Cowboys GM Jerry Jones was skewered by draft experts this time last year for trading down in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He left a consensus Top 5 talent on the board in Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. He drafted a nobody center out of Wisconsin who “experts” had given a third-round grade. He didn’t get enough value in the trade with San Francisco, according to former Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson’s NFL draft value chart.
The nobody center went on to start every game and make the NFL’s All-Rookie team. The additional third-round pick was used on Baylor WR Terrance Williams, who started eight games, caught five touchdowns, and was re-evaluated as a first-round talent in Sports Illustrated’s draft re-do following the 2013 season. Floyd, who ended up going 23rd overall to Minnesota, was noticeably absent from that post-season mock…
A year later, everyone agrees maybe Floyd wasn’t the best pick at 18. And most recognize the Cowboys added two good players in trading down. And many are coming around to the notion that Jones didn’t “reach” for center Travis Frederick at pick 31. After all, if Jones reached, then he’s the only GM in the league who saw Frederick for what he is – an impact, Day 1 starter at a key offensive position. Expert analysts who enjoy ridiculing the Dallas GM are slowly becoming cognizant of the fact that they can’t credibly criticize Jones for reaching and accuse him of being clueless.
But while facts have solidly rebutted most expert analysis from a year ago, this notion that Jones got fleeced by San Francisco on Johnson’s draft value chart is pernicious. It’s a way for folks to criticize Jones even when he does something really awesome, like trade one draft pick for two, young, cheap, high-ceilinged starters.
Johnson’s chart is merely a guide. The truth is, draft picks are “worth” whatever someone will pay for them, and that varies greatly depending on the shape of the draft class and the circumstances of the trade scenario. If your board tells you there’s no one left who merits the 18th pick, and that there’s plenty of value in the middle rounds of this particular draft, then you shop the pick and see what you can get for it.
Anyone you’re trading with likely has a similar view – that the first-round is light on impact players and the middle rounds are deep. Sometimes you get lucky and find someone who will overpay. Other times you don’t. That’s the nature of any marketplace. But trust your board before you trust the chart.
According to the Johnson chart, the Cowboys gave up pick 18 (900 points) for pick 31 (600 points) and pick 74 (220 points). They received 820 points for 900, or 91 percent of the value they traded away. Hardly a fleecing. No one is patting Jones on the back for “winning” the trade a year earlier that sent pick 14 (1100 points) and pick 45 (450 points) to St. Louis for pick 6 (1600 points). On the chart, Jones got 103 percent value. On his roster, he got cornerback Morris Claiborne instead of defensive tackle Michael Brockers (pick 16) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (pick 45). Lesson: If the board is wrong, the chart is not going to save you.