The Pittsburgh Steelers made a bold move on Thursday night, moving up 10 spots in the 2019 NFL Draft to select Michigan linebacker Devin Bush.
The move was a bold one — and somewhat unexpected — because of the cost typically associated with making such a trade. But thanks to the outcomes of a tumultuous offseason, the Steelers had the pieces necessary to pull the trigger.
According to the chart created by former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson that is commonly used as a reference framework to establish the value of draft picks, the Denver Broncos, who owned pick No. 10 — got pretty close to the full value of their selection.
According to the chart, the No. 10 pick is worth 1,300 points. The No. 20 pick is worth 850 points. The Steelers also sent pick No. 52 in the second round to Denver, adding 380 points, and their 2020 third-round pick. That pick will be worth at most 265 points, giving Denver a total of 1,495 as a best-case scenario. On the other hand, if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, that third round pick will net just 116 points, giving Denver 1,346 points.
Either way, the Broncos end up ahead of the chart, but with one major exception. That third-round pick coming in the 2020 season means that Denver will have to wait an entire year to realize the return on that part of the deal while Bush suits up for the Steelers this fall.
Picks that high aren’t usually traded in such a fashion, but a team looking to trade up a year — meaning a 2020 pick for a 2019 pick — would typically lose at least one round on the exchange. So that 2020 third-round pick for Denver is valued more closely to a 2019 fourth-round pick, which would leave Denver with somewhere between 44 and 112 points, straddling the line between a break-even and a loss.
But the Broncos were confident that they would be able to get the kind of player they were looking for at No. 20 — picking Iowa tight end Noah Fant.
“You guys still good? You wanna do that deal?”
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) April 26, 2019
That gave the Steelers the opportunity to move ahead of Cincinnati, which held the No. 11 pick and had been linked to Bush.
“It really wasn’t that complicated,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said on the night of the first round. “We touched base earlier in the day and exchanged some ideas and usually when you do that you always know. No one wants to make a deal until you’re on the clock because you don’t know what you’re trading away from. We don’t know what you’re trading up for. It really wasn’t that complicated. You get on the phone and it’s we’ll do this, and they say OK we’ll do it.”
The Steelers expect to get another third-round pick in 2020 as compensation for losing free agents, including running back Le’Veon Bell, who signed with the New York Jets, and have an additional third-round pick in 2019 from trading Antonio Brown to the Raiders.
So even after the trade, the Steelers still have picks in all seven rounds in 2020 and will have two picks on the second day of the 2019 draft at No. 66 and No. 83 in the third round on Friday night.
“We never want to trade away a second-round pick, but this year, because of that high third that we got from the Raiders in the Antonio Brown trade, we were willing to do it this year because in essence, that high three is only three spots from a second-round pick,” Colbert said. “That high third really enabled us to do it because we said under no circumstances would we go into (Friday) with less than two picks. That was our criteria when myself and coach (Mike Tomlin) and Art Rooney II sat down. Surely we’ll look into trading up, but we want to have two picks (Friday) because they’re good players still left.”
So if you’re a Steelers fan that’s pleased with the bold move to get Bush in the first round of the draft, Colbert and company certainly deserve plenty of credit. But the contributions — such as they were — of Bell and Brown also played a big factor.