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Why Andrew Luck is Worth Three to Four First Round Draft Picks, From A Mathematical Standpoint

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If you are looking for why the quarterback position is critical in the modern NFL or a scouting report on why Andrew Luck is the perfect blend of John Elway and Peyton Manning, this article is not for you.

This article satisfies a curiosity of mine. Mainly, is there any justification for giving away three or four 1st Round NFL Draft Picks for one particular player? Many fans would fall into two camps:

(A) No player is worth trading away that much value.

(B) No team sitting at the #1 position would trade away Andrew Luck no matter the price because of what could transpire in the upcoming years if Luck is, for example, the "next" Aaron Rodgers. "You traded away Andrew Luck!" You could be the laughingstock of the league. No GM would want to live with that shame on their tombstone.

Someone told me this week that even if Green Bay impossibly owned the #1 pick, even THEY would draft Luck. I am not sure about that, but you get the point.

There is a thought floating out there that the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart is outdated. It probably is outdated. In fact, I believe every team in the NFL has their own modified Draft Value Chart that is proprietary to their own team. Top Secret stuff.  

I do believe that these proprietary charts are similar to the Jimmy Johnson in that it when graphed it forms a negative non-linear slope. I have referred to it as the "Skateboard Ramp". Jimmy Johnson's Draft Value Chart.

In fact, I believe, in each Draft, each team grades every player and may modify their draft value chart and create a specific draft value chart for that particular year. The slope could have different levels and places of plateau and steepness year to year as you move down the rounds.

The problem is - you have to trade with another NFL team who grades each player slightly or very differently. Each team has their own draft value chart and won't share it with you. So what do you do? You start the conversation around the Jimmy Johnson chart, a publicly shared version that people can agree on as a baseline for a trade. It may exceed or fall short of the Jimmy Johnson specs, but it forms a baseline to start a conversation. That is why I think it may be still relevant (and the Julio Jones trade says it is).

Let me throw out a few 1st Round Values for Round 1 for this exercise:

#1 3000 points (the worst team)
#10 1300 points (the best of the worst)
#16 1000 points (the average team)
#20 850 points (the worst of the 12 playoff teams)

Scenario A

Let's say the team drafting 16th wants Andrew Luck and you assume that they will finish 16th for the next two years. If you believe that you do not discount the value of future picks (I believe you do, but let's say you do not) then the math works perfectly for three #1 picks for Andrew Luck.

2012, 2013, 2013 Pick #16 (1000 points x 3 = 3000 points). Pick #1 is worth...3000 points.

If you believe in discounting future picks by 25% per year the Draft Value Chart calls for four #1 Draft Picks. Again- this assumes the team receiving Luck drafts 16th each year through 2015.

2012 Pick- 1000 points
2013 Pick- 750 points (discounted 25%)
2014 Pick- 563 points (discounted 25% two times)
2015 Pick- 422 points (discounted 25% three times)

Total value = 2736 points. With the very high multi-year discounting involved here, I would say that is pretty close to 3000.

Scenario B

Let's say the team trading up finishes in the 10th position (say a 6-10 team) in 2012 and then drafts 16th in 2013 (8-8 perhaps) and then goes 10-6 in Luck's 2nd year and gets bounced from the playoffs wild card weekend, so in 2014 they would draft 22nd.

Non discounted it adds to:
2012 Pick 10- 1300 points
2013 Pick 16- 1000 points
2014 Pick 22- 850 points

Total= 3150 points.

If you believe in discounting, then you have to throw in four 1st round picks, and assume the 2015 pick is Pick 22 the total value is:

2888 points. Not that far off 3000 considering the multi-year discounting.

(Discounted Math: 1300+ 750 + 478 + 360)


Whether you believe in discounting future picks by 25% or not, I think it is fair to say that the likely trade value for Andrew Luck is around 3 or 4 1st round picks or the equivalent combination of 1st, 2nd or other round picks, for any team looking to trade into the #1 spot.

I do not believe that the pick for Andrew Luck will be traded because it is just too risky to trade four 1st round picks for the acquiring club - especially if he gets hurt or plays poorly. I also think the team drafting at the top can't risk trading Luck away unless they were offered something laughable- (like four 1sts plus).

Bottom line, I do not think the deal comes together, but if it does - the 3-4 First Round pick range is justified by the Jimmy Johnson Draft Value Chart.