NFL Draft: How Good Are Teams At Finding Value? The CFN Draft Value Formula

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: How Good Are Teams At Finding Value? The CFN Draft Value Formula

2020 NFL Draft

NFL Draft: How Good Are Teams At Finding Value? The CFN Draft Value Formula

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How good are all the NFL teams at finding value? What are the best value positions? Which colleges are strongest? We figure it out with the CFN Draft Value Formula.


NFL Draft: Who’s The Best At Finding Value?

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Two years.

Four years on a rookie contract is the dream, but can you draft a guy who’ll start for your NFL team for just two seasons?

Forget about being a superstar or anything special. Set the bar at simply finding a regular starter. If you can hit that with any regularity, you win the draft.

That sounds easy, right? Nope, which is why we’re wondering …
How good are all the NFL general managers and team scouts when it comes to draft value?

While everyone loves to focus on the big calls in the first round that can make or break a franchise – like taking Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick in 2017 instead of Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – that’s just the frosting on the cupcake. The real importance of this thing is being able to build up a base of talent to rely on.

Where’s the value in the NFL drafts over the years, and who did the best and worst jobs at finding it?

The goal here is to see 1) which NFL teams were best at finding value, 2) which colleges put out the most valuable NFL players, 3) which positions tend to provide the best value, and 4) is there really any value in drafting in the later rounds?

That last part matters when it comes to trades – more on that another time.

Here are the ground rules and theories here …

1. This has almost nothing to do with talent – it’s all about the value and timing of the picks.

Of course Mahomes is a better player than anyone taken in the entire 2017 draft, but he went with the 10th overall pick. You’re supposed to be able to nail that.

Mahomes is actually a bad example considering he’s a unicorn, but in general, you have to work to whiff on a first round pick. Finding a real, live starter after the 100th pick who can play for four years on a rookie contract is found gold.

For the purposes of this value exercise, it’s a much bigger deal for an NFL team to find a Dak Prescott in the fourth round than it is to take Jared Goff – even if the pick works out – with the No. 1 overall selection.

No matter where you pick a player, though …

2. All you can reasonably ask for out of a GM is to draft a two-year starter.

Again, it’s not really about the talent – this isn’t a ranking of how good these NFL players turned out to be.

If you dive into the history of the NFL draft, finding an All-Pro is random dumb luck – really, it is, and we’ll show why at the end of all the analysis that will come out over the upcoming weeks. Just find a player who’ll start for you for two to four years.

One important note – you don’t get credit for drafting a player who produced for someone else. The value of each of these picks is only counted while they were on the teams that drafted them.

Also, if a player is hurt or on the sidelines for a stretch, that hurts his value overall. It’s why there are a few outliers in the formula – like Mahomes – but Pro Bowls and All-Pro recognition are added into …

3. The CFN Draft Value Formula

Again, this isn’t about talent. This is about what players turned into steady starters for the teams that drafted them. Find those guys to build around, and then go after the established stars for positions of need in free agency.

The formula is made up of …

The overall pick. The later the pick, the higher the value. Anyone can pick in the first 50 and find a decent player. Find the guy in the fifth round who’ll produce. 

- How many games did he play in? A pick doesn’t work if he doesn’t play. Finding a starter is the goal, but a player brings value if he’s a part of a rotation, too. Merely getting on the field matters, but more importantly …

How many games did he start? Valuable backups and special teamers are usually replaceable. Was the pick a starter, and for how long? Reliability is almost everything, and if he’s starting in the NFL he’s doing something right. But …

All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition counts. Finding a Pro Bowl player in the first round is harder than it seems, but it’s a first round pick – he’s supposed to be good. Finding one in the fourth round is massive. More weight is given to the score for All-Pro seasons – those are the true difference-making stars.

Way-too-long preamble short, who nailed their picks?

Number of games played, starts, Pro Bowls, and All-Pro nods are counted and then weighed into where the player was selected. The later the pick that worked out, the higher the score.

Who has been the best at finding the most value in the NFL Draft?

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