NFL Side Stories

Top10Busts Football Index: TFI

Synopsis: Given their propensity to trade future draft picks in the early 1990s, the Dallas Cowboys developed a quantitative tool to help them make better decisions. Commonly referred to as Jimmy Johnson’s Trade Value Chart, the methodology actually came into existence because of team executive Mike McCoy. Specifically, McCoy developed a numerical value for each draft position such that proposed trades could be evaluated quickly and objectively. Still in use today, that chart reflects how teams seemingly value future draft picks. Similarly, I created the Top10Busts Football Index (TFI) as a mechanism to value future picks based on expected production. McCoy tried to show what teams do. In contrast, I’m trying to show what teams should do.


Top10Busts Football Index: TFI

Last year, the L.A. Rams and Philadelphia Eagles traded up to secure the first two picks of the 2016 NFL Draft. Specifically, the Rams took Jared Goff with the 1st pick while the Eagles took Carson Wentz with the 2nd. In need of franchise quarterbacks, both organizations gave up a lot of potential value in the form of future draft picks. Only time will tell if they gave up too much. However, I developed a quantitative system to evaluate trades before the players ever get on the field.

After compiling statistics from every NFL draft since 1977, I created the Top10Busts Football Index (TFI). Specifically, I developed a methodology to determine the value of a pick based on the career production of players taken at a comparable spot in the draft. Others have developed their own systems based on trades made by teams prior to or during the draft. Instead of trying to reflect what teams actually do, the TFI reflects what teams should do. In essence, I’ve tried to add objectivity to what can be a very emotional decision. 

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI) – THE CALCULATION

Start with the player’s career Weighted Average Value (as calculated by pro-football-reference.com). From there, add the following totals.

  • 5x Pro Bowl Selections. 
  • 10x 1st Team All-Pro Selections.
  • 5x Super Bowl appearances.
  • 20x Super Bowl victories.

Of course, any of you can challenge my weightings for the previously listed stats. To be honest, I came up with them based on a series of “Would you rather . . . ” questions. For instance, would you rather be Jim Kelly or Brad Johnson? Of note, Kelly went 0-4 in the Super Bowl while Johnson won in his only Super Bowl appearance. Given that the answer isn’t a “no brainer,” I weighted a victory 4x more than an appearance.

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI) – REASONABLE QUESTIONS

Whereas the first three stats can be found easily, the last two don’t seem to be tracked as closely. Furthermore, it seems problematic to give every player the same credit for a team’s appearance and/or victory in the Super Bowl. Before accepting my approach, anyone can reasonably ask the following questions.

DID MANNING WIN TWO SUPER BOWLS?
Football Index TFI
If you hoist the trophy, you get credit for the victory
  • Does Peyton Manning deserve as much credit for the Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl 50 as for the Colts’ victory in Super Bowl XLI?
    • No. But who cares? He won the Super Bowl as the starting quarterback. Do you think John Elway questions Gary Kubiak’s decision to bench Brock Osweiler in favor of the 5x league MVP prior to the Broncos’ playoff run? Of course not.
JEFF HOSTETLER WINNING A SUPER BOWL
Scott Norwood’s failure became Jeff Hostetler’s success
  • Does Phil Simms deserve any credit for the Giants victory in Super Bowl XXV even though he got injured and couldn’t play?
    • Simms started the 1990 season with an 11-3 record before getting injured and replaced by Jeff Hostetler.
    • With “Hoss” under center, the G-Men closed out the season with five consecutive victories (two in the regular season and three in the playoffs).
      • Perhaps the Giants’ defense (led by Lawrence Taylor) deserves the credit.
    • Numerous QBs with three or fewer losses didn’t make the Super Bowl. As such, Simms’ regular-season didn’t guarantee playoff success.
      • Joe Montana went 14-1 as a starter in the 1990 regular season but lost to Hostetler in the NFC Championship.
      • Simms deserved a Super Bowl ring, but not the glory from the victory.
  • Do all positions deserve equal credit?
    • Football may be the ultimate team sport. As such, each player wins or loses along with the rest of his team.
      • Did Adam Vinatieri contribute to the Patriots’ first three Super Bowl victories?
        • Of course!
      • Likewise, did David Tyree contribute to the Giants victory in Super Bowl XLII?
        • Of course!
T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI) – IMPORTANCE OF SUPER BOWLS

Even though Super Bowl appearances and victories seem to be reasonable stats to track for each player, I couldn’t find the information in a convenient format. Do you hear me pro-football-reference.com? When I didn’t know the answer, I applied a Super Bowl factor that approximated 20% of a player’s total from WAV, Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections.

As support for my contention, I’ll offer an example. Dan Marino ended his career at the all-time leader in virtually every passing category. Would he have been willing to lower his career totals by 20% for at least one Super Bowl ring? Only he can answer, but I would think so. After all, records can (and will) be broken. On the other hand, Super Bowl Championships cannot be taken away.

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI): RECENT QUARTERBACKS

Okay, now for the defining moment. Does my TFI meet your expectations? Well, let me offer the following chart summarizing the TFI of the best quarterbacks from this decade. 

  Draft Super Bowl  All- Pro   Actual Future Proj. Excess
Player Year Pick Wins Games Pro  Bowls WAV TFI Career TFI Value*
Tom Brady 2000 199 4 7 3 13 164 374 10% 416 316
Peyton Manning 1998 1 2 4 7 14 177 377 0% 377 277
Aaron Rodgers 2005 24 1 1 3 7 124 214 25% 285 185
Drew Brees 2001 32 1 1 1 10 153 238 10% 264 164
Ben Roethlisberger 2004 11 2 3 0 6 113 198 20% 248 148
Russell Wilson 2012 75 1 2 0 3 76 121 50% 242 142
Eli Manning 2004 1 2 2 0 4 109 179 20% 224 124
Matt Ryan 2008 3 0 1 2 3 111 151 30% 216 116
Cam Newton 2011 1 0 1 1 3 84 114 45% 207 107
Philip Rivers 2004 4 0 0 0 6 128 158 20% 198 98
Joe Flacco 2008 18 1 1 0 0 81 106 30% 151 51
Tony Romo 2003 UD 0 0 0 4 95 115 10% 128 28
Carson Palmer 2003 1 0 0 0 3 106 121 15% 142 42
Alex Smith 2005 1 0 0 0 2 80 90 25% 113 13
Jay Cutler 2006 11 0 0 0 1 84 89 25% 111 11

* Excess Value defined as incremental production above a typical #1 overall pick. As a check for reasonableness, would any team give up four #1 overall picks for someone who could match Tom Brady’s career? Now that’s a “no brainer.”

UD-Undrafted

SUPER BOWL LI

Of note, I have updated the table in the week prior to Super Bowl LI. Given the match-up between the Patriots and Falcons, either Tom Brady or Matt Ryan will add another 20 points to their TFI. Ranking #1 on my list already, Brady can’t improve his status. Then again, a victory will confirm his G.O.A.T. status. On the other hand, Ryan would pass Eli Manning based on a projected TFI.

Prior to the Falcons’ victory in the NFC Championship Game last week, I thought Aaron Rodgers couldn’t be stopped. After seeing the game, I realize that I underestimated Atlanta. Despite Brady’s track record and the Patriots’ top-ranked defense, I’m going with Ryan and the Falcons’ top-ranked offense. Just like President Trump won because many of us underestimated him, I believe we have underestimated the Falcons as well. I’m not willing to bet against Brady. However, let’s call it a hunch.   

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI): THE CHART
  Round
Pick 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
1     100.0       50.0       35.0       25.0       17.5       15.0       12.5
2-3       95.0       45.0       35.0       25.0       17.5       15.0       12.5
4       85.0       45.0       35.0       25.0       17.5       15.0       12.5
5-10       75.0       45.0       32.5       22.5       17.5       15.0       12.5
11-13       70.0       42.5       30.0       22.5       17.5       15.0       12.5
14-16       65.0       42.5       30.0       22.5       17.5       15.0       12.5
17-19       60.0       40.0       27.5       20.0       17.5       15.0       12.5
20-24       55.0       37.5       27.5       20.0       17.5       15.0       12.5
25-32       50.0       35.0       25.0       20.0       17.5       15.0       12.5

In order to maintain objectivity, I refrained from looking up Jimmy Johnson’s Trade Value Chart until I finished. Now that I’ve looked, I can understand why so many teams make mistakes when trading up in the draft. 

JIMMY’S CHART

Football Index

From my perspective the table shows that desperate teams act irrationally. Specifically, they seem to drastically overvalue picks at the top of the draft. Based on the table, the value of the 1st overall pick (3,000) exceeds the total value from the 4th overall pick (1,800) plus the first pick in every subsequent round (1,153). Said differently, a team presumably would need to offer its entire draft simply to move from #4 to #1 in the first round. For as ridiculous as that statement sounds, it basically happened.

In one of my first posts, I analyzed the Saints’ blockbuster trade involving the selection of Heisman-winning running back Ricky Williams. Of note, New Orleans gave up all of their picks in 1999 plus a 1st and 3rd rounder in 2000 simply to move up seven spots from #12 to #5. Based simply on WAV, I argued that Williams needed to match to career of Peyton Manning in order for the trade to prove worthwhile.

Since then, I’ve refined my analysis to include more than WAV. Based on my own TFI, I evaluated the previously mentioned trades by the Rams and Eagles for Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. In particular, I commented that Goff needs to match the career of Eli Manning and Wentz needs to match the career of Philip Rivers for those trades to make sense. For more details regarding my analysis, you can click on the following link

Based on Jimmy Johnson’s Chart, the trades for Goff and Wentz didn’t result in a significant value disparity. Yet, I believe both teams gave up too much. As a capitalist, I appreciate that free markets determine value. At the same time, I know that markets can be inefficient. I hope that my creation of TFI can establish a better determinant of value. Realistically, it won’t because desperate times call for desperate measures.

Top10Busts Football Index: TFI
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