by these means. There's no reason to really believe that Seattle or any other team would do well to pick up extra picks by moving down, unless they saw no elite potential at 12. With Keuchly and DeCastro possibly available or with OT Riley Reiff possibly available (they could move Carpenter to G when he's healthy) it's hard for me to see how Seattle would do better to move back in the draft and pass up on a player that could be great right away.

The Rams moved down and though they acquired three first round picks, I'm sort of sitting here thinking that I'm happy that they moved out of range to draft Kalil and possibly Blackmon. That seems like a mistake to me and I think they should have taken more time to talk to Cleveland and stay in the top four.

Fifteen years ago, Bill Parcells took over the Jets and opted for volume over elite. Fifteen years later, they're still looking for an answer. (So much so that they traded for Tim Tebow!) Teams don't need to find volume in the draft, they need to find difference-makers. Go draft a difference-maker Pete and John... even if it costs a couple extra picks.

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