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Looking at the Day 1 draft trades through the lenses of trade value charts

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There’s been a lively discussion at Hogs Haven this offseason about draft day trades and the best strategies for pursuing them. Many of those conversations have been marked by debates over the best “currency” to use for determining the value of draft picks.

There are at least 3 separate - broadly available - draft trade value charts out there: 1) The “Jimmy Johnson” trade value chart, originally developed by the former Cowboys’ coach and minority team owner Mike McCoy, which has been refined over the three decades since its initial development. 2) The “Rich Hill” trade value chart, created by Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit in 2018, developed in the wake of the rule change that allowed for the trading of compensatory picks. 3) The “Fitzgerald-Spielberger” trade value chart, recently derived by writers at Overthecap.com based on looking at past NFL salary data to try to project the value of future draft selections. This is, by far, the most “experimental” of the three.

Day 1 Trades

The table below contains a listing of all 4 pick-for-pick trades during the first round of the 2020 draft. There are three columns calculating the pick values according the to three charts listed above: JJTVC, RHTVC, and the Fitz-Spiel. One important note is that the trade value charts are not all scaled the same way. The JJTVC run from 3000 points for pick 1 to 1 point for the final pick in the draft. The RHTVC is scaled from 1000 points down to 1 point, and the Fitz-Spiel is scaled from 3000 to 190 points. This last chart weights later round picks far more heavily than either of the other two.

Let’s take a look at the trades:

2020 Draft Day 1 Trades

Trade Partners Picks JJTVC "Winner" RHTVC "Winner" Fitz-Spiel "Winner"
Trade Partners Picks JJTVC "Winner" RHTVC "Winner" Fitz-Spiel "Winner"
1 SF 13 1150 9 336 12 1700 338
245 1 1 212
TB 14 1100 325 1663
117 60 24 587
2 NE 23 760 5 245 1411 599
LAC 37 530 162 15 1170
71 235 68 840
3 MINN 25 720 230 1369 858
SF 31 600 40.2 190 9 1260
117 60 24 587
176 19.8 7 380
4 MIA 26 700 223 1349 437
GB 30 620 42 196 12 1276
136 38 15 510

Trade 1 (SF/TB)

The 49ers, trading down, “won” this trade across all three trade value charts. They “won” it most dramatically in the Fitz-Spiel calculation, which weights the pick 117 particularly heavily. The most “accurate” trade value chart in this case was the JJTVC, which had the trade at only 9 points apart, even though it has the second most “liberal” scoring scheme.

Trade 2 (NE/LAC)

In this case, the Patriots, who were trading back, “won” both per the JJTVC and the Fitz-Spiel chart, which gives particular credit to the trade partners accumulating more picks. They actually “lost” the trade back according to the RHTVC, by about the value of a late 4th round pick. This is an interesting one because Belichick’s willingness to “lose” on trade backs, particularly early in the draft, is something I’ve noted here before, in an evaluation of his prior draft patterns. At the end of the day, he seems to put a higher premium on the quantity of picks than the precise value of each pick. In this case too, the JJTVC was the most “accurate” of the three trade charts, only off by 5 points on the deal.

Trade 3 (MINN/SF)

Here, the Vikings traded back and actually “lost” according to two of the charts, the JJTVC and the RHTVC, with the RHTVC most accurately reflecting the transaction, only 9 points apart on the deal. The Fitz-Spiel chart heavily favors the Vikings here, largely as a result of the 3 to 1 pick exchange.

Trade 4 (MIA/GB)

This trade follows the same pattern as the previous one, with the team trading back (MIA) “losing” according to the JJTVC and RHTVC. Here again, the RHTVC most accurately reflects the trade as well, only 12 points apart (the value of an early 5th rounder). Once again, the Fitz-Spiel chart advantages the team collecting the most picks from the deal, the Dolphins.

Conclusions

It’s admittedly a small sample size, but it’s interesting to see the pattern in the draft trades so far, particularly looking at them in the context of the two more traditional trade value charts.

As MattInBrisVegas has aptly demonstrated, the JJTVC does a very nice job of tracking the value of the most elite players - those likely to be found at the very top of the draft. It’s therefore not a huge surprise to see that the JJTVC most accurately reflects the early trades in Day 1 of the draft. Interestingly, this is also one of the caveats provided with the RHTVC provided by its creator:

All trades at the top of the draft are ad hoc based on that year’s talent pool. Teams are more willing to pay extra in drafts where there is an Andrew Luck than when there is an Eric Fisher. This is why the Jets paid a premium worth roughly the same as the 19th overall pick to move up from 6th to 3rd overall. They want one of the big three quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield).

Trades 3 and 4 were more accurately reflected by the RHTVC chart though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it continues to be the most accurate valuation guide throughout the rest of the draft. Something I will revisit after Day 3.

Meanwhile, the new kid on the block, the Fitz-Spiel chart, clearly privileges late round picks far more than either of the two more traditional charts. It will be interesting to see if it gains more sway in the minds of NFL GMs in the coming round and future drafts.