Valuations and the NFL Draft

While the article attached doesn’t specifically mention economics or markets, as I read to procrastinate doing actual work, the article reminded me a bit of the topics from Chapter 10 in which we discussed valuations, optimal assignments, prices and payoffs, and market clearing prices. While the NFL Draft does not take place until late April and concludes in early May; the process of evaluating prospects and team needs begins shortly after the conclusion of the NFL season and amplifies as the NFL Draft Combine and as colleges host “pro days” to showcase their draft eligible players in front of college scouts.

From these workouts and pro days, draft analysts begin to create “Big Boards” or rankings of draft prospects from best to worst. Interestingly, quite often we see teams not draft based off of which player is the “best,” but rather search to find the best player at the position in which they need the most help. For example, there are some analysts who rate quarterback prospect Jameis Winston as the best quarterback prospect in the last ten years of the draft and coincidentally the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who have the first overall pick are weak at the quarterback position will more than likely draft Winston. Still, three years ago, when there were two highly rated quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the team holding the second pick, the St. Louis Rams, did not “need” a quarterback as they drafted one with the first overall pick in a draft two years before. Consequently, they did not value RGIII as highly as other teams and traded the pick away for a collection of picks in the same draft and future drafts to the Washington Redskins who not only thought Griffin would be a future superstar, but also valued the position to pick second more than the Rams, as the team selecting third also could potentially select Griffin before Washington had the opportunity to.

To connect this to valuations and optimal assignments depending on how a values a draft prospect in relation to other teams value of the same prospect and relative to their draft position, a team may decide to pick the player or trade the draft pick. In the event that multiple teams have similar aspirations for a pick, the team holding the desired draft slot will continue to raise the price (or combination of players and picks needed to attain the pick) until there is only one buyer willing to pay for the pick and thus the market is cleared and a perfect match of one seller and one buyer. The defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots have a reputation for stockpiling draft picks by trading their highest pick to gain a collection of lower picks and thus draft more players. Attached is an article on both team needs for the upcoming draft and how teams should value the top prospects and a sheet which displays a trade formula and assigns a point value to each pick in the draft. The sheet shows the combination of picks a team usually has to trade in order to gain a desired higher draft position.


2 thoughts on “Valuations and the NFL Draft”

  1. This is a great example of Game Theory in Football. It clearly illustrates how profiles are made for players and teams in the NFL. When players values are based on concrete athletic units, it would make who to draft more easy to determine. I am amazed at how often Game Theory is used in aspects of life. Great article about Game Theory used in real world application.

  2. This is also seen in future payoffs of players when evaluating trades in the NFL. Using the idea of athletic ability and specific game situations nfl players hold many payoffs for teams when drafted. It gets complicated after draft day because there are so many options for teams if a player doesn’t amount to much or if they become a superstar. Many game theory phenomenon can be observed in sports and this was a great example.

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