One of the keys about the flurry of moves that have taken place this offseason for the New Orleans Saints is gaining flexibility in the draft.
The team is now up to nine draft picks, the most its had since 2002, and is seemingly in a position to do whatever it wants in the draft. Select nine players and revamp the defense? They can do that. Move up and take a coveted player? That’s on the table as well.
It’s a nice idea to think New Orleans can move all over the board. But the question is just how far it can actually move.
Before most teams make a trade involving picks, they consult a the draft-pick value chart. This chart, which has been around for decades and has been improved upon at various junctures, assesses a numerical value for each draft position in the chart.
The chart most widely used, for instance, gives a value of 3,000 to first-overall pick and goes down from there. If a team wants to trade for that pick, for most general managers to say yes to a deal, the bounty being offered needs to equate to 3,000 or better.
Not every trade fits into this equation, but most do. Last year the Saints moved up from the 27th pick to 20th pick in a deal with the Arizona Cardinals to draft wide receiver Brandin Cooks. To make the move, New Orleans had to surrender the 27th and 91st picks, which came in at a total value of 816. Arizona’s pick had a value of 850, coming in at a net loss of four percent on the draft value chart.
“We weighed it some, but when you’re picking 27th in each of these rounds, you’re really five picks away from being in the fourth,” coach Sean Payton said after making the trade last year. “We really felt, with regards to the value sheets, that it all added up and made sense.”
It was the same thing in 2008 when the Saints moved up from the 10th pick to the seventh pick to select defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis. New Orleans’ paired the No. 79 pick, bringing the value of its bounty to 1,526. New England threw in pick 164 for a total value of 1,5000.
It’s not always exact, but most draft-day trades can be justified by consulting with the chart. So, using these values as a baseline, how far could the Saints actually move up in the draft if their potential trade partners only consulted the chart and considered no other factors?
By simply packaging the No. 13 pick and No. 31 pick, which carry a combined value of 1,750 points, the Saints could theoretically swing a deal with the Oakland Raiders for the No. 4 pick, which carries a value of 1,750 points.
Making this deal would put the Saints in range to take one of the top pass rushers, wide receivers, or virtually anyone else they want outside of quarterback Jameis Winston, who is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If the team does not want to package both of its first-round picks, the latter or which was acquired from Seattle in the package that sent tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, New Orleans could still move up in the first round by pairing lesser assets with the No. 13 pick.
One option could be to package pick 13 with pick 44, which carry a combined value of 1,610. This could put the Saints in range of acquiring the sixth pick (1,600) from the Jets, which would allow New Orleans to acquire one of the top players in the draft.
Pairing picks 31 and 44, which carry a combined value of 1,060, would allow the Saints to move up as high as pick 15, which is currently in possession of the San Francisco 49ers and carries a value of 1,050.
Or if New Orleans wants to acquire another first-round pick, the value chart would agree with the Dallas Cowboys dealing the 27th pick (680) to the Saints for picks 44 and 75 (675).
Throw in pick 78, which was acquired from Miami in the trade for Kenny Stills, and the value of those three picks comes in at 875. With this haul, the Saints could theoretically swing a deal for 18th pick (900), which belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And how high up could New Orleans move if it packaged all of its picks in the first three rounds? Those selections come with a combined value of 2,625. The first pick would be out, but the Saints could potentially deal with the Tennessee Titans for the No. 2 pick (2,600).
Many of these scenarios are likely farfetched, but some of them are feasible. The overriding point, however, is that New Orleans created flexibility for itself with its wheeling and dealing over the last week.
That’s a good position to be in for a team attempting to reshape its roster.