Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Feb 2006

Texans Might Trade Top Pick

It's a short story, but still worth a mention: GM Charley Casserly said that the Houston Texans have been talking to other teams about trading the first pick in April's draft. Do you think David Carr would like to see D'Brickashaw Ferguson in a Texans uniform?

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 27 Feb 2006

46 comments, Last at 02 Mar 2006, 10:15pm by empty13

Comments

1
by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 10:01am

It's about time Houston acknowledged they can possibly that the Texans may be able to make the team better by trading that pick rather than picking Reggie Bush.

2
by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 10:03am

And the correct version of that comment is:

It’s about time Houston acknowledged the possibility that the Texans may be able to make the team better by trading that pick rather than picking Reggie Bush.

3
by Aaron N (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 11:49am

"... or they might not."

That should sum it up until April...

4
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 12:24pm

Doesn't this story run every year this time, just with a different team in the title?

5
by Jimi (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 12:33pm

I don't know if anyone can say with any certainty what the Texans might do. Even judging from their past draft choices it's hard to say, but I will go out on a limb and say that Casserly keeps the pick and takes Bush.

Here's what they have done in previous drafts. To compare, I've listed the two players of the same position that got drafted before and after.

2002, 1st pick: QB David Carr (Joey Harrington picked afterward)
2003, 3rd pick: WR Andre Johnson (Charles Rogers picked before, Bryant Johnson picked afterward)
2004, 10th pick: CB Dunta Robinson (DeAngelo Hall picked before, Ahmad Carroll picked afterward)
2005, 16th pick: DT Travis Johnson (Luis Castillo picked afterward)

6
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 12:34pm

Here's the Mad Libs template:

[Name and/or title of informed source] said that the [name of team picking first] have been talking to other teams about trading the first pick in April’s draft. Do you think [name of offensive skill player on that team] would like to see [name of top offensive lineman prospect] in a [possesive case of that team's name] uniform?

7
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 12:50pm

I'm always in favor of trading down in the first round (at least until the NFL restructures the rookie salary cap), but if the Texans stay where they are, I think they should take D'Brickashaw Ferguson. He'd make a bigger difference than Bush.

8
by charles (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 1:38pm

IMO, the texans should take williams from nc state with the first pick. If andre johnson stays healthy for the whole year their offense will be better.

9
by Kachunk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 1:52pm

My question is can you justify doing that? Taking an O-lineman with the first pick? It seems like if the guy doesn't work out or something you have a better chance of getting some equity out of him in trade if he's a skill position player, doesn't it? I, obviously, think the more sensible approach is to address your needs, but no one in the league seems to take that approach and I'm just wondering if there are economic reasons why, or if it's just the grumpy-old-man "it's always been that way" approach?

10
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 2:09pm

Good call.

I generally feel that the teams in the 10-15 range are the ones who need that one superstar player to get them over the top. The teams 1-5 generally have too many holes for a single player to really fill.

11
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 3:04pm

RE 10
I have to agree with you I think this might be a very smart move by the texans get a few lower 1st and second round draft picks so they can try and fill a few more holes with the money they would be forced to spend with a No.1 overall pick.

12
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 3:08pm

Think about Charlie Casserly's short history managing the draft. Did anybody (and do they still) actually believe they wouldn't trade this pick. The man is one of the best draft-day deal-makers in the NFL. He may not always choose the right guy, but he knows how to most effectively target and trade down for the most value.

Re 9: I think there's a bit of history somewhere that actually says defensive and offensive linemen drafted in the first round are more often successes than skill position players drafted in the first round. It's been quoted a lot over the years, and I know there've been articles done on the subject supporting this. Makes sense to me, as in college as a skill position player you have to be better than your opposition, whereas to be a good lineman you more need to have your fundamentals down and realize you're not ever going to be the face of the team.

13
by Zac (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 3:27pm

Gamenight on ESPN Radio had a guy from a Houston newspaper saying that David Carr still might not be home free. The guy said that the possibility of drafting Vince Young and trading Carr still exists.

14
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 4:22pm

MDS- There is no question that Ferguson is a much higher need, and probably a safer pick to boot. But he's not a higher impact player simply based on his position. Think about it-If a good offensive lineman was a difference maker, the Baltimore Ravens probably should have fielded at least a mediocre offense at some point during Jonathan Ogden's career. If a good offensive lineman was a difference maker, the St. Louis Rams offense would have picked up when Orlando Pace was added, not Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, and it would have stayed a good unit after Warner left. If a good offensive lineman was a difference maker, you would be able to mark the Cincinnati Bengals offensive resurgence from the point when they added Willie Anderson and Levi Jones, not from the point when they added Carson Palmer. I mean really, Jonathan Ogden is going to the Hall of Fame, and he's spent his entire career playing for one of the worst offenses in football. Would it be possible for a quarterback to achieve that? A running back? A wide receiver? No. Because players at those positions contribute directly to offensive success. An offensive tackle, no matter how good he may be at his position, contributes very little, and can be rendered completely irrelevant if not properly supported by both other offensive linemen and skill position players.

An offensive line can contribute to success, as a unit. An offensive linemen on his own is statistically irrelevant. And you don't want to dole out a $25 million signing bonus to a player who at best is going to have a minimal impact on the offense as a whole. (And I haven't even touched on the fact that Ferguson can't run block very well.)

The other thing that is worth a lot of consideration is that from every draft projection I’ve seen, some of the best value picks at the top of the second round figure to be offensive tackles. There is definitely a drop off from Ferguson to someone like Winston, but the dropoff is going to be much less than that between, say, Mario Williams and the first defensive end to be selected in the second round.

All this said, I think Houston should absolutely trade down. The first round pick is the least valuable pick in the draft in terms of likely production vis-à-vis salary, and if you’re not taking a quarterback with the pick, the possible rewards simply don’t justify either the risk or the expenditure.

15
by Barry Sanders representing Marcus Allen, Steve Largent, etc. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 6:28pm

"I mean really, Jonathan Ogden is going to the Hall of Fame, and he’s spent his entire career playing for one of the worst offenses in football. Would it be possible for a quarterback to achieve that? A running back? A wide receiver?"

You're right, man, we'll give the enshrinement back. Just give me the week - I want to touch my bust just one more time.

16
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 6:40pm

I'm pretty sure Barry Sanders and Marcus Allen played on better offenses than the ones sported by the Baltimore Ravens during the Ogden era. I'd vouch for Largent as well.

17
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 6:57pm

Then you'd be wrong. The 2000 Raven offense was quite effective once Trent Dilfer replaced Tony Banks.

Even counting the 5-game TD-less streak, the team averaged 20 points a game that season. That does include Banks' one good game, the shootout win over Jacksonville in week 2. That offense included Lewis, Stokley, Sharpe, Ismail and Priest Holmes -- all players capable of moving chains when given time. That was Ogden's job.

The 2001 offense was also middle-of-the-pack, despite Lewis' injury, which put all the pressure on Grbac's unwilling shoulders. The effectiveness that group had totally depended on the line being able to move people -- which was why they eventually lost out to Pittsburgh. The Steelers knew how to counteract the run game, and Grbac wilted under the pressure.

A better example for your argument, Sean, would be the Bear teams of the late '70's, which flirted with playoffs despite atrocious quarterbacking and a line that Payton had to overcome just to get to scrimmage.

18
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 8:17pm

Casserly is a good draft day trader? Not for the Texans. The Titans killed him in a draft day trade in 2004 and the Raiders did it in 2005 as well. Perhaps there has been bigger hits for him earlier, but the past 2 trades he has done for the Texans in terms of the draft (trading away draft picks for Philip Buchanon, that the Raiders used to trade up into the 1st round to grab Fabian Washington and then select Kirk Morrison in the 3rd round) and in 2004 with the Titans (trading back into the 1st round for Jason Babin, the Titans got Ben Troupe, Randy Starks, Bo Schobel, and Jacob Bell in the deal-that is damn lopsided...)

19
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 8:27pm

Actually, using yards (I know, not perfect, but the most accessible stat) Sanders, Allen, Largent, Ogden, and future Hall-of-Famers like Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis have all played on offenses that average middle-of-the-pack to below-average.

Lions offenses with Sanders averaged a 14.3 ranking, Raiders and Chiefs offenses with Allen averaged a 14.4 ranking. Keep in mind, most of both of their careers was played with only 28 teams in the league and so these rankings would be a bit worse then than they would be today.

Steve Largent offenses ranked well in the bottom half of the league for all of his career, at 16.4 (all of this in a 28-team or less league.)

All of this said, Jonathan Ogden's is pretty bad, too, at 19.3 (in the bottom half, but comparable to Largent when you consider the increase in size in the league - both average at the top half of the bottom of the heap.)

Curtis Martin averages 17.4, all of his career in a 30 or 32 team league, and Jerome Bettis averages 15.2.

In ten seasons, Jonathan Ogden teams have ranked in the top half of the league in yards 4 times (actually all of these in his first 6 years.) It took ten years for Barry Sanders teams to rank in the top half of the league 4 times. It took Marcus Allen teams 6 years. It took Largent teams 11 years. Martin teams ranked in the top half of the league in yards each of his first four years, so screw him. Bettis teams, ten years.

I'm not trying to be selective, but merely trying to demonstrate the point that it takes more than a great player, QB, RB, WR, or O-Lineman, to make an offense great.

If each of these guys made their teams so great, their offenses should have been in the top half of the league more often than not, right? Sanders, 4 times in 10 years. Allen, 7 times in 16 years. Largent just 4 times in 14 years. Martin 6 times in 11 years (bastard has to buck every one of my examples, doesn't he?) Bettis 6 times in 13 years. Ogden 4 times in 10 years, looking just as big a part of a successful offense as any of these guys turned out to be.

20
by Stevie (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 8:45pm

Im not sure why the Jets need the no 1 pick as Cutler will be there unless they are crazy about Leinart and want to skip the Saints. Maybe they want Bush. The Texans are desperate for a pash rusher so why not offer them Abraham to switch places, then the Texans can take Brick. Seems like a good trade if the Jets really do want that pick. I think I would rather Brick and Abraham then Bush

21
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 8:46pm

Erasmus (#18 )--

I think the point is that Caserly is good at stockpiling picks, not that he has done tremendously well with the picks he's acquired.

22
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 9:40pm

For the 12,000th time, and I'm on the record saying this since early December, the first time Paul Tagliabue walks to the podium on draft day, he will say the following:

"With the first selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select running back Reggie Bush, University of Southern California."

23
by SJM (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 10:35pm

I'm going to repeat an argument I made back when the Texans first hired Gary Kubiak:

Kubiak just came from Denver, the land of 1,000 yard running backs. Does he really need his RB to be drafted so high, especially when he already has Davis? He'll trade it if he can, because not trading it would be an inefficient use of resources.

24
by MM (not verified) :: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 11:48pm

The Texans would be crazy to select Bush. What is his replacement value (speculative or otherwise) over Domanick Davis, especially given the guaranteed money given to the first pick? At best they are the same value and you now have an extra running back to trade for cents on the dollar on the red hot (sarcasm) running back market.

25
by JRM (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 12:10am

First time reader and poster. I LOVED the book and I have no idea why it took me so long to check out the site.

The 2006 Draft is loaded with super-prospects, with Lienart and Bush at the very top. It's not hard to see a team giving up a Ricky Williams-sized ransom to move up to #1. With Houston all set at QB and RB, they'd be wise to trade down if they had the chance to stockpile picks, which I think they will.

26
by Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 2:27am

Lions avg offensive rank (pts) with Sanders: 11.3
Ravens with Ogden: 17.1

27
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 3:09am

Re 17:

Tom,

But how much of that twenty point a game average was due to the offense getting set up with short fields thanks to their defense and special teams? Was the offense actually decent, or was it benefiting from circumstances that no other offense in the league was getting, right down to a defense that went ahead and scored for them? That is exactly the sort of question that DVOA was designed to answer. And, according to DVOA, the 2000 Ravens offensive DVOA was –6.5%, good enough for 20th in the league. The 2001 version was even worse, putting up a –12.7%, 25th best in the league. Once factors like field position are factored out, the Ravens offense during the Ogden era is consistently terrible. I don’t have the numbers for anything before 1998, but from 1998 to this last season, the Baltimore DVOA was a negative number (a.k.a below average) in each and every season. Here’s how Ogden’s offenses fared according to DVOA:

1998 –19.5% (26th)
1999 –25.2% (27th)
2000 –6.5% (20th)
2001 –12.7% (25th)
2002 –4.3% (24th)
2003 –20.6% (30th)
2004 –2.5% (16th)
2005 –16.1% (27th)

That’s one barely decent showing in eight years. In contrast, offenses with Curtis Martin (I mention these guys because Basilicus brought them up) have ranked –2.2% (12th), 15.5% (4th), -1.1% (11th), 18.7% (4th), 8.0% (9th) and 23.4% (5th). Jerome Bettis offenses have ranked 11.2% (8th), 11.5% (4th), 6.4% (14th) and 16.6% (7th). In short, both Martin and Bettis spearheaded much better offensive units. I don’t have numbers for the Largents, Allens and Paytons of the world; maybe they would be higher, maybe they wouldn’t. I’m willing to consider the possibility that an elite wide receiver could find it difficult to directly impact an offense’s overall performance. I’m willing to consider that in some cases, a running back will be surrounded by such poor personnel that he will be unable to consistently raise the level of play of the offense as a whole. When it comes to quarterbacks, you are talking about real rarity- like, say, Archie Manning and no one. But I just don’t see anything even beginning to resemble a direct correlation between left tackle play and offensive success. Obviously these are extremely rough correlations we are looking at, but you’d like to see something, anything.

In any event, I’m just not convinced that there is enough of a tangible difference between elite left tackle play and average left tackle play to warrant both the expense and the opportunity cost of using a top five pick on the position. I’m not totally opposed- I’m just skeptical.

Stevie- The Jets would want to move up because they like two of the quarterbacks, and it’s looking increasingly like neither of them will be there. Leinart is a shoo-in to be off the board by four. He’s likely going to New Orleans, and if for whatever reason New Orleans passes on him, it’s a virtual certainty that Tennessee would take him. Considering the way that Cutler’s stock continues to climb while Young’s continues to drop, it’s entirely possible-I would actually say probable-that if Tennessee decides to take a quarterback, they’ll pick Cutler. I still think Tennessee will go with Ferguson, but Cutler is a very definite possibility. So the Jets could find themselves in a position where only Young is on the board at four, and they clearly don’t want any part of him.

28
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 3:13am

Hmmm. Needless to say, those are supposed to be minus signs (-)

29
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 2:25pm

Well, Sean, you beat me to it (even to #28). What can I say: I agree.

#17: When you say an "offense was qute effective" can you please be more specific? Because I don't find getting 3 points off of consistently short fields to be tantamount to an effective offense.

30
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 2:34pm

Count me among those (apparently few) souls hesitant to flat out accept a trade down policy. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely think that the Texans should trade down. However, I'm not convinced by arguments that one should always as modus operandi trade down.

Cost hardly ever meets production at the very upper tier of the draft. But for quarterbacks, I would make an exception . . . provided your scouting is in order.

I am entirely against drafting for need (save for a situation in which two players are similarly rated on one's draft board). I would also differentiate between drafting for need and drafting to strengthen one's roster.

31
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 3:36pm

I think the Texans should trade down twice. The number of blue chip prospects in this draft is ridiculous... Bush, Leinart, Cutler, Vince Young and D'Brickashaw are just the tip of the iceberg. Below that you've got Michael Huff, Vernon Davis, AJ Hawk, and Mario Williams. It's not inconceivable that the Saints, Titans or Jets could trade up to make sure they get the QB they want and then another team trades into the top 5 in order to secure their top prospect.

Probably for the Titans the best player to trade with is the Jets, but you never know who is willing to move up. Could the Raiders be in play for a new QB?

32
by JRM (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 4:10pm

I agree almost entirely with Rick's sentiments in Comment #30.

Houston should not enter the room and announce "OK, we're trading down". But it's easy to imagine a scenario where the Jets fall in love with Lienart or the Niners decide that getting Reggie Bush is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and then see one of those teams pay an extraordinary price to move up to the Number One.

33
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 4:29pm

The Texans simply need to maximize value from their draft position.

Reggie Bush seems like he'll be a very good player. So do some other top prospects. Maybe some other team wants one of them. What will that team offer the Texans, to make sure that they get the player they want? Enough to draft another good player, plus some above-average players? Maybe draft picks plus a veteran? Especially on the offensive line, several good players will provide more value than one mega-star.

On the other hand, if the other team is only offering their own first-round pick, a seventh-rounder next year, and a baseball mitt, the Texans should probably keep their pick and take the best player that they can get.

That was the problem San Francisco had last year: they may have wanted to trade down, but nobody wanted to trade up enough to offer them value. So they get to live with Alex Smith on the roster, and hope that last year's fiasco was more due to lack of support than him being an insta-bust.

34
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 4:56pm

Rick- Exactly. Cost rarely meets production at the upper tier of the draft, but what you are getting is an opportunity to lock in a player who simply wouldn’t be available through other means. Peyton Manning is never playing for anyone other than the Colts. Carson Palmer is never playing for anyone other than the Bengals. You can’t go to free agency or to the trade market, because these players never enter the market. So even if a rookie quarterback doesn’t play at a high enough level over the first few years of his deal to justify the overall contract, you are paying for the right to lock him into that second contract at the going rate for an elite quarterback. It’s expensive, it’s not cost efficient, but it’s one of only two ways to secure yourself elite production at the most important position (the other way being to hope you hit the lottery with a lower round pick or free agent).

35
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 5:50pm

JRM, Sean - what you guys said.

36
by Falco (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 6:16pm

I think the belief that the offensive lineman is the safer or better pick is conventional wisdom that may not be justified. 16 offensive tackles and 29 running backs have been drafted top 5 the last 30 years. The teams who drafted running backs have solidly outperformed the teams who drafted tackles in the first 4 years in terms of win-loss, making playoffs, and advancing to championship games. Here is some of the data:

Teams that draft O-tackles are 0/16 making playoffs in year 1, 2/16 in year 2 (13%), 4/15 in both years 3 and 4 (27%).

Teams that draft RB are 10/28 making playoffs in year 1 (36%), 11/25 (44%) in year 2, 7/25 (28%) in year 3, and 9/25 in year 4 (36%).

About half of the running back teams finished .500 or better the first 4 years. About 1/3 of the offensive tackle teams finished .500 or better in the first 4 years.

If Houston gets a king's ransom of picks and can still move down a few spots and pick a highly rated player, then yes, they will do it. But contrary to the thought they should draft the lineman, I say no, if they dont have him graded above Bush. Yes, Houston pass protection is terrible, part of which is the #1 running back, Davis.

Re: 24, I would strongly disagree that the difference between Bush and Davis is about zero. Davis may be a fantasy football player's friend, but he is not nearly as good as his raw numbers indicate, and he is a major liability in pass protection. Heck, this team was as good or better (warning: low standards apply here) in the games he missed to injury, and the pass protection numbers were better for those games.

I also believe it is generally easier to find offensive linemen in the mid-rounds, if you scout well (big if). How did the teams with top-5 tackles perform as far as offensive DVOA? Not real well, particularly since the last 3 tackles taken in the top 5 have been Leonard Davis, Mike Williams, and Robert Gallery.

My team, KC, consists of an aging early first rounder acquired for a 3rd round pick (Roaf), an undrafted free agent (Brian Waters), a late round pick, acquired by trade (Wiegmann), a 3rd rounder (perennial probowler Shields), and another guy acquired for a late round pick (Wellbourn). I dont think NE or IND or DEN have any high first round picks starting for them. CIN has two. Seattle has Jones.

37
by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 6:17pm

... one of only two ways to secure yourself elite production at the most important position (the other way being to hope you hit the lottery with a lower round pick or free agent).

Oh my God. That's... that's Tom Brady's music!

Let me second post 33. The Texans should look to trade down, but not just for the sake of trading down.

Possibly unfortunately for Houston, there are several top prospects this year, so a team may not need to trade all the way up to #1 to get one. For example, if the Jets like Cutler, they can probably get him where they're at now. Last year, I would have said that SF should take whatever they can to unload that albatross of a pick, but not this year. If the right deal isn't there, just keep the pick. It's not like Reggie Bush is a bad alternative.

38
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 7:33pm

Re 36: Nice post. I'm not terribly high on Davis, either, btw. That said, I do think that the best argument for drafting Ferguson, either at #1 overall or after a trade down, is that Houston already has major pieces in place at quarterback, at wide receiver and possibly at running back, so Ferguson would do more to support the money Houston already has invested...but I'm still not sold. Houston also had no viable second receiving threat, something that Bush would instantly add.

39
by MM (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 7:34pm

The Economist reported on a study done by some economists that put a dollar value on the various draft picks. Long story short, the 43rd pick is the most valuable by their methods. This generally supports the hypothesis that trading down for lower picks is a better strategy.
http://economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3819483

40
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 7:35pm

This discussion reminds me of the Michael Vick trade. Would you rather have Michael Vick or Ladanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees (and Tim Dwight for a few years)? Its funny that the RB is the "#1 prospect" coming out this time.

I still believe someone behind New Orleans would be willing to give Houston a good, fair deal to get Leinart or Bush... that could cause New Orleans to get nervous and move up to secure Leinart.

I can't see this draft going down without any trades intp the top 5.

41
by GaryS (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 7:41pm

The Texans should definately trade down and get more picks. One player will not make a difference on that team. There are plenty of good OT and OG to chose from, and their OL is terrible. They already have the first 2 picks in the 3rd round, so trading the No 1 pick should give them 2 picks in the first 3 rounds this year, as well as two firsts next year.

Nevertheless, if Charlie Casserly is doinng the drafting, it really doesn't make any difference how many paicks they have as he couldn't pick out a football player in a room full of hairdressers.

I'd love to see the pictures he must have of McNair.

42
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 7:46pm

If I were the Texans, I would trade down as many times as I could find another team willing to trade a pick or two to move up. That is to say, if I could, I would move from 1 to 4, then from 4 to 8, then from 8 to 13, then from 13 to 22, then from 22 to 29. By the time you were finished you would have something like four second round picks, six third round picks and six fourth round picks (and perhaps even an additional future first rounder or two).

Sooner or later (probably later) someone will do precisely this and will make out like a bandit, and then and only then will the perceived value of draft picks (especially high draft picks) shift a little in the direction of their real value.

As it is, I suspect the Texans are willing to trade down to #4 because they expect to be able to get the player they want, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, there. But with Vince Young possibly sliding down the board a little, I think it's likely they'd lose that musical chairs game, as the Flaming Thumbtacks would probably grab Ferguson at #3 (1. Bush 2. Leinart 3. Ferguson).

43
by David Carr (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 10:12pm

I would appreciate it if Casserly would trade down and pick up some new linemen, too.

44
by RCH (not verified) :: Wed, 03/01/2006 - 2:15am

Totally agree w/trading down. Go back and scan the first rounds (NFL.com has them since '82.) The number of misses is astounding, even for the so called draft geniuses. Even the mighty Belichick/Pioli combo misses half the time. Their trick is that they have more picks than everyone else.

45
by Rick (not verified) :: Wed, 03/01/2006 - 6:48am

RCH - When you say that "the number of misses is astounding" how does that relate to the conclusion that trading down is the better alternative? What classifies as a miss? Some picks can't play. Some picks get injured. Some picks end up not fitting in when a staff turns over. What's a miss?

If we "scan" the first round what conclusions are we left with? Isn't there a difference between missing with a top 5 pick and missing with a pick between 25 and 31? If we section off the draft into thirds, where do the majority of the "misses" in the first round come from? I'd rather qualify a section in a round than "scan" an entire round. It yields better results.

Since you didn't mention cost, I'll leave it aside (I happen to think the arguments that involve cost are overrated. Cost is cost. If a team picks a player in a particular slot they are fully aware of the cost. If they try to move a pick to trade down and can't, they're stuck with the cost. I would suspect that GMs know this. After all, it's their money and not ours.)

As a small anectodal sample, this is from the 1999 draft; here are the last ten picks of the 1st round:

21 Arizona L.J. Shelton T Eastern Michigan
22 Seattle Lamar King DE Saginaw Valley
23 Buffalo Antoine Winfield CB Ohio State
24 San Francisco Reggie McGrew DT Florida
25 Green Bay Antuan Edwards FS Clemson
26 Jacksonville Fernando Bryant CB Alabama
27 Detroit Aaron Gibson T Wisconsin
28 New England Andy Katzenmoyer MLB Ohio State
29 Minnesota Dimitrius Underwood DT Michigan State
30 Atlanta Patrick Kerney DE Virginia
31 Denver Al Wilson MLB Tennessee

Now here are the first 10 picks:

1 Cleveland Tim Couch QB Kentucky
2 Philadelphia Donovan McNabb QB Syracuse
3 Cincinnati Akili Smith QB Oregon
4 Indianapolis Edgerrin James RB Miami
5 New Orleans Ricky Williams RB Texas
6 St. Louis Torry Holt WR North Carolina State
7 Washington Champ Bailey CB Georgia
8 Arizona David Boston WR Ohio State
9 Detroit Chris Claiborne OLB Southern California
10 Baltimore Chris McAlister CB Arizona

Conlusion: the top 3rd of the draft had more expensive, and much much better players than did the bottom of the round.

Then there's the second round:

32 Cleveland Kevin Johnson WR Syracuse
33 Cincinnati Charles Fisher CB West Virginia
34 Carolina Chris Terry T Georgia
35 Philadelphia Barry Gardner MLB Northwestern
36 Indianapolis Mike Peterson MLB Florida
37 Washington Jon Jansen T Michigan
38 Carolina Mike Rucker DE Nebraska
39 Miami James Johnson RB Mississippi State
40 Oakland Tony Bryant DE Florida State
41 St. Louis Dre' Bly CB North Carolina
42 Atlanta Reggie Kelly TE Mississippi State
43 Miami Rob Konrad FB Syracuse
44 Minnesota Jim Kleinsasser TE North Dakota
45 Cleveland Rahim Abdullah OLB Clemson
46 New England Kevin Faulk RB Louisiana State
47 Green Bay Fred Vinson CB Vanderbilt
48 Chicago Russell Davis NT North Carolina
49 N.Y. Giants Joe Montgomery RB Ohio State
50 Tampa Bay Shaun King QB Tulane
51 Arizona Johnny Rutledge MLB Florida
52 Tennessee John Thornton DT West Virginia
53 Buffalo Peerless Price WR Tennessee
54 Kansas City Michael Cloud RB Boston College
55 Dallas Solomon Page G West Virginia
56 Jacksonville Larry Smith DT Florida State
57 N.Y. Jets Randy Thomas G Mississippi State
58 Denver Montae Reagor DT Texas Tech
59 Pittsburgh Scott Shields FS Weber State
60 San Diego Jermaine Fazande RB Oklahoma
61 Denver Lennie Friedman C Duke

It seems as though everyone did better in the second round (thought it's hard to believe that Shaun King and Mike Cloud were second-rounders); but this doesn't mean that teams would have been better off completely dropping into that round. It means that teams were better at identifying talent AFTER the higher rated players were already taken.

Also, sorry for stating the obvious but, a team trading down invloves a team trading up. A team trading up is taking on a risk. That's obvious. And a risk by definition is something more likely to not work out than work out. Ok. When that risk doesn't work out it's also obvious (and misleading) to point to the success rate of such actions and conclude that the best thing to do would have been to trade down. If a football team has marketedly more success, in terms of percentages, throwing the ball than running the ball, the conclusion that said team should always then throw the ball is untenable. Why is looking at success percentages in a draft any different? They are both completely about analysis within their context.

There are some questions that simply don't get answered by retrospectively asigning draft value. Perhaps the most vital: You need someone willing to trade up to trade down. So if one argues that a team should always trade down, they're also arguing that a team should also trade up. Like capitalism, it's a system that works but works as an argument both for and against itself.

To quote Drew from #37: "Last year, I would have said that SF should take whatever they can to unload that albatross of a pick, but not this year" Exactly. But no one wanted a piece of that. I can't wait for the first person (I'll give them another two drafts) to say: "The 49ers should have traded down! They could have had [fill in better players in random order who picked after Alex Smith]." I seriously suggested to a friend that SF should let the clock run out on their pick a couple of times. It's not honorable, but neither is being forced by your governing entity to spend 20+ million in guaranteed cash when you don't want to.

The draft is an aparatus that's all about context. One can always say that trading down is the best option, but no one ever seems to point out when it's not. Part of the reason for this I suspect is beacuse those arguments are necesarily anectodal or unsubtantiated. It's rumor or hearsay, and FOs aren't going to throw colleagues (or themselves) under that bridge.

The answer to a bad pick sometimes is that it was a bad pick. Not that they should have traded down. Who wouldn't trade down if the offer was too good to resist? So then why assume when a team doesn't trade down that they should have? And when a good pick is made in the upper parts of the first round we don't tend to focus on any refusals - refusals - to trade down. It's not statistically available material . . . but it's important. So, are we judging tradedown effects as well as we possibly can? We look at trade downs and who benefits. Possibilities if there had been a trade down and who benefits. But what about teams that could have and didn't? It's speculation, but so is the premise of a trade down that didn't happen.

Again, I'm not against trading down but the assurances of trading down seem reliant on assumtions I can't take as empirical fact. And the empirical facts offered in favor of trading down are conditioned as well by non-stastical factors that should be but can't be part of the equation.

A fact that does remain however for us to reckon with is that when a team hits on a high pick at QB, that team's long term success is pretty much set. Yes, it's a lottery, but I won't fault a team for being in it to win it . . . provided they actually have good scouts and never use the word "it" when describing a quarterback. After all scouting isn't hard, hiring good scouts is.

And regarding NE, Belichick has had one pick in the top 10 since he's been there: the #6 overall in 2001. The Patriots had a gaping hole at receiver and they needed a left tackle tackle badly. They took Richard Seymour (who does a job for them that none of Damione Lewis, Marcus Stroud, Casey Hampton, Ryan Pickett, Kris Jenkins, or Shaun Rogers would have been able to do: all position players are not the same) and not only is the rest history, but Richard Seymour is now underpaid.

. . . but if they traded down they could have had Kenyatta Walker and Freddie Mitchell.

46
by empty13 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/02/2006 - 10:15pm

Rumors are out there now that Houston will trade the pick to NYJ. Of course that may rest on today's deal of Abraham holding up. Houston has so many holes that if they dont fill those, Bush wouldnt have any holes to run thru anyway,