For those that missed last year's episode of this post, here it is.
Belichick is back at it again. Despite forfeiting the 29th overall pick to Cirque du Goodell, the Patriots have managed to secure a bevy of draft picks, and pretty valuable ones too.
A couple other GM’s across the league are also moving their chips around. The Rams made headlines for their massive trade to snag the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft. The Eagles made headlines for a similar trade into the #2 overall pick. The Titans and Browns (the counterparts to those trades) are more or less background noise in the media, but huge winners on paper. What does it mean to win on paper, and why should we care? Let us dive in to find out…
Using Chase Stuart’s draft pick value chart, we can put a numeric value on each pick in the draft. This number reflects the "Approximate Value" (AV) of a player over his 5-year career, which Chase was able to determine for every pick in the draft, using historical player performance data. Thanks to Chase (and other number wizards), we can use the AV to compare and evaluate individual trades, potential draft capital (draft capital = cumulative AV of draft picks) that teams have accumulated for this year’s draft, and the overall opportunities each front office has given themselves to draft the most talent over the last decade.
ESPN broke down the Rams-Titans trade really nicely using this AV approach (among others), which you can read here. Long-story-short, the Titans won big time.
Applying the AV charts to this years draft, here is the cumulative value of draft picks that each team has in this years draft (i.e. the sum of each draft pick’s AV).
Not surprisingly, the teams that stink end up with higher draft positions, which translates to much higher draft capital. On top of that, profitable trades, such as those executed by the Titans and Browns increased their overall draft capital, and secured them to the top of this list.
The Patriots, sadly, are towards the bottom of this year’s pack, which isn’t that surprising given the loss of their 1st round, 29th overall pick, which had an AV of 13.6. In other words, the NFL stripped the Patriots of 39% of their original 2016 draft capital (=13.6AV out of 35 cumulative AV from Patriot’s originally assigned draft picks). That doesn’t include next year’s 4th either…
Another way to look at the overall maneuvers, by thieves and front offices, that impact this year’s draft is to calculate the difference between the expected cumulative value of picks based on each team’s draft position, and their actual draft capital. The difference between these figures will reflect:
- Punishments from the league
- Compensatory picks acquired through the loss of free agents
And the Patriots are excellent at all of these! Here’s the proof:
The colored column on the right shows the difference between the expected and actual draft capital. The bigger the number, the better. Teams like the Browns and 49ers added draft capital valued at more than 8.5 AV, which is equivalent to the 59th overall pick, a late 2nd rounder. Frustratingly, if the Patriots still had their 1st round pick, they would top this list with added value totalling 9.49 AV, equivalent to the 52nd overall pick, a mid-second rounderrrRRRGGGHHHH.
Bill works his magic to put us atop this list every year, through strategic trades and the acquisition of compensatory picks (and hopefully we can soon figure out how to stop the trend of being punished every 5-7 years). Below is a chart showing the average draft capital accumulated by each team from 2008-2016. It’s plotted against the average performance of each team, measured by the end-of-year ranking (i.e. 1 is best = super bowl champions, 32 is worst = loserville).
The short summary of this chart is that the closer a team is to the top right corner, the better. The vertical positioning is the team's average ranking each year, with the top being #1, the super bowl winner, and the bottom being the worst record in the league, finishing 32nd. The farther right a team is positioned on the chart, the more draft capital they have at their disposal.
The red line reflects the expected cumulative draft capital based on end of year ranking. For example, if a team finishes last in the NFL (ranked 32nd) every year, they would be assigned the first pick of every round, and should accumulate the highest draft capital each year. The opposite is true of a team that finishes first (wins the Super Bowl) every year. That's why the line slopes downward.
The red line is therefore a baseline to measure how well a front office is setting their team up in the draft. The horizontal distance between the red line and each team’s dot reflects the average difference in draft capital acquired for each draft. The Patriots are by far the best team at adding draft capital. And that’s remarkable because they come to the table with the fewest chips in hand every year (because they consistently have the lowest draft position).
Here’s another way to visualize the competitive advantage the Patriot’s front office creates for themselves in every draft.
Again we see how unique the Pats are at accumulating draft capital. Does anyone else surprise you on this list?
Clearly this on-paper analysis is only one of many ways Belichick and co. find advantages. Just like game day, executing on draft day and having accurate, reliable scouting reports on players will likely have an impact bigger than the one created on-paper. Bill still has to play a good hand, but he always seems to come to the table with more chips than everyone else.
Author's note: The Approximate Values have been updated in accordance with Chase Stuart's latest AV chart. These differ from the values used in last year's analysis, but all data in this post reflects the updated AV chart, including AV data back to 2008.