When the Minnesota Vikings traded down in the first round of the 2022 draft, it sent fans through a gauntlet of emotions. Trading down from the 12th-overall pick was always a possibility, but the Vikings didn’t just do that. They traded down with an NFC North rival.
By moving down 20 spots, the Vikings essentially gave the Detroit Lions a new weapon in Jameson Williams. Any nerves were amplified the following day when the Vikings traded down with the Green Bay Packers so they could select Christian Watson.
Nobody would bat an eye if the Vikings made these deals with an AFC team. But because the Vikings have to play Watson and Williams four times a year, the moves are seen as an unnecessary hurdle that could prevent the Vikings from contending.
So why would Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decide to deal with his rivals? Because it’s a situation that can provide an extra benefit.
“You can’t control who picks up the phone to call you, and sometimes the team in your division is the team that is the best bidder on the market,” Adofo-Mensah explained during an interview with KFAN’s Paul Allen. “I think what people don’t understand is that they call other teams. So there’s a high probability that I’m calculating that if I don’t do this deal with them…they call and do it with a team right behind me.”
Adofo-Mensah’s logic makes sense. If a team covets a player, it makes more sense to benefit from their aggressiveness. That played out for the Vikings when they turned the 12th-overall pick into four selections within the first 66 picks.
The 32nd-overall pick obtained in the trade with the Lions allowed the Vikings to select Lewis Cine. Minnesota then used the 34th-overall pick acquired in that deal as trade bait to acquire Green Bay’s 52nd- and 59th-overall picks. The Vikings used one of those picks to trade up for Andrew Booth Jr. and used the other to select Ed Ingram.
By selecting Brian Asamoah with pick 66, the Vikings were able to get four players instead of one elite prospect. There’s no guarantee that all four players will become impact players, but the same can be said with the player they would have selected at 12.
That’s probably why ESPN’s Seth Walder dubbed Minnesota’s trade with the Packers one of the best of this year’s draft.
“Critics will say this is bad because Minnesota let the Packers fill a critical need with the selection of Watson,” Walder reasoned. “This is faulty logic because that leaves out the context that Green Bay let Minnesota have two picks that were collectively worth more than what they used on Watson, plus the Packers might have traded up and gotten Watson from someone else anyway.”
But there’s also some risk in making deals within your division. In 2015, the Washington Commanders traded the 34th-overall pick to the Dallas Cowboys for picks 47 and 78. The Cowboys used that pick to select Demarcus Lawrence while the Commanders settled for Trent Murphy and Spencer Long.
It may be a coincidence, but no intradivisional trades were made on the first or second day of the draft from 2016 to 2018. But the Vikings broke that trend, sending the 81st-overall pick in the 2019 draft to the Lions for picks 88 and 204.
The Lions selected Will Harris with that pick, who didn’t make a major impact during his time in Detroit. The deal worked for the Vikings but could have been better if they didn’t trade both of the acquired picks for a combination of Dru Samia, Cameron Smith, and Dillon Mitchell.
There are other trades that turn out to be a blip on the radar. The New England Patriots traded with the New York Jets during the 2020 draft for the chance to select Dalton Keene. The Jets wound up getting two fourth-rounders (James Morgan and Cameron Clark) and a 2021 sixth-rounder in that deal, but no player made an impact.
Then there are deals where both teams benefit. The Cowboys traded down with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 draft, and both teams got the player they wanted. The Eagles used the 10th-overall selection to draft DeVonta Smith, while Dallas used pick 12 on Micah Parsons and the third-round pick on Chauncey Golston.
In the end, making a deal within your division works like every other trade. If Williams and Watson are routinely running past Cine and Booth, it will be a deal that could define Adofo-Mensah’s tenure with the Vikings. If both teams are happy with the players they received, it could be a wash. And if all of the players involved don’t pan out, the Vikings just weakened a divisional opponent.