Do We Trade Picks?

In 1991, the Dallas Cowboys were entering the draft with a plethora of picks (17 total in the 12-round draft) under second year coach Jimmy Johnson. Jerry Jones was looking to wheel and deal, but couldn’t figure out how to make fast decisions when teams started offering to trade multiple picks. Mike McCoy, a minor partner in the Cowboys, offered to work out a plan that would help streamline the process. He spend days charting all the trades from the prior 4-5 years, and came up with a scoring chart that reflected what teams had done with their trades. His original chart started with a value of 3000 for the first pick in the draft to .4 for the last (“Mr. Irrelevant”) pick. When draft time came, they were able to quickly gauge the comparative value of offers. When the opposing team’s trade numbers were above the line, they seized the bargain; when they were below, they passed. At the end of the draft, they had kicked some rears, taken 18 players, and set the stage for three Superbowl championships in 1993, 1994 and 1996.

McCoy’s original chart has survived with some minor tweaks and, over the next decade, was passed around to other teams (coaches departing Dallas for other jobs took copies with them). The original, or some slight variant now serves virtually all teams as the defacto “trade value chart” for trading draft picks. You can find the original and variations of it online. Below is a variation that's been adjusted for this year's reduction in 2nd round picks. It doesn't show the compensatory picks, but you can't trade those anyway. tradevalue So how does it work? Easy, you simply have to balance the numbers. Say the Falcons wanted to trade up to Dallas’ #47 overall pick in the second round (worth 430 points). They could reasonably expect to trade their second and third round picks straight up (300 points + 132 points = 432 points). Pretty even, with a slight kicker for Dallas to sweeten the deal.

So now let’s do a historical exercise. Let’s see how the controversial Julio Jones trade plays out in this scenario, where we supposedly got robbed/gave away the store/etc., in the “shocker of the 2011 draft.” If you remember, we traded up to get the Browns’ 6th pick for our 1st, 2nd and 4th in 2011 and our 1st and 4th in 2012. Gets a bit complicated with future picks; that’s not in the chart. But, suffice to say you’ll pay a bit of a premium for future picks. Let’s see how it works out:

Cleveland’s 6th pick overall (strangely enough, the same place they’re picking this year) is worth 1,600 points, according to the chart. We trade, overall (with points in parentheses) our 27th (680), 59th (310) and 124th (48) from 2011, and ultimately, our 22nd (780) and 118th (58) from 2012. Add those up, it comes to 1,876 points. Hmm, pretty good bit more than Cleveland’s 1,600.

But wait! Remember, TD and Co. didn’t think we were going to wind up with the 22nd pick in 2012. When they made the trade, they thought it might put us in the Superbowl. So let’s trade out those 2012 picks and see where they thought we’d be. Say we lost the Bowl, and wound up with the 31st (600) and 127th (45). Now we end up with 1,683. Not a bad comparison with Cleveland’s 1,600, considering we were using some future picks.

That’s how the chart works. Is it an accurate assessment of player values? I don’t happen to think so, as I have a real problem with a formula that, for instance, says the 1st player picked is worth twice as much as the 7th player picked. And that's not even taking into account the respective salary differences, the effects of the cap and other issues. But bottom line, it appears that it’s what all the teams still use, ours included.

So before you write “we should trade our 1st round pick to the top of the 2nd so we can get an extra 2nd and 3rd round pick,” look at the chart. Chances are you can’t do that.

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>