Unmasking Draft Tactics: Value of Trading Up?

Howdy Y’all....  Once again, our very own Phinsider Mock draft has caused me to sit and ponder over my duties as GM of the Patriots. I was tempted to move up a couple times, but with so many picks, I was just as excited to stay put.  What makes me most curious about draft day is when teams move up to get "THEIR GUY".  Do they really know something? How many times do they make mistakes and pick the wrong guy? I would like to share with you my research to satisfy my curiosity.

It's understood that there are two basic draft tactics, pick for need or pick best available. Some teams toggle between the two and others wisely combine them. Aside from whatever tactic is deployed, six definitive results occur.  

1) team trades up and picks a player projected at that slot

2) team trades up and picks a player way ahead of when he's projected to go

3) team trades up and picks a high value player that has slide down.

4) same as 1, but stays put.

5) same as 2, but stays put

6) same as 3, but stay put




I decided to do a little draft analysis to see, 1) if teams that trade up really do get the right guy 2) what is the success rate of teams that take a risk on players too soon 3) what is the success rate of teams getting bargains from players that slip.


I took a look at the first two rounds of the last three drafts and placed each pick next to their overall pre-draft ranking and their positional ranking. I used for the rankings as they, IMO, have shown very good accuracy. I only chose the first two rounds because that is where your "impact players" should be found and where the picks are usually most scrutinized.


I simply went pick by pick to see where they fit into the six scenarios above. When considering if a player was a reach or RISK I simply placed more weight on his position ranking and the pool of player available at that position at that time. I.E. team picks 23rd and drafts the 70th ranked player. The player is a TE and ranked 5th at his position. I would consider this a risk, however knowing that this was a need pick and 3 TEs were already off the board I'll let that one go.  If the player's overall ranking was far from where he was picked that alerted me to whether it was a RISK or BARGAIN.

For example:

25th Pick PIT trades up to take #19 overall S Holmes #2 ranked WR

- a bargain to have the #2 WR slip to 25 and a WIN for PIT

NO picked #91 overall R Harper, the #7th ranked S, at pick 43!

- a risk to take this guy so early, and for now a LOSS



To determine the success of a pick I had to give it a pass-fail rating. For 2006 and most of 2007 this was fairly easy, though we never know if these guys might emerge. 2009 was really painful because I had to give picks like Ellis and Harvey wins because of their potential and loses to Groves and M Jenkins because they were too far from impact players. Overall, there wasn't as much wiggle room as I feared and the wins and loses seemed justified. Also, I am relying upon as the authority of pre-draft values.


Ok, ok... I'll cut right to the chase,,,,,


1) When the team traded up and took a player way too early than they should have and made a RISKY pick= 3 wins and 8 loses

2) When the team traded up and took a player that slid down and got a BARGAIN pick = 7 wins and 7 loses

3) When teams traded up and took a player valued correctly for that pick = 8 wins and 0 loses.

Overall TRADE UPS: 18 wins -15 loses



4) When a team took a RISKY pick= 10 wins and 23 loses

5) When a team took a BARGAIN pick = 3 wins and 13 loses

6) When teams stayed put= a 30% success rate, consistent each year.

Overall RISKY Picks: 13 wins and 31 loses

Overall BARGAIN Picks. 10 wins and 20 loses




When teams trade up to get their man, they have close to a 54% chance at getting a good pick, but is that worth moving up? Considering that the first two rounds appear to yield an average of 30% success rate, I'd say that trading up definitely increases your odds at getting a good player and validates that the front offices do know their stuff, but they are still only 50/50. Your chances are still 50% when you take a shot at a falling star. I was originally inclined to think that these guys usually resulted in busts, but not so. Despite their reason to slip (size, attitude, and competition concerns) they are still 50/50 to make an impact.  On the flip side, teams that get too cocky and trade up for that lower profile player, they actually reduce their success rate to 37%. And... for those teams that trade up and take a player that is projected correctly for that pick.... they were 100% - 8 wins and no loses.



Teams that did not trade up really did not fare any better when they took Risks or picked a Bargain. There is still an approximate 30% success rate for the top 64 players taken, regardless.



For me- If I see a team trade up and get a player that slipped, its a 50/50 crap shoot but better than if they had stayed put. If I see a team trade up and take a reach, we'll they might as well have just stayed put....and if a team makes an aggressive move to snatch up a projected player- watch out, ...they know something.

For the rest of the lot, in the first two rounds, draft away. I feel less judgmental about the talent that teams pick because it's still very hard to get those impact guys.  Whether it’s best available or for need, your just can't get too excited because of the odds are against excelling at this level.  Keep in mind that this exercise was to evaluate IMPACT players, starters, pro-bowlers, stars.... Many of the losses could also be considered wins because, despite not being a great player they could be a valuable role player, special teamer, or serviceable vet someday.

I would have loved to take this model through 4 rounds and back a couple more years, but I think the last three years illustrated a very consistent sample. As far as team tendencies, MIAMI was one of 3 teams that DID NOT fall into any of these tendencies. (HOU, OAK the others) They never traded up, never took risks and never gobbled up bargain players. (Many think Merling was a bargain, but had him 27th overall and the 5th DE, so it was good timing to get him at 32). WAS, DET, and TB were each 0 wins and 4 loses. DET, GB, and CHI each took 3 risks. (DET 0-3) WAS went 0-3 on bargains. ATL moved up 3 times, 1-2.

Most interesting would be the risks in the later rounds,,, taking those relatively unknowns in rounds 4,5,6,7... and that is where drafting legends are made, but that story is for another day.......................


This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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