Analytics group calls Raiders trading Khalil Mack the best move of the year

Getty Images

The Raiders’ decision to trade away Khalil Mack was widely panned by football fans and the media. But not everyone hated the move.

In fact, in the sports analytics world, the Raiders were given credit for a smart decision. The Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT honored the Raiders with the Best Transaction award, calling it the single best move that any franchise made, in any sport, over the last year.

Why the disconnect between the analytics people and everyone else? Analytics generally favors completely tearing teams down before rebuilding, rather than trying to make patchwork fixes on a bad team. The Raiders were 6-10 with Mack in 2017 and may have needed to get worse (as they did, falling to 4-12 in 2018) before they got better. Analytics also says there’s a lot of value in draft picks, and the Raiders got a big haul of draft picks in the deal, with two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick going to the Raiders in exchange for Mack and a second-round pick. And analytics generally says teams in sports with salary caps should avoid paying out huge contracts. Mack was already due a big salary last year and was demanding a much bigger contract. The Raiders saved a lot of cap space with the move.

Ultimately, the Mack trade will not be judged on Year One, but on what happens in the years to come: How well Mack plays for the Bears, how well the Bears recover from those lost draft picks and the big piece of their salary cap Mack is taking up, and how well the Raiders use those picks and that cap space. The Sloan award suggests the analytics community believes that in the end, the Raiders will come out on top.

48 responses to “Analytics group calls Raiders trading Khalil Mack the best move of the year

  1. This is why I have no fear that analytical robots will ever conquer humanity, particularly if they’re programmed at MIT.

  2. Well, seeing as New England has been to almost every Superbowl the past half decade, and they trade guys instead of give them big contracts (or wait for comp picks), I’d say the analytics look pretty correct.

  3. So far to me it looks like the raiders got the better deal. A crap ton of draft picks and saved a bunch of money, and the bears were one and done in the playoffs and giving that much up you better make it further than that.

  4. I mean, people panned the move but I was pretty okay with it from the start. They’re not winning with him, and they got a Robert Griffin type deal with him. It was a great move. They got Antonio Brown for dirt cheap too, sure he’ll be expensive but the Raiders are actually doing a great job rebuilding here. I can’t stand John Gruden and Antonio Brown either but it’s impossible to say they’re not doing exactly what I would do.

  5. What about the message that it sends to the remaining Raiders players when you trade away one of the top defensive players in the league in the prime of his career ??? He immediately transformed the Bears defense into one of the top in the league. I know you can’t afford to keep everybody, but he is one player any team would like to have. Analytics does not take that into consideration

  6. And there’s no point for Raiders to win now. The goal is build a winning team when they move to Vegas, not before.

    Seriously, they’re divorcing Oakland, so why on earth would they try to win a championship for their ex?? That’s why Gruden demanded a 10 year contract, knowing the first three would be tanking mode.

  7. What about the message that it sends to the remaining Raiders players when you trade away one of the top defensive players in the league in the prime of his career ???

    It sends the message that there’s more than one player on the team and they’d like to save money to be able to pay them

  8. One of the few here who said from the get that this trade went the Raiders way. It’s the biggest trade return in NFL history for a single defensive player. And look at all the cap space that would have been Mack’s contract that is now available for other starting players. It’s not that hard to understand.

  9. flviking says:
    March 18, 2019 at 4:51 pm
    Unless Mack can play QB, the bears made a bad move.

    I don’t know, Trubisky absolutely roasted the Vikings over and over on third down, in a must-win game for them, in their own stadium. And he’s only getting better.

    He certainly outplayed the 84 million dollar man.

  10. Analytics take the results of past performance [e.g., Patriots success, PFF ratings] and project that into the future.

    Based upon the above conclusions of Sloan Sports Analytics, the Seahawks should trade Russell Wilson, rather than re-sign him.

    Ironically, player salary inflates far faster than the general economy, and Russell Wilson will make much more money with the shortest deals possible — franchise tag, subsequent 1-year free agency contracts.

    What we end up with is player/agent analytics vs. team analytics.

  11. The Browns made a lot of analytics based decisions that led to tons of failed draft picks and the worst two year stretch by any NFL team ever. Then the old school football guy Dorsey took over and they finally seem to be headed in the right direction.

  12. Too early to tell who won the trade but what we do know is that Mack is guaranteed 60 mill and 90 for injury. That is QB money and it has already affected their cap to the point they are near the bottom of the league in space. Meanwhile the Raiders have 3 extra first round picks this year and next and have less guaranteed money tied up in 4 players acquired this offseason than Mack will command from the Bears if he reaches that 90 mill threshold. It all comes down to wins and losses, but the Bears have gambled big time on a non QB in a league where the QB is the #1 reason you win or lose. That’s why analytics like the trade from the Raiders vantage point more than the Bears.

  13. Those of us who knew better just laughed at the puppets who didn’t.

    One nation, Raider Nation.

  14. Mack improved the Bears D but was pretty invisible in the playoffs. Bears likely still make the playoffs without Mack given how poor the NFCN was last year.

    Bears got better but they got the exact same likely outcome had they NOT gotten Mack and now – they don’t have draft picks to get better while the rest of the division does…

  15. mrbigchest says:
    March 18, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    i wonder where AB’s trade landed on this list


    Mack trade best trade of 18 AB trade best trade of 19

  16. It’s not whether the raiders can draft super talented players, it’s whether they can draft enough talent to create a talented team… enough starters to fit their schemes.. Mack is super talented but the raiders defense was awful, with and without him

  17. The part that no one gets is that they would have never re-signed him. Mack wanted a Donald style deal. Davis would never have shelled out the bonus, they are too far away from Superbowl contention for McKenzie to tie that much of the cap space, and Gruden wants to do a rebuild with his own players that fit what he wants to do.

    The Raiders have done incompetent things over the years, but noneo f us truly believe that they just flat out didn’t want Khalil Mack. They weren’t going to be able to afford him and build a team at the same time. Why refuse to sign him and let him walk for a compensatory pick when you can get two first round picks ( plus a third and a sixth round pick too?)? I mean, come on. He signed the biggest contract for a defensive player in history a few weeks later. This worked out for everybody, except unfortunately for Raiders fans. Now, if Gruden can back up his reputation and actually use the picks to get replacements who combined are at least as good, that’s when we see if he deserved to pull it off.

    The trade that actually didn’t make sense was the Amari Cooper trade if you ask me (they ended up being able to get Antonio Brown as a replacement, but no one knew at the time that he’d be traded at the end of the year) because he was exactly the kind of player you’d hope to draft and definitely was not going to get the biggest contract in history, plus if you want Carr you should keep his favorite target…but I digress.

  18. Not only was it a good… it was the only move. People who soak up the belief that the Raiders could have fit Mack in, need to take a long look at Antonio Brown, Trent Brown and Lamarcus Joyner. Maybe one of those guys get signed along with Mack.

  19. Pretty flawed analysis in my opinion. First of all, the Patriots model is a highly unique one. They have one of the greatest coaches and one of the greatest QB’s of all time on the same team, their star QB takes a lower cap hit each year because his wife makes more money than he does and the rest of the AFC East has been shockingly bad at addressing the QB question in that same time span. Second, this trade is not yet complete. The Raiders need to start drafting before we give them a passing grade. Let’s see what kind of caliber players they draft first and see what their value is, because we know what Khalil Mack brings to the table (BTW with the cap increasing on average by 10mil per year, his contract will start to look better and better). The Bears were also widely criticized for trading 2 additional picks to trade up one spot to get Mitchell Trubisky. In retrospect, the 49ers got little value out of those extra picks as Solomon Thomas looks like a bust, one of the picks was traded to New Orleans and turned out to be Alvin Kamara and the Bears still selected Eddie Jackson and Tarik Cohen in the later rounds. Lastly, this move was not done because the Raiders are some geniuses. They had misspent their money on older veterans such as Tahir Whitehead and Jordy Nelson and underestimated Mack’s value, as a result they only had enough money to pay him his 5th year option. Also everyone knows that Mack was not the problem with the Raiders, they had drafted or signed bust after bust on that defense before and after his arrival. It was a one man show. They could have sucked with Mack this year and then used the 4th overall pick to draft Josh Allen or Quinnen Williams

  20. The story is spot on. Remember when Dallas traded Hershel Walker to Minnesota for a raft of draft picks? Dallas built a solid team for years to come with those picks and Minnesota stagnated.

  21. It wasn’t a bad move on the Raiders part but if the Bears have another good season it will be hard to recoup that value picking in the 20s. Mack won’t be worth his cap hit after he gets over 30 and they might be looking at taking the cat hit at that point.

  22. Mack is super talented but the raiders defense was awful, with and without him

    This is the part of the argument that most fail to acknowledge. If you are a rebuilding team with a poor defense how much sense does it make to pay one player like a QB and leave yourself low on money and cap space to improve the rest? Even in the one season where they went 12-4, the Raiders had a terrible defense. Mack is a heck of a player but defense is truly dependent on all 11. Would have been great to see him play out his career as a Raider but I get why they did what they did and I think it will work out better for them in the long run, as long as they draft starters with those picks.

  23. akira1971 says:
    March 18, 2019 at 4:56 pm
    And there’s no point for Raiders to win now. The goal is build a winning team when they move to Vegas, not before.
    The Raiders are currently selling PSLs for Las Vegas. If PSL sales is slow they’ll need to win now. Fans typically don’t pay for overpriced PSLs unless their team is doing well.

  24. Analytics doesn’t take into account that they were 12-4 a season ago & that they had a talented roster. 4-5 players which is on draft can make a big difference. If there are not winning in the next 2 years & beyond it was a loss. Good players are judged on how their team produces. If the team doesn’t win then no one thinks the players are any good. MVP caliber players are very difficult to replace. I think the Bears made the right move & that the Raiders will not get to 10 wins before Gruden gets fired.

  25. …and what y’all failed to realize is the Bears weren’t EXPECTING to win last year, he was picked up for the 2019 Season and beyond … last year was gravy and it was a great experience for an up and coming Team.

  26. There is a term for this. It’s called a Win – Win. It’s true. The Raiders and, more importantly, their defense stunk. They couldn’t get much worse. Trade him for a bundle to a team that really could use him.



  27. The Browns made a lot of analytics based decisions that led to tons of failed draft picks and the worst two year stretch by any NFL team ever. Then the old school football guy Dorsey took over and they finally seem to be headed in the right direction.


    Dorsey has been able to make a lot of those moves due to the draft picks and cap space Sashi got for the Browns. Hard to say Dorsey’s done all this on his own. He left KC with some pretty bad contracts, e.g., Berry, Houston. Look at KC’s dead money…that’s Dorsey.

  28. If only the Vikings knew about analytics when they traded away 13+ picks to the Cowboys for Herschell Walker back in 1989 sending the Cowboys to 3 dominant SB seasons & wins in 4 years… Actually, they’re still making those mistakes. Never mind. Maybe Raiders learned something? ~Go Eagles.

  29. All people remember is Mack creating havoc in that first game, but based on Mack’s performance through the whole season, 13th in sacks, 30th in qb hits and 51st in tackles behind the line, it certainly is looking like the Raiders got the better of the deal at this point.

  30. Not all trades have winner and losers. Mack had an awesome year, a year which would have been meaningless in Oakland. Chicago likely overvalued macks production to its team due thinking that they have their quarterback.

  31. @bobbyv3. Your stats forgot he was out two games and played one w an injury and half of another one. Floyd had a career year opposite him w his most sacks and the defense improved and turnovers topped the league while he was being double teamed. Oh yeah forgot about his second place in defensive player of the year. Not bad for being hobbled or out of four games.

  32. No one wants to go to the Raiders after they showed they won’t pay their best draft pick. Bears showed they will and now players are coming to the Bears to be on a fun team that will pay ya. Ask Ha Ha Clinton Dix. Said he could of gotten more money elsewhere but came to Chicago for cheap to have fun and play on a great defense. Thank you Mack and they went last to first. Raiders maybe in five years.

  33. Finally, people that get it. The Bills management has known this for a while. Sometimes your best move is to be terrible for a decade in order to really build yourself up. They intentionally put together the worst roster in football so they could start the rebuild around Cole Beasely and Frank Gore. Super Bowl, here we come!

  34. Mac is a good man who was guided greedily by his agent. Now and in the future, he will be the most regretful player in the NFL especially when he sees the extra 2 million dollars he reject from Oakland for Chicago will be eaten up by 3 million dollars in extra STATE TAXES of Illinois vs ZERO in Las Vegas! in essence, Mack got SACKED by his own greed and stupidity. I feel sorry for him because he IS a great person 1st and an awesome player as a bonus.

    However, he is an adult and will, unfortunately, more than likely never win a Superbowl with the Bears. Well, except maybe in 2 years when the Bears cut him & if we have room, he can come to Vegas & regain some of his Ol’ Awesomeness with the Raiders again… I mean he’d probably have to play behind “The RAPTOR” Argen Key but once a Raider always a Raider!

  35. The Raiders and smart aren’t strangers. A caveman could’ve solved that riddle.

  36. So what do the analytics say about making a OT with 1 good year, the highest paid OL in history? What about the 2 OL they drafted that turned out to be busts? If you tear the entire team down, why is Carr still there? Analytics crushing!

  37. @ChuckyVe. Mack will more then make up the state tax difference in Ilinois w more commercials and advertisements. And what is wrong w being greedy if someone loves to have you in their big market and pay you what you are worth? After his longer and more victorious career in Chicago, he will go in Hall of Fame a Bear btw. So much for always being a Raider. Played only 71% of the defensive snaps compared to 90% in Oakland(90.5 for Aaron Donald btw) and still came up second for DPOY award. Bears will take care of him and not burn him out like most pass rushers. Such love……BEAR DOWN!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.