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How NFL teams truly value draft picks:

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NFL draft fans these days love to assigin value to thier teams draft picks based on rounds instead of numbers when discussing possible trades. Many turn to the value chart most of us have seen a time or two that former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson made famous back in the 90's when he built a dynasty in Dallas but the fact is that the NFL is an ever evolving game and that applies to the draft and how its structured as well.


The recent trade the Saints made to acquire defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th pick in the 2018 draft has been meet with tons of criticism both by media and fans ( even some Saints fans) alike due to the idea that the Saints gave up far to much compensation to move up 14 slots but Sean Payton noted in his press conference after the pick that he felt the compensation was fair. At the same time, most media talkimg heads were stunned by the compensation for a non quarterback.


So why this disconnect?


Simple... The media plays off of fans emotions during the draft process as well as the draft itself. They want drama (often looking to create it) because thats what drives ratings and keeps viewers glued to their TV sets. The use of the term "a 1st round pick" is so often overstated because these networks understand that fans view things like this in an entirely different way than most NFL team war rooms do.


To truly get on the same page with the line of thinking NFL club have when it comes to the draft there are a few things that you have to not only realize but deprogram yourself from. In 1999 the Saints made one of the biggest draft day trades in NFL history when Mike Ditka traded our entire draft to Washington for Rickey Williams. I was a senior in high school at the time and remember being fascinated by the build up to that moment. It was my very first exposure to the draft process and ive been hooked ever since. That trade got me intrested in the draft but the failure of Williams and result of what the franchise endured in the aftermath made me even more intrested in other aspects of team building so I began studying scouting as a hobby and have been doing so ever since.


During this time ive come up with a few facts about the draft and prospect evaluations that the casual fan of the draft might not fully understand and with the way the media has taken a strangle hold on this event now, these are things they actually really dont want you to know...


1. Every year their are typically only 14-18 prospects in a draft with a true 1st round grade.


All teams are alloted a 1st round pick each year but that does not mean your gaurenteed to land a 1st round talent. Sure you will pick a player in the top round and fans will view him as a 1st round player but many NFL front offices understand that their pick is only a 1st round pick based on the numbers. This is an aspect of the draft that both media and the NFL perfers ots viewers not to know because the success of the draft event itself is that of selling ALL teams fans hope so hearing that your teams 1st round pick isnt really a 1st round talent in many cases would kinda put a damper on much of the first night for many fans which could affect viewership.


Due to this average, all teams view the drafts top 15 picks as premium selections.


Teams view these picks this way because the top 15 typically gaurentees you a 1st round talent. The premium placed on the top 15 is huge especially if your trading up from outside this range. In the case of the Saints and Davenport, the Packers understood that by moving back they were likely giving up a 1st round talent for a player with a 2nd round grade later in the draft. This among many other facters (which we will get into later) caused the price for the Saints to climb.


NFL teams don't group the draft into rounds but instead by numbers/tiers.


Oh my, they traded two 1st round picks and a 5th rounder for a DE... That's what the networks were screaming in your TV when the trade was made because they want the everything out of the ordinary to be dramatized for ratings purposes. In reality the Saints realize that they actually traded two 2nd round talents for what they believed to be a top 10 talent at a premium position and one of great need.


NFL teams acutally dont view the draft into rounds, really... They break up the selections into groups. Their is the top 6-8 elite prospects in any given draft followed by picks 8-15 which are viewed as premium selections and 1st round talents. The rest of the top 50 is where its possible to land a fringe 1st round talent but solid 2nd round guy. After that they round out the top 100 to 150 prospects in their 3rd tier which they view anywhere from a 3rd-5th round value then the rest is viewed as late round (6th-7th) or priority free agents.


So when a TV talking head is losing his mind over a team like the Saints dealing two 1st round picks just remember two things...


1. Remember its his job to dramatize it.


2. The selection number of the pick in the 1st round makes a huge difference in the eyes of NFL evaluators and decision makers.


The value of a pick is more than just simply numbers on a chart.


Their are many things that can alter the value of a particular trade during the draft. A multitude of things can cause a pick to be more or less valuable than years that preceeded it and no trade within a draft or in precious drafts is compariable to another because circumstances and value change with every pick that comes off the board and every draft sees its value unfold differently.


In the case of the Saints this year the 2018 NFL draft held 5 quarterbacks that were presumed to go in the 1st round and until each one was off the board teams would place a higher value on their picks. Also, the next premium position edge rusher actually only had only 2 top tier prospects in Chubb and Davenport and like the quarterbacks, pick value would remain high as long as either of those 2 prospects were still on the board. The 3rd and 4th premium positions were corner and left tackle but the draft lone elite cover man came off the board 4th overall and in a weak tackle class the top player Mike McGlinchey also went in the top 10. This made the supply and demand of the top two premium positions rise so when the Saints traded up to the 14th pick, the Packers had leverage because both Davenport and Lamar Jackson were still on the board while the corner and offensive tackle market was bare.


Another thing to consider is that most mocks had the Packers selecting Davenport with the 14th selection as pass rusher was a big need for them as well so that drives up the price too... You have to make it worth the teams wild to move out and when you factor in all the information that preceded the trade its clear why the Saints had to pay a premium price.


As an NFL team, how much value do you put into getting "your guy"?


For 3 years the Saints placed a higher value in quantity over quality by selecting the most drafts picks over that span than i can remember in years past under this regime. They entered the 2018 draft with a different mindset. After building up their roster for the last few years the front office was ready to pounce on a high impact player that they viewed as a MUST. This placed an even higher value on Davenport in the eyes of the Saints which must be factored into the cost of the trade as well. Without a 2nd round selection the Saints had no alternative but to slightly over pay to get the guy they wanted and they were fully aware of that going in. Sean Payton called the compensation "fair". Not great, fair. Thats basically saying that we may have slightly overpaid but we think its worth it.


At the end of the day, the players development always decides what the value of the trade was.


To many people want to grade a draft to soon these days. Im sure many media outlets are giving the Saints devalued marks due to the trade because thats what they do but let me.ask you this... What would you be willing to give up to have two Cam Jordans on this team? Or even a young Demarcus Ware oppsite Jordan on this defense in this window of success the Saints have right now. The fact is that if Marcus Davenport becomes a top NFL edge rusher like the Saints clearly envision him to be then this trade will be won by the Saints... and if he doesn't, they will be considered fools for it and guess what, thats basically the case with every draft trade and every draft pick.


Ultimately Davenports success in the NFL will determine the true value of this trade as far as winners and losers. The important thing as a Saints fan is that our scouting staff, whom has some well deserved built up currency recently as far as their scouting ability is telling us that they believe that Marcus Davenport is the next big thing at pass rusher in the NFL and they put their money where their mouth is and pulled the trigger to bring him here as hopefully the final piece to a potential Superbowl Championship run...


What more could a fan ask of its front office?



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Totally agree.  I'm even glad the trade up was for Davenport instead of Lamar Jackson.

Truth is, next year's pick is likely to be in the same range, and there's a huge difference in trading that away vs trading away a top 10-15 pick.  I think spot 14 is worth two spot 27s.  Just barely, but I do think it's worth it to take the chance on a guy with Davenport's potential.  Even if Davenport is an average/above average player, I'll be ok with it.  If he's Cam Jordan at worst, then I think it's a home run.  

If we tank out this year and wind up having traded away our top ten pick next year, then this move becomes far worse.

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