Valuing the 1st Round Trades in the 2024 NFL Draft

With the first round of the 2024 draft in the books I wanted to go and look at the five trades that were made during the draft. For each trade I am evaluating the trade using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft chart. The chart which Brad and I created is based on past results of NFL drafts. These values are not going to be indicative of typical trade markets in the NFL but they do provide you the expected returns on each trade when you wind up with the average outcome.

For each trade we calculate points for each draft pick. I am valuing  a future pick as the last pick in that particular round, which is the worst possible scenario for a team receiving a future pick and best possible scenario for a team trading it away. The difference between these two is the implied cost of the trade. That cost can then be translated into a single draft pick.

The expected value added for a team is what that draft slot would project at if we translated the rookie performance into veteran contract value (i.e. a QB selected number 1 in the draft would expect to bring a team a value of $50.4M, essentially projecting as one of the top 5 players at the position). The value lost is what the picks the team traded away would be valued as. For the team trading up the value will be specific to the position they traded up for. For the team trading down it will be a blind trade since there is no guarantee on positional availability. The difference is how much was gained or lost by moving up rather than picking blind.

5. Chiefs Select WR Xavier Worthy

Implied Cost: 161 points (Less then the last pick in the draft)

Potential Salary Lost: ($2,168,388)

SelectionPointsExpected Value AddedTraded PicksPointsExpected Value Lost

The Bills trading down was smart, but the Bills making this trade seemed like a team just desperate to trade back in the first round. This is a no brainer trade for the Chiefs. By moving up a few spots they only gave up 161 points, which virtually means they gave up nothing by engaging in a bunch of pick swaps through the draft. By using the pick on a wide receiver rather than having a blind pick the expected player value actually plays out in the Chiefs favor by over $2 million. That is extremely rare for a non-QB trade.

About the only argument for the Bills to have made this trade was to gain another pick in the top 100. That does give them a better chance at finding a starter than at 133 but its definitely a higher variance area.

4. Panthers Select WR Xavier Legette

Implied Cost: 162 points (Less then the last pick in the draft)

Potential Salary Lost: ($2,618,302)

SelectionPointsExpected Value AddedTraded PicksPointsExpected Value Lost

Despite the fact that the Panthers come out even further ahead in salary than the Chiefs I ranked this one a little lower since there was probably little question that the Panthers would have been able to select Legette at 33. Perhaps the Bills asking for so little in return made Carolina fear another team could move up, but the trade seemed to be framed more as gaining an additional season of contract control via the option and quite frankly that is not a worthwhile consideration at this point in the round.

Buffalo clearly wanted to drop out. If we look at the two trades they made this effectively gets them back their late 4th they traded to the Chiefs and they save a little over $2.4 million in rookie salary by dropping from 32 to 33. From a financial perspective it is the smartest drop a team can make due to that. My assumption is Buffalo will be desperate to trade number 33 in round 2. Both of these Bills trades are really representative of how trades should work in the NFL but rarely do.

3. Lions Select CB Terrion Arnold

Implied Cost: 533 points (The 130th pick in the draft)

Potential Salary Lost: $3,727,836

SelectionPointsExpected Value AddedTraded PicksPointsExpected Value Lost

The hometown Lions made the move to grab the defender they wanted and wound up giving up 533 points to do it, giving up a very valuable pick in the top of the 3rd round. The value of that 3rd round pick really moves the needle in Dallas’ favor as they would be projected to select a player who would be worth $5.5 million a season.

My guess is the reason the Lions leaned into this trade is because they viewed the 3rd rounder as a bonus pick since it came via trade with the Vikings from the TJ Hockenson trade a few years back. Corners are harder to find as the draft goes on but when we are talking the 24th pick I am not sure it holds that much weight. The fact that Dallas used the pick on a tackle only made this more valuable for the Cowboys, dropping down a few spots to likely get the same position they had targeted at 24 and adding the 73rd pick in the process. If we factor in tackle versus a blind pick the move shifts to $4.4 million in the Cowboys favor.

2. Vikings Select QB J.J. McCarthy

Implied Cost: 619 points (The 109th pick in the draft)

Potential Salary Lost: ($14,440,847)

SelectionPointsExpected Value AddedTraded PicksPointsExpected Value Lost

Probably the most interesting trade of the first day. This was essentially a game of chicken between the Vikings and the Jets. The Jets had to convey to Minnesota that there was another team involved to make them move up one spot to grab the QB they wanted. The teams in this case were the Broncos and Raiders. Clearly the Broncos and Raiders were not offering a 3rd round pick along with their 1st rounder because the Jets weren’t getting anywhere near the Vikings 3rd rounder in this trade. From there you start looking at what they will and won’t take to drop down and these picks the Vikings gave up are ones the Raiders and Broncos could have beaten. The fact they did not tells me there was no market which works against the Vikings doing this trade.

On the other hand, this is a deep discount for trading up for a QB especially if you feel that there is a big drop from McCarthy to Nix. The most comparable recent trade up in this spot would have been the Bears going from 20 to 11 to get Justin Fields rather than having to settle for trying to get Mac Jones at a cheaper price. In that trade the Bears gave up the 20th pick, a future 1, a future 4, and a 5th round pick to jump 9 spots. That is a clear QB premium trade and was essentially like giving up the 5th overall pick to move up. It was made worse by the fact that the future pick they lost was the 7th overall pick rather than a late 1st round selection. So, in terms of who settled for less it was the Jets which is a benefit for the Vikings.

Overall, I think this is a win-win for both sides.  I think the premium of a 109th pick is small potatoes to ensure that they did not get a last minute change of heart by the Broncos or Raiders. For the Jets they got bonus picks for selecting the same player they would have taken at 10. This is how trades should work in the NFL where the team moving up works hard to make sure they do not overpay the way the Bears did for a player who did not even make it to the fourth year with the team. The team moving down doesn’t really have other options because standing pat at 10 on “principle” is just dumb. Do what is in the best interest of your team and that is what both teams did here.

1. Vikings Select EDGE Dallas Turner

Implied Cost: 1,470 points (The 20th pick in the draft)

Potential Salary Lost: $5,557,739

SelectionPointsExpected Value AddedTraded PicksPointsExpected Value Lost

An absolute great trade for the Jaguars and complete head scratcher for the Vikings. The Vikings gave up in this specific trade (more on that in a minute) the equivalent of the 20th pick in the draft to move up 6 spots to take the 17th best player in the draft. That is absurd. Even if you want to factor in a few extra QBs taken than anticipated it is still the 14th or 15th best player. EDGE’s taken in this range in the post 2011 draft era include Will McDonald, Jaelan Phillips, maybe Zaven Collins (he was a pure tweener guy), Brian Burns, Marcus Davenport, Derek Barnett, Bruce Irvin (similar to Collins as a tweener), Quinton Coples, Ryan Kerrigan, and Robert Quinn. There are some good players there and some bad ones. Certainly nothing that screams it is a home run selection.

The trade itself gets even worse when you realize how the Vikings even got the 23rd pick to make this trade in the first place. The Vikings did a wild blind trade with the Texans in March to get to 23 and in return gave up the 42nd pick, a future 2nd, and the 188th pick in the draft. They also received the 232nd pick in the draft. Here is how the chart now looks if we substitute those picks for number 23.

Implied Cost: 2,163 points (The 5th pick in the draft)

Potential Salary Lost: $10,190,858

SelectionPointsExpected Value AddedTraded PicksPointsExpected Value Lost

I just don’t get any of the logic in any of this. The only reason to have done that first trade was to find a way to move up for a top 3 QB, which seemed like a longshot at best. The team traded a future  2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounder along with this years 2nd , 5th and 6th to get the 17th best player in the draft? This is now a no margin for error kind of trade. Turner has to be a major star, along the lines of a Burns or Josh Allen type of player, to justify what they gave up. Moving all of those pieces for one player rarely works out for a team, so the Vikings must really trust their process when it comes to identifying defensive talent to do this deal.