It had been rumored for some time that the Titans were looking to move out of the first slot in the draft in order to acquire more picks and they found a willing a partner the QB needy Rams. The trade, accoring to multiple news outlets, will see the Rams get the Titans 1st, 4th and 6th round picks in return for the Rams 1st round pick, two 2nd round picks, and a 3rd round pick this year, plus the Rams 1st and 3rd rounder in 2017. I’ve recently updated my draft trade matrix from last year and will use the new values to see how the trade works out. At first glance this is a steal for the Titans.
For those unfamilar with my trade matrix and who did not click through the above link what I have done is take every draft pick and turn it into an expected veteran salary based on historical approximate value research from profootballreference. This is a much better (in my opinion) method to analyze trade value than the old point system that is generally used as a trade guideline. So if a players draft value is $4 million it means that, on average, a player selected in that position should give the team the same performance as a veteran that costs $4 million a season. We can vary that based on draft expectations for a team as well by breaking each slot down into quartiles.
The Titans Trade Evaluation
For the Titans I consider their expecatation to be that every pick is average, meaning that they dont believe that this is either a strong or weak draft. I think when trading down often you may think the draft is actually weak on the top, but given the Titans needs and their drafting a QB last season I think its fair to consider this as average. When we look at next years picks we simply make the assumption that they will have the same draft slot. Here is the expected contribution they will get if they land average players in each position:
Here is what they gave up in the trade:
That’s a massive gainn of $11 million in talent over what they originally had in the draft. They did give up the high end potential, but in return are getting far more value overall for the team, assuming that they do draft average players. In terms of salary cap benefits they are also huge for the trade. Overall the Titans will spend in the ballpark of $13 million per year on these players, meaning they should gain around $10.4 million in value per year that can be used on free agent acquisitions to bolster the team. Their original draft class would have only given than an expected $3.4 million in additional value. Generally speaking there is almost no way they can lose on this trade unless they whiff on their top picks and they did indeed miss out on a top tier player.
The Rams Trade Evaluation
For the Rams we need to make a few different assumptions. The team moving up is clearly of the belief that they will receive a top player in the draft, so we drive our expectation for that top pick from average to the top tier of all players selected with the first pick. I’d also think it indicates that they are not bullish on the first and second round picks from this year and would project them not have upside potential. They also will view the trade as a gamechanger for the franchise and expect major improvements this year. So in their mind they are not giving up the 15th pick next season but rather something lower (Ill arbitrarily pick the 25th pick). Here is what the Rams gain in this scenario:
Here is what they give up:
This is overall a loss of about $2 million in value. The trade is clearly banking on that first pick being ultra valuable because if it hits they are getting nearly $7 million in value out of that one player and if the pick is a quarterback than you can drive even more cap value than the $7 million figure because QB salaries are so high, to come close to breaking even. But the overall expectation here is that the Rams will lose more than they will gain with the trade. That should indicate that the Rams front office feels that have a pretty complete team and need to give up more to get that one part they need to take the next step.
Arguments for the Rams Trade
The only way the scale really tips in the Rams favor on this one is if the Rams, after evaluating the draft, felt that this was only strong at the top of the draft and weak on those other picks. How do the numbers change if they think the 15th, 43rd, and 45th picks will fall into the historical bottom 50% of performance? At that point the Rams will gain their $18.4 million in talent but only give up $15 million. The reason is because those top 3 picks each lose in the ballpark of $2.4M in value if the picks fall towards the “bust zone”.
The other consideration is just basic cost. They will make around a $27.8 million commitment to the first pick in the draft this year. The 4 year commitment for the three top players they traded should be around $22.6 million if they are around for four seasons, which is guaranteed for the 15th pick and somewhat likely for the other two. Throw in a draft pick from 2017, which will cost around $10.2M for the 25th pick if we get another $10M in cap growth, and the Rams will have around an additional $5 million in cash to spend as they see fit on the roster.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.