We have seen two “BLOCKBUSTER” trades for draft picks first the Rams traded their future for marketing purposes and then the Eagles decided to keep digging in the hole Chip Kelley put them in.
So how did we get here? And who can we
thank blame for this craziness? Jerry Jones.
When Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 Million Dollars, he brought with him his long time business partner Mike McCoy. McCoy during his tenure with the Cowboys owned 5% and was named Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys in 1990. Legend has it Double J (Some say Jerry Jones others say Jimmy Johnson) were wondering if there was a way to make draft day easier. See every year phones are always ringing with offers for trades and the guys wanted to know if they had a good deal on the table or not. McCoy jumped up and had his folks find out every draft trade for the past eight years to see if he could figure out a pattern in what the NFL Teams were willing to trade. McCoy made a table of what he perceived the value of each draft pick and the Cowboys used it. When Coaches like Dave Wannstedt and Norv Turner left they took a copy of the table, when scouts or front office folks left so did the table. By 2000 the McCoy Table was pretty much used by every team in the league. (Chart Below)
On paper, it looks like it makes sense. If you want to move up, you have to be willing to give a few picks to get there. Hell, the NFL’s Draft Day movie in 2014 used this same chart as a plot. Seahawks at one trade to the Browns at 7 (Why seven because on the chart 7 is exactly half the value of 1) Browns later Trade all their number 2’s for three years to get back at 6. Three high level 2’s are about 500 each adding up to just slightly behind Jacksonville’s 1,600 for the 6th pick. Those wild, wacky trades all fit into the chart.
The Giants trading for Eli, part of the chart. So has anyone stopped to ask if the chart was, oh I don’t know accurate at all? Not in the NFL. However, two economists did. Cade Massey and Richard Thaler analyzed the first round drafts, and when you bring into account the money and other factors that associated with the first round pick the economists found that teams
A. Overvalued the top picks
B. Undervalued future picks, at an average of 174%
That second part is most likely due to Coaches/GM thinking if it works our next year pick will be lower on the chart, If it doesn’t go well I am probably gone, and that’s the next guys problem. So how did they determine top picks are overvalued? They measured player production of not just the players selected with the draft picks (RE: is Eli > Lazerface and Shawne Merriman) but also looking at alternative selections. (Is Eli > Laserface > The Ben?).
When Massey and Thaler looked at position draft order, they concluded that the probability of the first player selected in a position being better than the second person was only 53%. Better than the 3rd? 55%. What about the 4th? Only a 56%. There was no definitive information that says the first player selected would be the best player at his position. So why trade up at all? Because the McCoy Draft Value Table says the first pick is valuable, want to know the big hush-hush secret that few people seem to understand?
McCoy was FULL OF SHIT. See when developed the Cowboys sucked and had a lot of top of the order draft picks in each round, so they devised a system to justify moving down in drafts, and the NFL still uses it today. Writers still write about it and the talking heads still talk about how great deals are etc. The only two teams who routinely traded against the chart are the Patriots and the Andy Reid era Eagles. Well, that and when the Saints traded everything away for Ricky Williams (which Washington gonna Washington and completely Jetted that whole windfall of picks).
So kids just remember that when the next big draft trade comes along. That a little slip of paper an oil driller half-assed on “8 years” worth of data in the 1980’s designed to overvalue draft picks in his possession at the time helped make that trade a reality.
I am standing on the shoulders of giants. If you think this is remotely interesting I implore you to read Scorecasting by Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim.