In 1989 Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys. As part of that deal his friend and business partner Mike McCoy took up a 5% ownership interest in the team. Not being much of a football man McCoy gave up his interest in the team in 1996 and returned to the oil and gas industry. However, before he left the NFL he collaborated with Jimmy Johnson in 1991 to create what is now known as the NFL draft trade value chart. McCoy was something of a savant with numbers and going over past drafts he was able to assign numbers which represented how the league had valued each draft pick over the previous few years. At the time it was something of a secret weapon and the Cowboys repeatedly used it to quickly evaluate draft day trades and because of this chart they frequently came out on top. Over the years as people left the Cowboys organization, the chart left with them, and in time it became public knowledge. Now that the chart is 20+ years old and known to everyone, it is somewhat antiquated. Yet, somehow it remains the gold standard by which all draft day trades are measured.
Below are some links to samples of the chart:
The first thing that is apparent in viewing the chart is that this is not a linear progression in value; the #1 overall pick is worth twice as much as the #7 overall pick, the 15th pick of the first round is more than five times as valuable as the 15th pick of the 3rd round, and you simply can't stack 4th and 5th round picks high enough to move anywhere in the first round. What is important to remember is that the chart values are akin to pirate rules, they're more like guidelines. Not everyone follows the chart exactly nor should they. In reality this trade value chart holds no relationship to the real world. In any given year the talent pool can be deeper or shallower, it can be top heavy or lack elite talent but have solid depth, and teams involved can be more or less desperate to move around. When trading future picks, teams are betting on the performance of future teams which adds the element of gambling. Further still, team needs, especially for quarterbacks, can leverage supply and demand forces to induce trades which are outlandish according to the chart. If anything, the chart is most like the Kelly Blue Book for used car buyers. It gives you an idea of what the market should look like but leaves the actual value to be determined by the two negotiating parties. Realistically, the chart has no relation to the real world and real players and teams. It was created nearly 25 years ago by an oil man as a quick pocket reference for assessing draft day trades. It is based on how picks were valued in the 80's not today. There have been rule changes and the implementation of a rookie wage scale which can push these values around. Certainly the fact that it is no longer secret has removed much of its luster and hopefully most teams have applied advanced analytics to modify these numbers on a year by year basis. Still, the chart in all of its deficiencies remains at the forefront of people's minds on draft day. I don't know for a fact but would bet heartily that every NFL GM has some version of this chart upon which he places some value when considering draft day trades.
Now let's look at some examples:
In 2012 the Redskins swapped the #6 overall pick for the Rams #2 overall pick in order to draft RG3. This is a classic overpay according to the chart. Per the chart, the #2 overall pick is worth 2600 points and the #6 overall pick is worth 1600 points, or a difference of 1000 points. However, when the Washington Redskins made this trade in the 2012 draft they traded their 2012 (#6), 2013 (#22), and 2014 (#2) first round picks as well as a 2012 second round pick (#39). The minimum chart value which the Redskins could give up for the second overall pick was 3,350 points, however, because the 2012 & 2013 Redskins were not very good, the actual picks they gave up were valued at 5,490 points. Even though they clearly overpaid by the chart, this trade was driven by simple supply & demand economics. The cost was over the chart value because everyone knew Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III was going to be available in that #2 spot. There were multiple suitors for it and probably even a Scott Boras style "mystery suitor." Even though the chart is just a guide, most of us would still agree that this was an enormous overpay so perhaps the chart is on to something.
#2 EVEN STEVENS
In 2011 the Falcons swapped their first (#27), second (#59), and fourth (#124) as well as their 2012 first (#22) and fourth (#118) for the sixth overall pick in 2011 in order to draft Julio Jones. We're not here to discuss the merits and drawbacks of that trade as this is a bit like discussing religion or politics in a bar. I only want to show how it relates to the chart. Here again the #6 pick is worth 1,600 points while the Falcons sent a total of 1,876 points back to the Browns. Whether you like the deal or not it is essentially a "by the chart" trade, if a slight overpay, where the traded picks are very close to matching chart values. If you don't like that, how about last year with the rookie wage scale in place and the same trade partner as we would like to dance with this year? In 2013 the Falcons swapped first round picks with St Louis in order to draft Desmond Trufant. The Falcons acquired #22 overall (780) and a 2015 seventh round pick (10 pts???) for a total of 790 points. Going back to St. Louis was a first (#30 - 620), a third (#92 - 132), and a sixth (#198 - 12) for a total of 764 points. In both instances the actual value of the trades, involving our very own front office, is shockingly close to the chart values. Perhaps our dear Komrade holds a copy of the chart in his front pocket, no?
In 2013 the Dolphins acquired the #3 overall pick in exchange for their first (#12 - 1,200) and second (#42 - 480). Here the Dolphins acquired 2,200 points for only 1,680 points which is a steal, at least in theory. Per the chart the Dolphins got a 24% discount. Again, this is where we go back to the "guideline" nature of the chart. The 2013 draft was historically shallow. There were no elite QB's, with only one going in the first round and there we're no super sexy skill players or "once in a generation" type pass rushers in this draft. This isn't to diminish this instance but rather to explain why the chart values didn't hold. Or did it? When you think about it, the chart did hold. This was a weak draft, so the cost of moving up was discounted 25% from the generally accepted chart values.
Now, What will the Falcons have to pay to move from #6 to #2 in 2014?
Let's run through some scenarios again:
#1 FULL PRICE
Assuming the Falcons & Rams go perfectly by the chart, the #2 pick is worth 2,600 points and the #6 pick is worth 1,600 for a difference of 1,000 points. To make up that difference the Falcons will have to give up our second (#37 - 530), our third (#68 - 250), our fourth (#99 - 104), and next year's fourth (70 pts???) to get 954 points and in the ballpark of the chart values. If we wanted to spread these picks across this year and next we would probably have to kick in something else as our picks would presumably (hopefully?) be worth less next year.
#2 DEEP DISCOUNT
But wait, you say... that sounds like way too much, right? I think most of us and probably even the GM's involved would agree. There is no super duper elite QB on the order of Luck/RG3 in this draft to inflate prices. St. Louis is in a position where they do not need or want that pick as much as we do. Further still, this draft with the most underclassmen in history is absurdly deep. These items combine to suggest that the Falcons likely will not have to pay the full fare suggested by the chart. The only thing which could inflate the value of the #2 pick is some other team who is willing to pay more than us and that is simply impossible to account for. Now, let's say that Les Snead is willing to do us a big favor. Let's assume he discounts that 1000 point difference between #2 and #6 by 50%. Now that he's doing us this big favor we're talking about just 500 points. That would mean trading just this year's second round pick (#37 - 530). If you don't like that we could do or this year's third (#68 - 250) and fourth (#99 - 104) and next year's third (175???) for a total of 529 points. I'm not a big fan of either of those trades anyway and I think it's unrealistic to expect that big of a discount with a commodity like Clowney, Mack, Robinson, or Watkins available.
#3 MOST LIKELY
You could argue there is more elite talent in this draft than last year but there is also more depth and hopefully that washes out in our favor to the tune of a discount as mentioned above. If we get one at all, a more realistic discount is about 25% of that 1,000 point gap. This would be the same discount which Miami received last year. Now, we only need 750 points to move from #6 to #2. Now, we're talking about giving up our second (#37 - 530) and our third (#68 - 250) for a total of 780 points. Don't like it? Me neither. Perhaps this could be arranged to be done with our second (#37 - 530), our fourth (#99 - 104), and next year's fourth (70 pts???) for a total of 704 points. I still don't like the idea of moving up, but I think this is the most realistic trade that any Falcons fan can expect or tolerate. Anything more is too much and anything less is simply unrealistic.