St. Louis Rams – Blog

The Ever Changing Value of Trading Picks

Posted by nickwagoner on April 25, 2013 – 10:12 PM

- For years and years, it was commonly accepted that NFL teams looking to determine the value of a pick would turn to the infamous “draft chart.” As legend has it, Jimmy Johnson created the chart by assigning value to every pick in the draft. The idea being that if you are looking to move down, you take the value of your pick then add the value of the picks you’re being offered and hope that it either comes out with a higher value on your side or at least breaking even.

- We’ll get into some of the actual raw numbers on that chart in just a moment but first I think it’s important to note that we are living in the brave new world of the NFL, a world where you don’t have to pay draft picks exorbitant amounts of money if you make a move up. Theoretically, that means that teams would be more likely to move up for players, right? Well, yes but the curveball comes in when you have a draft – like this one – where the value seems to lie not so much in having a pick at the top but the simple act of having picks, lots of picks.

- The pendulum seems to swing in a year like this where it would appear to be more beneficial to have multiple picks late in the first round through the second and third rounds. In some sense getting a quantity of quality players puts more value on picks than it does on players, so to speak.

- Taking all of that into account, the normal draft chart may no longer be the end all, be all. Teams still use it as a guidepost and it can give you a rough estimate of what you should expect in return.

- Let’s go back to last year for just a moment to illustrate how in one draft you had examples of one player be coveted in a major way and then a lesser value just a few picks later. The Rams got a draft haul with their first trade that blows away the chart in terms of value. They moved from No. 2 to No. 6 and picked up a second round pick (No. 39 overall) to go with first round picks in 2013 and 2014.

Here’s how the trade value chart would have assessed that deal:

Washington receives: No. 2 overall pick  worth a total of 2600 points.

St. Louis receives: No. 6 overall pick (1600 points), pick No. 39 (510 points), and first round picks in 2013 and 2014. Traditionally, there are a couple of ways to assign value to the future first-round picks. One, you can just go right to the middle of the round and use the 16th choice to split the difference (1,000 points) or you can just simply project the team to pick again where it did the previous year which brings a much larger margin for error. For this exercise, let’s use what we know (Washington’s 22nd pick is worth 780 points) and then use the middle of the round projection for next year and tack on another 1,000 points.  That brings the total point value acquired for last year’s No. 2 pick to 3,890 points.

- On the chart and on paper that would be a whopping 1,290 point advantage to the Rams. Now, the point of this isn’t to make a determination on who “won” the trade, that’s a discussion for a day MUCH further down the line. It’s just to illustrate the value of picks in today’s NFL.

- I know this is a bit tedious but stay with me for a bit if you can. Now, let’s look at the Rams second trade from last year.

- On draft night, the Rams moved down again, this time from 6 to 14, a total of 8 spots. Here’s how that looks on the chart.

Dallas receives: No. 6 overall pick worth a total of 1600 points.

St. Louis receives: No. 14 overall pick (1100 points) and No. 45 overall pick (450 points) for a total of 1,550 points.

- So that trade was very close to being dead even in terms of value on the chart. Yes, the Rams moved down from 45 to 50 to get a fifth rounder but that’s not the point here.

- Looking back on it, the question then becomes how did you go from getting such overwhelming value for the second pick to breaking even for the No. 6 pick. The answer is simple: the value of the player available. Robert Griffin III was one of the most exciting prospects in the whole draft and since his contract cost is so much more manageable than it used to be, it was much more palatable for them to make such a bold move. Then, by the time the sixth pick came on the board, the value of the player wasn’t quite the same. Dallas took LSU CB Morris Claiborne, a very talented and highly rated player but also a player who just inherently doesn’t have the same value as a franchise quarterback.

- Fast forward to this year and let’s take a look at this draft and how teams might value picks. Using the chart as a guideline rather than some sort of hard and fast rule, this draft clearly doesn’t have anyone at the top that is going to get a major haul of picks for any team. In fact, it seems that plenty of teams want to move down without many that want to move up. In other words, it’s a buyer’s market, at least in the earlier parts of the first round.

- Returning to the number eight, let’s use it as an example. As people discuss the possibility of trades up and down this draft, it cost a second round pick to move eight spots in last year’s draft after the top quarterbacks went off the board.

- If a team wanted to move up in similar fashion this year, that would almost certainly be the cost of the move, though maybe a fifth rounder or something in 2014 could be thrown in to seal the deal.

- It will be interesting to see the value of picks moving forward tonight as many moves are expected. We’ll know within the first trade just how teams value picks in this draft.


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