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Perhaps giving Fisher more picks isn't the answer

Perhaps giving Fisher more picks isn’t the answer

In 2012, St. Louis took advantage of one of the most inefficient aspects of the NFL: the top of the draft is a seller’s market, with teams desperately willing to overpay in a variance-seeking endeavor that usually disappoints. That year, the Rams moved down four spots, by trading the 2nd overall pick to Washington for the 6th overall pick…. and also picking up the 39th pick, a first round pick the following year (#22 overall), and a first round pick the year after that (#2 overall, incredibly). That trade was a steal for St. Louis the second it was made, but it became a home run when Washington tanked in 2013 (of course, one could argue that the home run was called back when the 2nd overall pick in 2014 was used on Greg Robinson, who has been one of the worst tackles in football since being drafted).

Today, the Rams — now in Los Angeles, of course — were on the buy side of things. And, as usual, to move up in the draft is quite expensive. THe Rams moved up from #15 to #1, and also gained a 4th (#113) and a 6th (#177) back in this year’s draft. But the price was exorbitant: Los Angeles had to give up both 2nd round picks it has this year (#43, courtesy of the Sam Bradford/Nick Foles swap last season, and #45, the team’s original selection), its third round pick (#76), and next year’s 1st and 3rd rounders. And while that doesn’t have quite the screaming headline of “Washington sends 3 first round picks for RG3,” make no mistake: the Rams gave up a massive amount to move up to #1, presumably to draft either Carson Wentz or California’s Jared Goff.

To simplify things, let’s try to cancel some things out. The 4th and 6th round picks received by the Rams this year is roughly equivalent to the 3rd giving up by Los Angeles next year; given the time value of the draft pick, a 6th round pick, it can be argued, makes up for getting to use that pick a year earlier, even if it’s a round later. I am sure both teams would have done this deal even if you take those three picks out of the mix, and it was probably included just to give Los Angeles a bit more in draft picks (instead of giving up 4 draft picks for 1 this year, now it’s 4 for 3). My hunch is the Rams were the one asking to throw in that last piece of the puzzle, even if it’s probably a better deal for Tennessee (since the time value of the draft pick is usually overstated).

Take that out, and you get the following: the Rams gave up the 43rd, 45th, and 76th picks in this draft to move up from 15 to 1, while also having to give up next year’s first rounder. According to my calculator, the Titans received 131 cents on the dollar in exchanging 1 for 15/43/45/76, and that’s without even considering next year’s first. If we assume that next year’s first is the 17th overall pick, and provide no discount for time, Tennessee would be getting 179 cents on the dollar in this trade (ignoring the 3rd round swap for next year’s 4th/6th).

That’s a pretty amazing haul. But what’s really interesting is to compare it to what the Rams received when they traded for RG3. Again, let’s take out the 2016 3rd/2017 4th and 6th selection swaps. And let’s call the 2nd overall pick in 2012 equal to the 1st overall pick in 2016, for simplicity’s sake. The Rams received the 39th pick in 2012 and gave up the 43rd pick this year, and the Rams received a 2013 1st (22nd overall) and gave up a 2017 first; let’s cancel those pair of picks out, too, to make things simple.

That leaves us with the following: in 2012, the Rams received the 6th overall pick, and got a first round pick two drafts away (2014 1st, which turned out to be #2 overall). This time around, the Rams gave up #15, but also #45 and #76. Using the pick value calculator, those sides would be perfectly even if we replaced the 2014 1st with the 37th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Think of it this way: receiving the 6th pick (AV of 23.2) and a hypothetical 37th pick (AV of 11.6) is the same as giving up the 15th (17.4), 45th (10.4), and 76th (7.0) picks. So when analyzing the trade, it comes down to what’s more valuable: the 37th pick now, or a first round pick two years from now. I think, although it’s open to debate, that the 49ers would not trade the 37th pick in this year’s draft for a 2018 1st rounder. That’s just too far removed for them to give up a pretty valuable pick. Of course, if they knew that pick would be the 2nd overall, I imagine San Francisco would do it in a heartbeat.

But if you think the following:

  • this year’s 37th pick is more valuable than a 1st rounder two years from now;
  • a 4th and 6th now is roughly equivalent to a 3rd rounder next year;
  • the 39th pick and a first next year (#22, as it turns out) is roughly equivalent to the 43rd this year and a first next year; and
  • this year’s 1st overall pick is roughly equivalent to RG3’s value in 2012,

then, you could argue that the Rams gave up slightly more this time around than they received last time around. That’s incredible, given how significantly St. Louis fleeced Washington back in 2012. But after four years without even a single 0.500 season, the Rams decided going for broke was the most enticing option.

  • Meanwhile, the Redskins have been to the playoffs twice despite not having those picks, while the Rams have sucked even with them, and now they end up in the same exact spot, except doing it for an inferior QB prospect. Even if it works out for them (which seems unlikely), this is hilarious right now.

    • Richie

      Well, the first of those 2 playoff visits was with Robert Griffin, when he played well enough as a rookie that it looked like he might actually justify the price paid to draft him.

      The second playoff visit was last year. Washington won a weak division with a worse SRS than the Rams had. Though they were slightly better than the Rams in DVOA.

      Overall, I think both teams have been worse since the RG3 trade than both of their fanbases expected them to be the last 4 years.

      • I agree with your conclusion. The difference is the Redskins had the move blow up in their face when one guy went south and have, to some extent, already recovered. The Rams got that huge haul and were super proud of themselves; recall Fisher making the picks captains against the Redskins in 2014. But they’ve done squat with it, and now they’re trying the same thing the Redskins did except for a worse prospect. I find it very rewarding in this moment.

  • Richie

    Are we sure they are going to take a QB? They said they were good with Case Keenum. (kidding!)

    My initial reaction when I heard they traded up was that it was a bad idea. That’s before I even knew what they gave up. I assumed they gave up a lot. I pay little attention to college football, but Lynch and Goff don’t seem like “can’t miss” prospects. Usually, on the “can’t miss” guys, I (as a very casual college fan) start hearing about them a year before their final college season. And in their final seasons, there is massive talk in the NFL about guys being the next great QB. Even Marcus Mariota was getting this kind of treatment a year ago.

    Lynch and Goff seem like they are guys that NFL teams are talking themselves into because they are the best available.

    So, it seems like the Rams are giving up way too much to draft a guy (we don’t even know which one they like!) that is a questionable prospect. Were any other teams actually bidding for the pick?

    On the other hand, the Rams have been drafting at the top of the draft for a long time. They have theoretically stockpiled a lot of talent. They have some good pieces on defense. Maybe all this team needs is an above-average QB to become a playoff team.

    I feel like management wanted to make a splash when they move to Los Angeles. They want to have a better QB. I’m not sure that was necessary from a business standpoint. People in LA are excited about the Rams coming back. Even if the team is bad, I think they will do a pretty good job of bringing fans to the game. (I don’t know about sellouts – the Coliseum is big, and a lot of those seats are bad.) I think 2017 was the year to make sure they have a good QB. If 2016 went bad, then they could excite fans by bringing in a new QB for 2017.

    • sn0mm1s

      I think all teams are an above average QB away from being a playoff team. I don’t think AV calculators are really applicable or meaningful in these situations. If I was a GM, I would have no problem routinely selling the farm every few years searching for that franchise QB *especially* since rookie QB contracts are cheap. Most QBs can play for a long time. There will be plenty of opportunity to build around a great QB once you have one. If you don’t have one you might catch lightning in a bottle and win with a great D but more often than not, the season is done before it even starts. I would rather try to catch lightning in a bottle with a QB and have a decade+ of being competitive.

      • Richie

        I think I would agree with all that. But, the QB has to be legitimately above average. Looking at guys like Tannehill, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton and maybe Matt Stafford. They are good enough to start. But probably are not above average. Sometimes I think having guys like this can be worse than having a bad QB position. They are just good enough to keep their jobs, just good enough to get second contracts, just good enough to give teams hope. But (so far) have not proven to be guys who can take their team to great success. Maybe they don’t have the supporting cast, or maybe they just aren’t good enough to overcome a weaker cast that other QB’s can do.

        So…the question is if Goff or Wentz is definitely better than those guys? I guess the odds are better to get that QB if you take the best QB in a draft class, then if you settle for guys later in the draft or acquiring veterans.

        Looking back the past decade, there have been 6 QB’s taken #1 overall. The only one I remember (could be wrong) being touted as absolutely can’t-miss was Andrew Luck. JaMarcus Russell, Stafford, Bradford, Newton and Winston were all considered good prospects, but I think they all had some questions.

        Newton has elevated to “franchise QB” level. Too soon to tell on Winston. Russell was obviously a bust. Bradford is probably a bust. Stafford is borderline. Despite his big counting stats, Stafford’s best ANY/A season was 6.98.

        Did Bradford really have first overall pedigree, or was he just the QB in a draft that is shaping up to be one of the worst QB drafts of all time?

        Again, I don’t know much about Goff or Wentz, but I wonder if they are closer to Bradford than Luck.

        • sacramento gold miners

          I think the consensus at the time was that Andrew Luck was a cut above many other QB prospects for a number of reasons. Impeccable background, great intangibles, intelligent, and played in a pro ready system(unlike Sam Bradford). Mobile, with the ability to go to Plan B, when a play breaks down.

        • sn0mm1s

          Yes, I think you have to be pretty cutthroat when dealing with average QBs. IMO, you give a QB 3 years with the same coach/OC and if they are borderline then you try another. Also, unless you are an expansion team, you shouldn’t reach for a QB. If the Rams believe Goff or Wentz could be that QB then go for it. Cut bait after 3-4 years. It doesn’t hurt the cap nearly as much as it used to.

        • Josh Sanford

          Richie, does it strike you as strange that we don’t know who the Rams traded up to get? To me it is *super* weird that they love someone so much that they will pay around a 50% premium to get him, but it’s not even apparent who it is. I mean, I have not “researched” who they are going to take (supposedly), but ESPN reports it as “Wentz or Goff.” Shouldn’t they tell the guy NOW that they are drafting him, give him a playbook, etc–start informally prepping him for next fall? It seems like the competitive advantage in waiting to announce who the pick is going to be is negligible. If such an advantage even exists. But if you don’t even know who you are trading up to get…

          • Richie

            It seems like Mario Williams was the only recent player who the team signed before the draft. That just doesn’t seem to be a popular move.

            I think its fine if the public doesn’t know who the Rams will be picking. But I sure hope they know who they want. Unless they think both guys are worth taking #1.

      • James

        “I think all teams are an above average QB away from being a playoff team”

        Isn’t that inherently wrong? There are 15 “above average” QBs and only 12 playoff spots. Plus usually one or more of those playoff teams don’t have an above average QB (hello Hoyer).

        Furthermore, we can look at the draft order and see that’s not true. The Chargers and Giants have above average QBs that played all 16 games and they are both drafting in the top 10. Obviously an above average QB isn’t all that’s required.

        To tie that into the topic, what if the Rams get their QB, but their receivers and OLine hold them back? They now don’t have the picks to get additional talent, and by the time they do they’ll be losing the talent they DO have to free agency and need to replace it too!

        • sn0mm1s

          Whether you are a high C or a low C you are still an average QB. There are always exceptions each year – which are why the games are played. Other factors, such as schedule, division, and teammates obviously have an impact as well. But, generally speaking, every team is an above average QB away from being a playoff team.

  • Phil

    How good a QB would Wentz need to be to justify this trade? If they got 179% return on the #1 pick, and the number 1 pick has an AV of 34.6 (34.6 * 1.79 = 61.9)
    Current QBs with career AVs around 61.9 are Andy Dalton (61, seems like still a long way to go), Ryan Fitzpatrick (71, seems practically done), Matthew Stafford 72, Matt Scaub 79, Alex Smith 83, Cam Newton 83, Joe Flacco 88 …
    who knows if Wentz will be as good as any of those guys, but its seems like if you think he will be a long term starter, even if not an MVP caliber one, maybe this makes more sense than it does at first glance
    am I getting something drastically wrong? if so, what?

    • Richie

      I looked at #1 overall QB’s from 1970-2005. (I stopped at 2005, to make sure they all had at least a 10-year career.)

      The average CarAV was 92. (CarAV uses the 100-95-90-85.. system). So the total AV for those guys would be even a little higher.

      So Wentz (do we know it’s going to be Wentz?) would need to put up a 92 CarAV just to be worth the average overall #1. (That’s Vick-Aikman-Testaverde-Plunkett level).

      And if we bump it up 79% that puts him at 164 CarAV. Which is Peyton Manning (177) and John Elway (138) level. So Wentz needs to be first-ballot HOF-caliber to be worth it???

      • Phil


        Why are you only looking at qbs? The titans wouldn’t have been drafting a qb

        You should also be comparing it to the historical averages of what all the picks the Rams gave up are

        • Richie

          Because the Rams are (presumably) going to use the pick to take a QB. To me, the question is how good should a 1.01 QB be to be worth using that pick?

          If they draft David Carr (48 career AV) or Tim Couch (32 career AV), then it was a bad trade.

          • sn0mm1s

            I don’t think AV works all that well for a QB since their stats are intrinsically tied to WRs. If a QB has a great year it is likely a WR on that team had a great year as well.

            • Phil

              I think you’re right, the Rams seem like a reasonably talented team to insert a rookie qb onto

            • Richie

              Remember, it’s “approximate”.

              Is there a specific QB AV that you think is inflated because of his WR?

              • sn0mm1s

                I don’t recall the exact formula but I thought there was an adjustment based on YPA or ANY and an adjustment based on rushers/receivers production and individual awards. TBH, it may be that the goal line RBs/QB rushes messed with the numbers more. All I remember, is that when the stats came out it seemed like many QBs were more or less equivalent and QBs that ran for TDs were great. I didn’t think that was the reality. Really good QBs often had similar AVs to average/below average QBs.Maybe that has changed – but , I never put much stock into AV and QBs since that initial impression.

                • Richie

                  If I am interpreting things correctly, the QB gets 26% of the AV points created by the passing game. With a bonus or penalty if his AYPA is above or below league average.

                  So there is no direct bond between a single WR (or TE) having a great season. And, the team’s AV is based on offensive points per drive. From there, each player’s AV is mainly based on what percentage of the teams total yards he contributed.


          • Phil

            Well sure, if whoever they draft can’t outdo those guys, this will have been a disastrously bad trade

    • JeremyDeShetler

      I could be completely wrong, but wasn’t Chase’s number based only on a player’s first 5 years? So a QB would need a 62 or better in that time span. Looking post-merger that’s only 11 QBs. http://pfref.com/tiny/O5OqR

      Cam, Peyton, Marino, Jeff Garcia, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Steve Grogan, Aaron Brooks, Dante Culpepper, Bert Jones, and Jim Zorn.

      • Phil

        That seems to make more sense, thanks for the clarification


        I should learn how to query the database like you were able to do there

        • JeremyDeShetler

          If you click on the link I posted, there’s a link above the results called ‘Show/Hide Search form.’ If you click that, it shows what I did. Just click that and play around. It’s pretty intuitive.

      • James

        First 5 years AND marginal AV, which is -2 AV per season so it’s a total of 72 AV over the first five years. That list is *extremely* short: http://pfref.com/tiny/is6oE

        However, that’s a slightly misleading threshold. Even Rodgers fails that cutoff because he sat on the bench for a few years after being drafted. While I don’t expect the Rams QB to sit, If it takes a couple years before he blossoms and becomes a regular Pro Bowler that would still be a reasonable return.

        The trade mostly means that if the QB does NOT work out the Rams have dug themselves a serious hole.

        • JeremyDeShetler

          I knew there was something more, but I couldn’t remember that detail. I think your # is a bit off though. Wouldn’t you have to add the marginal 10 prior to adjusting it, so it would be (34.6+10)*1.79? That would be 79.834. That cuts the list down to Cam. If you expand it to all players, it adds JJ Watt, Thurman Thomas, both LT’s, Emmitt Smith, and Alan Page. http://pfref.com/tiny/tCT6I

          The Rodgers situation is a unique exception. How often do teams stash first rounders for even a year, much less the twilight zone situation of 3 years? If you took his first 5, he’s join Cam on the list. Still a very short list and an insanely high cost.

          • James

            Yes, my mistake, you’re right about the AV math.

            Rodgers is the last QB that sat for a considerable period of time, but it was somewhat common before then, perhaps most often around the early 00s: Rivers sat one year to develop, during which Brees broke out and forced Rivers to stay on the bench a second year. Brees himself sat for a year behind Flutie. Palmer watched Kitna start for a year. Eli waited 10 games behind Warner before getting his first action.

            There are a couple other examples where teams at least expressed interest in sitting QBs before starting them anyway: the Vikings planned to sit Bridgewater for a year, but after two games of Cassel they changed their minds. Flacco was supposed to sit, but Boller got hurt and Troy Smith became ill so Flacco started the season. Similar for Roethlisberger, who started the preseason as the #3, but both QBs were injured by Week 2.

            On the other side, LOTS of QBs started right away: Peyton, Elway, Staubach, Bradshaw, Aikman, Ryan, Plunkett, Bledsoe. Others started after only a few games on the bench: Marino, Tarkenton, Fouts, Griese, Cunningham, Namath, Hadl, Kosar. I don’t know if all of those were intended to start right off the bat, but I would assume most of them were.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Franchise QBs are priceless, and the Rams must truly believe Wentz or Goff qualifies. If the Rams are successful in reaching the postseason soon, then they could be set at the crucial QB position for years. We should remember the NFC has over age 30 QBs in Rodgers, Romo, and Palmer.

    QBs aren’t plug and play, you generally need an outstanding one to excel for a long period of time, I had a feeling LA was going to make a big splash here. This deal also contains risk for Tennessee, because they’re gambling Marcus Mariotta will pan out, and some of those picks must have impact as well. Not all these draft day deals work out, the Redskins did not take advantage of the treasure trove of picks garnered from the Saints for the right to draft Ricky Williams.

    • Richie

      I doubt trading the pick was a risk for Tennessee, because they weren’t going to pick a QB. They probably wouldn’t even have picked a QB if there was a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck-level prospect in this draft.

      • sacramento gold miners

        If Wentz or Goff turns out to be a good one, and Marriota flops, the Titans will pay the price. It’s not likely they’ll be picking a QB for any of these high picks, because they are invested in Marriota. Also, the Titans were rumored to be drafting Tunsil at the top selection, to boost that offensive line. If Wentz or Goff turns out to be a great QB, then Tennessee better have multiple impact players from this deal. Moving forward, much attention will be paid to the fates of both organizations.

        • Richie

          “If Wentz or Goff turns out to be a good one, and Marriota flops, the Titans will pay the price.”

          Maybe. But there was zero chance that the Titans are going to draft another QB with #1 overall after a mediocre (with injuries) rookie season. Even if whoever the Rams take at #1 ends up being the next Joe Montana, nobody is going to say “the Titans blew that”.

          • sacramento gold miners

            Wentz or Goff will be compared with Marriota, that’s where I’m coming from, and the trade was made in part because of their faith and commitment in MM. If the Rams hit a home run after engineering this deal, then the Titans need to have a strong QB situation, along with the dividends from those other picks. Tunsil may have turned into a multiple pro bowler who would have helped Tennessee’s offense, now they have to take advantage of those choices. Not just starters, but difference-makers.