Maybe I should have led with something sexier
I know you think I’m being lazy. I haven’t posted in about three weeks and there is all sorts of post-draft analysis/looking forward to the next draft analysis that I have failed to provide. Well I haven’t been lazy, dick. I actually had to do a lot of “research” for this post, and by the time the lab coat and goggles actually get delivered and then I spin this drafty/comedic gold you’ve lost three weeks of your life. But the wait was worth it. There’s nothing that makes the NFL Draft any sexier than the application of the scientific method.
Something has been bothering me since the first night of the draft. Leading up to the draft I heard all sorts of chatter about how the imposition of the rookie wage scale would have several effects on the draft. One – it was expected to cause an increase in trading activity. Two – the (low) cost certainty associated with high first round picks meant that the trade value chart was obsolete. Third – as really a follow-up to point two, the wage scale would make high first round picks more valuable.
Well I can’t argue with point one. The first round featured 11 trades which was a substantial increase from the last few years. In fact, some people at venerable sporting publications looked at the increased trading and concluded it was due to the rookie wage scale. But was the increased trading volume really caused by the rookie wage scale? Did all of this wheeling and dealing, which made for great television, really happen because, as most sports pundits posited, the rookie wage scale made first round draft picks more valuable? Does anyone really give a shit about these questions? (Takes a huff from gasoline rag, plays a game of Freecell, feels better)
If the rookie wage scale made early draft picks more valuable, then it would stand to reason that teams trading up for said first round picks would be willing to give up (i.e., pay) more to get these picks. But how does one measure the value a team traded away to move up or into the first round? If only we had some arbitrary metric that all NFL teams used as a proxy for value and currency when trading draft picks. Wait a minute…(digs in side pocket of cargo shorts, wonders why he has anything in this pocket, pulls out crumpled piece of paper)…ah yes, our old friend the draft value chart.
So no, I haven’t been sitting around tugging it for three weeks (FN 1). I decided to investigate this question by evaluating each trade in the first round of the 2012 draft to determine how many trade value points a team either gained (or lost) by trading up. I then compared those results to the last five years of first round trades to see if teams were “paying” more for first round picks in 2012 than they did in the previous five years (i.e., had first round picks become more valuable because people were paying more for them). (FN 2)
Before we get to the results (SPOILER ALERT: I usually don’t write an article like this if the results turn out how you expect them to), let’s have a look at each of the first round trades in 2012 and see what the gain (or loss) in trade value points was for the team moving up:
Washington gave up the 6th and 39th (second round) picks in the 2012 draft, a 2013 first round pick and a 2014 first round pick for the 2nd pick this year from St. Loius. The Redskins got RG III (QB, Baylor). Rams traded down again and got Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) and then did some more dicking around (outlined below). As discussed in my previous ground-breaking article, I calculated that the Redskins had a 115 point deficit for trading up. (FN 3)
Cleveland gave up the 4th, 118th (4th round), 139th (5th round), and 211th (7th round) picks in the 2012 draft for the 3rd pick this year from Minnesota. Cleveland got Trent Richardson (RB from Alabama). Minnesota got Matt Kalil (OT from USC), Jarius Wright (WR, Arkansas), Robert Blanton (S from Notre Dame), and traded the 211th pick for a 6th round pick in 2013. The Browns had a 298.5 point surplus for trading up. I know. I don’t know how it happened either.
Jacksonville gave up the 7th and 101st (4th round) picks in the 2012 draft for the 5th selection in this year’s draft from Tampa Bay. Jacksonville got Justin Blackmon (WR from Oklahoma State) a the team’s designated driver for the next year. Tampa Bay got Mark Barron (S, Alabama) at the 7th pick and used the 101st pick (combined with their 36th this year) to trade up for Doug Martin (RB, Idaho) (that trade is analyzed below). The Jag(off)s had a 104 point surplus for trading up.
$5 says that is vodka
Dallas gave up 14th and 45th (2nd round) selections in the 2012 draft for the 6th pick this year from St. Louis. The Cowboys got Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU). The Rams got Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) and flipped the 45th pick to Chicago for their 50th (second round) and 150th (5th round) who turned into Isaiah Pead (RB, Cincinnati) and Rokevious Watkins (OG, South Carolina). The Cowboys had a 50 point surplus for trading up.
Philadelphia traded the 15th, 114th (fourth round) and 172nd (6th round) in the 2012 draft for 12th selection this year from Seattle. The Eagles got Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State) and maybe an STD. The Seahawks got Bruce Irvin (DE, West Virginia) and his drunk driving skills, Jaye Howard (DE, Florida) and Jeremy Lane (CD, Northwestern State). The Eagles had a 61.4 point surplus for trading up.
Oakland traded the 17th selection in the 2012 draft and a conditional second round pick in 2013 (that becomes a 1st if the Raiders make the AFC Championship Game….fart noise) for Carson Palmer from Cincinnati. Cincinnati got Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama). Since I haven’t had time to figure out a wild ass theory on the trade chart value vis a vis current players, I didn’t do a point analysis for this trade.
New England gave up the 27th and 93rd (third round) picks in this year’s draft for the 21st pick this year from Cincinnati. The Patriots got Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse). The Bengals got Kevin Zeitler (OG, Wisconsin) and Brandon Thompson (DT, Clemson). New England had an 8 point deficit for trading up.
For this article, I’ve evaluated trades involving future picks in the year that the trade up occurred. So we’ll evaluate the Atlanta and Cleveland trade that landed the Falcons Julio Jones later, but you should just know that the Browns ended up with Brandon Weeden and using one of the Jones picks to trade up for Phil Taylor. I surprised the Browns still have any fans.
Just as sexy as Olivia Wilde
New England gave up the 31st and 126th (4th round) picks in 2012 for 25th pick this year from Denver. The Patriots got Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama). The Broncos traded down again (see below) because they’re just too goddamn talented to use a higher pick I suppose. The Patriots had a 74 point surplus for trading up.
Minnesota gave up the 35th (2nd round) and 98th (4th round) picks in the 2012 draft for the 29th pick in this year’s draft from Baltimore. Minnesota got Harrison Smith (S, Notre Dame) and the Ravens got Courtney Upshaw (LB, Alabama) and Gino Gradkowski (G, Delaware). The Vikings had an 18 point deficit for trading up and the Ravens got a better player than Smith at each pick. (FN 4)
Finally, Tampa Bay gave up the 36th (2nd round) and 101st (4th round) picks in the 2012 draft for the 31st and 126th (4th round) picks this year from Denver. Tampa Bay got Doug Martin (RB, Boise State) and then used the 126th for ammunition to trade up for Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska). Denver got Derek Wolfe (DT, Cincinnati) and Omar Bolden (CB, Arizona State). The Buccaneers had a 10 point surplus for trading up and got boner inducing hosses at each pick. Denver flew the flag of its incompetence again this draft. (FN 5)
So let’s see, if I break out my abacus (it is also in my cargo shorts), it tells me that there were 9 trades for which I assigned a surplus or deficit above, and the value of the nine trades for the team trading up were -115, +298.5, +104, +50, +61.4, -8, +74, -18, +10. That means that the average team trading up in the first round of the 2012 draft got a 50.77 point surplus for trading up. If you hold the draft value chart sacrosanct, and you should if you keep a copy in your cargo shorts, it means that teams trading down should have asked for, on average, another late 4th round pick to be included in their trades this year.
These numbers started to rattle my faith a bit. Why the hell do we have the trade value chart if teams trading down regularly don’t get the full chart point value of the pick they are giving up? Alright. Don’t panic Draft Party Host. Maybe this is the way business has always been done. Maybe the chart is just a random set of numbers but are close enough that the teams use it to just get in the right ballpark. Also, more relevant to this article, maybe the point surpluses were even higher in previous years, meaning that teams had started to “pay” more for the more valuable first round picks in 2012.
Seriously, those pockets hold a lot
So I did what any responsible adult with a full time job, a wife, a couple of dogs and other adult obligations would do –
I stopped writing a blog combining dick jokes with the NFL Draft I looked at all of the first round trades in the previous five NFL drafts and I did the same point analysis. Much like my review of the 2012 draft, I only did the surplus/deficit analysis for trades involving just draft picks or predominantly draft picks. If it involved several picks and a player, and that player wasn’t a big name talent like Brandon Marshall, I assigned a small value to the player, especially when you can get Brandon Marshall for two third round draft picks. Let’s see what the numbers tell us:
2011 Draft – The Falcons big trade with the Browns was a +108 for the Falcons (that it not what we were led to believe by the pundits – it was painted as self-destructive by the Falcons), and the other three trades had total values for the team trading up of -110, -120, and -100. This means that, based on the four trades in the 2011 draft, the team trading up ran an average 55.5 point deficit. Huh?
2010 Draft – This was the last year before the rookie wage scale was implemented. GM’s must have over-compensated in the 2011 draft because of the rookie wage scale. That’s the only way to explain those deficits, right? For this draft, I didn’t try to come up with a figure for the Cutler trade, but I’ve said before that I’m pretty sure the Bears won that round. The other trades that year had total values for the team trading up of +32, +90.2 (FN 6), +15, +110, +122, -28, -24, -56, and -1.8. So in 2010, before the revolution to first round drafting known as the rookie wage scale, teams trading up had an average 28.82 point surplus.
2009 Draft – The five first round trades in this draft had total values for the team trading up of +270, +60, +61.6 (FN 7), +33.4, and -91. Teams trading up had an average 66.8 point surplus.
2008 Draft – The first round trades for this draft had total values for the team trading up of +166, -180, +14, +25.8, +173, +12, +32.8, -91, -68.2, +31.8 and +12. Teams trading up had an average 11.65 point surplus.
2007 Draft: The first round trades for this draft had total values for the team trading up of +59.2, -22.2, -180, -22.8, and +166. Teams trading up had an average .04 point surplus.
Einstein: "After reading this article, I realize I wasted my life. Imagine how many lives could have been saved if they had a draft value chart for me to analyze before 1945."
If you average out all of the first round trades from 2007 to 2011, and the point surplus/deficit for the team trading up, it means that the team trading up had a 19.51 point surplus. Using the metric that almost all NFL teams use to place value on draft picks so that they can efficiently work out trades, teams trading up in the first round of the 2007 to 2011 drafts actually paid more to trade up than teams did in 2012.
So what do we take away from this, sweet and innocent Draft Party warriors? First, as suspected, most people that write about sports probably don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. I know that spending my time figuring out something like this will inevitably make some people think I am gay for robots, but Christalmighty, how hard is it to figure something like this out? One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see professional sports writers mind-numbingly write shit like “rookie wage scale make trade happen good for trade” and don’t bother to back it up with any type of rational analysis or thought. I am a freshly minted Internet hundredaire, so maybe I’ll be able to ditch the day job soon and put together Pulitzer level work like this together every day, but until then most of you have to get your sports news from guys who just want a press pass to games, free nachos, no accountability and to be the next Stephen A. Smith. God I hope the Mayans are right.
If it means no more Stephen A. then bring it on.
Second, I am starting to suspect that the trade value chart is worthless and that no GM really cares about “value.” Let’s role play for a minute. No I won’t put on the hockey mask and wrap myself in a garden hose you pervert, this is my fucking hypo. What do you think the Steelers were thinking this year when they were able to get David DeCastro at the 24th pick? Here are your choices: (A) “Wow, I guess we’ll take David DeCastro here because he represents a need we have and is an excellent pick, but only when taken here,” or (B) “Holy Fucking Cow Shit in Heaven! We love this guy! He’s a bad ass mother fucker and he is going to maul fat shits on defensive lines in this league for a decade!”
Next question. What do you think Jerry Jones’ thought process was behind getting Morris Claiborne? Think about it: (A) “I covet that fast little bastard more than my own children, but don’t you dare overpay for him!”, or (B) “Steven! If you don’t come home tonight with Morris Claiborne I’m sending you to the fucking orphanage for real this time where you will get trucked until you get a new mommy and daddy! GET HIM NOW!”
I suppose the point is that the trade value chart is a very rough guide (like your mom in a national park), but all draft trades really come down to what you are willing to pay when you covet a guy. Teams are trading for players and not points. But the really funny thing is that apparently teams don’t have to overpay for the guys they want. In fact, they regularly get more “value”, if that means anything, by trading up. Almost all the time.
That was fun wasn’t it? I hope you learned something. I hope you have a little bit better idea of what happens next time your team makes a draft day trade. I hope you have a bit more skepticism the next time you read a sports journalist making an assertion that seems to have no basis. Mostly I just hope you realize that you have something better to do with your time than me. See you soon.
Saved from the orphanage for one more year
FN 1 – Don’t worry – I did plenty of tugging it the last two weeks.
FN 2 – I know the trade value chart is a flawed indicator of a draft pick’s value generally, however, it is the common currency used for draft picks in the last 20 years. So suck it.
FN 3 – A note here about methodology. I calculated in the RG III article that the trade chart value of a first round pick in the following season was maybe 455 trade value points. I know that analysis was not the most scientific of all time, but I don’t think it’s far off. I decided to go with a “conventional wisdom” valuation and assigned future first round picks used to trade up as a value of 420 points (the 16th pick in the second round) (e.g., trading away a 2013 first round pick this year would be valued at trading a middling 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft).
FN 4 – Is anyone else surprised that in this rash of team’s trading up and getting a surplus of trade value points, one of the few guys to trade down and get extra trade value points would be Ozzie Newsome? That guy is Professor X in a league of Cletus Spuckler’s.
FN 5 – I know I stated previously that the Bucs had one of my three favorite drafts, but in writing this article I think I previously under-sold what they did. I’m moving them up to the second best draft. The Eagles still face fucked everyone else.
FN 6 – In fairness, you need to subtract the value of Tim Dobbins from this 90.2 point surplus, but I think we can all agree that we don’t assign much trade chart point value to Tim Dobbins. For God’s sake, the Dolphins got him in a trade and released him one year later. If you’re reading this Tim, and I know you are, sorry.
FN 7 – The first three trades in the 2009 draft were all the Browns trading down. They passed on Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Jeremy Maclin. In return for passing on each one of these guys they got Alex Mack, a second pick, a couple of sixths and some spare part players. What the fuck is that all about? I’m happy to make some cyanide fruit punch for any Browns fans who want forget the torture their team regularly puts them through.