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The Trubisky Trade: Nobody Got Ripped Off

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SiriusXM At The 2017 NFL Draft Photo by Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Let me just say that I was not a fan of the trade. First, 99% of the time it is better to move down than it is to move up (for reasons ranging from spreading out risk to the way GMs over-value the high picks). Worse, 99% of the time the penalty paid for giving up future picks is too much, and so it is a bad idea. Finally, I really wanted Jamal Adams or Solomon Thomas for the Bears, and I saw Mitchell Trubisky as my third choice at best.

However, people who think that Pace paid too much do not understand the way trades in the NFL actually work. Is it possible he was bidding against himself? Sure. Is it possible that nobody else was going after the #2 pick (despite the Cousins trade talk after Pace made his move)? Yeah. If this was the move that he was going to make, did he overpay anyway? Nope.

First, here is the math from classic Johnson chart:

The Johnson Chart

49ers Bears
49ers Bears
2600 2597
2600 (#2) 2200 (#3)
- 255 (#67)
- 72 (#111)
- 70 (Future 3rd)
Typically, future picks are valued around #16 of the next round

So, the Bears basically came in at exactly the pick’s value. Imagine that.

However, I can hear the din of people crying out that Stuart Chase invented a better chart that calculated actual value, and it has different numbers. True. And by this chart, the Bears overpaid.

Chase’s Ideal Values

49ers Bears
49ers Bears
30.2 44.6
30.2 (#2) 27.6 (#3)
7.8 (#67)
4.6 (#111)
4.6 (Future 3rd)
Brutal!

Well, there you go! Math! Except for one problem—Chase’s chart talks about what prices people should pay, not what prices people actually do pay. It’s like the work by the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective. It is great in theory. However, these are not the prices front offices actually pay, as our colleagues over at Blogging the Boys point out. The problem with the “analytic” charts is that they assume opportunity should not come with a markup.

If I went into a restaurant and insisted on a hamburger based on the market-cost of the meat, the bun, the percentage of the labor I was using from the restaurant staff, and so on, I could create a theoretical model of how much I should pay. The trick is getting the restaurant to agree with me.

In fact, since the CBA went into effect, the “market” has branched off from reality a lot. Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit tracked the actual trades since 2012 in order to establish what the market price of a trade pick really is—and it’s bad news for the fans of the analytic models.

Hill’s Market Value

49ers Bears
49ers Bears
717.17 644.74
717.17 (#2) 514.33 (#3)
74.59 (#67)
28.22 (#111)
27.6 (Future 3rd)
Huh...

So, it seems like the price was matched exactly to the default values. Pace did not manage to force the acceptance of a theoretical model, nor did he succumb to 5 years of recent exchanges and overpay as has been the trend.

In fact, he paid market prices when (apparently) there was a market. From Lynch’s press conference (via sibling site NinersNation):

Did you have choices to make? Other trade offers that you were weighing with the Bears trade offer?

JL: “We did.”

Believe it or not, but there it is.

There are plenty of reasons to question the move (I’m going to try not to attack Mitchell Trubisky, as he is now a Bear, but you be true to your own version of fandom). However, the price paid was exactly what should have been expected.