I think logically speaking, trading down is a good strategy. But I think too many people advocate trading down for trading down's sake. And I think that is a poor strategy.
One of the reasons why the Chargers were successful in trading down from #1 to #5 in 2001 was that they had a player that they were still targetting at #5.
And I think that if you are looking for a specific player or players when you are looking to make a move down, then it's a very good option to use. But if you are just trading down to get more picks, you're setting yourself up to make a big mistake.
Let's take a hypothetical situation to illustrate my point:
Say a team is looking at 2 or 3 players to take with their draft pick. They are hoping 1 of them falls to where they are drafting, but they find out on draft day that it is not the case. Most people would say, "OK, now we should trade down because the players now available aren't that much better here than they would be 5-10 spots lower."
However, if you still don't have a few players you're targetting in your move down, you're going to set yourself up to make a major reach. If you move down 5 or so spots, and then find yourself in a similar position where you aren't really impressed with the players available, what do you do then? The option of trading down once more is highly highly unlikely. So you may find yourself reaching for a player at that moment, which is as I'm sure all can agree a very bad move.
Now looking at an actual example of what may happen this April. Let's first assume the Falcons are probably looking for a top pass rusher or DB in Round 1 this year. Other positions are possibilities (RB, OL, etc.), but long shots at this point.
If the #15 rolls around and the Falcons say to themselves, "We don't think any of the DEs/DBs available right now merit the #15 selection" as if the top DE/DBs on their draft board are ranked closer to a value of pick #20 or #25, then the option of trading down really opens itself up. But at the same time, the Falcons have to create a strategy of if the players they are targetting will still be available if they drop 5 or even 10 spots in the draft.
I could see it working. The Falcons dropping into the 20s, in hopes of getting a cornerback or safety like Tye Hill or LaRon Landry. There really aren't any DEs that would be available at that point that I could see the Falcons targetting. Basically after Kiwanuka/Williams/Hali, there is a pretty big dropoff in talent and the other possible 1st rounders are probably 2nd/3rd rounders that will rise up boards because of their pure athleticism or the fact that there is such a void ready to be filled. Recent examples of this "phenomenon" would be Calvin Pace (#18 in 2003), Bryan Thomas (#22 in 2002), Charles Grant (#25 in 2002), Erik Flowers (#26 in 2000), Jason Babin (#27 in 2004).
Obviously, it is not just a will to trade down, but you also must have a team willing to trade up in order to make that happen. It's still a bit too early to tell which teams may be in a position to want to jump up a few spots, because the Top 15 prospects in this draft is still solidifying (a lot will depend on which juniors come out). Hali, QB Jay Cutler, or a WR like Santonio Holmes are players that I could see teams moving up to get since the dropoff in talent after these players at their positions seems so noticeable.
Some real world strategies:
#19. San Diego might be looking to leapfrog Dallas (#18) or Miami (#16) to take a WR, particularly if the Eagles (#14) were to pass on a guy like Holmes.
#20 & #22 - Chiefs and Broncos are two more teams that have big needs for WRs that may look to leapfrog other teams looking at Holmes. KC might also jump over Miami looking at Cutler. Denver is a team that would probably love to have Hali since they are looking for a pass rusher this year. They are an intriguing option since they have the #22 and #30 picks.
But again, I think it's still way too early to start looking at trading down as our primary option this April. It's still too early to tell which prospects will be considered Top 15 talents in January. I mean this time last year, few would have expected to see Troy Williamson, Demarcus Ware, and Shawne Merriman all go in the Top 15 picks. At this point last year, it was a stretch to even think Williamson & Ware were 1st round picks. And that guys like Alex Barron, Erasmus James, and David Pollack would not Top 15 picks.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.