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Determining the Trade Value of the First Overall Pick

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A look at what potential trade back could cost.

NFL Draft Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Much has been made of what to do with the first overall, and naturally so. While most of the debate has centered around Kyler Murray versus a defensive stalwart like Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams, a large majority of our community vie for a trade back.

And while I personally disagree with the notion, (at least as the current draft order stands) it’s not nonsensical. This roster was arguably the worst in the league, and if not it was among them. There are plenty of holes that need patching, why not accrue more capital to spend on plugging the multitude of holes in the roster? The popular target for a trade back centers around the Oakland Raiders. Not only do they have a large mass of draft picks, but it would still, in theory, allow the Cardinals to retain a top four pick.

But what else would Arizona fetch in return? The 24th selection? The 27th? 35th? All of the above or a combination of them? I’d hate to burst your bubble, folks. But if the past sets any precedence, #1 isn’t going to fare such a rich return. To determine so, we’ll take a look at the only move in modern history that sets a precedence for this situation; The Rams and their move up for Jared Goff.

When the Rams had their target set on trading up with the Titans for the 1st overall selection in 2016, they brought with them the 15th, 43rd, 45th, and 76th selection in that draft. As well as their first and third round selections for the following draft in 2017. (Those wound up being the 5th and 100th overall.) In return, the Rams received the 1st, 113th, and 177th overall picks.

Now, should we consult the classic Jimmy Johnson trade value chart to assign values to these moves it would shake out a little like so:

Titans get: 15th (1050 points) - 43rd (470 points) - 45th (450 points) - 76th (210 points)

’17 First - This is where things get weird. It is generally said that future picks hold half the value of the present year. But obviously, the Titans couldn’t know exactly where the Rams would finish. Even if it was a safe bet that it would become a high pick. For this exercise we’ll assign the average value of the a first round selection (Roughly 1117 points) and cut that in half, and we get 558 points.

’17 Third - Same for this pick, we get roughly 87 points.

Rams get: 1st (3000 points) - 113th (68 points) - 77th (20.2 points)

All that adds up to the Titans being on the wrong end of this deal, to a tune of about 263 points - just about an 8 percent loss, or roughly the cost of the 65th overall. Now it’s important to remember these points aren’t perfect numbers that reflect the value of the transaction, but it is interesting to note that the Titans technically lost value according to the trade chart. BUT if we assign the ultimate values to the future picks that the Titans received, they come out on top, for a point total of 3980. Ultimately, their gamble paid off.

Next, I also wanted to cross check these values against Rich Hill’s more modern version of the trade chart from our friends over at Pats Pulpit. Note, Rich himself states that future picks don’t have a perfect value in this model as well.

The totals come out to 794.42 points for the picks the Titans received, and 1033.49 for the haul the Rams received. Another loss, this time to the tune of 239.07 points for a 23% loss, nearly the value of the 24th overall. Even if I were to bake in the value of what the 2017 future selections ended up being, it still comes out in favor of the Rams. This time at 208.51 points. (-20% loss, or just shy of the 28th overall’s value.)

What does this mean for Arizona in a hypothetical trade with Oakland? Well, we’ve established that at present value, they’re likely taking a loss on the total value of their draft picks.

Using Jimmy Johnson’s chart in a straight up deal involving only draft picks, and baking in an 8% loss on points, things shake out like so:

Incoming Picks per Jimmy Johnson’s Trade Values

AZ OAK
AZ OAK
4th (RD. 1) #1 (RD. 1)
24th (RD. 1) #174 (RD. 6)
#140 (RD. 5) #248 (RD. 7)
2020 RD. 2 #249 (RD. 7)

Not awful, but certainly not to the lofty expectations of Cardinals fans.

Using Hill’s chart, we’ll also apply the same loss of value relative to this chart, though to be a little generous we’ll calculate it as the 20% loss versus the 23% the Titans actually took.

Incoming Picks (Rich Hill Version.)

AZ OAK
AZ OAK
#4 (RD. 1) #1 (RD. 1)
#27 (RD. 1) #139 (RD. 5)
#106 (RD. 4)
#218 (RD. 7)
2020 RD. 2

I know some out there are hopeful for some combination of three of Oakland’s first four picks, but adding things up through both these charts paint a different picture. It’s not an awful deal, but you are gambling on future picks landing in a favorable position (Which can backfire, as demonstrated by our potential trade partner and their current picks.) and an ideal candidate making it to the fourth overall spot. **cough**quinnen**cough**

This isn’t all to say that the charts are absolute. It’s important to remember that this isn’t an exact predictor of what could be, rather a general approximation. But a safe assumption of the values nonetheless.

What do you think? Is a potential trade back worth either of the hauls listed in the two scenarios, or do you find it preferable to dictate the draft from the top spot?