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Visualizing the Value of NFL Draft Picks


This is territory I’ve covered before but I wanted to provide a companion visualization for the Pick Calculator that I posted yesterday. It might help when you’re playing around with the Pick Calculator to know where most of the value resides.

I think if you assume that teams are still using the Jimmy Johnson draft chart then most of the value resides between picks 15 and 96. That’s the area where the perceived value of players is actually more than the JJ chart assumes. The least valuable picks are 1-15 in the draft, or at least that’s where the perceived value is less than the actual value. Similarly, after about pick 96 or so the perceived value might actually exceed the actual value.

To illustrate this I scaled the values in the JJ chart and my metric that’s based on median games started for each pick. I did that in order to display the data on the same graph. You can see what I’m talking about in terms of picks 15-96 being the place where my metric is greater than the JJ chart.


You might wonder why I use median games started instead of average games started for my metric. Below is a graph that shows the raw values of average games started compared to median games started. The place where it really matters is in terms of the number of late round picks that an early round pick is worth. Using the median, the late round picks are worth pretty close to zero. That means that it would take a lot of late round picks to equal an early round pick. But in the average games started metric a few players (like Richard Shermans) who start a lot of games end up dragging the average up so that it might only take five or six late round picks to equal an early round pick. Note also that the value of undrafted free agents also undermines the value of late round picks. How can a late round pick be worth something when an un-drafted player is worth nothing in draft pick trading terms?


To use a hypothetical trade to illustrate the value trade offs I’m talking about, imagine that the following trade that could never happen actually does happen.

Team A would get the 1st overall pick, and then picks 101 through 109 (this is all broken down in the tables below).

Then Team B would just get picks 16-19.

By the JJ chart that would be a roughly even trade. Team A would get 10 total players compared to Team B’s four total players. By average games started the trade would also benefit Team A slightly (by about 10 percent). But by median games started Team B would make out like a bandit. They would get roughly 40 percent more games started based on median expectation.

I wouldn’t say that there’s a right metric and a wrong metric by which to judge draft pick trades. I mean the JJ chart isn’t based on realistic expectation of what you’re going to get from a player, so maybe that’s the wrong way to view trades. But then whether you want to look at CARAV, median games started, or average games started, depends on preference and what you’re trying to do.

Feel free to play around with the Pick Calculator to see what your team should do with their picks.


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