What Draft Day Can Teach Us About the NFL Draft
The NFL Draft is supposedly today, but that can’t be true because I watched the draft live on the big screen a few weeks ago. The draft’s usually in April, isn’t it? The NFL Draft was one of the craziest ones in recent memory, all thanks to the Cleveland Browns.
First, Cleveland traded up for the No. 1 overall pick in order to supposedly draft quarterback Bo Callahan, but instead they took linebacker Vontae Mack, who they could have drafted with their original No. 7 pick.
Then, not wanting to be ‘shown the fool’ and let Callahan fall to No. 7 where’d he go to Seattle,1 Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr. made his second trade of the day.
Weaver swapped three second round picks for Jacksonville’s No. 6 overall pick so that his team could then flip flop spots with Seattle, thus erasing his original draft day blunder. It almost felt like a movie with so many unrealistic trades going down.
Since we know how the draft unfolds, let’s focus on the trades:
Cleveland trades the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, a 2015 first round pick, and a 2016 first round pick to Seattle for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Cleveland trades their 2014, 2015, and 2016 second round picks to Jacksonville for the No. 6 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft
Cleveland trades the No. 6 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft (originally Jacksonville’s) to Seattle for the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft (originally Cleveland’s), a 2015 first round pick (belonging to Cleveland), a 2016 first round pick (belonging to Cleveland), and a punt returner who only goes by the name Dempsey.
Using the Jimmy Johnson Draft Trade Value Chart, which we already know has its flaws, we see that Sonny Weaver Jr. went from almost getting fired to becoming best friends with new head coach Vince Penn and walking off into the sunset with salary cap manager2 Ali Parker to start a wonderful life together.
*Figures based on Cleveland finishing middle of the pack next two years*
No. 1 overall pick = 3,000 points
No. 6 overall pick = 1,600 points
No. 7 overall pick = 1,500 points
Cleveland’s 2014 2nd round pick (39 overall) = 510 points
Cleveland’s 2015 and 2016 first round picks = 1,000 points each (based on 16th overall pick value)
Cleveland’s 2015 and 2016 second round picks = 420 points each (based on picking from the No. 16 slot)
Cleveland gives up 3,500 points for 3,000 points
Cleveland gives up 1,350 points for 1,600 points
Cleveland gives up 1,600 points for 3,500 points
Overall, Cleveland traded away draft picks worth 6,450 points and got in return draft picks worth 8,100 points. That’s a difference of 1,650, which is the combined value of the No. 6 overall pick and a late fourth round pick. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget about the punt returner! Jimmy Johnson and his chart would have approved.
But did Cleveland really win the draft trade derby? According to Jimmy Johnson’s outdated Draft Trade Value Chart, yes. However, that’s not the only system to value draft trades.
Seattle was in need of a quarterback and had the chance to take the friendless Callahan at No. 1, but the team didn’t want to pony up the cost associated with the No. 1 pick. According to estimates from Over The Cap, 2014’s total value contract for the first overall pick in 2014 is $24,274,514.
The No. 7 pick’s cost? $15,866,866. So, Seahawks GM Tom Michaels, through sheer dumb luck, nabbed the hotshot quarterback he wanted all along, but with a salary cap discount of over $8 million. Something the cash-strapped Seahawks desperately needed in this make pretend world.
What about the Jaguars? OTC estimates the No. 6 pick to be worth $17,845,136. The total value of the Browns’ second round pick is $5,461,170. Pretending the Browns would hold that same second round slot (No. 39) for the next two drafts, the Jaguars would get three second day players for less than what it would have cost them at six overall. And if a team is picking within the top-ten, it’s likely they have many roster holes to fill, and bringing in three top-40ish players could go a long way towards re-building the team. Losing trade value points be damned.
It’s also easier to cut or bench a second round pick than it is a first rounder, something that has been mentioned in regards to Geno Smith, last year’s 39th overall selection. First round picks tend to make or break coaches and GMs. That’s not always the case with second round picks.4
Now, back to the Browns. They didn’t need a quarterback. They had the equivalent of a Brian Hoyer-type on the team. A veteran who has shown some flashes and can play in the team’s system. Trading up to draft a quarterback first overall was never in the cards and was mainly an owner meddling. And they didn’t even draft the quarterback they presumably traded up to get. They took the linebacker Weaver always planned on taking, but six spots higher, and now have to pay him a little more than an extra two million per season over the span of his rookie contract.
Then they drafted a running back with their second first-round pick, which we have seen recently become a position teams wait to draft. They’re also without any second round picks for the next three years. While paying for two top-ten draft picks the next four years.
We’ve been told that “Good teams and bad teams aren’t going to have the same types of needs in the draft,” and the way Draft Day unfolded we got to see how three teams went about “fixing” their team in three different ways.
If we think about it for a moment, Seattle could have stayed put at No. 1 and drafted their quarterback, and Cleveland could have held onto their No. 7 pick and drafted the linebacker they coveted at a lesser cost. They also probably would have had the chance to draft a cheaper running back in round two. That’s probably what happened in the Bizarro World version of Draft Day.
We also come to see that the trades were pretty much unnecessary and Draft Day didn’t need to exist. An attitude some express in regards to the Jimmy Johnson Chart.