Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, I was fascinated to understand which teams might get more aggressive or less aggressive based on uncertainty. Teams had less time and opportunity to evaluate players than in any draft in recent memory. That massively increased variance in the process.
We can evaluate draft aggressiveness and efficiency in movement up or down the draft through the lens of draft points*.
Let’s first look at the entire picture by studying total value (draft points) added in both 2020 and 2021. Certain teams traded current picks for future ones, so this first graphic incorporates 2020 picks plus 2021.
* Draft points are a concept of using regression analysis to assign value to each pick of the draft based on the work of Chase Stuart.
Let’s first evaluate the team that gave up the most value, the Saints.
New Orleans traded away a 2021 third-round pick for a 2020 seventh to move up 14 spots in this year’s third round. With the higher third-round pick, they drafted OLB Zack Baun. They also added a second third-round selection and gave up a ton of capital to the Vikings in order to do so (a 2020 fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh). They drafted TE Adam Trautman with that selection. Having no picks after the third round, they traded back into the seventh round in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick. The combination of all of those trade-ups cost them 8.35 draft points, which is the equivalent of a late second-round pick.
On the other end of the spectrum were the Vikings.
Minnesota entered the draft on Thursday morning with 12 picks and sixth-most draft capital available. Through trades of 2020 picks (including the Trautman trade with the Saints) the Vikings wound up with 15 draft picks in the 2020 draft plus two other picks in the 2021 draft. In total, they turned 56.5 draft points in 2020 into 58.9 draft points in 2020 and 7.4 more draft points in 2021, giving them a net added value of 9.8, the most of any team in the draft.
The only thing this analysis does not address is obtaining or losing a current player. For example, Washington added the second most value, in part, because they added a 2021 third-round pick (plus a 2020 fifth) in exchange for LT Trent Williams. Those two moves accounted for the entirety of the Redskins added value.
A team like the 49ers lost 6.63 points of value, which almost entirely was the equivalent of their trade with the Redskins that sent a 49ers third-round pick in 2021 plus the 2020 fifth in exchange for adding Williams.
If we ignore future picks, and look only at value added in 2020, we can see that the Jets added the most value thorough some of their trades while the Chargers, Buccaneers, and Packers lost the most.
Through two trades, the Jets’ Joe Douglas turned the No. 48 pick into picks 59, 125, and 129 in 2020, plus a 2021 sixth-round pick, which is why they sit atop the value added in 2020.
The Chargers traded their second and third-round picks to add an extra first-round pick (number 23 overall) which they used on LB Kenneth Murray. They held pat with the rest of their draft.
Tampa Bay traded their fourth-round pick for a seventh-round pick and the ability to move up one position in the first round (from 14 to 13) in order to draft Iowa T Tristan Wirfs.
The Packers traded away their fourth-round pick in order to move up four spots in the first round (from 30 to 26) in order to draft presumed multi-year backup QB Jordan Love.
Lastly, if we just look at the 2020 net picks added via trades, we can see the Vikings added three more picks than they started with, whereas the Dolphins stood firm through three rounds, but then began a process of trading out of some of their late-round draft picks, netting a loss of three picks (through they added an extra sixth-round pick in 2021).