For Green Bay Packers, trading Davante Adams was easy; getting full value for him in the draft will be the hard part

Pete Dougherty
Packers News
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams speaks during an NFL football news conference Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)

GREEN BAY - Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded the NFL’s best cornerback, Jalen Ramsey, to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round draft picks and a fourth-rounder.

With them they selected edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, running back Travis Etienne and edge rusher Jordan Smith. And so far, the Jaguars have gotten next to nothing from their investment.

Chaison is on his way to busting with only two sacks in 31 NFL games. Etienne, a running back, had his rookie season in 2021 wiped out by a broken foot. And Smith essentially redshirted last year (two games as a game-day active) as a rookie.

Just a reminder in the wake of the Green Bay Packers’ big trade of the league’s best receiver, Davante Adams, that while accruing premium draft capital is always exciting for a team and its fan base, it guarantees nothing.

Not that general manager Brian Gutekunst made a bad trade. He did well to get Las Vegas to part with first- and second-round draft picks this year for a receiver who, good as he is, will turn 30 years old this season. Gutekunst now has two picks in each of the first two rounds. That’s four selections he can use on top-60 prospects or to maneuver around the draft board for a targeted player or extra picks.

But it’s worth remembering that while acquiring extra early picks always brings a lot of noise and hope, it usually yields mixed or ho-hum results. That’s largely because regardless of how much time and money teams put into scouting, the NFL draft remains very much a crapshoot.

Take, for instance, the Raiders’ blockbuster trade of Khalil Mack that in essence netted them two first-round picks (one in ’19, one in ’20). The first, Josh Jacobs, is a good running back. The other, cornerback Damon Arnette, couldn’t have been a bigger bust, benched last season for poor play and then cut for a threatening social-media post.

Then there’s the draft haul the Tennessee Titans acquired by giving up the first pick of the 2016 draft to the Rams. In exchange for moving back to No. 15 overall, the Titans received four valuable picks: two second-rounders in ’16, and first- and third-rounders in ’17.

The deal came with a big opportunity cost from the start, because with the move back the Titans passed on the chance to draft Ramsey or Joey Bosa. They’re top-five picks who were immediately premier players at premium positions. Tennessee offset that by hitting a home run on Derrick Henry with one of the acquired picks. So that was a wash.

But the rest of that bounty yielded only meh results from players who didn’t get a second contract with the team: Receiver Corey Davis, the No. 5 pick overall in ’17, topped out at 65 catches for the Titans; Austin Johnson was a backup defensive linemen for four years; and tight Jonnu Smith averaged 35 catches and 11.2 yards in four seasons before they let him walk in free agency.

More: Davante Adams asked for trade to Raiders well before Packers applied franchise tag 

More: Former Packers receiver Davante Adams says trade to Raiders was 'meant to be'

The Cincinnati Bengals’ trade of Carson Palmer in 2011 is worth revisiting, too, because they got the same compensation (first- and second-round picks) as the Packers received for Adams. Their return was only OK: a four-year starter at cornerback (Dre Kirkpatrick) and a third-down running back (Giovani Bernard).

Among the other teams that recently failed to turn big draft-capital trades into bonanzas was Cleveland, which wheeled and dealed the four extra picks (first-, second-, third- and fourth-rounders) Philadelphia gave it for moving out of the No. 2 spot in the Carson Wentz trade in ’16, but landed only one player still on the team (Denzel Ward). And while the Rams parlayed the high picks they received (two first-rounders and a second) in the Robert Griffin III trade into eight picks total, about all they got from it was a solid defensive lineman (Michael Brockers) and two flashes in the pan (cornerback Janoris Jenkins and linebacker Alec Ogletree).

So while Gutekunst has to feel good about stocking up for the first two rounds of next month’s draft, he faces a major challenge to come away from the trade better off for it, at least in terms of roster talent. The move did also save the Packers a lot of cash and cap room they can spend elsewhere over the next couple years. But that guarantees nothing either.

Gutekunst has plenty to weigh in his draft preparations over the next month, including his long list of needs. With Adams gone, receiver is an absolute must with one high pick, and who knows, maybe even two. Then there’s defensive line, tight end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and maybe tackle and cornerback.

Should Gutekunst package a couple of those high picks to target a specific player, maybe the receiver he likes best, in the top 10 or 15? Or should he play the odds, stay where he is and pick at each spot (Nos. 22, 28, 53 and 59 overall), hoping he nets a couple of real keepers?

“It all depends on how (Gutekunst) views the quality and when there’s a drop-off in Round 1,” said Randy Mueller, the former GM of three NFL teams.

If Gutekunst sees someone in the top half of the first round he badly wants, he can get there from No. 22 overall by spending one of his other three high picks.

More: Davante Adams deal leaves gaping hole, but could be good for big picture

It bears pointing out that there’s no standard trade chart in the NFL anymore – most if not all teams’ analytics departments produce their own. Also, the charts are just a starting point and guideline, and a team doesn’t win a trade just because it gets more points in the deal. Regardless, the two best-known publicly available charts have held up fairly well: the Jimmy Johnson chart and the Rich Hill chart.

If Gutekunst wants to get into the fringe of the top 10, he should be able to do it by trading his two first-rounders (Nos. 22 and 28). The Johnson chart gets him to No. 8, the Hill chart to No. 6.

If the GM packages No. 22 with either of his second-rounders, he should make it into the top 15. The No. 53 pick gets him to No. 13 on the Johnson chart and No. 11 on Hill. The No. 59 pick gets him to 14 on the Johnson chart and 13 on Hill.

For now, the possibilities of players and trades is almost endless. And you can be sure, on the draft telecast you’ll hear plenty about how the Packers are getting great value in the early rounds almost no matter what they do. Teams with multiple early picks usually look good in the moment as they apparently fill needs with seemingly highly regarded prospects.

But it will take a couple years to really find out. The easy part was trading Davante Adams. The hard part is getting something for him.