Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Draft Trade Chart

by: Michael Steffes

As the days wear on, and the draft nears, there much talk in NFL of the ever-exciting draft day trade. You have seen me favor the Seahawks trading down and picking up picks early in the second round. Much the NFL talk is about how teams at the top of the draft would like to trade down too. However, this is near impossible these days because nobody wants to take on the financial commitment that comes with a top 10 pick.

Besides for the money involved, the other problem has been the value. The draft pick value chart that often is referenced was created in the early 90's by Jimmy Johnson and his Dallas staff. I use this chart often when we talk about trades. Simply put, it is outdated, and no longer relevant.

Well, now we have something new. Ben Riley from Football Outsiders, and reader of this blog, has written a piece for ESPN the Magazine, and redesigned the draft pick value chart. Not only that, but he has some tangible proof showing the effects of using the old chart. TO CONTINUE.....

First off let me show you the chart. Well the first five rounds. I have put it into a spreadsheet so you can compare the old vs the new. The numbers were taking from a similar chart created by Ben and used in the article.

The major difference is the values of the picks decline much more dramatically in Jimmy Johnson's chart. These days, it is rare there is a talent at the top that is worth so much more than others in the top 10. Ben points out the comparison of last year. The idea that #1 pick Jamarcuss Russell is twice as valuable as Adrian Peterson at #7 doesn't hold water. The new chart has the values of those picks much closer. In fact, you have to drop all the way to the end of the second to find someone half as valuable as Russell. In the new chart, not only could the Cowboys use their two first rounders to get to #1, but they would get a late second round value back. That is much more reasonable when you consider the risk they take at #1. With the old chart they have to give up a ridiculous two firsts, and their second, and they still come up short. The new chart makes a lot more sense.

Let me finish with the evidence Ben Riley uses that highlights the folly of the previous chart, and then I will take a look at the practical use for the Seahawks. Riley suggests that if this chart strayed away from the true value of picks some time ago, then there should be examples of people exploiting the mistake. And he found this. Under the new chart, lower picks have a much higher value, so teams who traded down a lot took advantage of the old chart, and teams who traded up often were victim to it. Does it surprise you at all that over the last three years the teams who traded down the most were the Packers(9 times), the Patriots (5), the Jags(4), and the Titans (3). All of these teams were in the playoffs last year, and project to be competitive again.

The teams who traded up, using the old chart, most often.... The Lions, the Niners, and the Raiders. As Ben puts it..."losers." Clearly the old chart is no longer working. Not only that but the teams with questionable management are the ones who were last to notice. I am glad that someone with as much football IQ as Mr. Riley has put his time into helping create a more realistic tool. Let' hope GM's start to use it.

As for the Seahawks, well, on this site, I have openly campaigned for trading down. To begin with, let's look at the new value the 25th pick holds. On the new chart is valued at 2315 points. Well for the Hawks, this does nothing to help their cause in trading down. In my mock, I had them trading that, with a 4th, for the 37th pick and the 70th pick. Those two picks are now valued at 3320, more than the first pick overall. To make this deal, the Hawks now have to throw in their 3rd, instead of a fourth. So the bounty is a round higher.

If we look at it the other way. If Atlanta wanted to get the #25 pick, previously they would have needed to add a mid third round value. Now, they need to add late 5th.

While this doesn't make Seahawks fans jump up and scream hooray, it further illustrates how much more accurate the new chart is. This year, if we assume that no one surprisingly slips way beyond their value, well then the difference between the player at #25 and #37 isn't that big. Players people expect the Hawks to take will likely be available at either slot. In either spot, they are picking from second tier guys. So is that move worth a 3rd? A Leroy Hill?, A Brandon Mebane? Probably not. The fifth rounder is much more accurate. If you look at the Hawks last four 5th rounders (Herring, Kirtman, Huckeba, and Hackett) you can see it is about a 50/50 proposition to get a good player. And that is all a team should get when you consider they are getting a comparable talent for a less restrictive investment, with the higher pick.

Well the new chart doesn't help the Hawks if they want to move backwards, if implemented, it sure would make for a more exciting draft. Especially if you are in the group that thinks the Hawks should move up.