Monday, February 16, 2009

Disco, 8 Tracks, Jimmy Johnson & Caps

The year: 1989. These little shiny things called CD's had just been introduced, but were still rare and expensive. Cassette Tapes were all the norm. 8 tracks were hanging around still, but already relegated to the discount bin. Finally, Jimmy Johnson and his staff devised a tool that is now deader that Disco and Elvis -- though many people still deny all three.

This article is a couple years old, but illustrates at least the edges of what I am getting at, as well as the origins and value of the chart -- at the time.

The problems with the value chart doesn't lie in the numbers, but in how the NFL has changed in the last 20 years. In the late 80's, teams chose the best player available or at a position of need irregardless of where they were picking. This is because there was no salary cap, so teams weren't limited in payroll options. Also, the "first pick of the NFL Draft" also was not even close to it's current days usage as a synonym for "you just won the Lottery!"

Because of the high salaries of the first few draft picks, they become among the highest paid players in the NFL. There could be a pro-bowl, super OG available -- but at #1, if the Lions picked him he would end up with a contract guaranteed at over twice what the highest paid OG in the NFL right now makes. This limits the positions that are available with the first pick to those that warrant the salary.

That limitation alone would be enough to justify some changes to the NFL Draft system. Back in the 8-track days, the first pick in the draft was a reward to the worst teams -- the ability to pick the best college player coming out, or trade away the right to choose that player for some additional picks.

Not so now.

In addition to the limitation on position, there is the other side of the cap implication -- failure. There are so many cap dollars wrapped up in the first pick that a miss there can cripple a franchise's cap situation. You can't choose at 10 year starter at OG, you have to try to swing for the next Larry Fitzgerald or Jared Allen. Unfortunately, this leads teams to take on even more risk. The positions with the highest pay are such because they are harder to find a pro-bowl level player to man them. Conversely, this also means choosing one leads to a higher frequency of failure as well.

According to NetRat, the positions that can justify #1 overall money are QB, WR, DE, LT, RB. Even RB is iffy, as teams have been able to find great backs in rounds 2-3 that have as much, or more, impact than the first round backs. DT is borderline due to their inflating salaries -- would have to be a pro-bowl player to justify it. Is there one in this draft? Lions don't need a WR#1, they need a WR#2. They don't need a RB#1, they need a RB#2...

That leaves DE, LT, QB. Lions could go LT, but that would be upgrading someone who is a reasonable starter, highly paid, and still won't fix the big problem on the line --- the OG positions. As for DE -- is there a Mario Williams in this draft? Besides, White has done decent, and Avril was really coming on last year once he got on the field. So that leaves QB.

Remember, this is just from a cap perspective.

See how easily the salary process of elimination pigeon-holes teams in the #1 spot?

Now, I want to get back to value. It irritates me no end how the same fans who say "we can't trade out of #1, no one wants it." then turn right around and say "but we can't do that trade -- the #1 pick is worth more than that!" -- so which is it?? Not worth anything, or only worth giving up for a couple firsts and seconds??

I have an answer: My House. It has three different values right now -- State Equalized Value, Market Value, and Personal Value.

1. State Equalized value is what the state uses to tax my house each year. It is dependent on a formula of current markets, what past sale values have been, past sales in the area, etc. In other words, it is an abstract value for tax purposes that may or may not have anything to do with the current real value of the home.

I liken this valuation to the draft chart. Back when it was relevant, and still is for later rounds, it allowed a value to be put on the valueless -- a standardized "what if" price that made for a common starting point, but could be altered based on leverage.

2. Market Value: Market Price, simply defined, is the price an individual is willing to pay another for a good or service. In this example, what will someone else be willing to pay me for my house? It doesn't take into account, in reality, what I paid for it. It doesn't matter what I think it's worth. The only thing that matters is how much someone else wants it. What are they willing to pay to take it off my hands? I may make money, or I may take a loss, but the market determines that based on factors such as available comparable housing, the pricing of such, their need, time-frames, etc.

This is the true value of picks traded (and players, for that matter). You can only get rid of a pick for what another team is willing to pay. If my SEV value is your entire draft, but market price is an extra 3rd rounder -- that is it. The pick is worth a 3rd rounder unless some other team decides it is worth more to them. You can point at the chart til you are bluer than the Cadillac Grannie's tuft of hair sticking over the steering wheel and it won't matter.

A draft pick is only worth what another team is willing to give you for it.

3. Personal Value: This is the compliment to market value -- what your house it worth to you. Maybe I can sell my house and break even on what I owe -- but then I would be out my down payment. Or maybe I can sell it for what I bought it for. But do I want to sell? Do I have to sell? Can I afford to sell? Those factors all play in to what my house is worth to me. If I am forced to do something, that will intrinsically lower the value -- I have to get rid of it. If I want to get rid of it, but don't have to, the value will still be low for me (I don't want it) but I won't take a big loss just to be out of here. Finally, if I am happy with my house and don't want to move, then someone will need to offer me a premium. If that premium is high enough, I will take their offer because it benefits me, not because I am unhappy.

The Roy Williams trade is a perfect example of the last line. Jerry Jones really wanted RW. Detroit was fine keeping him, but since they were offered a high enough premium -- they sold. The "personal value" for the first draft pick needs to be dealt with the exact same way.

If the Lions have a couple of guys they like, and are comfortable with what contract they will take, then by all means --- hold out for a great deal and if it doesn't come along use the pick. On the other hand, if they aren't thrilled with the prospect, but will use the pick if they have to -- then try and get what you feel is a remotely reasonable offer, and get out of it. Finally, if they absolutely do not want that #1 overall, get the hell out of dodge. Fire-sale it and do anything but give up your own picks to get out of there. No sense using it for the sake of using it if you don't like any of your options at #1!

This means that what you feel the Lions should get for the first pick is directly related to how you feel the Lions view their options. If you think Stafford is the man (Tomorrow I'll show you that Stafford is already on the roster) then you will only trade out for a big offer (multiple 1's, or 1-2-3 kind of deal). If you like Stafford, but a couple other guys catch your eye. You'd be happy with any number of players in the top ten, then you trade it for a top-ten #1 and a their 2nd or 3rd. If you feel fine being in the teens, do the same thing -- 1 & 2 or 3 for #1 overall.

Finally, if you just hate the #1 spot, and feel it will set the Lions back another 3 years then fire sale out of it. Take #anything in the first and an additional pick to not have to use it. Or move to #2 - 10 for a 1 and a 4,5 or 6. You're still getting something, but avoiding that super-huge payout.

So as we get into the FA and draft talk, keep the different valuations in mind -- especially market and personal value -- as they are what dictates the signings and movings and trades.

As Elvis would sing on his 8-track, "A little less conversation, a little more action..."


Anonymous said...

A VERY GOOD comparison between values of homes and draft picks.

It's also amazing to watch the value of certain people in this draft rise up from the milk, even though they weren't cream before the Senior Bowls. Signing the right agent and sneaking in an impressive "40 number" can make your stock rise and it really has no correlation to FOOTBALL. It just means you can cram for an exam. It's like having your home value rise because a certain zip code is attached to it, even though a home 500 feet away is a perfect comparable.

I unfortunatelywon't be able to watch much of the combine (which I actually enjoy) here at home. However, I may be able to sneak a few peeks while at work. I am not holding my breath, but we'll see.

And, unlike the teaser, I am starting to grow less-and-less fond of Stafford the more game film I see. Two trends I am starting to see develop is a pretty simple offense that he ran at Georgia, and a guy who does not go deep into his progressions (for better and worse).

DetFan1979 said...

I won't be able to watch the combine either -- probably almost none of it.

I totally agree on the prospect angle (risers/fallers). I like Harris' statement from the long interview (from yesterday) that while workouts are great, it comes back to their body of work and who they are as a player -- and who they are likely to become as a player on your NFL team.

I'm not a Stafford fan at this point either -- for that same reason. But I've wrote a bit more on that tomorrow. :)

Gotta keep people reading, right?

Anonymous said...

The other thing I am worried about regarding Stafford is he is the best quarterback in the draft. No one is saying he is the best quarterback in college football. No one is saying he is the best quarterback to come out of college football in the past decade.

If you are the best of the group, and the group is a flock of are still a turd. I am really wanting to see the "IT" factor. The guy I want to see the Lions sit down with at the combine is Knowshaun Moreno. We don't need a running back, but take the time and find out what kind of a guy Stafford is. Find out who he is in big games, in the huddle. Is it a coach's decision on big calls, or does Stafford audible (and was trustworthy by coaches to change calls)? Look for that, and maybe a Georgia offensive lineman (maybe a guard). Find out who makes the line calls and reads blitzes at UGA, find out the little things, and maybe hide your intentions and find a good guard in the process.

Todd said...

I'm not positive but I don't think I was really big on our guards last season, for what seems to be a semi-lucrative contract here. But then again our running game did pickup a lot towards the end of the year, can someone confirm to me that Peterman was indeed starting during that time period?

Todd said...


Definitely worth the 8 minutes. I am definitely not a Stafford advocate and don't think they should draft a quarterback with that pick, but like DetFan wrote here, you only have so many choices if we can't trade out of the spot it pretty much is quarterback. However, after watching this 8 minutes I am a lot less pessimistic about them picking him if they did. I know its pretty much a highlight reel, but the guy has a lot of highlights. He has a cannon and it is just so smooth. Every play seems like he releases so fast and gets rid of the ball (we need that type of qb). Time the plays in your head, 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi--balls out. I like the looks at that. And wait until you see him run on a few plays....he's fast! He even has some elusive moves. For some reason I had it stuck in my head that he was slow and almost like overweight but I have a different opinion and you can't really argue with me, he's surprisingly pretty quick.

JJLions20 said...

In my book there are three factors to being a Pro QB. You need to have two of the four to get a shot at starting in the pro’s, three of the four to be successful , and all four to be a star. They are as follow:
• Athletic Ability. It first comes with a big league arm. One who can make the throws, and/or the legs for mobility. This is what is easiest measured at the combine and individual workouts.
• Leadership. Some call it the IT factor, or the intangibles. The willingness to work harder than everybody else and lead by example.
• Accuracy . For some reason which I don't understand this is not as easy to evaluate coming from college to the pro's. Somehow supposedly accurate passers in college can't hit a receiver in the pro's. It may be the speed of the game and the small windows to throw into that is the difference.
• Decision Making. The ability to read defenses, go though progressions and make decisions under pressure.
If the Lions are looking at Stafford or Sanchez as the #1 overall pick they better be sure they have three of the 4 factors locked down. A College QB with 2 of the four is not a high 1st rounder. Looking at these two I think they both have the Athletic Ability, and that will prove out in the work-outs. So one down two to go.
The next factor is leadership. It’s a question mark in my mind with both of these guys. Stafford could not lead his team or will his team to victory in the big games. Sanchez may have shown a little more but it’s hard to evaluate being surrounded by a lot of NFL ready players. Lets remember though that USC Players are not known for their work ethic. It’s more of a country club atmosphere at USC.
Accuracy is the next factor to look at. Stafford has shown inconsistency in this area during his college career. He would look bad for a quarter or two then light it up for a while. To me this is a big red flag. The windows are smaller and the players are quicker in the NFL. Typically inconsistent QB’s in college make mistakes and get eaten alive in the NFL. With Sanchez the knock is his talent was so great around him his inaccuracy was hidden.
The hardest of the four factors to evaluate is the Decision Making. College offences are so simplistic compared to the Pro offences, a college QB can not be evaluated by his college play. I don’t think it can be evaluated properly although there are some things that can weed out some players. The Wunderlich test for one. Video games to test reaction times.

My problem with Drafting Stafford or Sanchez is I only see one of the four factors so far. It’s up to Schwartz, Harris, & Mayhew to determine if he has two of the other three factors. I just don’t see either of these guys having what it takes for the #1 pick.
One last comment, I would agree that Stanton had two of the four factors (Athletic Ability & Leadership)making him a 2nd rounder. But without the accuracy and/or decision making ability he’s not going to be a starter in the NFL.

JJLions20 said...

I've looked at Todd's Youtube highlight real. There is no doubt that Stafford has the first of my four factors, the athletic ability. But realizing this is a highlight real there are a lot of throws to a receiver who has stopped their route. It's a typical route in a simplistic college offense where a QB with a gun for an arm can excel. The problem is a some of the throws are not that accurate. Some are but some aren’t. They are not thrown in the small windows where it makes it easy for the receiver to catch. Some throws are high and behind receivers. And this is a highlight real. The question becomes is he consistently accurate enough to have two of the four factors? The Lions will have to look at the body of work, and make that decision. I'm not convinced yet. But I'll give him the Athleticism factor.

CHIEFGER139 said...

I guess I dont get it, I see what nubs is saying and can see it in some of the draft boards-guards, kickers other positions arent even listed till you get past 30 on the list but curry-a linebacker is rated number 2 on stafford is 7 and sanchez 5 so why couldnt mayhew get curry and the pick be worth the money-by the way crabtree is number one-
then fill a major need with a potential superstar and wait for the better qb's to come out next year??
im not sold on stafford either-but hes the 1st guy there bringin in to look at and it sure looks like hes the man.

DetFan1979 said...

I also watched the highlight reel. I've yet to see a college player highlight reel on YouTube where that player didn't look like a future HOF player.

Remember, the player's agent -- especially for potential top picks -- is out there putting out whatever "helpful" information they can. Stafford going first or falling in the first round is a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars to his agent.

Think he leaves youtube videos to chance, or that he and/or his firm his out there taking down videos that aren't good, and putting out highlight reels that emphasize what they want to be out there. (they put them out under proxies, so you can't figure out the source)

Skeptical? How about this: That video is, by looking at his overall stats, almost if not every short to indermediate pass he completed at least last year, possibly more.

It's also a fairly recent video. What is mentioned as a hole in his game? Accuracy/touch on short to intermediate routes.

See, his agent wants fans out there, as well as draftniks to ignore what they thought and think what he wants them to.

In sales, it's often said customers will leave with one number stuck in their head. Your job as a salesman is to make sure it's the "right one" -- meaning the one you want them to. Same thing these agents are doing.

I agree with JJ that there were a lot of stop routes there, as well as under/behind/over thrown balls on those short routes -- a couple of which would have been easy pick-6's in the NFL. Most would be defensed by a CB of Keith Smith's caliber.

JJ - great points on the QB Factors. This discussion on QB's sequays right into today's blog, that's for sure!

Todd - still a good highlight reel, and worth watching - thanks for the link.

More on Peterman for me later, but he was listed as one of the top FA OG in a weak class. Even if the Lions drafted an OG they would have needed to sign at least one. He was misused (as were most players last year) and has shown some promise. Peterman is a borderline starter, excellent backup/depth player to have around. If he starts for a year til a lower round pick is ready, or competes with ManRam for a year while a 2 or 3rd round pick starts on the other side, it will still do wonders to help the O-Line. If Peterman/ManRam doesn't work starting, they can draft an additional OG to replace them next year.

On a team this talent depleted, you have to keep around your borderline starters until you can upgrade them, and focus on areas where you don't have starters.