What is the value of a pick?

What is the value of a pick?

Draft picks are valuable in the NFL, we all know that. The format of the draft means that teams are on average around 8 picks (7 ordinary picks and most teams get one or two additional compensatory selections). This combined with varying needs of teams, means that there are always going to be trades to try and maximise what you are able to pick in the draft to take your team to the next level.

We saw that this offseason with the 2 blockbuster trades that were made for the #1 and #2 picks, so what is the value of a draft pick in the NFL? You can’t buy a pick from another team, but you can trade your picks to try and get what you want from the draft.

The normal way of looking at it is- you want to get a pick higher up the order? You are going to have to give up additional picks that you have. Don’t mind not picking later? You are going to have more swings at the plate. With the CBA in place a rookie’s contract is (mainly) written and signed before he has been drafted, based on when he was picked- the thing that is up for debate is the timing of bonuses and the language in the deal.

But as we are in a league with a restriction of number of picks and also the salary cap- this gives an interesting dilemma, if you are a GM that is rebuilding your team you need to maximise the value of the picks that you make so you can take your team from the bottom of the league to the top (look at the Browns for example- they are currently going through a rebuild). So what is the best way of doing this?

If you are a bit of a math geek then head over to Advanced Football Analytics article on ‘The value of each draft pick, a re-examination of Massey Thaler surplus value under the new CBA’ now if you aren’t a math geek or you are but don’t fancy reading that then basically the article says that you want to load up on second round picks as that gives you the best value (taking into consideration the value of the contract that is offered vs the talent level of the player).

So this has a few things that you should take into consideration:

  1. This only works if you have a trade partner- if every GM were to look at this and think that they should in theory all trade to get second round picks, but that isn’t going to work because a GM wouldn’t trade their second round pick away. Which in my opinion is why the NFL is the exciting sport that it is- you have teams at totally different stages of their life cycle constantly butting heads to try and get what they need to get their team to a new level.
  2. The model also doesn’t place additional value on stars, so in this model three starters would have more value than a JJ Watt, or Gronk which it does if your team is awful, but if you are one of those teams that just needs that little extra to get to the playoffs or further then a Gronk is worth more than 3 starters.
  3. Every pick is a bit of a gamble- you never truly know how good or bad a player is going to be until he is selected, so the more swings you have at the plate, the better

We saw some of this in this years draft where the Browns traded down to amass more picks in the current draft and the years going forward- so what is the future? Depends where you are with your team I suppose, but an interesting read I thought. Let me know what you think on twitter @dvdaldo.

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