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The Anthony Miller Trade Makes Sense

Ryan Pace made a trade, as we all knew he would. This trade made a lot of sense for both teams.

NFL: Combine Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Pace likes to trade around in the draft, so with him standing pat with both #8 and #39, it should not be too surprising that he had an itch to scratch and that he made a move to get into the second round another time before Friday night was over. What is perhaps a bit more surprising is exactly how good of a deal he made in terms of draft trade value when he made a move to get Anthony Miller. In fact, this was a solid trade for both the Bears and the Patriots, and the reasons come down to the perspective of both teams and their relative positions.

Let’s start with the cost of doing business. Future picks are typically valued as middle picks from the next round. For example, a “future #1” is valued as if it is the 48th pick in the draft (the middle of the second round). Thus, when Ryan Pace traded a “future #2” to New England, he was actually trading the value of #80. That has a book value of 190 points. He then added #105, which carries a value of 84 points. That means that in terms of traditional value, Pace offered 274 points. In exchange, he received pick #51, which carries a book value of 390 points. He paid roughly 70 cents on the dollar. For those who prefer the Rich Hill draft chart (and you should--it’s a work of beauty), Pace paid the value of #80 (56.02) and #105 (32.26) in order to buy #51 (112.03). By this standard, Pace paid 79 cents on the dollar.

Let’s put it another way. Assume that the Bears completely bottom out and that 2nd-rounder is actually #33. That means that it’s “best” value is actually that of #65 (265). This isn’t how NFL teams traditionally do math, but let’s try to make it seem like Pace messed up. That means that the Patriots walked away with 349 points of value and the Bears walked away with 390 points of value.

No matter how you try to skew the numbers, Pace made a good deal by traditional draft trade standards. Another way of thinking about it is this--Pace bought a current second-rounder with a future second-rounder, leveraging a fourth-rounder to pay for the advance. Because he wanted the pick now, he was always going to suffer the one-round downgrade. However, all up and down either chart, no matter where the Bears end up drafting next year, there is not a single “move” down one round that is worth only #105. On the Johnson chart, the closest distance between a 2nd-rounder and a 3rd-rounder is 154 points, way beyond the value of #105. On the Hill chart, the closest distance is 39.38 points (which is actually the value of #96, not #105).

In short, Pace bought the pick at a market discount. The extent of the discount varies on whose chart is used and whether the Bears’ 2019 pick is given traditional value or is slanted somehow in the expectation of them faltering. What remains is there was a discount to get a player the Bears seem to have wanted.

However, this is also a good deal for the Patriots. See, the depreciation suffered for future rounds is brutal. Having to lose one full round of value is ridiculous, in absolute terms, and so a stable team can take advantage of teams that cannot afford to be patient. In exchange for taking the long view, the Patriots basically picked up a “free” fourth round pick in lost value from the slide. The Patriots do this all the time.

This makes perfect sense, because while Ryan Pace needs to start showing a turnaround, Bill Belichick isn’t in any danger any time soon. The Patriots proved why the rich get richer in the NFL, and they made a classic move showing how they stay on top by taking advantage of their stability. Ryan Pace found a trade partner who was willing to give him what he wanted at a discount price. As critical as I am of Pace sometimes, this was a good deal that netted the Bears an offensive weapon. It was also a good move that gave the Patriots yet more flexibility and more options down the road.

Now, let’s just hope that Miller lives up to Pace’s trust and this turns out to be a solid move in reality, instead of just on a spreadsheet.