Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Jul 2014

NFL Trade Value

Part two linked above. Part one here.

Bill Barnwell's annual look at the most valuable players and contracts in the NFL.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 23 Jul 2014

54 comments, Last at 31 Jul 2014, 4:38pm by theslothook


by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 5:55pm

I would much rather have Luck over Wilson, even given their contracts. Seems that Luck has proven that he can carry an offense by himself, while Wilson has been good but hasn't had to throw that many passes since he can rely on a great defense and running game. Plus Luck is younger.

by Perfundle :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 7:13pm

So you'd rather have Luck and a replacement-level running back than Wilson and Lynch as he (Lynch) was at the start of the 2012 season (i.e. someone who will give you at least two years of Beast Mode-level running) for the next two years? Because that is the difference between their contracts right now.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 7:54pm

Exactly. This list isn't a simple ranking of how good players are, it takes how expensive they are into account. With that in mind, I think Wilson beats Luck easily.

by theslothook :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 8:02pm

I mentioned this below but...since we're talking over many years, I don't think 1 or two years of cap savings would sway someone from going with Rodgers over Wilson.

Again, if the NFL hit the reset button and this became a Madden style fantasy draft, which players get taken in what order? Contracts matter, but I suspect Wilson gets chosen either 3rd or 4th out of all players. And contract probably is the 5th most important thing they would consider.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 1:13am

I'm not sure why you're singling out Wilson to compare to Rodgers. I'd put Rodgers over Wilson too, but also over Luck and in first just like you.

by theslothook :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 8:03pm

double post.

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 8:24pm

"So you'd rather have Luck and a replacement-level running back than Wilson and Lynch"

No, I'd rather have Luck at $7 mil than Wilson at $1 mil. $6 mil isn't that much with a salary cap at $133 million, and I'm not sure how Wilson would do with a bad run game/offensive line/defense. I have more questions about how good Wilson is than how good Luck is, plus Luck has better size.

In either case you are going to be locking up Wilson and Luck within a year to a $100+ mil contract, so I think it's worth it to take QB who I think is better than save $6 mil against the cap for 1 year.

by acr :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 10:50pm

Not only that but with quarterbacks as young as Luck & Wilson, and the protections for QBs in the NFL you have the potential to think longer term than players at other positions. Look at how long Brady & Manning and even Brees & Roethlisberger & Rodgers have been playing at a very high level. I would take the QB with more talent over the $6 million in savings today because you may be planning to keep a great young QB for 5 or 8 or 10 years rather than the 2-3 you can realistically plan for with players at other positions.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 1:18am

I'm pretty sure Wilson wouldn't do very well with a bad run game/offensive line/defense, but then, neither would/has Luck. And you should throw out offensive line in your comparisons, because neither QB has had a good one.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 11:59am

Plus Wilson will only be much cheaper for one more year, after that Wilson and Luck will be paid very similarly and if you think Luck is better, as I do, then I'd rather have Luck and damn the cheap year.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 6:05pm

Pretty good list and I like Barnwell, but Cam Newton and especially Eli Manning are ranked way too high. Eli probably shouldn't even be on the list, let alone top 20.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 6:35pm

I was logging on to post exactly what you did about Eli. He's 33, and just had one of the worst seasons of his career. With his current contract, if the Giants offered him up for trade, I doubt they would get anything above a couple of 3rd round picks, even from a team desperate for a reliable starter.

by theslothook :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 8:04pm

I bet if he was on the open market right now, he'd go for a 2nd rounder easily. People will be willing to give him a mulligan for last season(I personally don't).

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 8:38am

I guess my opinion of his trade value is in a world where every GM is at least "replacement level". But I think you're right, in that there's a GM out there shortsighted/dumb enough to give up a 2nd rounder for Eli and his cap-killing contract.

by jesse.hoff :: Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:08am

See Freeman, Josh

by theslothook :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 6:21pm

TO me, the best way to assess value is to consider which assets would fetch the most if they were up for trades.

Posed that way:

1) Aaron Rodgers
2) Andrew Luck
3) Wilson
4) Kaep/Newton.

Those are my impressions. I know there's a vocal community who thinks Wilson has outplayed Luck, but the above feels like what common perception is right now.

by Ryan D. :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 7:54pm

But the article clearly states that "contracts matter."

If you can get Wilson, and an extra $5M to spend on a pass-rusher, OR you can have Andrew Luck, which would you rather have? Wilson played pretty well, and that extra pass-rusher came in really handy for Seattle this past season.

by theslothook :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 8:01pm

Yes but contracts are fluid and I strongly doubt Wilson will be willing to tolerate yet another year of being paid as a scrub.

Let me put it this way: If you are the jaguars, browns, or whoever and were asked which qb you would rather have for the forseeable future, would anyone really pick Wilson over Rodgers? Rodgers may be older and with an onerous contract, but he's also a likely hall of famer smack in the middle of his prime. To me, that makes him the most valuable asset.

Now what if it's Wilson vs Peyton Manning? I think people would probably go Wilson on longevity.

In the end, I suspect the contract angle is less of an issue than say expected value of the player.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 8:53pm

I don't get the love for Luck. Both PFF and this site's statistic, DYAR, rank him below both Kaepernick and Wilson. He's had Reggie Wayne for one and a half seasons, and the rest of his receivers aren't that bad. His line might not be that great, and there's no help in the running game, but it's not like Wilson's offensive line is that awesome either. Most of the pro-Luck argument about his worth versus the other members of the Gang of Four goes like this: Wison and Kaep play on better teams, and Luck keeps his terrible team in the playoffs by himself. So the Niners and Seahawks have better defenses; do they have more talent on offense than the Colts? I'm not so sure the gap is as wide there as people think. Do I think Luck is one of the top ten trade assets in the NFL? Probably. Would I trade him for Wilson or Kaep, much less Rodgers? Probably not.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 9:01pm

Yeah, I think a lot of the reason most people argue for Luck over Wilson or Kaep is simply that he was supposed to be better than those guys coming out of college.

I think he gets way too much credit for carrying the Colts to mediocrity. The 2012 edition was phenomenally lucky with a terrible point differential against an awful schedule and last year they were basically the tallest midget in the AFC South.

I also don't like the whole "Luck's better because he passes more" argument. A large reason why they pass more is because they're a worse team, and are passing to catch up in the 4th which Seattle and San Fran don't do. Chase Stuart has done some great work with game scripts which corrects for this and Indy ranks as the 13th pass happiest team in the league. Seattle ranks 16th and San Fran 20th. Not nearly as big a difference as the raw totals would indicate.

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 07/23/2014 - 11:42pm

I don't think Wilson or Kaepernick would necessarily fail given a situation where they were playing with a horrible O-line, horrible running game, and bad defense, it's just I haven't seen them do it. Wilson and Kaep pretty much have been able to play in ideal circumstances so far.

And I don't think rankings of "pass happiest" take into account how defenses are playing teams. Most teams load up against the run vs. the 49ers and Hawks, and both those teams can choose when to pass and when to run since it is hard to move the ball against them. Teams are pretty much focused on stopping the passing game vs. the Colts, and the Colts have to pass because their defense allows plenty of scores.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 1:10am

No game that the Colts won did the defense, offensive line and running game play awful for the entire game; the ones where they did they got blown out. Their defense might have been awful in 2012, but they also faced the easiest offensive schedule, which led to their defense being remarkably good at holding leads or ties for their offense to get a game-winning drive - better than Seattle in 2012, for one. Then last year, Luck played a large part in putting the Colts behind in the first half; it wasn't just because of their defense. I can't filter out backup QB stats, but Indianapolis had the 4th-shortest to-go situations on 3rd/4th downs, and still had by far the worst 3rd/4th down conversion percentage by passing, at 27.2% (versus the league average of 37.1%).

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 3:20am

Luck is overrated by the media at large and I say this as a colts fan. In fact, he gets the exact opposite treatment Manning got. Manning was largely excellent and highly efficient for most of his plays, but was cherry picked for poor moments. Luck seems to a get a broad benefit of the doubt for the majority of his plays, but gets praised for his theatrics.

As far as comparing Wilson to Luck, I'd say it's close and the deciding factor will likely depend on which traits you look for. Luck has better reading ability, physical tools and upside, but Wilson is a better decision maker and scrambler. I think Wilson fits what Seattle wants to do and it's a bit unfair to just say Wilson's job is made easier by being in Seattle. Sometimes, being a risk averse scrambler is better than a risk taking qb would be.

Overall though, I think it's luck's physical tools that probably lead most people, including me, to believe that Luck is the better player.

As an aside from the stats point of view : Luck has his flaws, yes, but he's put in far more unfavorable conditions. The playcalling is surprisingly run run pass, with lots of luck heroics required once the conditions dictate as such. As any colts fan will tell you, this regime seems to want to play hide the qb style of football.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:09pm

They're actually quite even in terms of scrambling, and given Luck's absurd success rate at converting third downs by it and Wilson's occasional 15-yard sacks and intentional grounding penalties I would argue Luck is in fact better. As for decision making and reading ability, those aren't set in stone yet. Assuming that the receiving corps stay healthy, both QBs are going to get an improvement over last year, so we'll see if improvements occur in those areas.

by BJR :: Mon, 07/28/2014 - 8:57am

Luck largely gets over-rated because his team has reached the playoffs in both his seasons, which is in large part due to playing a terribly weak division. Whilst Wilson has undoubtedly benefited from a far superior supporting cast in his career to date, Luck has benefited from playing in undoubtedly the weakest division in the league. It would be very interesting to know the general perception of Luck's career to date had the Colts competed against even average divisional opponents.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 07/28/2014 - 5:55pm

Big wins against the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos and that wild come from behind win against the Chiefs in the playoffs probably contribute to his perception too.

by Johnny Socko :: Tue, 07/29/2014 - 8:06am

I hope all these folks claiming Luck is over-rated will remember their opinion 10 years from now. I have little doubt that by then, Luck will be considered a shoe-in for the HOF. As a 45 year old Indy fan, I have been fortunate to witness the start of both Manning's and Luck's careers. Having viewed Luck with an even more skeptical eye than I did Peyton, I still find Luck's first 2 years to be more impressive. The numbers may not indicate this, but the eyeball test certainly supports the claim. Luck is simply more athletic and therefore able to make plays Manning can't. Combined with Luck's similar, albeit not as advanced, mental command of the game, and the sky is the limit. Even if Luck never develops the mental acuity of Peyton (a reasonable conclusion), his physical talents could still propel his career to similar or even greater heights.

by theslothook :: Tue, 07/29/2014 - 7:18pm

First: Just because you think someone is overrated now doesn't mean you think they will remain overrated forever. Eli Manning was a bad quarterback when he won his first sb. He got better, but that still didn't mean he was a great qb in 07.

Brady was a game manager for at least 2 of his 3 sbs. He became a legend, but that didn't mean he wasn't being overrated early in his career because of his rings.

by Johnny Socko :: Thu, 07/31/2014 - 9:44am

This article is about trade value, so your reasoning makes no sense. Trade value takes into account not only how you view the player now, but also how you view his future. I can't fathom any GM in the league would trade Andrew Luck for any other single player. Does that make him overrated? Absolutely not.

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/31/2014 - 4:38pm

I wasn't arguing Luck's trade value, just that the current perception of him(tier 1) is incorrect. He will probably end up being a really good qb, but right now he's not a great qb.

by theslothook :: Tue, 07/29/2014 - 7:26pm

A friend of mine asked if Luck was better in his first two years than Manning was and what it would take for Luck to ultimately top Manning in my eyes.

The answer to the first question was yes. I think it's somewhat close though. I thought Manning was more consistently accurate - but Luck had better pocket movement and overcame a much weaker supporting cast. I have for fun watched old game film of Manning's early career. He was actually remarkably good even then. But yes, Luck has been better.

To the second - It would take an enormous body of work, one that I'm not convinced Luck can accomplish. For one thing, I don't see Luck lasting as long as Manning. He holds the ball too long and takes a ton of hits. But more importantly, think about what he would have to accomplish. As of now, Manning and Brady are the only qbs in Nfl history that have had massive career peaks combined with incredible longevity. Steve Young and Montana had the peaks, but lacked longevity. Favre and Marino had longevity, but smaller peaks. Since I can only name two qbs that fit that description, it's an insane standard to hold Luck to.

by theslothook :: Tue, 07/29/2014 - 7:28pm

As an aside : I'm not really sure where to put Elway. In fact, having never really saw Elway, I have no idea where I would put him based on what I know. His statistics are relatively weak even for his era, but I know his supporting cast and scheme were also pretty weak early in his career. Anyone have any ideas?

by 3cardmonty :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 5:53am

I don't think Wilson or Kaepernick would necessarily fail given a situation where they were playing with a horrible O-line, horrible running game, and bad defense, it's just I haven't seen them do it. Wilson and Kaep pretty much have been able to play in ideal circumstances so far.

Seattle's O-line was a complete mess last year and gave Wilson next to no protection. What he was able to do under those conditions was amazing, especially the first 10 weeks or so. The line would immediately fold and he'd manage to make plays out of nothing, over and over.

by MJK :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 11:43am

Stop me if you've heard this one before--talented young QB comes into the league, is a dual threat with good mobility and a good arm, shows surprising success early in his career, then either get's too many injuries or opposing defenses figure him out and he hits a wall about 3-4 years in and never is elite again.

Bonus points if the early success came coupled with an elite defense, which will inevitably decline.

This could well be Wilson or Kaep. I'm always suspicious whenever a mobile QB comes into the league and has success, and we hear about how the "pocket passer" is dead and the game will be revolutionized. And yet the elite guys continue, year after year, to be pocket passers like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers. It's true that hot pocket passers sometimes hit a wall too (Drew Bledsoe) and never become elite. But if I'm looking for someone that will be the next Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, I think Luck is far more likely to become that guy that Wilson or Kaep (or RGIII for that matter).

Actually, I'm somewhat surprised that Matt Ryan isn't in the discussion of top young QB's.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 5:53pm

"Actually, I'm somewhat surprised that Matt Ryan isn't in the discussion of top young QB's."

Apparently there are people, even on this site, who think Ryan isn't as good as Joe freaking Flacco.

I think Ryan's great, better than Wilson, Kaep or Luck.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:21pm

No, I don't I think have heard of such a scenario with a young QB that passed the ball as well as Wilson, or even Kaepernick. To take your example, when had Bledsoe even come close to the performance of those two in his early years? His DVOA ranks in his first years were 30th, 19th, 25th, 18th and 13th, whereas Wilson has been 6th and 8th and Kaepernick has been 3rd and 7th.

People seem to forget that Luck scrambles almost as much as the other mobile QBs; the reason he doesn't have more runs is that his coaches almost never have any designed runs for him. And as for injuries, Luck's playing style and the offense he's in exposes him to even more hits than Wilson or Kaepernick.

by jonnyblazin :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 3:45pm

"Seattle's O-line was a complete mess last year and gave Wilson next to no protection. What he was able to do under those conditions was amazing, especially the first 10 weeks or so. The line would immediately fold and he'd manage to make plays out of nothing, over and over."

Eh, I noticed plenty of plays last year where Wilson started running for his life in the backfield at the slightest hint of pressure, where an experienced QB would have just made a slight adjustment in the pocket, shuffled a few feet away from the pressure, and find an open receiver. I don't think the Seattle O-line was nearly as bad as Wilson made them look. But I give credit to Wilson for making plays after he started running around, his improvisational ability is impressive.

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 4:04pm

I don't know where this view that Wilson was secretly a highly efficient and effective qb came from. It sounds crazy to bash him since he's a good qb right now and will only get better, but there is a reason this team had the fewest pass attempts in the league.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 5:45pm

Is that reason that his team was frequently up by 2 touchdowns and that such teams tend to not pass that much? Or that his team played the slowest pace in the league which limited the number of plays / drives for him?

Again, this was not the run heaviest team in the league. By game scripts, they were about average. And considering all the called pass plays which turn into scrambles, they probably called more pass plays than average once you account for context.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:40pm

So you're saying that Roethlisberger was not amazingly efficient in his first two years, as evidenced by his 3rd and 2nd-place finishes in DVOA, because his team had the fewest pass attempts in the league in both years?

Wilson was not top-3 good like Roethlisberger, because of the sacks and the fumbles, but I don't see anyone claiming that he was either.

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:47pm

Honestly, Roethlisburger is a reasonable facsimile for Wilson. The teams he was on were awesome in years 1 and 2, but then in year three, there was turnover on the defense and injuries on the offense and he struggled. To me that showed that he was a good player on an excellent team. Once he was asked to do more, his numbers suffered though he was arguably a better player.

Part of Wilson's efficiency in his numbers is coming from his circumstances. The seahawk talent is young so I don't anticipate a wheels off the bus season for Wilson this year or really any time soon. But there is definitely an argument to be made that conventional and DVOA statistics do not do a good job at capturing the context.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 5:46pm

Per PFF, their line gave up more unblocked rushers than anyone.

I agree that Wilson sometimes makes them look bad, but they did a damn good job of that themselves too.

by tuluse :: Fri, 07/25/2014 - 12:11am

Sometimes an unblocked rusher is the QB's fault.

Sometimes an unblocked rusher is part of the play and it's the QB's job to get rid of the ball fast enough.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 6:07pm

It looks like the Irrational Wilson-Luck argument is the successor to the Irrational Manning-Brady argument.

by Dired :: Sun, 07/27/2014 - 7:36pm

Unless is top draft pick absolutely craters early, people are simply unwilling to accept their earlier appraisal was wrong. Mid-tier picks who outplay their contracts will be viewed with suspicion their entire careers while top picks will be given third, fourth and fifth chances. That has nothing to do with Luck's actual worth, but if he and, say, Wilson and Dalton have seasons an emotionless robot would grade exactly even, Luck will get higher grades because of his draft pedigree. He was a top-pick; surely you're not implying that doesn't mean something? And it's why Bradford gets another year at an insane salary while Bridgewater has "a lot to prove" even though he hasn't played bad football.

by theslothook :: Sun, 07/27/2014 - 8:54pm

I'm not sure I agree. For starters, bradford is still on the team because the team was forced to pay him a ridiculous salary due to a lack of the rookie wage scale.

Btw, that hasn't stopped teams from saying goodbye to Leaf, Russel, Harrington, etc.

Frankly, the media tends to be pretty weird with their love hate of a particular player. Russel and Leaf they hated, but were overall pretty lukewarm about Couch and Carr. Same for locker versus Gabbert. Or even Brady quinn considering how much of a bust he's been.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:07pm

Should Kaepernick get a boost for signing such a team friendly contract? I know Wilson is cheaper this year but i could easily see Wilson ending up being paid more over the next six years than Kap and I think they've been pretty equal so far.

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 2:57pm

But Wilson won the sb so clearly hes better...duh!

by jonnyblazin :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 3:48pm

But Luck beat Wilson head to head last season... now I'm confused.

by theslothook :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 4:05pm

In my very early days of football watching, I use to get confused by this kind of circular logic.

by Perfundle :: Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:44pm

If Luck played as well the entire season as he did in that game there wouldn't be any argument about who was the best young QB.

by Dired :: Sun, 07/27/2014 - 7:38pm

And if Matt Flynn played as well during the 2012 preseason as he did his highlight game the previous year, most people would have no idea who Wilson even plays for.

by tuluse :: Fri, 07/25/2014 - 12:11am

We need a QB beatpaths.

by jesse.hoff :: Fri, 07/25/2014 - 10:07am

see Freeman, Josh.