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Looking at Bill Barnwell’s potential draft day trades for the Browns

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On Monday, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell published an article that discussed potential trades that might make sense at each of the 32 picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. These aren’t supposed to be projections about what will happen, but rather a fun look at some wacky “what if?” scenarios. And, considering that Barnwell had the foresight to see Osweiler-to-the-Browns back in December, maybe we should give what he says a little more credibility.

No. 1 Pick Trade

At No. 1 overall, Barnwell showcases a wild three-team trade between the Patriots, Saints, and Browns.

Patriots get: 1-1, 2018 conditional fourth-round pick, WR Josh Gordon (from Browns) Saints get: CB Malcolm Butler (from Patriots); 2-53, QB Cody Kessler (from Browns) Browns get: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 2018 conditional fifth-round pick (from Patriots); 1-11, 3-76, LB Stephone Anthony (from Saints)

As crazy as it might sound, something like this isn’t so far-fetched. A couple of months ago, I thought about Gordon being a throw-in piece for Cleveland acquiring Garoppolo — not because I want to get rid of Gordon, but because it’s something I could see Cleveland doing after giving him a million chances. Butler-to-New Orleans has also been speculated for a bit.

Cleveland almost seems like they are getting Garoppolo for free here, as they would still have the No. 11 and No. 12 picks of the draft. They would also give away a second-and-fourth (conditionally could change to a third) round pick, but make up for it with a third-round pick. The one “big loss,” of course, is that they gift-wrap DE Myles Garrett to the New England Patriots. You should read Barnwell’s piece for the full reasoning, but here is the part specifically about the Browns:

The Browns get their franchise quarterback while moving down 10 spots in the first round, leaving them with consecutive selections at 11 and 12. They miss out on Garrett, of course, but in a draft that is deep with pass-rushers, Cleveland shouldn't have trouble adding a useful contributor with one of its six picks in the top 80. The Browns also will get a conditional fifth-rounder back from the Patriots, which should escalate if Gordon breaks out in New England; this will be a fourth-rounder if Gordon plays 50 percent of the offensive snaps and a third-rounder if he racks up 1,000 receiving yards.

They'll also make a Patriots-esque move for Anthony, who fell out of favor with new Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen after being taken with the 31st pick of the 2015 draft. The Patriots have gone after linebackers like Kyle Van Noy and Akeem Ayers in the past, but Anthony is a better fit in a 3-4 at inside linebacker, where the Browns can slot him alongside Jamie Collins. This trade is nuts, and there are too many moving parts for it to ever happen. That doesn't make it unfair or implausible.

No. 12 Pick Trade

Each scenario is independent of each other. So when Barnwell discusses a Browns trade a No. 12 overall, you can now ignore the No. 1 overall scenario — it didn’t happen. So in this case, you can assume the club took Garrett at No. 1 and does not have Jimmy G.

Rams get: 1-12, 3-65
Browns get: 2-37, 2018 first-round pick

Sorry, but I think this one makes the Browns look really dumb. The No. 12 overall pick is already a very high pick and there are a lot of worthy players in this year’s class who will still be available. We are basically deferring the pick to 2018, where odds are we’d be picking around the same spot anyway. In the end, it basically equals out to Cleveland sacrificing a third-round pick for a second-round pick in 2017. Maybe it makes sense with the Browns’ long-term mentality, but I don’t like it. But here is why Barnwell proposed it:

I love these sort of challenge trades, although most teams aren't willing to pull them off. The Rams are in rough shape after their seemingly ill-fated move to trade up and grab Jared Goff last year, a decision that will hand the fifth and 100th picks in this year's draft to Tennessee. The Rams can be patient and eat their vegetables before returning to the first day of the draft next year, or they can rush back into the room and hope to turn things around. They have a blank space at tight end and could fall for O.J. Howard here.

If anyone is willing to take a risk, it's the Browns. For sacrificing the first-round pick they got from the Eagles in the Carson Wentz trade, Cleveland can move up 28 spots in this year's draft and bet that the Rams will be mediocre once again in 2017. If there's no future discount on the pick, this deal would be a net victory for the Browns if the 2017 Rams hand them the 18th pick (by Johnson's chart) or the 21st pick (by Stuart's chart) in the 2018 draft. Of course, it's more plausible that the 4-12 Rams struggle during their first year under coach Sean McVay, which could push Cleveland's pick into the top five in 2018.

Barnwell has three more scenarios involving the Browns -- at No. 19, No. 21, and No. 32. The No. 19 and No. 21 scenarios mainly involve them moving back 7-9 spots to gain some additional assets. The No. 32 pick sees Cleveland getting a big haul from the Saints, but also having to give up No. 1 (and thus Garrett), while also saying goodbye to CB Joe Haden:

Browns get: 1-11, 1-32, 2-42, 2018 third-round pick, 2019 first-round pick
Saints get: 1-1, 3-65, CB Joe Haden

This mock draft started with a crazy trade, so let's end with one, too. If the Saints want to go all-in with the best possible defense they can field in the final days of Drew Brees' career, here's their chance. Instead of trading for Butler, they make their move for a veteran cornerback in Haden, who is signed for three years and $39.3 million. The Saints probably have to rework Haden's contract to get him under the cap, but they were already going to perform cap gymnastics to fit Butler in. They also upgrade their biggest hole on defense with the best player in the draft. Suddenly, the Saints have Myles Garrett, Nick Fairley and Cameron Jordan rushing the quarterback with Haden and Delvin Breaux at cornerback.

By including Haden, the Browns get a haul closer to the sort of deal a team would get when there's a compelling quarterback available at No. 1. They end up with three first-rounders (admittedly one of which is the worst possible first-rounder) and a second-round selection from the Saints, although the timing is what makes this deal interesting for both sides. The Saints don't have to feel the punishment of dealing away that final first-rounder until 2019, at which point they might already be rebuilding, anyway. That could be a feature for the Browns; if Brees retires or leaves New Orleans after 2017 or 2018, that 2019 first-rounder could be a top-five pick.

Would I make this trade if I were on either side? Probably not. The Saints can use the picks they have to draft young talent at corner and edge rusher, although I would be skeptical of their abilities to bring through young talent after having had some development disasters in recent years. The Browns are probably better off just drafting Garrett and hoping Haden is a defensive anchor as the Cleveland defense around him improves. Is it at least feasible that each of these teams would consider this trade? Absolutely. And for a very silly mock draft, that's good enough.

Remember not to hate on Barnwell too much; I applaud him for the exercise and trying to be creative for all 32 picks. With that in mind, what would your thoughts be on each independent scenario?