As a fan of trades in the NFL Draft and a fan of the Cleveland Browns, the first round on Thursday night was particularly enjoyable for me.
As we look at the trades, it’s important to remember that the Sports + Numbers value chart is related to the value of the pick alone – so any trades will likely offer some surplus to the team that trades down. The size of that surplus will vary and help determine which trades are big wins or losses. The classic Jimmy Johnson chart is based on trades that took place so it should include the surplus already.
Buffalo trades up to #4 with Cleveland
CLE receives: 92% of a #1 pick
BUF receives: 73% of a #1 pick
Winner: Browns receive 26% more than they traded away, equivalent to an early 3rd round pick as surplus
Let me be clear: the Browns absolutely fleeced the Bills on this. The numbers above hold only if you assume the standard NFL rule that next year’s pick is worth a round less than this year’s – with an implied discount rate of about 140%. If you set that at 20%, still high for a business, the Browns got back 109% of a #1 pick and a surplus of a late 1st round pick. If you start to think about how bad Buffalo might be next year, you can talk yourself into even more value as the Bills sent Cleveland next year’s 1st and 4th round picks along with the #9 pick to move up 5 spots.
Cleveland trades up to #8 with Minnesota
MIN receives: 65%
CLE receives: 60%
Winner: Vikings receive 8% more than they traded away, equivalent to a mid 6th round pick as surplus
After Cleveland took quite a bit of value off the Bills, they turned around and spent some of that surplus to get “their guy” at CB. Moving up one spot cost them a relatively small amount, well within what could be considered the necessary premium to effect a trade. In addition the #9 pick, they sent their 5th round pick (#145) to Minnesota.
New Orleans trades up to #20 with Arizona
ARI receives: 51%
NOL receives: 43%
Winner: Cardinals receive 19% more than they traded away, equivalent to a late 4th round pick as surplus
The Saints were interested in getting some weapons for Drew Brees with Darren Sproles having moved on. They swapped 1st rounders with the Cardinals and threw in their late 3rd round pick to get the deal done.
Cleveland trades up to #22 with Philadelphia
PHI receives: 53%
CLE receives: 41%
Winner: Eagles receive 30% more than they traded away, equivalent to an early 4th round pick as surplus
Obviously the headline here is that the Browns got their guy in Johnny Manziel. In comparison with the New Orleans trade up to the #20 pick, Cleveland clearly overpaid. They gave a better 1st round pick (26 vs. 27) and a better 3rd round pick (83 vs 91) to get a worse pick in return (22 vs 20). The rumors that Minnesota was also trying to get the pick from Philadelphia may be the explanation for this difference.
Minnesota trades up to #32 with Seattle
SEA receives: 40%
MIN receives: 34%
Winner: Seahawks receive 17% more than they traded away, equivalent to a late 5th round pick as surplus
Minnesota, after failing to trade up to #22 with Philadelphia, sent their 2nd round pick (#40) along with their 4th round pick (#108) to get back into the 1st round and take their QB of the future in Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville.
For those concerned – the old chart
With this helpful side-by-side look, it is clear that those trades that are actually taking place are still guided by the values set out in the Jimmy Johnson value chart. The Browns, a team that is aware of and generally thought to be supportive of advanced stats, took in so much surplus in the Buffalo trade that the team was willing to overpay (according to advanced stats) on two smaller trades.
Last year's first round similarly featured deals getting done according to the old chart. We'll have to wait for next year to see if teams finally move away. Adjustment will be tough since teams trading down benefit from pricing at that level even if they don't believe in it.