In what’s become a trade-happy league, the 49th pick in this year’s NFL draft traveled 4,214 miles from Seattle to New York to Indianapolis and on to its final resting spot with the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night.
The power of this second-round pick was included in three trades over the past eight months. It brought Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to Seattle, where he played one year before joining the Vikings. It sent rookie quarterback Sam Darnold to the Jets as the third overall pick and franchise savior. And, finally, it leapfrogged the Eagles over the Cowboys when both teams were eyeballing South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert.
That’s just one tiny snippet from a flurry of 38 trades over three days. Every team but Jacksonville, the Chargers, Miami, the Giants and Houston made trades. The Patriots made a league-high seven, followed by Baltimore and the Rams with six apiece.
“It’s funny,” said Luke Schleusner, Goedert’s college position coach. “Early Friday, the Chargers announced they weren’t going to re-sign Antonio Gates. So we assumed Dallas would end up in Los Angeles at No. 48.”
That didn’t happen, but Schleusner and Jackrabbits Nation assumed the Cowboys would take Goedert at No. 50. They assumed this because ESPN’s Chris Mortensen exposed a sudden Cowboys need when he reported hours before the second round that Jason Witten was planning to retire and join ESPN’s new Monday Night Football booth.
“It seemed like fate,” Schleusner said. “The draft was being held in Dallas. Our guy is named ‘Dallas’ because the Cowboys were his dad’s favorite team.”
But Howie Roseman, the Eagles executive vice president of football operations, had a similar need, saw first-round value sliding and used his trading power to pounce on the player many thought he’d take Thursday had he not traded out of the last pick of the first round. Roseman shipped a fifth-rounder to Indianapolis to move up three spots to No. 49.
“As the Colts were on the clock, we found out the Eagles had swooped in front of the Cowboys,” Schleusner said. “We couldn’t wait to see Dallas’ name get called.”
But they would have to wait a little longer as Eagles kicker David Akers gave the most entertaining performance of the draft. Standing in AT&T Stadium as Cowboys fans booed their rival heartily, Akers taunted them by rattling off his team’s recent division, conference and league titles before adding, “The last time your team was in the Super Bowl, these [draft picks] weren’t even born.”
Goedert, the Eagles’ only pick in the first three rounds, replenishes Philadelphia’s potent tight end group. He will team with Zach Ertz, which made another Dakota boy and former rival pretty happy.
Eagles quarterback and former North Dakota State star Carson Wentz tweeted his pleasure, welcoming and tweaking, “A fellow Missouri Valley Alum hailing from the lesser Dakota …”
“It’s a great story for those guys and for our region,” Schleusner said. “Dallas came to us as a 210-pound kid from a small co-op school in Britton, S.D. He committed late because he almost decided to play basketball instead. Then he worked extremely hard and left as basically a 260-pound receiver who can also block.”
Schleusner knows an underdog success story when he sees it.
“I was the receivers coach at Mankato, so I spent three years with Adam Thielen,” Schleusner said. “I might be the least surprised guy in the world at Adam’s success. We were hoping the Vikings would take Dallas. But knowing the Super Bowl champions traded up to get him is pretty good, too.”
The Patriots, meanwhile, traded down five times, up once and swung one deal for a pick next year. Their trades brought seven additional picks, including choices in the second, third and seventh rounds next year.
The Vikings made three trades, all on Saturday. They traded up twice with the Jets in the sixth round. The first one sent the 167th and 225th overall picks to New York. The second one reclaimed those same picks from the Jets.
“There’s always so many twists and turns,” Spielman said. “That’s what makes the draft so much fun. There’s three or four different deals coming at you with three minutes left on the clock. You go off your gut instinct and your experience as to what the best trades are.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL