Is Pick 14 Worth More Than Pick 1? Explaining The Crazy Surplus Value Draft Chart.

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Recently Ben Baldwin posted an analysis that caused a bit of consternation. The analysis (which produced the graph below) looked at data to determine how valuable on average a player at each draft position ended up being (purple), compared it to how much those draft picks get paid on their rookie deal (orange), to determine what he calls “surplus value” (green), or how much production you’re getting minus what you’re actually getting paid.

As you can see, this analysis has an unexpected and shocking result. The highest picks in the draft, which most people consider the most valuable, are actually less valuable than most 2nd round picks. According to this analysis the Bears should be willing to trade the top overall pick in the draft to the Chiefs for the 31st pick straight up and feel like they got an absolute steal of a deal.

(Note: This analysis excludes quarterbacks, so in reality that top pick will legitimately be worth more to whoever uses it on a quarterback than the 31st pick. But since quarterback is a uniquely valuable position it would skew the results so they’re not included.)

This seems completely insane. How in the world would you think that a top pick, even if it’s not a quarterback, is a worse value than a 2nd round pick?

It’s Actually Not That Crazy

Perhaps the easiest way to understand this is to think about the situation before the 2011 CBA dramatically reduced rookie wages. Back then top picks were given huge contracts, to the point where rookies were given deals equal to the top established players.

In that world it’s not surprising that top picks were not very valuable. Why would you want an unproven rookie you had to give a massive contract to when you could just get an established veteran for the same amount that you knew could actually play? The later draft picks, with more reasonable contracts, were obviously much more valuable.

That is the same exact logic that goes into this analysis, just not as extreme. The top picks are paid twice as much as picks even as early as the late first round, so they need to be significantly more likely to succeed than those later picks to be worth the money.

Teams Aren’t As Good At Scouting As They Think

Yes, teams do have some ability to predict which college players will succeed in the NFL and which won’t. This analysis backs it up, as the on the field value of the picks steadily declines as the draft goes on.

The problem is that this decline in player quality is not as steep as the decline in salary in the top 10-15 picks. The top overall pick is being paid 4x the salary of the top pick in the 2nd round, but on average that player is only going to produce 50% more value on the field.

An alternate (and nicer to NFL general managers) way to view it is that the gap between the top 5-10 best prospects and the rest isn’t that great, so there’s no reason to go crazy over one of those top picks. Why give up a huge amount of draft capital for marginally better prospects?

This Might Actually Understate It

What’s even more mind blowing about this analysis is that there are a number of reasons to believe that it’s even worse than this analysis suggests.

For example, the purple line measuring the on-field value isn’t actually measuring the on-field value. Instead it’s measuring how much the player got paid on their second contract. The assumption is that general managers are mostly good at evaluating talent and those contracts give a good indication of the player’s value. But in reality we know that general managers aren’t perfect evaluators of talent (see the section above), and thy often overvalue players who were previously high draft picks (see Carson Wentz). So the greater value of higher picks could be due in part to general managers simply tending to evaluate higher picks more favorably even if they’re not actually better.

In the same vein, higher draft picks are going to get more opportunities than lower draft picks. Imagine if Tom Brady had been drafted by the Packers in 2000 instead of the Patriots. In the 3 years of his rookie contract he would have gotten a grand total of 47 snaps, not nearly enough to establish himself as any sort of starting quarterback. He may have never gotten a fair shot in the league because of his draft status had it not been for Drew Bledsoe getting injured.

These factors artificially increase the apparent value of early picks in a way that’s all but impossible to measure.

Does This Matter To The Chiefs?

This analysis is meant to inform trade decisions, but it can also tell us about the Chiefs’ actual draft valuation. According to the traditional chart, the Chiefs’ 1st round pick is worth about 1/5th of what the most valuable pick is worth. A more advanced chart, used by Tankathon to make their draft power rankings, says it’s half as valuable as the top pick.

But this analysis has the value peaking around the 12th pick, and that pick is worth only 20% more than the last pick in the first round. As a consistent contender, the traditional view would suggest that the Chiefs would have a hard time maintaining a quality team as they have such late draft picks. This analysis however argues that a team like the Chiefs is really not that much worse off than any other team. And, if the team took advantage of this, could easily created extra value for themselves.

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02/27/2023 5:46 pm
Every >$35M QB. Who woulda thought that Kirk Cousins, with that crazy contract would be a bargain?

Only one QB making this much has more than one SB win. Guess who?

Last edited 11 months ago by NovaChiefs
02/27/2023 5:12 pm

fricken awesome stuff Tony

5 stars more if possible

Notive where Veeach targets his trade ups

Mahomes 11th?
McDuffie 20th?

02/27/2023 2:22 pm

This only goes to 100, so basically 3 rounds. Given our success in later rounds last year, I’d love to see this dragged out for the entire 7 rounds.
Pacheco, Cook, Watson, Purdy (and some guy named Brady) have to turn it upside down.
Like SC pointed out, a pick is only good if it pans out, and then the lower the better, value wise.

Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 12:52 pm

Draft picks are only worth it if they hit. So finding out the value of the 14th being the highest isn’t alarming because it is the halfway mark of the 1st round and the success rate is probably close to 50% in the round.

if you find an all pro, it doesn’t matter that they were picked 1st overall or 32nd. Identify if a players skills fit in the scheme, hope they are smart enough to understand the concepts, and pray they remain driven once they start making money.

A lot of draft picks get labeled as busts when they really are victims of bad timing. If a player is drafted in the top 10, it means the team was bad the year before. Now if the team didn’t replace the coach, then that coach may already be on the hot seat. Now if the team is bad again, the coach is fired and the new one may change schemes that the top 10 pick doesn’t excell in.

A reason our drafting seems improved is we are not changing schemes every other year.

Reply to  Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 2:27 pm

Players get labelled busts unfairly, IMO. Unless a GM fails year after year, he is saddled with “bad breaks” or “Guys who didn’t live up to their potential”. Kiper, whoever that clown draft guru is that the raiders hired, and many GMs get years to be wrong, and then just go somewhere else and do it again. The picks, however, get labelled “busts” in the first 10 games of their careers, and it follows them.
That ain’t right.

Reply to  Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 5:05 pm

I saw someplace that 1st rounders generally hit with about a 75% success rate, while 2nd rounders run about 55%

“a successful pick is defined as a player who provided the drafting team an AV of 12 or more — that is, three seasons of average play, four seasons of somewhat below-average play or a steady climb from poor play to average or above-average play”

Success Rate (12+ AV), 1989-2016

Rd 1 – 77.8
Rd 2 – 56.1
Rd 3 – 33.5

Reply to  Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 5:14 pm

excellent point

continuity is important in building a dynasty

02/27/2023 12:26 pm

Sooo …. What Would it Cost Us to Trade Up to the # 14 Pick ? … ; )

Reply to  KCChef
02/27/2023 4:50 pm

Draft Trade Chart Value

#14 is “valued” at 1,100 pts
#31 is “valued” at a mere 600 pts

so, according to the “conventional” charts, it would cost the Chiefs another 500 pts of “draft capital” to move up from 31 to 14 which is more than our 1st AND 2nd AND 3rd picks put together … not much “value” there IMO

Here’s an interesting “new” draft value trade chart from CBS Sports

on this one, the values are 301(#14) and 176 (#31)

might make a lot more sense for Veach to trade DOWN and get 2 “middle 2nd round picks” instead a low 1st and a low 2nd …

Reply to  upamtn
02/27/2023 5:16 pm

we ain’t trading out og the 1st round this year for the Kansas City NFL draft

02/27/2023 12:11 pm

Lot of talk last year that the picks we got from Miami weren’t high enough. I’ve always been a quantity over quality guy when it comes to the draft. So much of it is just plain luck.

02/27/2023 12:09 pm

It’s been hit or miss for the chiefs at the top of the draft. I think supports this articles conclusion.

Fisher(1) meh considering he was 1st overall pick.

Berry (5) if picked a year later when the rookie salary cap was in place this would have been a steal.

Tyson Jackson (3) would have been a solid 4th round pick.

Glenn Dorsey (5) he was okay. Just okay.

Ryan Sims (6) worst kc draft pick ever?

Going back further Neil (2) and DT (4)

Reply to  DenverDonkeyHater
02/27/2023 12:11 pm

The year Fisher was selected was a pretty weak draft class…

Reply to  hoosierchief
02/27/2023 12:17 pm

Don’t disagree. I would say down right abysmal draft class at the top.

Severely Concussed
Reply to  DenverDonkeyHater
02/27/2023 12:42 pm

I would not say Sims was the worst ever. He played a lot of snaps. The Baldwin pick is the worst one I can think of because he was almost never on the field.

Reply to  Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 2:57 pm

… and that’s because he never saw the field

he was gone after a horrific season (including picking a fight with Thomas Jones during summer camp of his 2011 rookie season)

26th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (complete waste of a 1st Round pick) … thanks, Scott Pioli /sarcasm

Reply to  Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 3:22 pm

I’d give the worst pick I can remember to Breeland Speaks.

At least Baldwin caught a TD once.

Reply to  DenverDonkeyHater
02/27/2023 2:28 pm

So who is to blame for those picks?
The GM. Players don’t draft themselves.
Except Mahomes, apparently. He can do anything.

Reply to  DenverDonkeyHater
02/27/2023 3:00 pm

Ryan Sims (6) worst kc draft pick ever?

Trezelle Jenkins and Victor Riley say hello.

Severely Concussed
Reply to  Nasrani
02/27/2023 3:55 pm

Victor Riley played out his rookie contract here and then played in NO for a few years.

Last edited 11 months ago by Severely Concussed
Reply to  Severely Concussed
02/27/2023 3:57 pm

I think you’re right. Confound you and your technicalities…

02/27/2023 11:24 am

I’ve always wondered if a lot of the higher picks were really worth it… This kind of confirms what I was feeling. heck, look at some of the first round picks we’ve gotten from other teams that played a lot better for us. makes you wonder if there’s some data out there that tell how teams compare to each other in their development of draft picks – a reflection of the coaching skills.

Reply to  Tony Sommer
02/27/2023 12:05 pm

It seems to me like our current coaching staff does a lot better job of getting a lot more out of the players than many of our previous ones have..

zulu trader
Reply to  hoosierchief
02/27/2023 3:56 pm

Drafting for scheme has something to do with it

Reply to  zulu trader
02/27/2023 5:19 pm

Veach is awesome at finding those players that got screwed by the draft

that has to include players like Trey Smith and the Clemson WR that was injured as an UDFA

02/27/2023 10:54 am

I’ll be NFL draft in KC = FREE event!!!!

MY MAN #10!!!

02/27/2023 10:41 am

2022 Chiefs Super Bowl Championship Mini-Movie: Chiefs Kingdom

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