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