Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft I constructed a Draft Value Chart that was supposed to serve as a guide for trades involving draft picks. Teams around the league use a chart that assigns a value for each pick to increase the ease of striking trades on draft day since the chart forms a kind of universal language- the 76th overall pick is worth the same to the Titans as it is to the 49ers.
The chart that teams had relied upon for years was outdated because it was constructed by Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson before free agency, before the salary cap, before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) created a ceiling for rookie salaries, and before compensatory picks were able to be traded.
A lot has changed with regards to valuation of draft picks, so my chart took all the trades from after the CBA (2012-onwards) and assigned new values:
What I find interesting is that multiple teams around the league actually got together to construct a draft value chart of their own, according Seahawks general manager John Schneider, via Pro FootballTalk.
“It’s based off of [the old chart], but now being able to trade compensatory picks, [Seahawks V.P. of Football Administration] Matt Thomas and a bunch of guys got together from different teams and put a new chart together so we’re following that now but it’s based off the same principle. It’s a scale,” Schneider said.
What I find funny is that not every team was invited to the same trade chart club with the Seahawks- in particular the Seahawks divisional rival San Francisco 49ers. MMQB’s Peter King followed the 49ers draft room and noted multiple times that they still use the old Jimmy Johnson chart.
In fact, King was amazed at how 49ers Chief Strategy Officer Paraag Marathe had the old draft value chart memorized.
“At one point late Friday, in round three, [49ers head coach Kyle] Shanahan said to [Marathe]: ‘I want another pick in the top 10 of the fourth round.’ Right away, Marathe said, ‘For the sixth pick to 10th pick [in the fourth], we can do it for our 143 and 146. Earlier in the round, it’s close.’ The Niners held pick 143 (late in the fourth) and 146 (atop the fifth). But Marathe didn’t even have to look at the draft-trade value chart. He just blurted it out. He just knew.”
Per the old draft value chart, the 143rd and 146th picks were equal to 61.5 points, which is roughly equal to the 116th pick, or the ninth pick of the fourth round- exactly as Marathe said. The 49ers were unable to find a suitor, and ultimately acquired the 121st overall pick from the Indianapolis Colts for the 143rd and 146th selections.
Per the old draft value chart, the 49ers would have scored a major loss if they made this deal, but this was actually the most even trade for both parties from the entire draft under the new value chart, which is supposed to represent the real draft economy.
It should come as no surprise that the 49ers were the ultimate draft day losers per the new value chart, even when you remove the trade between the second and third overall picks. The 49ers gave up 28.5 points of value over the course of the draft, worth the same as giving up the 110th or 111th overall pick for nothing.
The Bears were the second-biggest losers, giving up 18.6 points of value, or the equivalent of the 130th overall pick. The main loss in value came in a trade with the Cardinals, where they moved down from 36th to 45th overall, in exchange for a pair of sixth rounders and a future fourth, while also giving up a seventh round pick.
Future fourths don’t really have much value (roughly the same as a present year fifth round pick), so the Bears moved down in a premium part of the second round in exchange for a net of two lottery tickets.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Seahawks were the big winners of the draft, adding 22.6 points of value, or the equivalent of the 121st overall pick. For comparison, the Seahawks shipped their 131st overall pick to the Patriots, so Seattle made back that lost value and then some by moving around the draft board.
The Cardinals were also big winners, adding 20.9 points of value, or the near equivalent of the 124th overall pick.
The Patriots ended the day by losing roughly 3.6 points of value, or the equivalent value of the 202nd overall pick. It should be noted that the average error on each trade was roughly 4.2 points of value, highlighting that teams don’t care if they lose a sixth or seventh rounder in trade value because they’d rather acquire their target player.
Remember that sixth and seventh round picks are lottery tickets, and so teams are willing to trade one of those tickets for a prospect they really like.
Expected value of a day three draft pick. All lottery tickets, with 4th-first half of 5th round better odds than second half of 5th onward. pic.twitter.com/5ygb45XSar— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) April 24, 2017
And that mentality is kind of how the Patriots approached the draft. They had a few target positions and players and gave up their draft capital in order to obtain those players. They might have lost 10.3 points of value (equivalent: 146th overall) in the trade to obtain OT Antonio Garcia at 85th overall, but they obtained a talent that is much more of a “sure thing” than a player taken in the fourth or fifth round.
And speaking of “sure things” I think it’s fun to apply the draft value chart to the picks-for-players trades that the Patriots have made in recent years, and we’ll look at two in particular.
Patriots obtain TE Dwayne Allen and #200 from Colts for #137
Equivalent value: Allen is worth 11.9 draft value points, or the 150th overall pick.
The 150th overall pick is Jets TE Jordan Leggett, who let out a Freudian slip showing he wished he instead played for the Patriots. TE Jake Butt was selected 145th overall and TE George Kittle was selected 146th overall.
To be quite honest, this is a push, for me. Allen is a proven commodity on a veteran contract, but I had huge draft crushes on Butt and Kittle- and I might prefer to have that duo on rookie deals. That’s not a knock on Allen, who I think is a solid player, but just my personal approach to managing the salary cap.
Patriots obtain LB Kyle Van Noy and #239 from Lions for #215
Equivalent value: Van Noy is worth 1.15 draft value points, or the 255th overall pick.
Mr. Irrelevant (the final pick of the 2017 NFL Draft) was the 253rd overall pick. Van Noy is valued less than Mr. Irrelevant. Van Noy could possibly be a two-year starter in the Patriots defense and helped win a Super Bowl. Could this be any bigger of a win for New England?
The new draft value chart will continue to update as more trades take place over the years. But it’s nice to know that teams around the league are moving past an old document and are adjusting to a new era.