Analyzing Bears draft trade scenarios with NFL draft value charts

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

A comprehensive look at possible trade scenarios for the Chicago Bears 20th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, utilizing various draft value charts.

"With the 20th pick in the NFL draft, ______ selects..." The team is unknown yet, because they haven't made Bears General Manager Phil Emery an offer he can't refuse. But make no mistake, Emery is actively looking to trade back, and mentioned during his Tuesday press conference that he already has had multiple discussions with other teams about that exact scenario.


MORE: Phil Emery Press Conference Recap

The possibility of a trade back by the Bears is high, in part because this is a draft deep with talent, but also because Emery has filled every conceivable roster hole this offseason with at least a cheap veteran with starting experience. The options at #20 are endless, from tight end, to offensive line, to almost any defensive position. And that includes every NFL fan's favorite refrain during the holiday draft season: "ooooone, traaaaade back!"

With draft trade scenarios springing up in just about any discussion on this and any other NFL site, we're going to break down some trades from previous NFL drafts that could be relevant reflections of what the Bears could get for the 20th overall pick. Also, we'll highlight a few potential trades that the Bears could pull off that would be equitable enough for both teams to agree. And we'll analyze those trade situations using three different NFL Draft Value Charts.


MORE: Looking at Past NFL Draft Trades Reveals Bears' Possible Returns for 20th pick

NFL Draft Value Charts

These charts - and yes, there are more than one and not all are created equal - are the best way to determine what trade scenarios are better/worse/unrealistic for the Bears. Each chart uses a different set of criteria to assess a point value to each pick in the NFL draft, which allows us to try and quantify trade values for the Bears' first round pick. We'll look at three different value charts, give you the basics of how each works, and provide links to each, so that by the end of this exercise, you can run your own trade scenarios through the charts and see if you have a better trade to email Mr. Emery (I'm still waiting for a reply).

The Jimmy Johnson Value Chart

By now, everyone has at least heard of this one, which was not created solely by him. Johnson took older draft value charts and modified them after his hiring as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and the end result is the one you see here. The chart's point value system is different from the remaining charts listed mainly because it wasn't creating using any real form of statistical analysis. This wasn't exactly caveman scrawling on a steno pad, grunting into the telephone "ugga two and three bugga no deal," as Johnson based his chart on the available data and research that he and others had gathered for decades. This was before the explosion of sports data analysis, but obviously Johnson did something right as people are still arguing to this day about its validity.

Our SBN sister site - Blogging the Boys - had a great article about how the JJ chart is still relevant in today's NFL, even though it shouldn't be regarded as the end-all, be-all of any trade scenario. FieldGulls - the Seahawks SBN site - had a funny yet informative "response" that essentially said the same thing, except they came to the opposite conclusion; Jimmy chart has value, but oftentimes it is impossible to use (i.e. players or future picks are included), and that its difficult to put a value on a specific slotted pick when its the player that matters, not where he was picked.

Approximate Value (AV)

Its this last point - the players matter - and not the draft pick number - that leads us to the next set of value charts. The next two draft value charts utilize Pro-Football-Reference's Approximate Value metric as a starting point. My crass definition of AV is cramming as much statistical information about a player (stats, team's success, accolades, etc) into a mathematical formula and spitting out the results. The best way to describe AV is from the mouth of its creator and PFR founder Doug Drinen:

Essentially, AV is a substitute for metrics like 'number of seasons as a starter' or 'number of times making the pro bowl'...You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, 'number of seasons as a starter' is a reasonable starting point if you're trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn't, and so on. And non-starters aren't worthless, so they get some points too."

And if you're a big math nut, you can check out PFR's continuing evolution of their AV method, which has changed since its inception in 2008. Quickly I'll try and give you the rough cut of how both the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective (HSA) and Football Prospective utilized AV.

Harvard Sports Analysis Chart

HSA actually uses a form of AV called "Career Approximate Value" (CAV), which uses a mathematical formula to combine as much information gathered over the course of a player's career into a number. This number is greatly affected not only by the performance of a player and his accolades over the course of his career, but by the length of his career as well. That explains why Brett Favre has the highest CAV according to PFR at 254. Walter Payton is 30th with a CAV of 168, two spots behind Emmitt Smith.

The CAV data used by HSA is great because for each NFL draft pick, they take into account the successes and failures of slotted picks over the balance of a career, and explains why if you look at the seventh round point values for HSA's chart, the numbers skew down and then back up. The 224th - or last pick - has a value of 39.8, while the 214th pick is actually the lowest valued pick at 35.1.

The downside to using CAV is that PFR last updated it in 2010, so that players still playing beyond that point haven't had their CAV's adjusted accordingly (at least going by the information I've seen). While most people have heard of the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart, the HSA chart has gained in popularity over the years, but not everyone who's heard of it understands what it means.

Football Prospective Chart

FP's value chart has been updated over the years, with the most recent modification finalized in November 2012. The FP chart uses PFR's Approximate Value, but caps the data analysis at five years instead of over the balance of the player's career. Obviously, there are other subtle differences between FP's and HSA's statistical formula and the weight given to specific data (% of games started, Pro Bowl or All-Pro appearances, team success, etc), but the key here is the five-year cap for data collection.

This five-year value assessment is crucial because, as we've seen, after five years teams will have had to make a decision on whether or not to re-sign their draft picks. So while Brett Favre - a 33rd overall pick - went on to have a great career and have the highest CAV, his first five years included one year on the bench, a trade, two so-so years, and two MVP years. That's still pretty damn good, but its also going to skew his value in a different way.

Previous NFL draft trades

Next, let's put these value charts to good use to analyze some recent draft trades that may be revelant to a possible Bears' trade of their 20th overall pick. We'll break down three trades - listed below - that have occurred over the past two years and involved picks in the range of the Bears' 20th.

Trade #1 - 2011 Draft - Chiefs trade 21st overall pick to Browns for 27th and 70th picks

Trade #2 - 2012 Draft Trade - Bengals trade 21st overall pick to Patriots for 27th and 93rd picks

Trade #3 - 2012 Draft - Broncos trade 25th overall pick to Patriots for 31st and 126th picks

We'll base a winner on which team collected more value points through the trade, and the determining factor will be the amount of pick value the teams gained or lost through the trade. Since each of the three value charts place different values on the same picks, we'll do the math (well, I did the math, you're welcome) and see what corresponding draft pick that point deferential most closely resembles. The numbers under each chart represent the two sides of the trade and their point values, with the value difference (turning the points back into a draft pick based on that chart) below that. If you're confused, bear with me, it'll all become clear soon.

Traded Acquired JJ chart HSA chart FP chart
Trade #1 21 27 & 70 800<920 236.1<214.7 + 122.5 15.2< 13.6+7.5
value diff.
95th pick 93rd pick 90th pick
Trade #2 21 27 & 93 800< 680+128 236.1< 214.7+101.1 15.2< 13.6+5.7
value diff. 208th pick 122nd pick 120th pick
Trade #3 25 31 & 126 720> 600 + 46 221.3< 203 +77.5 14.1< 12.7 + 3.8
value diff. 110th pick 159th pick 156th pick

I know, that's gobbledygook. The key info you need is this: the trade value difference is equaled to a draft pick to show how much value you gain or lose based on that trade. So for trade #1, the trade down team "won" the trade, according to all three charts, by gaining the value of a pick in the 90's. Trade #2, trade down team "won" the trade by gaining the value of a 7th round pick according to JJ's chart, but reflected better value for trade down team using the HSA and FP charts (a 4th rounder).

The only trade, on the only chart, that had the team trading up actually gain value was trade #3 using the JJ chart. That 110th draft value difference gained goes to the trade up team, even though the HSA and FP charts both had the trade down team gaining the value of a late fifth round pick. In essence, the information shows what everyone assumes about draft day trades: teams are hesitant to trade up because of the value lost by trading away additional picks.

Bears Trade Down Scenarios

Finally, you say, something I can chew on that doesn't taste like mutton. But before I get into another chart, keep some things in mind. The value difference in trades does change based on the draft value chart you use, but remember that portion of the equation is just a part of the process. Just because the Bears could gain, say, the value of a late fourth round pick by trading back, that doesn't account for the actual players that may or may not be available at that pick. It's the folly of using statistical analysis to predict the career (or five-year projection) of players based solely on their draft slot, but its the best system we got until the pre-cogs get here.

To simplify things, all acquired picks are solely for the Bears' 20th overall pick, and I've listed the value of the Bears' pick in the heading for that particular chart. Also, I've only included trades in which the Bears acquire one additional pick; its just incredibly rare for a team to give up three or more picks for a 20th overall pick. But feel free to go nuts in the comments section with your own scenarios. Again, I'm using the same method for determining value added or lost via trades, this time by listing the team gaining the value, and the corresponding draft pick. So, without further adieu, here are your Bear trade scenarios, with math and everything.

Picks Acquired JJ Chart (850)

HSA chart (240.2)

FP Chart (15.5)
SF 34, 61 560+292 173.3+132.7 12.1+8.4
value diff CHI 224th CHI 146th CHI 104th
SF 31, 74 600+220 203+118.4 12.7+7.2
value diff SF 153rd CHI 120th CHI 114th
SF 34, 74 560+220 203+118.4 12.1+7.2
value diff SF 112th CHI 175th CHI 126th
JAX 33, 64 580+270 173.3+118.4 12.3+8.1
value diff EVEN CHI 149th CHI 106th
MIA 42, 54 480+360 159.1+141.5 10.8+9.2
value diff CHI 203rd CHI 156th CHI 113th
MIA 42, 77 480+205 159.1+115.4 10.8+6.9
value diff MIA 85th CHI 214th CHI 161st
BAL 32, 94 590+124 200.3+101.1 12.5+5.7
value diff BAL 91st CHI 155th CHI 149th

Conclusion

Depending on which draft value chart you use, there can be a wide disparity between how much value is gained or lost in a trade. What these charts tell us is what we essentially already knew, to a degree: that trading back for additional picks means you lose the value of that high pick but gain the value of additional picks. The key is maximizing your return so that the value you gain is high enough to warrant it. Just trading for additional picks means nothing if you end up losing value over the balance of the trade.

Comparing my proposed trades for the Bears with the three trades listed, say, 1500 words ago, none of my proposals come close to the value gained by the Chiefs in the 2011 trade (21 pick for 27 & 70). The Chiefs gained value to the tune of a late third, early fourth round pick, while my trade scenarios are closer to what the Patriots gave up for the 21st pick (27 & 93) in terms of value, with the Bears gaining an additional value of a mid to late fourth round pick.

Out of the trade scenarios laid out above for the Bears, the best one would be with the 49ers, and either acquiring the 34th and 61st picks, or the 31st and 74th picks. But even in those situations, the Bears gained an average value of a fourth or fifth round pick. Is that slight up-tick in pick value worth trading back from twenty to the late-first, early-second round? Really, it all depends on the players available, and that's why they pay Phil Emery and company the big bucks.

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