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Two Draft Thoughts



A couple of interesting points in Barnwell’s draft writeup. First, on why organizations tend to discount the value of future draft picks:

That’s not an accurate measure. A second-round pick is a second-round pick. Draft picks in the future are treated as though they’re less valuable because the general manager trading the picks might not be around to actually use them, which represents part of the moral hazard incumbent with turning over your personnel department to employees who typically last a few years on the job. Future picks then realistically mean different things to different organizations. Les Snead and Jeff Fisher are probably going to get fired unless the Rams make the playoffs in 2016, which no doubt made it easier for them to trade future picks to move up to the first overall slot. Bill Belichick and Ozzie Newsome aren’t going anywhere unless they want to move on, which is why they can trade for future picks with impunity.

This makes sense. Undervaluing future picks is irrational from an organizational standpoint but not necessarily from the standpoint of an individual GM. Which isn’t to deny people like Belichick and Newsome and Thompson credit — their power gives them a greater ability to play the percentages, but you still have to know what the right move is. The Giants are a stable organization and Jerry Resse won a Super Bowl in his first year — obviously buying him some job security — and yet he’s literally never traded down in the draft. And, conversely, DePodesta/Jackson/Brown can’t be that confident that the Browns won’t decide next year that it’s time for their near-annual managerial and coaching change (Mike Holmgren and Rob Chudzinski: tanned, rested, and ready to trade two first round picks for Melvin Gordon!), and yet they had a pretty much perfect draft day.

Needless to say, I endorse this point about the Solemn Integritude of the teams that passed on Larmey Tunsil because DRUGS:

Tennessee’s move up to grab Jack Conklin is colored by the bizarre fall of Laremy Tunsil, whose social media accounts appeared to be hacked minutes before the draft started. The Tunsil story is still developing as I write this, and it’s entirely possible that teams like the Titans might have preferred Conklin to the Ole Miss product, but the idea that Tunsil was suddenly undraftable because of the suggestion that he smoked marijuana at one point before being drafted is bizarre. The Ravens, who reportedly took Tunsil off their board after the tweet, famously kept Ray Rice on their roster before video of his brutal assault on his fiancée leaked. The Bears, who badly need a left tackle, passed on Tunsil just one year after they signed troubled defensive end Ray McDonald and had owner George McCaskey try to pass off McDonald as a changed man. As Lions general manager Bob Quinn noted, “If we took players off the board because they smoked pot in college or marijuana, like half the board would be gone.” NFL teams chose a bizarre time to get sanctimonious or worried about PR hits.

At least in this case, while it cost Tunsil some money the primary victims of this instance of drug war moralism were the moralists themselves.

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  • randy khan

    Two thoughts on discounting future draft picks:

    1. A draft pick next year actually probably is worth less today than the equivalent draft pick this year. It’s just like a time value of money calculation, and there’s always a discount of some sort. The difference from year 0 to year 1 may not be great, but it’s hard to believe it’s zero.

    2. If you think a draft pick today is going to improve your results significantly, then the next year’s picks really will be worth less – if absent the trade you’d have the #6 #1 pick next year and after the trade you’ll have the #21 #1 pick, then there’s a reason to discount that pick. (Conversely, someone like Belichick who reasonably can expect to finish in the top 12 every year, and therefore won’t have a pick higher than 21st, has less reason to think his pick next year will be less valuable post-trade.)

    • Pseudonym

      Has anyone tried numerically analyzing (a) how much variance there is between the value of draft picks from year to year based on the strength of the draft classes, and (b) how much the value of draft picks varies to teams in different years based on their point in the building/peaking/rebuilding cycle? For that matter, how do you put a money (or “cap money”) value on such goals as winning a Super Bowl or a division or at least ending with a winning record?

    • Captain Oblivious

      Re #1: Clearly that’s true if you’re talking about a one-for-one trade — that is, I wouldn’t trade this year’s #70 pick for next year’s #70 pick without getting some extra juice to go with it. The reason is that even if I don’t have much use for the #70 pick this year, in terms of adding to my own roster, I always have the option to trade that pick or use it on a player I can trade later. If you trade straight up for next year’s pick, you’ve gained nothing. All you’ve done is postpone your opportunity to maximize your utility from that pick. And to riff off Barnwell, a #70 pick is a #70 pick. Maybe the stars will align better for #70 next year than this year, but maybe not. You just don’t know, and on average, it’s going to be a push.

  • efgoldman

    As Lions general manager Bob Quinn noted, “If we took players off the board because they smoked pot in college or marijuana…”

    Well, good and common sensical for Bob Quinn. I’m an old guy, did I miss something where pot and marijuana turned into two different things?

    • Captain Oblivious

      Pot’s the stuff you put in a bong. Marijuana is the stuff you roll up with an E-Z Wider.

      • efgoldman

        I’m soooo oooold

  • Captain Oblivious

    Re Tunsil, I have to point out that he has a domestic violence arrest and a seven-game NCAA suspension to his credit, but he wasn’t kicked down the ladder for either of those, or for his lack of judgment with some of the people he’s gotten mixed up with.

    On the other hand, in the post-Manziel era, I’m wondering if teams are getting gun-shy about taking on obvious rehab projects. And while I obviously don’t know if Tunsil is an addicted pot-head, that picture sure makes him look like one. It’s one thing to see a kid toking on a joint, another to see him strap on a gas mask.

    • shah8


      No they’re not getting gun-shy.

      And there is no post-Manziel era. People knew and understood his character, and drafted him, and they’ll draft other popular college stars. And frankly, the kid gloves on Manziel’s situation is revolting. He seriously injured his girlfriend, tho’ perhaps her ruptured ear drum has healed and she got her hearing back. There’s also no doubt about the circumstances or anything. Domestic abuse is only a real concern if certain people do it, apparently.

    • Brien Jackson

      The suspension is for taking money, which the NFL is certainly right not to care about. Tunsil’s story on the domestic violence charge is that he was defending his mother from his stepfather. No idea if that’s true or not, obviously, but it does seem different than if he was beating his girlfriend.

    • brad

      “addicted pot head”… really? Does a beer bong imply alcoholism, or is it ok if you’ve heard of it before?
      It’s a kid having some fun, relax. Pot will neither turn you communist nor actually ever fuel Maureen Dowd.

  • Docrailgun

    Also, there are two teams in states where pot is legal. Seems hypocritical to worry about the moral implications of it now.

    • Dilan Esper

      That’s really irrelevant. If I were a GM, I would legitimately worry about a player who appeared to have a severe alcoholism or gambling problem even if those things are totally legal.

      Further, even if you do want to use legality as the test, thanks to Uncle Sam, marijuana is not actually legal even in the two states that repealed their own prohibitions.

      • Captain Oblivious

        I don’t put much faith in NFL GMs making rational decisions based on facts, or worrying about the character of the draftee.

        If there’s a legitimate case to be made against picking Tunsil higher than he was, it’s the larger pattern of behavior and poor judgment rather than any specific incident.

        The same could have been said of Jameis Winston, of course, except drugs weren’t involved, and Winston’s an elite QB. So yeah, the gas mask photo and resulting anti-drug hysteria was probably the only factor. Shouldn’t have been the only factor, but it probably was.

  • shah8

    There are too many weird drops, though, and oftentimes I do wonder whether there is collusion about who gets what picks for whatever reason. Tunsil after La’el Collins last year just gets me paranoid.

    Also, let’s not get carried away with the idea that GMs are deadly serious or have much intent to be professional at all. A lot of this is they just do what the hell they want, and it’s part of the pleasure of running a team. Only expect rational moves from teams that are actively givings cues that they intend to win.

    • efgoldman

      Only expect rational moves from teams that are actively givings cues that they intend to win.

      Yeah. The NFL is the only sport in which poor managements are accused of taking the money, not trying to win, because the hugest part of the team’s income base, the broadcast revenue, is known in advance, fixed, and guaranteed. A team’s ticket sales are a smaller portion of the revenue, and ancillary sales (concessions, shirts) are highly variable and unpredictable.

      • Captain Oblivious

        There are teams (not just in the NFL) whose business model has been spend as little as possible and fuck winning. Sometimes the market dictates this (see Tampa Bay Rays), and sometimes it’s just the way they work (see Tampa Bay Buccaneers until recently). National TV revenue has, I think, made this model easier to implement.

        • efgoldman

          Sometimes the market dictates this (see Tampa Bay Rays)

          But the Rays (at least until Friedman left) countered their market size with superior management and scouting, especially wrt pitching. Oakland, too, to a lesser extent (although Beane was never quite as good as his press notices).

    • Captain Oblivious

      Professional sports ownership, FOs and coaching staffs are one big old boys network, where it’s who you are and who you know, not if you’re any good. I don’t doubt that at times there’s collusion going on, but I think mainly these people are just plain stupid and full of themselves.

      And they are disproportionately white (relative to the player base). There’s not much doubt in my mind that Tunsil wouldn’t have fallen so far if he were white and had a “white-sounding” name like Johnny. But I don’t think it was collusion. Just stupid rich old white men being stupid rich old white men.

  • Brien Jackson

    Re: Tunsil…I don’t really buy the idea that the video pushed him past the Ravens, and I think there’s at least a 50-50 chance they would have taken Stanley first. He’s every bit the prospect Tunsil is (and a better pass blocker), and fits their blocking scheme quite well, and he’d been consistently mocked to the Ravens since early February with a bunch of reports that the Ravens front office and coaches loved him. Draft night reports from local reporters claimed he was ahead of Tunsil on their board, and that certainly seems plausible to me.

    The Titans moving up and taking Conklin, on the other hand, is just awful.

  • witlesschum

    Tunsil’s fall, I don’t think was so much about the weed, but about the “what the hell kind of weirdness is going on here?”

  • endaround

    The thing that may have scared off teams was not the drug use but instead because of the fact they have a capricious “tough guy” in the commissioner’s office. Goodell may have decided to ban Tunsil for 8 games because it woudl make hims seem to be the one in charge.

    • rea

      Well, yeah, but Goodell might decide to ban anyone at random for 8 games to show who is in charge

  • cpinva

    “At least in this case, while it cost Tunsil some money the primary victims of this instance of drug war moralism were the moralists themselves.”

    and, if there is a god, Mr. Tunsil will be selected as an All Pro for the 2016 season. if all of those teams have losing seasons, that would be even better still.

  • howard

    fwiw, the giants have been following the same front-office system since they hired george young in, iirc, ’79, and one of their basic rules is that you draft in your draft spot, you don’t spend time you should be spending evaluating talent pursuing draft choice trades.

    whether that’s a good or bad philosophy i can’t really say, although the giants have won 4 super bowls operating under it….

    • Captain Oblivious

      With the very rare exceptions of super premium top picks (most QBs, naturally), and even those often turn out to be busts, drafting strikes me as about 70% luck and 30% skill (on the part of the teams doing the drafting, not the players being drafted). With that in mind, it makes sense to avoid trading up for picks (as been argued elsewhere around here), but it might make sense to trade one higher pick for multiple lower or next-year picks, because you massively increase your chances of getting lucky without having to increase your selection skills.

      Otherwise, concentrating your efforts on reducing the 70:30 ratio (i.e., increasing your selection skills) is probably a smart philosophy. Even getting it to 60:40 is a huge improvement.

    • randy khan

      The Giants did trade Philip Rivers (who they’d just drafted) and two draft picks to the Charger for Eli Manning (who the Chargers had just drafted) in 2004, but that was a very strange situation in all respects.

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