Is drafting for value overrated?

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Is drafting for value overrated?
Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:19 am
  • Consider that a successful draft depends on two very different factors: Player evaluations and draft value. NFL journalists remind us constantly about successful picks where the GM predicted success for the player when others did or not, and about picks when the GM managed to get those players as late in the draft as possible. Finding talent depends on scouting ability, whereas drafting for value depends on strategy and having good information about other teams.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to this weekend we do not yet know which players will succeed. Of course we still want to talk about something, so this puts the entire focus on value. Teams "reach" if they take a player earlier than an arbitrary big board, and they get a steal if they draft them later. Many critics of this grading process will jump to point out that the particular big board itself was simply conjecture and did not actually represent that a player would have been available where he was mocked. I suggest that this overlooks a bigger issue, however, which is that reaching a bit or getting a good deal is fundamentally not nearly as important as getting the right players.

    Tom Brady is the most common example of the best draft pick of all time at #199. It's hard to get better value than that and the Patriots paid Brady just under $1 million combined for the first three seasons. On the other hand, he received a very large extension after that and most of his career with the Patriots has been under the same sort of salary he would have had if he had been the #1 overall selection. The reason for the Patriots success over the last 12 seasons is that Brady is an excellent QB and not that they drafted him in the 6th round.

    Schneider has been accused of reaching in recent drafts, but there is no doubt that he has also found excellent value with Sherman and Chancellor in particular. However, the important thing is that he drafted some really good players. If you draft pro bowlers you will have an excellent team no matter where you draft them. When analysts give grades based on draft value it is only because they are not capable of evaluating the much more important issue of selecting good players. We already have Harvin from the draft, and if we can get 2 or 3 future starters out of our remaining 9 picks then this will a successful draft no matter what analysts say about value.
    "Check out my 2012 NFL Draft Grades. I just gave the worst grade ever to Seattle." - WalterFootball.com
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    AgentDib
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Re: Is drafting for value overrated?
Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:25 am
  • I think the core reason behind John Schneider's success has been his moneyball-type philosophy, both in free agency and the draft. In short, you are better getting a $5 value for $1 dollar than you are getting a $50 value at $46 dollars. His mastery of finding value acquisitions big and small from low resource expenditures is the driving force behind Seattle's incredible roster efficiency. A critical part of it has been the help he's received from a stellar coaching staff and what is probably the best locker room dynamic in the NFL.

    I agree that in the big picture, Tom Brady was not 300 times more valuable than Peyton Manning just because his #199 pick was worth 1/300th a #1 pick (on the Jimmy Johnson chart). I totally agree on that point. At the same time, Russell Wilson does bring insane value to the franchise not only because he cost less in draft pick capital, but also because his contract is 1/40th what similar QBs around the league are making. So I do think there is a lot of value in getting great players on cheap contracts- though these days even 1st rounders are on cheap contracts.

    I agree completely on the points you made regarding the arbitrary "big board" that casual fans use to judge value, as if all 32 teams painstaking track Mel Kiper's best available. That said, I do think there is always a point that serves as the floor for every single player, and some GMs are better at collecting intelligence on where those places are than others. John Schneider is fantastic at it, and it was a big reason we got Russell Wilson in round 3 last year.

    In summation, I think an excellent drafting GM must have the following traits:

    #1: He must be well connected to his coaching staff. The more connected, the better. Establishing a good relationship with the players helps too.

    #2: He must be a nuanced talent evaluator that draws his own conclusions intelligently and is immune to mindless groupthink or hype. Working long hours helps too.

    #3: He has a "6th sense" for knowing when players are about to leave the board, which will often be at odds with what the media is projecting.

    #4: He should probably trade down a lot more than he trades up, and draft for upside as much as possible. In baseball, the most valuable players are typically the ones who play every day while hitting for a high OPS (and since SLUG% carries OPS a lot more than OBP does, the best players often hit a lot of homeruns). In this analogy, trading down is a bit like drawing a walk (OBP), and swinging for high upside players is like swinging for extra bases (SLUG). Guys that hack and hack while drawing singles usually don't post great WAR numbers, unless they also have fantastic defense or some other compensating factor. I feel it's the same way with NFL GMs- Tim Ruskell being the perfect example of the no-walk singles hitter.

    #5: He must have a plan and a structure, preferably one that is on the visionary side of the spectrum. He must build the kind of fertile environment that risky prospects can succeed in.

    #6: He must be humble, listen to others, and have the intestinal fortitude to avoid panic decisions.

    We are very blessed to have our GM, as I feel he passes every one of these criteria.
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    kearly
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Re: Is drafting for value overrated?
Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:31 am
  • You need to understand the value of your future picks. If you don't think you are getting something special for 3rd, 4th round picks but there is a special guy sitting 10 spots up in the draft move up. Fans get to caught up into what was paid for that move but forget everything around it.

    Example - Everyone knew Buffalo wanted a qb. Buffalo moves down 8 spots gets their guy at no 16 instead but get a free 2nd round pick. Not much for moving down that much BUT it was a FREE second rounder. They gave up NOTHING and gained. Heck I know I am crazy but I say if their second qb is on the board use it for a qb today get two qbs with one pick......

    Example - Vikings moved up and paid a lot to NE - BUT they probably felt they weren't getting much at those picks AND NE really moved down. making those values in real-time on the clock is a big skill set and quite interesting to see the trades yesterday.

    Overall in today's cap league with the rookie cap in place I agree with Kearly - moving down is most often better than moving up. Build draft capital to get cheap players on the roster that can play and then pay your core group
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Re: Is drafting for value overrated?
Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:31 am
  • I think people (especially fans and talking heads) are having trouble adapting to the new rookie salary structure, which pretty much makes the Jimmy Johnson chart obsolete, at least on the financial side. Everybody is developing their own "draft value" charts and ideologies. Couple that with the wow factor, where some players get over-hyped and others get over looked, and you have the recipe for failure that much of the league is bound up in.

    I actually like that a player's value is now based more on how he plays than where he's drafted. I've always thought that the 'BPA' term was useless without a strong 'how does he fit the team' component included. Just picking the best athlete could stack your roster with a bunch of players that the coaches can't use when the whistle blows.

    Our FO team headed by John and Pete seem to have the cohesion and intelligence to work the system to the team's advantage. You can't ask for much more than that.
    Talent can get you to the playoffs.
    It takes character to win when you get there.

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    sutz
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