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The Hidden Reality of Draft Value: Part 5 — The Best Value Picks

The Hidden Reality of Draft Value: Part 5 — The Best Value Picks

When teams develop their draft strategies, they combine a number of different variables into their decision making. A player’s talent and potential combined with his college production and a team’s needs are variables that are heavily important, but they are only a few of a multitude of different factors that should be considered. 

The purpose of this series was to introduce a new key metric to consider when a team is developing their draft strategy. As mentioned in previous articles in this series, the Second Contract Pay Ratio evaluates the amount of guaranteed money a player gets on his second contract to the guaranteed money a player receives on his first contract. If the ratio is quite high, the original pick is deemed to have been a successful selection, particularly if that second contract is signed to the same team. 

Read Part 1 of this Series

Read Part 2 of this Series

Read Part 3 of this Series

Read Part 4 of this Series

What we have found throughout all seven rounds is that this is a tough measure of success. For example, between 2010-2017, less than one in three first round picks were signing their second contract with the same team. What appears to be a home run draft for the Jets is perhaps most likely to only have one of their picks receive a second contract. Making three picks still increases the Jets’ odds of having a first rounder hit from the 2021 draft, but expectations should probably be more tempered. 

The SCPR is not black or white or a bad or good pick. Let’s consider A.J. Brown. No one will tell you that he was a bad pick in the second round. In fact, if the reported $57,000,000 guaranteed by the Eagles is true, Brown’s SCPR will be a 16.88. Again, this implies he is receiving almost seventeen times more guaranteed money on his second contract compared to his first. This represents an incredibly valuable pick for the Titans. 

However, the best picks represent cornerstones for a franchise’s future. This pick never reached its full value since Brown is now likely to provide his best year for a team that didn’t draft him. First round picks from 2010-2017, on average, earned 1.96 times more guaranteed money on their second contracts. By hoping for Treylon Burks to achieve Brown’s SCPR of 16.88 is being incredibly optimistic. For Burks to exceed Brown’s performance is likely wishful thinking. If the Titans had decided they’re going to adopt the approach of consistently recycling rookie wide receivers, this is a different strategy altogether, although one not recommended due to the low hit rate. 

To reiterate once again, this metric is not the only variable that should be considered when determining your draft strategy, but it certainly holds weight and insights that can be utilized to help make a final decision. Below, we’ll go through some of the top picks with regards to SCPR in the years 2010-2017 while also pointing out a couple of picks that display any potential flaws in using SCPR on its own.

Sitting atop of the SCPR charts with an astonishing SCPR score of 649 is Trent Brown. The gigantic tackle was selected in the final 13 picks of the 2015 draft. Not far from being Mr. Irrelevant, Brown represents the value that can be obtained anywhere in the draft and shows the importance of every selection. Trent Brown was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. The only knock on this pick is that they failed to recognize his full value themselves and traded him in 2018 to the Patriots, where he went on to become Tom Brady’s blind side protector, winning Super Bowl LIII.

The next set of players on the list show the potential to take on offensive weapons later on in the draft. Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and George Kittle were all drafted in the fifth round in the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. Their SCPR scores range from 134-176. What’s interesting is that in Diggs and Hill, we have two players that actually managed to secure even bigger third contracts. Because of this, their TCPR scores would almost cause a calculator to combust. 

It’s hard to derive any specific conclusions about the players’ attributes because each one fell for different reasons in the draft. Wide receiver was a position that consistently showed up with a high SCPR at every stage in the draft. Doubling or even tripling up on wide receivers in the draft is always a good idea when picking with a strong alignment to SCPR.

An interesting note is that Cooper Kupp is only 96th in the top 100. As the NFL’s triple-crown champion in 2021 and with the wide receiver market going through a huge increase in average annual salary, this pick and current contract represents outstanding value for the Los Angeles Rams. 

Nobody needs to be told that picking Kupp was valuable in hindsight, but hitting on these picks are the key reason the Rams contend yearly with their “F them picks” model. The slogan should really be edited to “F them first round picks.” Kupp being ninety-sixth displays how grossly underpaid he is on his second contract, given the current rate. 

However, the team holding the value benefit as opposed to the player is what increases the probability of winning a championship. If Kupp were to renegotiate, although fully deserved, it would begin to reduce that probability given the constraints of the salary cap. If not in the upcoming year, this will occur in the proceeding years.

So how does SCPR not cover the full spectrum of a draft strategy? Well, because predicting the future is tough. In order to utilize predictive modeling effectively, we need rock solid data, and tons of it! 

From this data, we can then evaluate all the input variables such as a player’s height or speed and create our own metrics that combine different variables to create one that is more powerful. In creating the SCPR, we are combining past contract data. 

The data is limited to 2010-2017, so there is a risk that the data is not robust enough to draw statistically significant conclusions. We can see patterns emerge and should listen to them, while also keeping in mind that the data is still relatively small, so it may not always be representative of the current state of play. 

Since we’ve built this metric off limited data, are there any potential issues with the mathematics itself, even if we had more data? Yes. Although not quite a mathematics problem, the metric itself does not adjust for bad second contracts. A bad second contract would be where a team has paid out more guaranteed money than a player is worth. The SCPR operates under the assumption that the guaranteed money on the second contract was the right decision, which we know is not always true. However, given the majority of times the right decision is made, when using the SCPR in conjunction with other metrics to build a team’s philosophy, the impact of these bad second contracts should be washed out. 

An example of a player with a high SCPR (No. 96 in the top 100) is Brock Osweiler. Osweiler went from just under one million guaranteed on his rookie contract to thirty-seven million guaranteed on his second contract. This shows that SCPR is not yet aware as to what happens after the second contract, and a weight could be built in here to increase or decrease the original picks value. Because Osweiler is a quarterback that signed with a different team, this immediately represents a failed second round pick. A successful second round pick on a quarterback would at least entail a second contract with the same team, as discussed in earlier articles in the series.

With all being said, out of the top one hundred, the majority were players that were selected in later rounds and contributed greatly to the teams that drafted them. Thus, the metric is effective in identifying good value picks. The insights from the years 2010-2017 can be taken and used with the consideration that the data is relatively small, and that this metric should be combined with many others when building out a draft strategy.