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Super Bowl LII - New England Patriots - Practice Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last year I constructed a new NFL Draft Value Chart that measures how teams value each draft pick. I’m bringing the chart back as we head towards the 2018 NFL Draft because New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick mentioned how the draft value chart changed as the result of the rule change that allowed teams to trade compensatory picks.

“I’d say [the draft chart] has been modified now to a certain degree because of the ability to trade compensatory picks,” Belichick said. “In the past those picks really, I wouldn’t say don’t have any value, but they didn’t have much value because you couldn’t do anything with them other than pick a player at that spot. Now that those picks are tradeable, that changes things a little bit because they are capital to move up, move back, or you could move into those spots or trade them for other players...I’d say the draft chart has been modified a little bit based on the change in that.”

There’s an entire round’s worth of picks that are compensatory every year and so the rule change greatly increased the liquidity of the draft pick trading market. Previously, teams would have to sit and wait through a dozen compensatory picks at the end of the fifth round before being able to pounce at the top of the sixth round. Now teams don’t have to wait and that’s smoothed out the trade value of all the picks.

A limitation of draft value charts, Belichick adds, is that there isn’t a single chart that everyone uses. When there is a divergence in pick value among teams- if two parties value a pick differently- then they are less likely to strike a deal. Belichick does note that the divergence has disappeared in “the majority of the trades” in recent years.

Well, last year we tried to fix that limitation by creating a draft value chart that maps to how teams actually value picks. For the record, this answers an entirely different question than how teams should value picks- Chase Stuart has already answered that question and shows how team overvalue early picks and undervalue late picks. We’re simply showing what teams are actually spending on draft picks.

NFL Draft Value Chart

Some important notes with this chart:

  • All trades at the top of the draft are ad hoc based on that year’s talent pool. Teams are more willing to pay extra in drafts where there is an Andrew Luck than when there is an Eric Fisher. This is why the Jets paid a premium worth roughly the same as the 19th overall pick to move up from 6th to 3rd overall. They want one of the big three quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield).
  • Future draft picks don’t have a perfect value. A rule of thumb is that they are worth roughly # of Years in the Future x 32 picks less than the team’s current draft pick. In other words, if the Patriots were to trade their 2019th second round pick, it would be worth the same as the 95th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Again, this isn’t exact, but there is greater variance in accepted value with future picks.
  • Teams have to pay a premium to trade back into the first round worth roughly the same as a fifth or sixth round pick.

I spot-checked most trades from the first two days of the 2017 NFL Draft as quality control and to see if these numbers were close to reality and they were pretty on target. Teams paid an average premium of 3.3 points to move up the draft board, or roughly the equivalent of the 207th-208th overall pick, or a late sixth round selection.

We’ll see if this continues into the 2018 NFL Draft- and that would require a minor tweak of the chart- or if it was simply a one-off anomaly. Let me know if you have theories in the comments.

The Patriots current draft picks combine to equal 705 points on the draft value chart, which is slightly less value than the second overall pick. It’s important to note the Patriots would never be able to trade up to the second overall pick with their draft capital because this draft has a lot of top quarterback prospects, which would require a serious premium- remember the Jets paid a lot more to get to third overall.

A far more “realistic” opportunity would be for New England to trade into the top ten if one of those top three quarterbacks remain on the board, although I still doubt that would happen.