The Los Angeles Rams shocked the football world last week by making a dramatic trade with the Tennessee Titans allowing them to secure the first pick in the NFL Draft on April 28.
They are positioned to enhance their team by selecting a potential franchise quarterback. The Rams have also sent a signal to Southern California and their newfound fans that they are serious about winning and fielding an interesting team. Pairing a newly drafted quarterback with Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley is the type of star combination that Los Angeles gets excited about.
How did the team calculate what was the right combination of draft picks to offer to move from the 15th position to No. 1? And what criteria do other teams use to calculate draft trades and their value?
Back in the late 1970s the late Bill Walsh was hired to coach the San Francisco 49ers. He was an analytic genius and set out to try and quantify the value of picking in each slot in the NFL and provide a rational way to make decisions involving moving draft position. He devised a point formula to assign a value to every pick in the draft from the first through seventh round. Each pick in a round from one to 32 is assigned a declining number. The analytic was called the Trade Value System, and it was able to help teams decide what a fair offer was to move up or down a round.
NFL teams are moving into the final phase of scouting. They create a draft board that has their assessment of every potential draftee by a 1-10 or 1-4 numerical rating. They have the ability to rank draftees from top to bottom. They also design a draft board by playing position --quarterbacks through place kickers. Teams then run a series of computer simulations predicting every scenario showing who other teams above and below them might select, and how the draft board of available players will look when their turn to draft comes.
If a franchise particularly values a player and is determined to draft him, it then will attempt to calculate what the probable place it needs to be in to select him. If the assessment is that a team higher than them will pick the player, it may decide to trade up in the round to guarantee drafting him. If it believes the player it covets will still be available a number of picks behind their current position, it may trade down to secure additional draft picks. The Trade Value System offers a way to bring clarity to the process.
In 2012, the then St. Louis Rams had the second pick in the draft. It was clear that quarterback Andrew Luck was going to be selected with the first pick. The Washington Redskins, with the sixth pick, were desperate to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. They swapped with the Rams. The Redskins gave the Rams their first pick in 2013 and in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2013.
This year the Rams moved from No. 15th to No. 1, and the Titans took the 15th slot. The Titans surrendered their fourth- and sixth-round picks this year and received two second-round picks and a third this year and the Rams first and third picks in 2017. The Rams gave up less in value than they received in 2012, but the Titans got a draft pick bonanza and were the winners in the Trade Value System.
These moves all highlight the value of a young draftable quarterback in a quarterback-centric NFL. Many more trades will occur on draft night. If the second pick ends up being a quarterback, franchises desiring a quarterback may start to move up to take the third. The Trade Value Calculator will provide an invaluable guide to strategy.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.