FanPost

Exploring Frameworks for Valuing Pick 2

I wanted to start a thread without where we could deepen the discussion around the value of the second round pick. Here goes:

I see three main questions surrounding how the Rams and the rest of the NFL should value pick 2:
1) The players on the board
2) The Old Trade Chart
3) The Career AV Chart

And there is always the lingering question: What is a future pick worth?
A future first rounder seems less valuable than a present first rounder, especially given that Bayesian effects of trading for current picks is likely to improve my next-year performance, pushing down the value of future picks. Some rules of thumb are that its worth 1 round more than a current pick, however, history has not been kind to teams trading future 1s for current 2s (Everette Brown for Mike Iaputi anyone?)

Jeff_underscore gave a solid explanation to TST the basics and history of Old Char and Career AV chart I will try to start the analysis where that leaves off.

(This post generally assumes that the Rams are heavily interested in trading down given organizational faith in Bradford, 2 franchise quality DEs+ a starting quality backup. Questioning those assumptions are valid but outside the scope of this post)

Players on the Board
Teams trade for players, not draft picks. Who is on the board at pick 2, and how other teams value them, will have everything to do with what the Rams can get in a trade down. The best case scenario is one in which the Rams can auction off a player that multiple teams feel they need; a player who is a cut above the rest. Dream case here is probably if Clowney falls to pick 2. The entire league needs another edge rusher, and he is a once-every 5 years prospect at DL. Houston can only take 1 player, if they take Clowney, the value of pick 2 is less clear. The perfect storm for the Rams would be a 4 way tie for QB value and Anthony Barr not viewed as a cut above the rest. The best case, with Clowney gone is a separate football organization which values one QB far and away higher than the rest of the QB class (preferably Bridgey).

There are a handful of 1st round QB talents making it unclear what teams will go for, and providing options if a team misses a QB. The wealth of options means that a QB will be on the board well after pick 2: e.g. Bridgey, Manziel, Bortles, and Carr all receive rd 1 grades from CBS. Should Clowney go 1 overall, the Rams ability to get a massive trade could be depleted. At some point of reduced value the Rams stay and either take the QB they decide they want or a player like Barr/Matthews/Kouandjo? Is it really worth a 3rd rounder to drop to pick 10?

The Draft Chart vs. the Career AV Chart
Draft texture matters. The sum of all the available talent manipulates the whole board. In a deep, flat draft like last year with no clearcut generational talents, the CarAV chart seems more appropriate. In a draft with a steep talent curve, and top-line generational talent like Clowney, the old chart looks far more appealing for valuing top picks. Clowney, Barr, and some of the QBs are all better than anything 2013 had to offer for top-of-draft talent (esp position-weighted). Think back to 2012, Washington was viewed as having the better of the deal given that a team that otherwise had a dearth of talent was playoff bound; some writers suggested we got too little for RG3. Here is 1 such puff piece: "if you could renegotiate the terms of that blockbuster deal today, in light of Griffin's spectacular regular season debut on Sunday in a solar-plexis-punched Superdome, the Rams might wind up demanding Washington's first-round picks in perpetuity"

The risks of this studs/duds approach is that injury is a much bigger problem if the studs go down. RG3s injury completely devastated the Skins, and the injury problems of Atlanta contributed heavily from their first-to-worst 2013 performance.

Career AV as a statistical metric can't capture many of the most important aspects of building a team. The related nature of NFL individual performances means that 1 stud can lift the entire performance of their respective unit (Tom Brady at NE, and much of Strahan’s career with the Giants). If guys stay healthy, the studs and duds approach of Atlanta gets the team yards away from a super bowl (while it backfires in years like 2013, that’s certainly a better 2 year stint than the bottom 10 teams of the league). A team can have the ability to do well in the late-round talent lottery (as in, finding a stud 1/8 times in round 4 as opposed to most teams only finding a stud 1/30 times). The increased value that some teams receive from valuing later round applies in reverse when most teams try to gain value from the CarAV chart. to most teams. This is because a handful of teams gain far more value from mid and late round picks upping the CarAV average for the entire round (e.g. Steelers, Green Bay, and Seattle have better success after round 2 than other organizations). For the rest of the NFL, trading down reduces their organizational ability to find starting-quality talent. Cleveland destroyed Atlanta on a CarAV chart in the Julio Jones trade, but the players they drafted with all of those picks are creating a ‘who’s who’ of draft busts.

Case Study in Top Talent: Giants Defense 2013
The Giants defense completely fell apart this year. The DL did very little, the LBs were a dumpster fire without Beason, and pretty crappy with him, the DBs make Giant's fans yearn for a return of Jason Sehorn...not in his prime, right now, at 42. One view is that the wheels fell off the bus. The LBs and DBs and DL all just failed to show up this year.

The other view is that their DBs and LBs were talentless bodies to begin with, who were performing well due to an elite DL that could rush four and could be relied upon to destroy run and pass blocking schemes. This perspective suggests that strong defensive performance of the Giants rested on 4 men, of whom 2 were truly studs (JPP and Tucker). This was the same defensive approach that won the first Giants super bowl. Usi and Strahan were nigh-unblockable in their playoff run, shredding the Patriots OLine and taking a defense filled with back 7 JAGs to the championship.

In the era of salary cap restrictions and restricted free agency/franchise tags keeping a lot of top talent from the marketplace, building a team around a handful of elite top paid talents paired with cheap journeyman level talent can be a very strong approach to success.

Case Study in Roster Development: Seattle Seahawks
The standard way to be a team that finds success by building through the draft is to evaluate talent ‘better’ than other organizations, patiently wait for your guys to fall, and then slurp up the BPA value where you can (Pittsburg and Green Bay both excel at this). But there is another theoretical way: that is to value players markedly different from other NFL organizations, and be correct in those assessments. This approach is further benefitted by a flexible scheme which can maximize differentiated talent.

A team which takes that approach will regularly appear to be ‘reaching’ in the draft, taking players where there very different evaluations have sent them; further, if they are truly successful at evaluating and using talent differently than other teams, they will be able to gain far more from trading down for more picks. This is the Seattle Seahawks way. A team helmed by a 3rd round pick, whose star defender is a 5th round pick. When Seattle picks in round 1, you be sure that any Mel Kiper commentary will include the words: "reach" and discuss how it was poor ‘value’ (though after the 2012 blowout, Kiper has learned to second guess himself when discussing the off-the-wall Seahawks). To draft this way requires a differentiated draft board from everyone else, as well as a team plan to use the talent that is acquired. When executed well, this kindof team should dominate the midrounds and make a mockery of teams which use the standard chart as opposed to the new one. Constantly looking to trade back should be a big part of the wheelhouse. These teams benefit from the CarAV approach to talent and are less likely to want to trade up for picks. New England seems to ascribe to a similar draft philosophy, though NE’s execution leaves something to be desired as they seem to be heading for a record-setting number of high rd DB busts. Evaluating talent differently, but failing to evaluate it well + trading down = the Cleveland browns (aka the color of …)

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After spilling all that virtual ink, the major points which needs to be calculated for the pick 2 value comes down to the following:
--Trading the second overall pick will be more valuable if Clowney is on board.
--Trading the second overall pick will be more valuable if only 1 of Bortles/Manziel/Hundley is viewed as a franchise QB. At present, Bridgey is a cut above the rest. Hundley going back to school would increase the value of this pick.
--A similar dynamic to a Clowney auction could form around pick 5/6 if Anthony Barr is on the board—the dynamic could also develop b/t picks 6-10 if all but 1 of the viable franchise QB options are already taken. The benefits will be lower.
--The teams who will trade up to nab Clowney are teams who subscribe to the 1-2 studs make a defense approach to building a roster, who will, rightly, view Clowney as one of their studs.
--The teams who will trade up for a QB are generally high pick teams who will may spend less, but could leave the Rams holding pick 3-8

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