An Early Look At The 2009 Draft

I realize that the playoffs are still ongoing and we're still at least a month away from the official beginning of the offseason.  However, I am probably as anxious as you are (if not more so) to get started on next season, mainly so that we can escape the putridity of 2008.

So what part of the 2009 offseason is available for discussion?  The coaching search is ongoing.  Free agency and player trades are over the horizon.  Off-season workouts are even further down the line; most of the players who aren't on playoff teams are on vacation.  I guess that leaves the biggest and most exciting part of any offseason: the draft.

The Packers currently have nine draft choices: seven of their own, one from the Saints, and one from the Jets.  Compensatory picks have not yet been determined.  Here's how the draft order shakes out:

  Round     Pick     Overall              Notes    Pick Value  
      1     9       9      1350
      2     9      41       490
      3     9      73       225
      3    17      81 from NYJ (Favre trade)       185
      4     9    105        84
      5     9    137       37.5
      6     9    169       24.8
      6    16    176 from NO (2008 Draft)        22
      7     9    201        12
 TOTAL    ---       9                 ---     2430.3

Everyone understands the first four columns, but the fifth column titled "Pick Value" might be foreign to some.  But it's incredibly important to how the draft is conducted, and it's a big part of why Packer fans can be optimistic heading into the draft.  Allow me to explain.

Draft picks are the most valuable commodity available to exchange in the NFL.  However, it's difficult to gauge the difference between draft picks when considering multiple deals.  Imagine you're a GM with a mid-third round pick, and you have two offers on the table.  One team is offering a late third rounder, and another team is offering their early fourth and sixth rounders.  Which offer is better?  If you are targeting a specific player that might not be available in the fourth, then you might go with the third round pick.  However, in strict terms of value, the second option is actually the superior one. 

How do I come to that conclusion?  I use this handy chart that ESPN produced in 2004.  It assigns points to each and every draft pick and measures the values thereof. 

Before NFL general managers consider trading draft picks, they more often than not consult this value chart. The chart assigns each pick in the draft a point value, giving GMs an easy reference to compare the relative value of draft picks in different rounds.

In addition to gauging the actual value of draft picks in trades, the chart also allows teams to effectively measure how much value they gain compared to value lost.  Trading picks in the draft is commonplace.  Good GM's pick their spots and only trade up in the draft when they can get a pick that is worth about 75% of what the picks they give up are worth.  Likewise, it's good practice to trade down to accrue more picks that together match or exceed the value of the draft picks they gave up. 

This is a key to good drafting, and it's a skill that Ted Thompson has mastered.  Take a look at his history of draft day trades since 2005 (all trade info was available at Packers.com):

Note: Following is the format I used to display the value of all of Ted Thompson's trades as Green Bay's general manager.  All of the point values that follow draft picks are aggregate totals calculated using this table.

Year, round: Packer's pick(s) sent (picks sent value) to team for pick(s) received (picks received value) --- % gain/loss

  • 2005, 3rd round: pick 89 (145 points) to Carolina for picks 115 and 126 (110 points) --- 75% of original pick's value
  • 2005, 4th round: pick 126 (46 points) to Philadelphia for picks 167, 175, and 245 (48.95 points) --- 106% of original pick's value
  • 2005, 6th round: pick 175 (22.4 points) to New England for picks 195 and 246 (15.3 points) --- 68% of original pick's value
  • 2006, 2nd round: pick 36 (540 points) to New England for picks 52 and 75 (595 points) --- 110% of original pick's value
  • 2006, 2nd/5th round: picks 37 and 139 (566.5 points) to Atlanta for picks 47, 93, and 148 (590.2 points) --- 104% of original pick's value
  • 2006, 3rd round: pick 93 (128 points) to St. Louis for picks 109 and 183 (95.2 points) ---74% of original pick's value
  • 2006, 4th round: pick 109 (76 points) to Philadelphia for picks 115 and 185 (78.4 points) --- 103% of original pick's value
  • 2007, 2nd/7th round: picks 47 and 235 (431.9 points) to New York Jets for picks 63, 89, and 191 (428 points) --- 99% of original pick's value
  • 2007, 4th round: pick 112 (70 points) to Pittsburgh for picks 119 and 192 (71.6 points) --- 102% of original pick's value
  • 2008, 1st round: pick 30 (620 points) to New York Jets for picks 36 and 113 (608 points) --- 98% of original pick's value
  • 2008, 4th/5th round: picks 113 and 162 (95.6 points) to New York Jets for pick 102 (92 points) --- 96% of original pick's value
  • 2008, 4th round: pick 128 (44 points) to St. Louis for picks 137 and 217 (43.1 points) --- 98% of original pick's value
  • 2008, 5th round: pick 137 (37.5 points) to Minnesota for picks 150 and 209 (40.2 points) --- 107% of original pick's value
  • 2008, 7th round: pick 237 (1.7 points) to New Orleans for 2009 6th rounder, became pick 176 (22 points) --- 1294% (!) of original pick's value

So there you have it.  In four drafts, Thompson has made 14 draft day trades.  He got a positive return (over 100%) in seven of them, came between 95% and 99% four times, and only fell below the 75% threshold once (and even then only by 7%).  Just for good measure, here are some highlights of players selected as a result of these trades: Daryn Colledge, Greg Jennings, Jason Spitz, Will Blackmon, Johnny Jolly, Brandon Jackson, Aaron Rouse, Allen Barbre, Korey Hall, and Jordy Nelson.  Of those players, six are starters and four are talented backups with potential to make major contributions.

This summary alone is sufficient evidence that Ted Thompson is one of the best GM's in the country.  I cannot emphasize how remarkable this sort of performance is.  He makes deals at the last minute, and more often than not, he comes out on top.  What's even more remarkable is that Thompson is versatile with his trades: he's made deals in every round, from first all the way to seventh.  The guy is a draft-day magician.  Who else would you rather have run your franchise?

Sure, people will call him out on his "mismanagement" of the Favre Saga, or how he's adamantly against building through free agency, or point out how Aaron Rodgers and A.J. Hawk basically fell into his lap.  Those sorts of people need to be quietly reminded of players like Nick Collins, Charles Woodson, and Mason Crosby, all players that he brought in and have become solid performers.  And you should also mention the 2008 New York Jets, especially the news stories from the last two weeks.  (If they mention Justin Harrell, just whistle the theme to "The Andy Griffith Show" until they go away; I haven't prepared a response for that issue yet.)  So take solace, cheeseheads, because Green Bay is in very capable hands for the forseeable future.

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