With one week left in the NFL regular season, most rational people are thinking about the playoffs. Fans of the league's two saddest franchises, the St. Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts, must endure one more week of World League-esque play for a shot at the consolation prize, the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Depending on the thinking in those two front offices, both teams can auction off ready-made franchise cornerstone Andrew Luck for a prize package that puts anything on the Showcase Showdown to shame.
Indianapolis has an argument for keeping the pick. St. Louis is only two years removed from drafting a quarterback, Sam Bradford, with the first pick in the draft, and they would be foolish to consider giving up on him after a sophomore slump under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and his Bizarro World Midas Touch.
So what kind of bounty could the lucky team fetch for the chance to draft Andrew Luck and pay him a very reasonably priced contract?
The New York Jets were the last team to make a draft day trade for a franchise quarterback in 2009. While you can argue the merits of Mark Sanchez as the centerpiece of an offense, the Jets traded their first- and second-round picks (17 and 52) plus a handful of magic beans in the form of Kenyon Coleman, quarterback Brett Ratliff and safety Abram Elam in exchange for the Browns' fifth pick.
Looking back into more recent history, Atlanta gave Cleveland their first- and second-round picks (27 and 59) along with a fourth-round pick (124) in the 2011 NFL Draft and their first- and fourth-round picks in 2012 to move up to the sixth spot for Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.
Now, run those three recent point of comparison through that calculator of a brain your ever lovin' folks gave you, factor in just exactly what Andrew Luck can do for a team and estimate a reasonable asking price for the first pick in the draft.
I ran the numbers for you, and it comes out to be a crapload. Yes, that's the scientific term for what Andrew Luck could fetch in trade: a crapload of draft picks.
Peter King estimated in his most recent Monday Morning Quarterback column that the top spot in the 2012 NFL Draft could fetch at least three first-round picks, and possibly more. Adam Schefter at ESPN speculated on Luck's potential trade value prior to Week 16:
If somehow the Colts win a game and the Rams don't, then that pick, for the Rams franchise, would be worth, roughly worth, three (first-round picks) and two (second-rounders), maybe four first-round picks. And so there's a huge amount at stake if somehow the Colts -- who will continue to try to win games -- win another game, the Rams lose their two games and somehow come up with that pick.
For a franchise like the Rams or the Colts, that's a lucrative deal that could replenish a roster in need of more talent at almost every position, an instant franchise rebuild in one convenient package.
Which teams might be in the mix to trade up for Andrew Luck?
Cleveland Browns - It's funny to think about Cleveland again being involved in a significant draft day trade. This time, of course, they would be the ones moving up in the first round. Unlike the other teams who could use Luck, Cleveland has the ability to pay cash on the barrelhead with two first-round picks in 2012. Colt McCoy may very well be an acceptable solution, but Andrew Luck would finally put the Browns on the road to relevancy. They would still need some offensive players to go with Luck, but the free agent market might provide that.
Washington Redskins - Mike Shanahan sure misses John Elway, and this might be his chance to reunite with him in spirit. Washington is desperate and crazy enough to trade away the deed to their house for this pick. They also have a fairly talented roster which would help pay immediate dividends.
Miami Dolphins - Miami got a jump start on changes there by firing Tony Sparano before the end of the season. They need a quick turnaround. The Fins also have some talent on their roster to pair with Luck right away, including Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall.
Seattle Seahawks - Pete Carroll's team gets thrown into the Andrew Luck conversation, and they could certainly use a quarterback. If the Rams ended up with the first pick, would they be willing to make a deal with a division rival? They might be more inclined to take a shot at Robert Griffin III, the Andrew Luck consolation prize.
The Super Bowl, free agency...it's all just a matinee to the 2012 NFL Draft and the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.