Updating the NFL Draft Trade Value Chart
Back in the 1990s when Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys created the Trade Value Chart it was revolutionary. The Cowboys manipulated the draft with remarkable efficiency. As other teams have picked up the concept the chart began to lose its value. The biggest problem is the trade value chart has remained a constant over the years. While the chart varies slightly from team to team it has not varied from year to year. Two major considerations have not been taken into account.
First, the economics of draft picks have changed drastically over the years. The value of picks at the top of the draft have diminished as the salaries risen. For example, the number one overall pick in the 2009 draft, Matthew Stafford, received a contract making him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league without ever playing a down. The value of the later round picks have increased as well because those players are less expensive than veterans.
Secondly, the players at the top of the draft only hold a lofty value if the players available in those slots are worth the value. The 2010 draft lacks a sure-fire #1 overall pick as a group of players are rated closely together and the player generally considered the #1 pick, Sam Bradford, is not the top player on most boards. He is a good not great franchise quarterback prospect who played in a spread and is coming off shoulder surgery to his throwing arm. As a result the value of the #1 overall pick is diminished. The top two players on most boards are Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy both of whom are great prospects but neither is generating trade interest as teams are not excited about the prospect of paying a defensive tackle #1 overall money considering the high bust rate at the position. The value of the group behind these players including OT Russell Okung, S Eric Berry, QB Jimmy Clausen, DE Derrick Morgan, RB CJ Spiller and WR Dez Bryant is not a steep drop either.
The 2010 NFL Draft is considered one of the best drafts in recent memory but not because of the talent at the top of the draft but the depth of the talent both throughout the top 64 and the draft as a whole. When there is not a great disparity among the value of the top players the value of the top picks is again diminished.
An example of the disparity in the value of top 10 picks can be found in Jacksonville’s 2008 trade up from #26 to #8 overall with Baltimore. According to the trade value chart the 8th overall selection should have been worth 1,400 points. By trading picks 26, 71, 89 and 125 the Jaguars gave up only 1,127 points. Even with the recommended adjustments in the chart the 8th pick is 1,350 points and the points given up have only closed the gap from 273 points to 178 points. In other words from a chart standpoint the Jaguars still got the better end of the deal just not quite as good (the Ravens clearly won based on personnel Derrick Harvey vs. Joe Flacco?). This just goes to show how hard it is for a team to make a move from the 20s into the top 10 which leads to the next point in the trade decision.
As the Ravens-Jaguars trade demonstrates economics and the draft pool have lowered the value of the players at the top of the draft. In addition, with the need to add as many quality young players as possible to one’s roster the value of the later round picks has increased a little as well. In other words with the supply (i.e. teams wanting to trade) outweighing the demand (team’s wanting to move up) the trade value chart needs to be updated. (see chart below).
With the top overall pick having less value than in the past due to lack of a marquee talent and the increased price tag of the top picks, the baseline has been reduced to 600 points to 2400. The chart then drops 225 points to #2, 175 to #3 and 150 points for picks 4 and 5. The drop continues to gradually work its way closer to the current chart around pick 18. The side benefit of the new chart is the increased value (at least proportionally) of 2nd round picks. The value in the draft the past few seasons has been the depth of talent between picks 25-50 and 2010 appears that way as well. The new chart takes this into account as teams in the top 10 should be able to move up 4-5 spots by using their 1st and 2nd rounder. Teams outside the top 10 need to dig a little deeper to move up but the price is not nearly as prohibitive. That said a team in the 20s will still need to make a major commitment to get into the top 5. The late round picks value is increased slightly but there is minor tweak to the chart to account for compensation picks after rounds 3, 4, 5, and 6 as those picks cannot be traded.
One final adjustment for 2010, is the value of the first pick of round two is actually higher than the last two picks of round one as the pick carries the added value of almost an entire day for teams to negotiate with the Rams for the right to make the first selection of day two.
Aside from 2008’s Ravens-Jaguars trade, moves into the top 10 have become almost non-existent (none occured in 2009). One of the biggest reasons behind this trend are the constraints of the trade value chart and subsequent backlash for giving up too much or getting too little. Yet sometimes teams may have determined they need accumulate picks, do not believe a player on the board is worth the draft position’s salary slot or the player the team wants will be available a few picks later and getting an additional pick allows them to add another player. In these instances where a team has determined its best course of action is to trade down, they need to avoid being hamstrung by the chart and lower their expectations.
The best demonstration of changing expectations is provided by the Carolina Panthers in 1995. The Panthers valued QB Kerry Collins but did not want to pay him #1 money. They subsequently traded down from the #1 pick in exchange for the 5th overall pick and a 2nd rounder. They still managed to select Collins and acquired another top 40 pick in the process.
In the end whether you use the traditional trade chart or the updated one, remember the Draft Trade Chart is a tool not a rule.
|Pick||Round 1||Pick||Round 2||Pick||Round 3||Pick||Round 4||Pick||Round 5||Pick||Round 6||Pick||Round 7|
|3 comp picks||1 comp picks||5 comp picks||5 comp picks||15 comp picks|