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 T10B Football Index (TFI) as a mechanism to value future picks based on expected production. McCoy showed what teams are willing to do. In comparison, I’m trying to show what teams should do.
You shouldn’t need me to tell you how bad the New Jersey Nets were as an organization in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but let me indulge you anyway. As a case in point, the cover photo from 1989-90 Nets Media Guide/Yearbook was actually taken two seasons earlier. In particular, Roy Hinson (#21) hadn’t worn that uniform and Buck Williams (in the bottom right) hadn’t played for the Nets since the 1987-88 season. I remember similar mistakes in my high school yearbook as pictures of previous graduates somehow slipped by the watchful eyes of the editors; however, that was an extracurricular activity done by unpaid students and not a work assignment done by paid employees. Regardless, all was not lost for Nets’ fans during the 1989-90 season because they got to see two of the worst all-time draft picks (i.e. Sam Bowie and Dennis Hopson) play for a team that finished the season with a 17-65 record. I was fortunate enough see them play in a game that year; however, the evening was memorable for an entirely different reason.
The most interesting debate from the first night of the 2015 NFL Draft involved the exchange between Chris Berman and Mel Kiper regarding the sensibility of taking a running back in the first round. As Berman pushed for teams to select highly rated running backs Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon, Kiper argued that teams shouldn’t waste a first round pick on either player. Specifically, the long-time NFL draft expert claimed productive running backs could be found in later rounds. In response, I researched early first round picks to determine which positions provide the most value.
Quarterbacks: 25% were complete busts / 50% became Pro Bowl players / 20% won at least one Super Bowl;
Running Backs: 20% were complete busts / 55% became Pro Bowl players / 25% are Hall-of-Fame caliber;
Receivers: 10% were complete busts / 50% became Pro Bowl players / 30% could be considered game changers; and
Offensive Linemen: 5% were complete busts / 60% became Pro Bowl players /25% made at least five Pro Bowls.
So, which position offers the best risk/return profile? You’ll just have to read on.