While Bill Belichick is far from beloved in Pittsburgh, his insight as someone part of as many drafts as anyone alive is valuable. No longer a coach for the first time in nearly five decades, Belichick will work with ESPN during draft weekend to provide insight and analysis of the three-day event.

Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show Wednesday, Belichick was asked when he knew it was time to move down in drafts. As experienced as Belichick is, his answer was open-ended, pointing out there is no magic moment to trade down.

“That’s a great question. And the answer is every year is different and you really don’t know,” Belichick told the show. “When you’re picking at the end of the draft, and I got this question from people in our organization and so forth a lot. What are we going do do? We’re picking 28th, we’re picking 32nd. You tell me who is going to be there and I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. But you just really don’t know. There’s so many teams in front of you. It’s impossible to predict.”

It’s a position the Steelers have found themselves in many times, holding a pick in the 20s of 30s at the back end of the first round. They’re not quite that low this year but they’re sitting at No. 20, leaving plenty of uncertainty over who the top 19 will be. A far different position than say the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4, who know three quarterbacks will be off the board ahead of them.

Pittsburgh’s only traded down in the first round once since 2000, moving down three spots in 2001 and still picking up NT Casey Hampton. In his first draft last year, GM Omar Khan climbed the first round ladder, moving from No. 17 to No. 14 in a deal made with Belichick’s Patriots, who clearly weren’t upset about allowing the Steelers to grab a tackle in front of the New York Jets. 

Belichick’s point is simple and may be obvious but it’s important. You don’t know until you’re in the moment. When you can evaluate the board, when you can evaluate firm trade offers, when there’s no more guesswork about who will drop, who might move up, what could happen next.

“Sometimes you feel like I’m taking this guy, there’s not much there at the end of the first round, let me move back a few spots and try to accumulate capital or take the same player or quality of player if you’ve got two or three guys you like there.”

The Patriots were among the draft’s biggest moving and shakers, constantly moving all over the board. They marched to their own beat, took small school players, and often selected prospects well before conventional wisdom suggested they did. Results were mixed with ugly draft classes in recent years. Now, they have a new regime.

Bill Belichick said the only hesitation he’d show trading out of the first round is the loss of the fifth-year option for the “high-priced positions” like quarterback, cornerback, and wide receiver. If the Steelers do move down, they’re unlikely to push out of Day One entirely. But trading down has merit knowing the number of needs Pittsburgh has and the chance to still get say, a quality center like West Virginia’s Zach Frazier even if they slide down 5-7 spots. But we – and they – won’t know until they’re on the clock next Thursday night.


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