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2018 NFL Draft: The beauty of living on “Trade Down Island”

The NFL Draft is largely a crapshoot and the best long-term strategy is to trade down and load up on mid-round picks

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Friends, the NFL Draft is nothing more than educated guesswork. Because of this I have chosen to live in a beautiful place called Trade Down Island where the random crapshoot of the draft is understood, celebrated, and exploited for all it’s worth.

As the benevolent Dictator of Trade Down Island, and in preparation for the 2018 NFL Draft, I invite you to join me in living on my tropical football paradise. We have a pig roast scheduled for Wednesday where we will perform a ceremony with our shaman to ensure Marty Hurney trades down regularly – but smartly – while removing the concept of “trade up” from his brain. CSR’s Billy Marshall recently documented the perils of when Marty Hurney has traded up. You’ve been warned.

There are some rules to reside in my little slice of NFL utopia though, so you’ll need to be willing to live by Trade Down Island’s constituion:

Article 1: We affirm the NFL Draft is only educated guesswork and no team can beat the market over the long term

While at a macro level players selected earlier in the draft on average have longer careers and are selected as All-Pros more often than those drafted later, things are completely unpredictable at the individual level. For every Peyton Manning going No. 1 overall, there’s a Tim Couch. For every Kawann Short going in the second round, there’s a Kony Ealy (or Amini Silatolu, Jimmy Clausen, Everette Brown, Sherrod Martin, etc.)

When selecting individual players, no NFL team has shown the ability to consistently outperform their peers. Analysis from the stat-heads at Five Thirty Eight shows there is “virtually no relationship between how well a GM drafts, relative to the average, from one year to the next.”

On Trade Down Island we realize drafting is a lot like playing poker. Preparation and skill can tilt the odds slightly in your favor, but in the long run the house always wins. Therefore, the best strategy is to accumulate as many picks in Rounds 2-4 as reasonably possible to increase your odds of finding quality players.

Article 2: We do not trade down in Rounds 1-2 if it means passing up a nearly guaranteed impact player and likely future Pro Bowler

We don’t just trade down for the sake of trading down. If Cam Newton is available, you take him. If Luke Kuechly is available, you take him. Most franchise cornerstones are drafted in the first round, so we don’t pass them up when they fall to us in the draft.

If our scouts are willing to risk their reputations that a prospect will be an immediate impact player and a likely Pro Bowler, we take that player. Period. But as we recognize in Article 1, it’s rare to be this certain about any individual prospect. The later in the first round the pick falls, the more often we tend to swap the pick for additional selections here on Trade Down Island.

Article 3: We are always willing to trade down a few spots in Rounds 1-2 when sensible scenarios are presented to stockpile additional picks in Rounds 2-4

Trading down a few spots in the early rounds can pay big dividends. Here are some trades from the 2017 draft that make us salivate on Trade Down Island, assuming Article 2 is not violated:

  • The Bears traded back from No. 36 to No. 45 in the second round and gained a fourth round (No. 119) and sixth round (No. 197) pick in 2017, plus an additional fourth round pick in 2018.
  • The Seahawks made two trades that saw them move back from No. 26 in the first round to No. 34 in the second round while picking up two additional fourth round picks (No. 95 and No. 111) plus a seventh rounder (No. 249).

Trading down a few spots in the early rounds – when sensible – is the lifeblood of Trade Down Island’s economy. Good players on dirt-cheap rookie contracts can be found in these rounds, so the more picks the merrier!

Article 4: We express our eternal love for rookie contracts for players drafted in Rounds 2-4

Finding players through the draft who contribute immediately on rookie contracts represents the most significant competitive advantage in the NFL. Stockpiling a few extra selections in Rounds 2-4 only increases the probability of landing these fabulous deals. For example, take a look at the ridiculously low cap hits from players selected in the middle of Rounds 2-4 in 2017:

Round 2 No. 48 – Joe Mixon, RB. Four-years, $5.5 million ($1.4 million average)

Round 3 No. 86 – Kareem Hunt, RB. Four-years, $3.3 million ($821,000 average)

Round 4 No. 126 – Howard Wilson, CB. Four-years, $3.0 million ($752,000 average)

On Trade Down Island we swoon over guys like Trai Turner, Daryl Williams, and Josh Norman who were drafted in Round 3 or later and became impact players. We adore role players like A.J. Klein, Tre Boston, and Bene Benwikere who were also drafted late and became dirt-cheap contributors who far outplayed their respective cap hits.

In a salary cap-driven league like the NFL a player’s true value isn’t measured only by how good he is compared to other players at his position. The true value of an NFL player is how he performs relative to his cap hit. Finding guys on rookie deals who become regular contributors creates millions of dollars in cap flexibility to shore up other positions.

The best way to find these players is to have more picks in Rounds 2-4.

Article 5: We strive to trade away this year’s picks in Rounds 5-7 for earlier picks in next year’s draft

Few players drafted in Rounds 5-7 go on to have meaningful NFL careers. If a team will take our late picks this year for higher picks in future drafts, we’re open for business.

In 2017 the the Jets traded their 2017 sixth-round pick to the Cowboys for Dallas’ 2018 fifth-round pick. Nicely done, New York.

On Trade Down Island we believe in delayed gratification with our late-round picks.

Trust me, CSR faithful, Trade Down Island is a beautiful place to live. It’s the right way to live. It’s a healthy, sustainable way to live. Feel free to buy a place and move in.

And if you know Marty Hurney’s real estate agent, please make sure he gets a brochure before Thursday.


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