The 1990s Cowboys were built in large part by Jimmy Johnson’s wheeling and dealing with draft picks, and Johnson developed a chart that demonstrated how to value draft picks. Soon every other team started using the same chart.
That chart is now obsolete, as the rookie wage scale and research showing greater value in accumulating more picks has changed the way teams evaluate draft trades. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick says all teams have arrived at more or less the same place on how to value draft picks.
“I would say that, in general, the trades over the last several years for the most part have been, let’s call them within 5 to 10 percent, pretty equitable trades,” Belichick said. “So, for you to have a chart that’s different than the other 31 charts isn’t really that productive because now we’re just arguing about which chart – ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that.’ . . . I would say everybody probably uses about the same value chart. I’d say in our draft trade negotiations through the years, especially the last two or three years, there hasn’t been a lot of, ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that.’ Now 10 or 15 years ago there was some of that. ‘Oh, here’s what we think it should be.’ Well, the other team’s in a different ballpark because they’re looking at a different chart. I would say that when you look at the trades now, over the past few years, a majority of them fall within what we would say is a range of a fair trade. What the going rate would be is what the team gave up and what the team got is about what you would expect them to get, whether it’s our trade or not. I’m just looking league wide. The first round is a little bit different because you’re trading for a very specific player at that point. Not that you’re not trading for a player in the second and third round – I’m not saying that – when a team moves up, they move up to take a certain player that they want. But not everybody’s necessarily after that player, whereas in the first five, 10 picks, whatever it is, when you’re trading there you’re trading for a certain guy and when they trade out of it they know that they’re trading away from that player. It might be one or two players but it’s a much more defined situation.”
Ultimately, every team knows more or less what constitutes a fair trade of draft picks. Some teams are willing to go above and beyond for a particular player, especially to move up for a quarterback in the first round, but the chart is not highly protected intellectual property anymore. anymore.