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May 02, 2019

A deeper look at the value of the draft picks the Eagles traded away the last two years

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050219HowieRoseman Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

You know you want my Day 3 picks.

As we pointed out in our Eagles draft grades earlier this week, the Eagles made just five picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, a year after they made only five picks in 2018. That ties them with the Titans for the lowest number of picks made over the last two years.

That is a concerning trend, considering the fact that the Eagles have a need to find as much young, cheap talent as they can get in preparation of a Carson Wentz contract extension, which is going to be huge rock in the salary cap jar. Those players are found in the draft, and they are cheap on their rookie contracts for four years. 

A couple days ago, I received a long, but awesome, well-researched email from a reader (T.J.), in which he included a spreadsheet showing three things:

  1. The number of total picks made by every team in the NFL
  2. The total combined value of those picks, according to the draft value chart
  3. The average value of the picks made by each team, again, according to the draft value chart
Here's that graph, which I sorted from highest to lowest on the overall draft chart value for each team. Obviously, bad teams will be high on this list as a result of higher draft positions, and the good teams will mostly be found at the bottom.

Team Number of picks Draft value chart total value Avg pick value 
 Giants16 7229  452
 Browns16 7094  443
 Cardinals12 6204  365
 Raiders18 5856  325
 49ers17 5823  343
 Jets12 5235  436
 Buccaneers16 5160  323
 Colts21 5057  241
 Bills16 5004  313
 Broncos16 4844  303
 Packers16 4378  274
 Washington18 3935  219
 Bengals21 3789  180
 Lions15 3785  252
 Jaguars14 3578  256
 Dolphins14 3453  247
 Patriots19 3420  180
 Steelers16 3231  202
 Panthers15 3153  210
 Falcons13 3106  239
 Ravens20 3064  153
 Titans10 2860  286
 Chargers14 2818  201
 Seahawks20 2761  138
 Bears12 2704  225
 Vikings20 2602  130
 Texans15 2346  156
 Cowboys17 2176  128
 Eagles10 2052  205
 Saints12 1865  155
 Chiefs12 1636  136
 Rams19 1284  68


T.J. 
had the above graph sorted differently. He had it sorted by the average value of the picks made (the column on the far right), from highest to lowest. His point was that even though some teams have in fact drafted more players, a lot of those picks were very late, where the hit rate is obviously much lower. 

For example, the Rams have made 19 picks over the last two years, but they've had an absurd number of Day 3 picks, so the average value of their 19 picks were extraordinarily low. T.J.'s point is well taken, but the Eagles are still near the bottom of the overall value of their picks, which I find to be more relevant. 

After all, with, say, a seventh-round pick, you'd rather have it than not it. I wouldn't view it as a benefit to just not have that pick, thus raising the average value of each pick made.

It does raise the question, however, about what the Eagles did with the picks that they didn't make. There is perhaps a good argument that late-round picks have become overvalued, and exchanging them for productive veterans is a better bang for the buck.

I figured that it was perhaps a worthwhile exercise to look at what the Eagles did with the picks they didn't actually make. Below are all the 2018 and 2019 picks the Eagles traded away. In some cases, they were the Eagles' original picks. In other cases, they were acquired for players, or they were draft-day deals involving other draft picks. All we focused on here was that at one time or another the Eagles owned the below picks, but traded them. Here's what they got in return:

2018

Round 1, Pick 32: The Eagles traded this pick, along with pick No. 132 in 2018, to the Ravens for their second-round pick in 2018 (pick 52), pick 125 in 2018, and a second-round pick in 2019 (pick 53). If you don't deduct value for a future pick and weight the 2019 pick the same as a pick in the year the trade was made, the Eagles smoked the Ravens on the draft value chart:

Eagles got Ravens got 
52nd overall, 2018: 380 points 32nd overall, 2018: 590 points
53rd overall, 2019: 370 points 132nd overall, 2018: 40 points 
125th overall, 2018: 47 points  
TOTAL: 797 pointsTOTAL: 630 points


In the second round, the Eagles then traded up from 52 to 49 with the Colts to snatch TE Dallas Goedert away from the Cowboys. The cost was a fifth round pick (169th overall).

Eagles got Colts got 
49th overall: 410 points 52nd overall: 380 points
 169th overall: 23 points 
TOTAL: 410 pointsTOTAL: 403 points


Round 2, Pick 64: This pick was included in the 2016 trade with the Browns to acquire QB Carson Wentz. Because the Eagles won the Super Bowl, it was the last pick of the round.

Round 3, Pick 96: This pick was traded along with WR Jordan Matthews for CB Ronald Darby. I think there are arguments for both sides on the value of this trade for the Eagles. They desperately needed help at corner at the time they made this trade, and as it turned out, Darby was a starter for the Birds' Super Bowl run. On the other hand, Darby has also missed significant time as a result of two serious injuries, and he has his flaws as a player when healthy.

Round 4, Pick 130: The Eagles traded this pick to the Dolphins for RB Jay Ajayi. During the Eagles' Super Bowl run, Ajayi was a productive running back, and well worth the cost of a late fourth-round pick.

Round 5, Pick 156: The Eagles traded this pick, along with WR Marcus Johnson, to the Seahawks for DE Michael Bennett, and a seventh round pick (250th overall). Bennett was easily the Eagles most productive edge rusher in 2018, and the Eagles traded him for roughly the same package in return the next offseason. He was essentially a no-cost rental, at least in terms of trade compensation.

2019

Round 1, Pick 22: The Eagles traded up from 25 to 22 with the Ravens to select OT Andre Dillard. The cost was the Eagles' fourth-round pick (127th overall) and sixth-round pick (197th overall). 

Eagles got Ravens got 
22nd overall, 2018: 780 points 25th overall: 720 points
 127th overall: 45 points 
  197th overall: 12 points
TOTAL: 780 pointsTOTAL: 777 points


In my view, Dillard was excellent value at pick 22, and worth the move up.

Round 3, Pick 88: The Eagles traded this pick for WR Golden Tate. This was simply bad value for an eight-game rental (it ended up being 10) at the time of the trade, and even worse after we saw it all play out, as Tate had a stat line of 30-278-1 over the second half of the season. Many made the ridiculous assertion that the trade was worth it solely for Tate's TD catch (that he should absolutely have been expected to make) in the playoffs against the Bears. The Eagles will likely receive a 2020 fourth-round comp pick (we'll see) in return for losing Tate to the dopey Giants, who overpaid for him in free agency. That pick will of course be a year later (which is fine, in my view), but will be around 45 picks later than the original third-round pick they gave up to get him.

Round 6, Pick 208: The Eagles traded this pick for WR DeSean Jackson and a 2020 seventh-round pick. The Buccaneers were likely to release Jackson if the Eagles didn't give up this meager compensation to get him, but the Eagles avoided the possibility of some other team swooping in with some other low-ball trade offer or some kind of crazy money offer once Jackson became free.

Round 7, Pick 222: The Eagles traded this pick to the Bears for S Deiondre' Hall. The player made some sense, as Joe Douglas obviously liked him, and he fit the profile of a safety with some corner in his background, but Hall almost never saw the field last season, despite a laundry list of injuries to the secondary.

Round 7, Pick 239: The Eagles packaged this pick along with their seventh-round pick in 2018 to move up for OT Jordan Mailata in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Round 7, Pick 246: The Eagles traded this pick for DT Hassan Ridgeway. Meh.

Conclusion

For the most part, the trades that the Eagles made using their 2018 and 2019 draft picks have either worked out, or have a reasonable expectation of working out, when you look at them individually. And certainly, with the Eagles being Super Bowl contenders, trading picks in Rounds 3-7 for established players is an aggressive strategy that makes some sense.

However, again, at some point, that trend can become dangerous if the Eagles don't have an excellent hit rate on the limited picks that they do make, as the young, cheap player well will eventually dry up.


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