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As a junior in college, Mitchell Trubisky produced impressive, if not dominant, passing stats. Here were the 2016 leading passers in the ACC:

Passing Rushing
Rk Player School G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate Att Yds Avg TD
1 Nathan Peterman Pitt 13 185 306 60.5 2855 9.3 10.1 27 7 163.4 72 286 4.0 3
2 Lamar Jackson Louisville 13 230 409 56.2 3543 8.7 9.1 30 9 148.8 260 1571 6.0 21
3 Mitch Trubisky North Carolina 13 304 447 68.0 3748 8.4 9.1 30 6 157.9 93 308 3.3 5
4 Jerod Evans Virginia Tech 14 268 422 63.5 3552 8.4 8.9 29 8 153.1 204 846 4.1 12
5 Brad Kaaya Miami (FL) 13 261 421 62.0 3532 8.4 8.9 27 7 150.3 37 -136 -3.7 1
6 Deondre Francois Florida State 13 235 400 58.8 3350 8.4 8.6 20 7 142.1 108 198 1.8 5
7 Deshaun Watson Clemson 15 388 579 67.0 4593 7.9 8.0 41 17 151.1 165 629 3.8 9
8 Ryan Finley North Carolina State 13 243 402 60.4 3050 7.6 7.6 18 8 135.0 74 94 1.3 1
9 Eric Dungey Syracuse 9 230 355 64.8 2679 7.5 7.5 15 7 138.2 125 293 2.3 6
10 Daniel Jones Duke 12 270 430 62.8 2836 6.6 6.4 16 9 126.3 141 486 3.4 7
11 Kurt Benkert Virginia 11 228 406 56.2 2552 6.3 6.1 21 11 120.6 60 -94 -1.6 0
12 Patrick Towles Boston College 13 138 273 50.5 1730 6.3 6.1 12 7 113.2 115 294 2.6 4
13 John Wolford Wake Forest 12 166 299 55.5 1774 5.9 5.0 9 10 108.6 130 521 4.0 6

While Trubisky had a very good year, both the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association and the ACC coaches only named him to the third team in the conference, behind Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.

So you will be forgiven if the Trubisky hype train caught you by surprise. This wasn’t exactly an Andrew Luck situation, or even a Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel type of college star (to take a couple of examples of non-top 20 draft picks). But the Bears decided they had to get Mitchell Trubisky, sending the 3rd, 67th, and 111th picks, along with a 2018 3rd round pick, to the 49ers for the 2nd pick in the Draft.

How Much Value Did Chicago Give Up?

It’s easy to value the 3rd, 67th, and 111th picks using the Draft Pick Value Calculator I created.  Those three picks are worth 27.6 points, 7.8 points, and 4.6 points, respectively.  For the 2018th 3rd, we have to take two extra steps: come up with an approximate draft slot and an appropriate discount rate.  I decided to keep it simple: I used the 80th pick (i.e., the middle of round 3) and a 10% discount rate, which together values a 2018 3rd round pick at 6.0 points.

As you can see, to get Trubisky, Chicago gave up 46.0 points of draft value.  Which is a ton of draft value! That’s more than the first pick in the draft, of course.  It’s ever so slightly more than the 1st pick and the 38th pick! Giving up a top-3 pick plus three other picks that represent, on average, a mid-third rounder, is enormous. Especially for a player like Trubisky, who started for just one season in college.

What About Other Deals? Didn’t The Bears Give Up Less?

This is true, too.  There have been three other notable and similar trade-ups in recent memory, and the Bears paid the cheapest price of the four.

Eagles Trade Up For Wentz

In 2016, Philadelphia sent the 8th, 77th, and 100th selections in the Draft, along with a 2017 1st and a 2018 2nd, to the Browns for the second overall pick (i.e., the right to obtain Carson Wentz) and a 2017 4th rounder.  The 8th, 77th, and 100th picks are worth 21.4, 6.9, and 5.3 points, respectively; if we value the 2017 1st as the 16th pick and with a 90% discount, and the 2018 2nd as the 48th pick and with a 20% discount, those picks are worth 15.2 and 7.9 points.  That means Philadelphia sent a total of 56.7 points of draft value for Wentz and 4.1 points of value (the discounted value of the 112th pick in the 2017 Draft).

So Philadelphia paid a bit more to get the 2nd pick in the draft than the Bears did.  Of course, just because the Eagles overpaid, and the Bears paid less than the Eagles, it does not follow that the Bears did not also overpay.

Rams Trade Up For Goff

But by comparison, the Rams trade for Jared Goff is even worse.  Los Angeles sent the 15th, 43rd, 45th, and 76th picks, along with a 1st and a 3rd in 2017, to Tennessee for the first overall pick, and the 113th and 177th selections in the 2016 Draft. That turns into 66.6 points of value given up for Goff plus 6.1 points of value.

The Rams gave up 25.9 more points of value than they received, which is remarkable when you consider that unlike the Eagles and Bears, the Rams were trading for the the 1st pick (which is worth more than the 2nd).

And yet, this wasn’t the worst trade, or even the worst trade involving the Rams.

Washington Breaks The Budget For RG3

In 2012, the Redskins sent the 6th and 39th picks, along with a 2013 1st and a 2014 1st, to the Rams for the 2nd pick in the draft, and the right to draft Robert Griffin III.

Even giving discounts of 10% and 20% on those two future picks, this was an enormous haul…. and it ignores that the 2014 pick turned out to be the 2nd pick in the draft (less exciting for Rams fans: it was used on Greg Robinson).  Washington gave up an incredible 63.2 points of draft value for the right to select Griffin.

A detour for the Sanchize

There is one recent trade where a team jumped into the top 5 to take the first or second QB in the draft and the team trading up didn’t get raked over the coals.  That was when the 2009 Jets sent the 17th pick, 52nd pick, and three veterans to the Browns for the 5th pick in the Draft, and the right to select Mark Sanchez.  It’s tough to value those three players, and the nuance here is that Eric Mangini coached the Jets in 2008 and the Browns in 2009, so he was looking to add cheap players he liked from New York.  Those three players were not impact guys: Kenyon Coleman, a run-stuffing DE who started 15 games for the Jets in ’08 at the age of 28, Abram Elam, a journeyman safety who started 9 games for the ’08 Jets at the age of 27, and quarterback prospect/preseason star Brett Ratliff, who never played in a regular season game.

Those players had value to Mangini, but I doubt New York could have traded them for much in the way of draft value; for purposes of this trade, I valued them as mid-5th, mid-6th, and mid-7th round picks. But either way, the Jets didn’t give up a crazy amount to get Sanchez.

Of course, the Jets I am sure would have preferred to have given up much more in the deal if Sanchez would have turned out to, you know, be a franchise quarterback.

So, Did The Bears Overpay?

Yes. That’s clear.  There’s an argument to be made that overpaying is simply the cost of doing business, but one doesn’t need to be in this sort of business.  Chicago may be able to get back some of the departed draft value by one day trading Mike Glennon, but the Bears guaranteed Glennon $18.5M to have that option.  Chicago did pay less than the Eagles, Rams, and Redskins did for Wentz, Goff, and RG3, but they also used more capital to obtain Trubisky than the Colts did to get Luck or the Bucs did to add Jameis Winston.

Even putting aside the fact that the conventional wisdom is that Trubisky would have been available to the Bears at 3, there appears to be a very real case of overconfidence going on in Chicago. Which, as you can see, didn’t serve Washington or Los Angeles very well, either (and at least so far, the returns in Philadelphia on Wentz aren’t great, either).  In general, teams overvalue having the right to choose, particularly in a case where we are analyzing multiple top prospects at the same position.  Chicago could have traded down a few spots, picked up additional draft picks, and grabbed Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, or well, any other quarterback in the Draft (DeShone Kizer was the only other QB selected between picks 15 and 75).

Remember, we have some evidence that Trubisky wasn’t a Luck-type prospect, and not just from watching his college tape. The Browns, who were in more dire need of quarterback help than the Bears, didn’t think Trubisky was worth the 1st pick. The 49ers, who are more desperate for a quarterback than Chicago, didn’t think Trubisky was worth the 2nd pick in the draft.  So the fact that the Bears thought he was worth the 1st overall pick and the 38th overall pick is a sign that perhaps Chicago was overvaluing how good Trubisky is, or was overconfident in how likely it is that he will turn out to be a star.

Chicago could have likely moved down, picked up a third round pick, and still had their choice of Mahomes or Watson (or, in theory, even Trubisky).  Then the question becomes: is Trubisky worth more than Watson or Mahomes plus four third round picks? Given the history of quarterback evaluations in the Draft, you have to be extremely confident in your ability to beat the draft to say that the answer to that is yes.

  • sunrise089

    Predicting the future third rounder to come in the middle of the round is really generous too. I think Vegas odds expected wins would be a better metric here since the teams trading have some sense of where the pick is likely to fall.

    Similarly the 10% discount rate could be questioned given the Bears aren’t ready to compete this year. Due to the rookie salary scale I’d argue that rebuilding teams should likely use negative interest rates for future picks.

    If I’m the Bears owner I fire the GM when he proposes this move. The rationale is a pure moral hazard job saving attempt – Fox and the GM get fired this year unless the team is good, which is unlikely, OR (maybe) if they can show they have a potential franchise QB who they’ve begun developing. Ownership has no reason to take such a short term view and needs to be the grownup in the room and veto such trades.

  • It seems like people learned not to over-hype QB prospects after RG3’s DC career played out, but did not learn to stop giving up all their picks to draft them.

  • Richie

    I think part of the problem with giving up so much draft capital to draft Trubisky, is that this now means the Bears are likely to have less talented players surrounding him; which will make it harder for him to succeed.

    They can get lucky, and have a high success rate on the picks they have left in the 2017, 2018, 2019 drafts to help Trubisky, but odds are they won’t.

    Maybe my memory is hazy, but I really can’t think of a draft day trade that seems as bad as this one, when you consider that it didn’t seem like there was much other interest in Trubisky and guys like Mahomes and Watson seemed like minimal steps down from Trubisky. Sure seems like staying put at #3 would have been a smarter move.

    Even if the Rams and Eagles gave up more value last year, they were leapfrogging multiple teams who needed QB’s, plus (from the outside) it seems like Goff and Wentz were considered more desirable last year than any of the QB’s this year.

  • Wolverine

    Wouldn’t you argue that the Saints giving up their entire ’99 draft (and part of the 2000 draft) to move up and select Ricky Williams was worse than any of these deals?

  • Mike


    I spent time doing the math on the Browns Wentz trade and all the wheeling and dealing they did. This is the total haul

    Browns traded:
    #2 overall Pick (Wentz)
    2016 5th rounder (#141)

    Browns Received:
    2016 1st rounder (#15)
    2016 3rd rounder (#76)
    2016 3rd rounder (#93)
    2016 4th rounder (#114)
    2016 4th rounder (#129)
    2016 5th rounder (#154)
    2016 5th rounder (#168)

    2017 1st rounder (#25)
    2017 2nd rounder (#52)

    2018 1st rounder (Texans)
    2018 1st rounder (Eagles)

    Value sent: 33.3 points
    Value received: 86.2 points

    I used a 10% discount rate and assumed that next year’s #1 pick would #16 and 2nd rounder would be #48.

    The amount of value the Browns received is insane. They basically traded the #2 overall pick for the #1 overall pick, #3 overall pick and #5 overall pick.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Cleveland still has to cash in on that value, and acquire more good players, to eventually become competitive. They have more chances to improve, but the QB position still needs clarification. The Browns need to do a better job identifying talent than what we’ve seen in recent years. Results must happen for any value to be realized.

      • Anders

        yea, just look at the Rams after the RG3 trade.

  • Josh Sanford

    My rule of thumb is this: if you are willing to give away picks, it’s because you don’t think picks are that valuable. Why don’t you think they are valuable? It’s likely because you often waste them on players who aren’t good. And now you are going all-in on a player that you think is going to be good. Only we just established that you are not talented at figuring out who is going to be good. You just shot yourself in the face while you were out deer hunting. Bad move.

  • Brandon Harrington

    People dont understand thateven the best scouts and GMs can draft a bust its life and its how the NFL works(Now im not saying Pace is one of the best GMs at all)…now only one of two things can happen from the move to get him, 1. In five years the bears are looking at a string of 7-9 and 3-13 season behind Trubisky OR in 5 years the bears are looking at 10-6 and 13-3 seasons behind Trubisky bottom line is Pace made a bold/risky move to go after a good QB arguably the best in the draft from a pure skill point of view. He did what GMs are paid to do. Im sure that there are at least 9 or 10 GMs that wish they would of took that same kind of bold/risky move on Dak last year…only time will tell if this was a good or a bad move

    • Richie

      Sure, it’s easy to regret not making a move for Prescott in hindsight.

      True, Trubisky may turn out to be a good QB. The issue is that no matter how good a prospect a player is, there is a non-zero chance he will fail. And the Bears spent a lot of capital to take a chance on a guy. Risks like this aren’t going to pay off in the long run. The Bears could have stayed in the 3 spot and probably gotten Trubisky, and if they didn’t they could have taken Mahomes or Watson, who most experts didn’t have rated significantly differently from Trubisky.

      To my knowledge, no GM has ever “beaten” the draft by regularly trading up. Occasionally you can hit when you do that, but it seems like missing is more common. And part of the reason these moves can look like misses, is because trading away draft picks costs a team depth, which will make their new investment have a harder time succeeding.

      I believe trading up for Trubisky (especially at such a high price) is a terribly bad process. However, there is still a chance that the trade can have a good result for the Bears.

      One trade up that looks like it may have been good was Atlanta giving up 5(?) picks for Julio Jones. Jones has been a fine player, but I think the lost picks has cost Atlanta depth, particularly on defense, that led to them struggling from 2013-2015 (and their defense didn’t rate very well in 2016).

      • Anders

        I think saying using picks to trade up are costing a team depth forgets how little the hit rate for a 3rd or 4th round pick is.

        Fact is, you either have a QB or you do not.

        For a team like the Bears, either they hit on Trubisky and are here in 3 years or they do not hit on him and are fired, but having Mike Glennon as your top QB gets you fired anyway.

        • Richie

          Not counting Tom Brady or Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots had 6 starters (according to PFR) who were drafted in the 3rd round or later.

          I think hitting on those later picks greatly increases your chances of being a good team.

          • Anders

            The pats are also the golden standard.
            Yes having more late picks increase your odds of hitting.

            But I also think trade models need to in put some kinda of value for the position you trade up for. The amount of surplus value of hitting on a top 10 qb is so insane compared to any other position

            • Richie
            • Richie

              The Packers are another team that is very conservative in trades. They had 8(!) starters that they drafted in the 3rd round or later.

              The Cowboys had 9.
              The Chiefs had 6.
              Even the Falcons, who I criticized for trading for Julio Jones, had 5.
              I was surprised the Steelers only had 3.

              On the other end, the Bears had 3. Cleveland had 3. 49ers had 5. Jaguars had 4. The Rams had 6 (4 of those on defense).

              One of the hard things to tease out on the bad teams is if those late round picks are going to be the key players on their next playoff teams, or if they are guys who are playing only because the teams don’t have much talent.

    • Wolverine

      Well when you don’t know that the outcome will be, all we can judge is the process. The Bears seem convinced Trubisky is good, but NFL history is littered with bad teams who were mistaken about “their guy”. Teams need to admit to themselves that the draft is a crapshoot. Looking back on past drafts will confirm that. When $100 is enough to enter game, why pay $150 …with fewer dice rolls (draft picks), too boot? The Patriots get this…which is why they frequently try their best to trade down as much as possible. When a draft pick is like a dice roll, you want to get as many rolls as possible to maximize your chances of hitting. What the Bears did is the opposite of that approach.

      • Richie

        Well said.

        I do give the Rams a bit of a pass for their Goff move last year. I think with moving to Los Angeles, and having no QB, it was worth the risk for the Rams to take a chance on the best QB in the draft to try to increase interest in their team in a new town.

        • Wolverine

          I would argue that the best way to increase interest for your team is to start winning (especially true when you’re talking about L.A. and its notoriously fair weather fans). However, I can see your argument. The Rams had decent roster on paper heading into the 2016 season, so they felt they were only a QB away from playoff contention.

          The fact that Goff was terrible (imagine the front office’s horror when they realized Goff couldn’t even beat out the esteemed Case Keenum for the starting job!), only illustrates to me the perils of this “all in” approach. When the gamble doesn’t work out, you screw yourself for years.

          I my mind, they would have been better off staying at their draft position, and taking a chance that they might have hit on a QB taken in the later rounds (they may have lucked into Prescott. Heck, maybe Cody Kessler would have been better if had played for a decent team). Even if that approach didn’t work out, they at least have more chances at the table later on.