Thomas Dimitroff defied everything he was taught during the 2011 NFL Draft. He confided in Bill Belichick to hear his thoughts on potentially trading up 21 spots to land the sixth-overall pick and Belichick's advice was something along the lines of 'That is a terrible idea.'
As many Atlanta Falcons fans already know, Dimitroff ignored the advice he sought and proceeded to trade five picks to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the sixth-overall pick. The Falcons then used that pick on all-time great Julio Jones. The question is: is this the biggest draft-day trade that the NFL has ever seen?
Where does the Atlanta Falcons' blockbuster 2011 NFL Draft trade rank amongst NFL history?
It didn't take long for everyone to realize that the Atlanta Falcons robbed the Cleveland Browns during the 2011 NFL Draft. The Falcons landed one of the greatest players in NFL history while the Browns used those five picks to draft a handful of players who essentially did nothing for them.
The remaining question isn't whether the Falcons won the trade—we knew they won the trade after a few years—but whether this should go down as the biggest draft-day trade in the history of the NFL.
First off, let's look at what the Falcons gave up to go from the 27th pick to the sixth pick:
- No. 27 (1st rd., 2011)
- No. 59 (2nd rd., 2011)
- No. 124 (4th rd., 2011)
- No. 22 (1st rd., 2012)
- No. 118 (4th rd., 2012)
- No. 6 (1st rd., 2011)
The biggest storyline with all of this is how big of a leap the Falcons made in the first round of the 2011 draft. It is so rare to see a team go from a late-20s pick to the top ten. The Falcons launched themselves up 21 spots in the draft order—which is simply remarkable.
Nowadays, I don't know that those five picks would be enough to trade up 21 spots. The Falcons traded into the top ten and only gave up a first rounder, a second rounder, and two fourth rounders (besides the 27th pick, which I don't count in this context).
Some other trades that might rival that include the Philip Rivers-Eli Manning trade, the RGIII trade-up, the Patrick Mahomes trade, and the 1978 Earl Campbell trade, among others.
The Julio Jones trade was massive, no doubt about it. It is hard to compare trades due to them not being an apples-to-apples comparison.
In my personal opinion, the Falcons trading up 21 spots in 2011 for Julio Jones should be considered a top-five, possibly top-three all-time draft-day trade.