Vikings-Patriots trade a wash ... Or was it?

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
12:00
PM ET
At first glance, the Minnesota Vikings appeared to give up a huge premium of draft picks Thursday night to jump back into the first round and select Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

Did they? Let's take a closer look.

To get the No. 29 overall position, the Vikings sent the New England Patriots four picks: Nos. 53, 83, 102 and 229. Those are second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks, respectively.

The traditional NFL trade value chart, developed decades ago to find commensurate value in such situations, actually suggests the trade was a wash. Based on that chart, the Vikings surrendered picks that valued 649.5 points for a position valued at 640 points.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman explained the exchange this way: "Basically, when you look at that, we just flopped [a one for a two] and we gave a three, four and our last seventh."

Based on your feedback, I know that some of you aren't buying that logic. You don't like the old trade-value chart and think that the reported depth of this draft should factor into the analysis of later-round value.

So I will point you in the direction of this NFL Draft Trade machine over at Sports + Numbers. (Hat tip to NFC West colleague Mike Sando for forwarding it my way.) This tool incorporates three efforts, more recent that the traditional trade value chart, to determine the value of every draft position.

In essence, the three alternative methods incorporate advanced statistical analysis to place a value on draft picks based on various criteria. Among other things, it allows for the inevitable ebb of strong and weak drafts.

If you plug in the picks the Vikings and Patriots exchanged, you see that the Vikings gave up substantially more value than they received when viewed by any of these methods. The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, which Sando wrote about in March, suggests the Patriots received 97.9 percent more value. Its creator, which uses historic performance of players taken in each draft position, has found that the traditional trade value chart "massively overvalues the earliest picks and significantly undervalues mid-to-late round picks."

Of course, that analysis doesn't take into account the individual player the Vikings got (Patterson) or the players they could have drafted in those other picks. It is a composite measurement of what all No. 29 overall picks have done in NFL history compared to the performances of the Nos. 53, 83, 102 and 229 selections.

So here's what we can say, in my view: Patterson will need to be the exceptional player the Vikings think he can be in order for this trade to make sense from the perspective of historic and statistical analysis. That seems a reasonable conclusion.

Update: Steve Drake, who runs the Sports + Numbers site, estimates the excess value the Patriots received in the trade to be the equivalent of a third-round draft pick.

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