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Wednesday's 60-second rant: Dealing draft picks at deadline risky

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Recent posts by Eric Edholm

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Posted Oct. 31, 2012 @ 3:59 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

The NFL’s twice-extended trade deadline — once in the offseason from Week Six to Week Eight, then this week by two days because of Hurricane Sandy — looms. One minor deal has happened already, with the Jaguars sending WR Mike Thomas to Detroit for a mid-round pick next April, rumored to be a fifth-rounder.

That deal is not likely to dramatically change the course of either franchise, even though Thomas is a pretty decent football player. And with Steven Jackson and other bigger-name players off the market for now, it would be a safe bet to expect little action on Halloween or All Saints’ Day.

That’s a good thing. As much as NFL executives would love to have a midseason buzz-worthy holiday that is celebrated by fans and media alike as much as it is in the other big three sports, we might not ever have that kind of phenomenon.

One reason is because of the nature of football itself. It’s tough to pick up a player — whether via trade or off the street as a free agent — who plays a major role at midseason. There’s a new language to learn with a foreign playbook, and chemistry to be fast-tracked in short order. It often doesn’t happen, save for more assignment-simple positions, such as running back.

But another reason is that many teams are hesitant to give up on draft picks, which seem dispensable now but suddenly become valuable commodities when the offseason starts. They are the true offseason currency, as inflated as gold.

Marty Hurney already has been fired midseason. It’s rare for a GM to take the fall while games are being played, but the timing is not what’s important; he would have been let go after the season, almost no matter what. One of his shortcomings was his draft performance. It was spotty at best, with too many misses in the second and third rounds.

No player personifies Hurney’s failures in recent seasons than Armanti Edwards, perhaps the second-most reviled man in North Carolina with that last name. During the 2010 draft, Hurney made a deal on the clock that his former mentor, Bobby Beathard, became famous for: trading a pick in the current year’s draft for a pick one round higher in the following year’s draft.

The premise behind the move is that you get a player, ostensibly one who has fallen unnecessarily in the draft, for an extra year. And if he’s good enough, that should help you in the win-now culture the NFL has become. But those deals, from Beathard’s day to now, often failed to work out.

The fact that Edwards has been a total bust to date is almost beside the point. Hurney traded one of the final picks of the third round that year, No. 89 overall, on a converted QB-turned-receiver who was never going to be an instant-impact player. And not only could Edwards not play wideout, he also couldn’t field punts. He was a redshirt, essentially.

The pick they gave up to the Patriots in that deal was a 2011 second-rounder. When the Panthers went 2-14 in ’10, it turned into the 33rd pick in the draft. Forget for a moment that the choice (CB Ras-I Dowling) has yet to break out. It’s a deal that no GM would make in hindsight.

That brings us to the present. If you’re Lions GM Martin Mayhew and want a safety, or Packers GM Ted Thompson and could use RB help, my advice to you would be this: resist the urge. They probably already know this, being known as savvy draft-pick squirrelers. But other teams, perhaps desperate for a final push into the playoffs, might sacrifice the future for the present.

It tends to be a bad idea.

Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie would love the second-round pick Al Davis traded for QB Carson Palmer (along with the first-rounder this year) come spring, even though Palmer has done OK for himself. The Redskins absolutely would do the RG3 trade again in a heartbeat — maybe this rule is meant to be broken only for young potential franchise quarterbacks — but they’ll feel a little sting next spring when all the top defensive backs are off the board when they first pick in the second round.

How do you think the Patriots feel about trading 2013 picks for Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth? Or the Vikings still paying for the Donovan McNabb pick with a sixth-rounder? If the Dolphins beat the Colts this weekend, they not only push themselves up in the AFC standings and earn one key head-to-head tiebreaker, but they also move up the second-round pick a notch they get in return for CB Vontae Davis.

It’s tempting to want to jump-start your team with a midseason addition. If the owners didn’t think moving the deadline back was worth it, it never would have happened. Clearly, there are executives who think it can become a bigger deal. But it’s just a warning: Being thrifty with draft choices is always sage advice.

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