After the Jets traded up in the first round to select guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, General Manager Joe Douglas called it a unique opportunity to get a very good prospect. Based on what he paid, he’d better be right.
The Jets gave up picks No. 23, 66 and 86 to get pick No. 14, which they used to select Vera-Tucker, as well as pick No. 143 from the Vikings. No matter which draft chart you look at, the Jets paid more than teams should pay to move up from 23 to 14.
On the old Jimmy Johnson chart, the Jets gave up 1,180 points of draft capitol to receive 1,134.5 points back. Based on the Jimmy Johnson chart, the Jets overpaid, but only by a little bit.
The Jimmy Johnson chart, however, is outdated. It stems from a time before the salary cap and before the current rookie wage scale, which fundamentally changed the value of draft picks. And it also stems from a time when other teams hadn’t done enough research into the value of draft picks, which is how Johnson was able to fleece so many teams with trades that helped the Cowboys build a three-time Super Bowl winner in the 1990s.
More recently, teams have begun to re-assess the draft charts, and most teams are using a chart more similar to the one developed by OverTheCap.com. On that chart, the Jets gave up 3,031 points to get back 2,148 points. The Jets massively overpaid.
Seth Walder of ESPN, using a slightly different draft chart, estimates that the Jets overpaid by the 66th overall pick. In other words, for the trade to be fair, the Jets should have given up only No. 23 and No. 86. Instead they gave up both of those picks and No. 66 overall. Whatever prospect the Jets might have taken at No. 66, the absence of that player is what the Jets overpaid by.
The Vikings took Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond at No. 66. It’s unlikely the Jets would have taken him, but lots of good offensive line prospects, like Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield and BYU’s Brady Christensen, were still there at No. 66. The Jets want to build a good offensive line in front of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, and that’s smart. But they might have built a better offensive line by staying put and drafting two offensive linemen, rather than trading up and targeting one specific offensive lineman, Vera-Tucker.
Obviously, Douglas thinks Vera-Tucker is going to be an excellent NFL player, and he may prove to be right. But even the best draft evaluators miss sometimes, and Douglas is showing an enormous amount of confidence not only that he’s right about how good Vera-Tucker is going to be, but also that he can be sure Vera-Tucker wouldn’t have been available with the 23rd overall pick, and that Vera-Tucker is going to be better than both the player the Jets could have taken at No. 23 and the player the Jets could have taken at No. 66 combined.
Most of the time, the draft just isn’t that predictable, and the ultimate production of NFL players just doesn’t align that closely with where those players were on any individual GM’s draft board. Douglas paid a huge price for his high level of faith in one particular prospect.