Delayed Gratification Works for NFL Teams, Probably Just Works in General
Jason Lisk wrote a piece at The Big Lead where he did some math on how well teams do when they trade away picks this year for more higher picks in the future. From the piece:
26 total trades made during the 2000 to 2009 drafts were reviewed. The result? The team “delaying gratification” is getting close to a 50% return on the investment–rates that would qualify as usurious.
Using the Approximate Value numbers at Pro Football Reference, the team trading for a pick now, and giving up a better pick in the future, got 16.5 points, versus giving up 25.2 points in value. That’s a 152% rate of return by delaying a year, from the perspective of the patient team. Those actual results are similar to the hypothetical rate we get by using the draft pick value calculator, which calculated the team acquiring the future pick would get a 157% rate of return.
That’s nice because our own Renee Mille has written on delayed gratification as well:
Recently, follow up studies found that those same children who were able to delay gratification and wait 15 minutes for the second marshmallow had higher SAT scores, more education, lower BMI, and had generally higher quality of life (did they win more fantasy leagues?) than their more impulsive peers.
There are probably two really exploitable inefficiencies in the way that NFL teams approach the draft. They are impatient because some executives jobs are at risk this year, not next year. And they have what I would call a bold move bias. They favor big player splashes over incremental team building even though football is a violent sport comprised of at least 53 man rosters.
The interesting thing would be to ask whether the same inefficiencies are at work on fantasy teams. I actually think that the bold move bias exists in some part while the impatience is less at play. It’s widely believed that 2-for-1 trades involving one “stud” for two good players favor the team that gets the stud. Sometimes that might be the case, although some of the best trades that I’ve ever done involved taking back two good players where one or both went on to break out and become studs. I think I could also argue that mean reversion favors the team taking back the two good players. But the 2-for-1 trade enjoys such a sacred cow status in fantasy circles that I suspect I should probably bring more data if I’m going to argue it.
Back to the real draft, I’ve written about it a number of times if you want to check out those posts.