Grantland’s Bill Barnwell has a good article about the ways in which Bill Belichick’s strategy of trading down in the NFL Draft has helped the Patriots over the years.
According to Barnwell’s numbers, Belichick has made 48 trades that involved only draft picks over the last 15 years, which works out to about 3.2 trades per draft. The value that he created by those trades is equivalent to getting a No.1-overall pick, No. 2-overall pick, and No.-19 overall pick for nothing.
The takeaway here: Since teams overvalue high picks and the draft is completely driven by chance anyway, the league’s smartest teams hoard their own picks and trade down to get extra picks whenever possible.
The Seahawks and the Patriots are two good examples.
Despite giving up draft picks in the disastrous Percy Harvin trade, Seattle has had 48 draft picks in the last five years, the most in the NFL. The Patriots have made 44 draft picks in the last five years, which ranks eighth in the NFL.
Research suggests that the NFL Draft is “95-100%” driven by chance. No NFL team is better or worse than any other NFL team at drafting players.
But where teams can differentiate themselves is in the number of picks they make. If the draft is completely driven by chance, the only way to get an edge is by making more picks than everyone else, thus giving yourself more opportunities to find players that pan out.
Since 2010 the average NFL team has made 39.75 draft picks. There are 10 NFL teams that have made at least 44 draft picks:
- Seattle — 48
- San Francisco — 48
- Philadelphia — 48
- Minnesota — 47
- St. Louis — 47
- Cincinnati — 45
- Green Bay — 45
- New England — 44
- Pittsburgh — 44
- Houston — 44
Those teams won an average of 9.7 games in 2014. The 17 teams that made fewer than 40 picks since 2010 won an average of 7.6 games in 2014.
The team with the fewest draft picks over the last five years, New Orleans, only made 28 draft picks — 20 fewer than Seattle.
The Patriots and Seahawks simply don’t give away their draft picks.
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