As I have expressed to you recently I am amazed at the trading frenzy that has involved movement of Picks for the upcoming 2018 Draft. Players and Picks seem to be flying all over the NFL, and I am sure we are not done yet with this activity. But for now I would like to make some numeric observations and conclusions by looking at the Picks by Team chart at our website. Total Picks this year will be 256, unless some team gets caught with fingers in cookie jar soon.
Let’s start with some basic numbers. The NFL Draft is technically 7 Rounds long, with each team originally assigned one pick per round based on their W/L records in the season previous to each Draft. But I always refer to the Draft as an 8 Round affair. I do so because the CBA calls for the League to allocate up to 32 Compensatory Picks based on the plus/minus result of Veteran Free Agent (VFA) losses and gains that took place in the previous years VFA period. Overall the formula for calculations is complex and somewhat confidential, but what is a given in today’s NFL is that all 32 allowed picks will be dispensed to teams around the League. Thusly, even though not every team gets a pick, while some get multiples, it equates to another full round (32) of Picks being awarded. So in my mind that equates to each team potentially averaging 8 Picks per year. Fairly new to the Pick trading equation is the change last year that allowed teams to trade Compensatory Picks, just like regular picks. No doubt this is another new factor that increases the Draft Pick trading process.
Despite varying degrees of Pick-lust, it would seem logical that accumulating Draft Picks is desirable for most teams. Besides providing a source of fresh talent, under the current CBA a Rookie wage scale is now in place. Accordingly, while serving as indentured servants the draftees help team keep their teams’ Salary Cap numbers somewhat in check for 3-4 years. We are not here today, to debate the equity of such a system. Let us just accept the reality that over the short term drafting Rookies is an important tool in long term team roster development. Choose wisely my General Manager friends.
So with 8 as the average Picks per team (see above again if confused) which teams are currently well stocked as of March 25th, or basically one month prior to the 2018 Draft? And conversely which teams may leave their fan bases disappointed with their depleted cupboard of Draft ammunition.
Five teams are currently well below the yearly average of Picks with only 6 in their proverbial quiver; LIONS, GIANTS, JETS, EAGLES, TITANS. Poor Football fans in the Big Apple are in for a relatively quiet Draft weekend, unless their two teams start trading next year’s picks for more this year. This process is commonly referred to as the “credit card” approach around the League. At least the GIANTS currently hold 4 of their picks in the Top 69 overall. The JETS have only 2 picks in the Top 100 after a recent trade cost them multiple picks to move up to Pick 3. overall, which had been held by the COLTS.
Interestingly to me, a total of 9 teams hold 8 Picks each, which is my number for the norm. 8 teams hold 7 Picks, just one below the norm.
Five teams hold double digit Picks, which is the Draftnik sweet spot. At the top of the list are the Green Bay Packers with 12 selections. Those twelve picks are scattered throughout all 7 Rounds. The Pack holds 4 picks in the Top 101, and 3 selections in Round 5.
Just a few weeks ago the BROWNS under new GM JOHN DORSEY, were tied with the Pack in total picks, but Dorsey has been very active in reshuffling his roster in preparation for the Draft. JOHN DORSEY is a disciple from the WOLF personnel tree, with some TED THOMPSON mixed in. I remember chatting with a very smiley DORSEY at a Senior Bowl practice, just after the Packers had fired MIKE SHERMAN and brought THOMPSON back from Seattle to Green Bay. Sherman was notorious for trading picks to teams for vet players, many of whom never panned out in green-and-gold uniforms. DORSEY declared he and his scouts were back in the game under Thompson. Well, true to his roots he is still very much in the draft game this year despite his early wheeling and dealing. He has hung on to the picks near the top of the draft. He and his Browns still have Picks 1, 4, 33, 35, 64. It likely won’t quite pan out that way, but in my book all picks in the Top 100 should become NFL starters. Round 1 picks should translate into Pro Bowl players. The Browns are stacked to score some high quality players not just young bodies.
The RAIDERS and BENGALS cupboards are well stocked right now, with 11 picks each. The Bengals are a bit more top heavy with with 4 picks in the Top 100. Many of us were shocked that the Bengals accepted a trade offer by the Bills so they (the Bills) could move up, to likely grab one of the 4 elite QB prospects. The Raiders have added multiple picks in Rounds 5,6, thus meaning their scouts will have to really dig deep to mine at least some precious metal from their bounty.
The Cowboys and Rams are the two other teams with double digit picks at 10 each. Both of their scouting staffs will have to be on their A-Game, since neither team has any extra picks in the Top 100. Combined they have 9 picks in Round 6; Dallas 3, Rams 6.
I continue to like the overall management style of JOHN ELWAY as the man in charge of the Broncos. His success has been mixed, but he has made calculated gambles rather than sit still and whine. This year he has accumulated 9 picks and 6 of them are in the Top 109 overall, with 2 picks in both rounds 3 and 4.
TEXANS fans may have noticed the relative flurry of VFA signings, especially compared to their previous front office approach of almost exclusively drafting to build their roster. Assuming MR. WATSON comes back fully healthy at QB, not having a 1st or 2nd Round Pick must be tolerated. Once they get going though the Texans have 3 in Round 3 and also Pick 103. Not bad for 8 overall Picks while swiping their credit card in 2017 for WATSON.
I mentioned the BILLS earlier who have 9 picks with the first 6 of them at 12, 22, 53, 56, 65, 96. They should be able to fill quite a few holes in their starting line-up with those selections.They can go home early on Saturday with their last pick coming at 187. Wonder if they will be tempted to be a bit naughty and start calling potential URFA early. We’ll talk about that aspect of the Draft another day.
Despite some grumbling about having given up their slot at Pick 3 in the trade with the Jets, it is hard to argue with GM CHRIS BALLARD’s approach, after ending up with picks at 6, 36, 37, 49, 67 for a team with a devastated roster after poor drafting and VFA signing under prior management. The COLTS need quality and quantity as they restock their roster. With 5 picks in the top 67 they had better find some true keepers.
The Sea Hawks who suddenly find themselves with a depleted talent base due to multiple off-season vet departures have a comfortable 8 picks, but only one of them is Top 100 at 18. If they get the right package of 2nd and 3rd round picks to trade that 18 they might have to consider it, although their disdain for Round 1 selections is part of what got them into this mess IMO. In recent years the Sea Hawks have led the league in the dubious distinction of having the fewest first rounders on their roster of any team in the NFL. For the final game of the 2017 season the Sea Hawks had boosted the roster count for First Rounders up to 7, just a tick below the League norm, but only 2 of them were actual picks by the Sea Hawks; EARL THOMAS/S, GERMAIN IFEDI/OL. The heart of the Seattle draft is Round 5 wherein they have 5 Picks. That is not usually starter land my friends, although ex-Sea Hawk Richard Sherman might take issue with that assertion!
The champion Eagles have been active in VFA which may be wise considering they pick 32 at the end of Round 1 then don’t pick again until slot 130. The Patriots have 7 Picks, and as opposed to last year they have some draft ammo this year. The Pats pick in slots 31, 43, 63, 95. One of those picks surely has to be an OT. Have you noticed that Bill Belichick has gotten a lot of face time for helping to run drills and instruct prospects at their Pro Days the past couple of weeks. I don’t see that as a coincidence in a year where he has got to select some immediate contributors for his roster!
Even though a few teams still seem to be willing to part with their First Round Pick in the Draft, the new number of trading choice seems to be Round 2. 6 teams are without a Round 2 Pick right now. That is opposed to only 2 teams (KC, Houston) that don’t have a first round pick. This has a lot to do with the fact that now first round draftees are basically able to be held onto for a fifth year by their drafting team if so desired.
Right now my gut instinct is that we will see a slowing of Pick trading for about three weeks. But as the actual Draft approaches I would expect another flurry of trades likely the week prior to the Draft. At the pace picks are flying around this could also mean that not as many picks as usual get get tossed around during the actual Draft itself. League computers will be extra busy keeping track of moving Picks this year. Will this be the year that some team pulls a George Allen move, and trades the same pick to multiple teams?