Massey-Thaler Draft Values

As discussed in the two previous posts, the Massey-Thaler study quantified the surplus value of draft picks by estimating the excess performance of a pick above his contract cost. The excess performance is measured in dollars by calculating the price of equivalent performance by a free agent.

One of the first things I wanted to investigate was how each team compared in terms of "Massey-Thaler" values (M-T values) over the past several years. Does a team (or teams) stand out as one that capitalizes on this phenomenon? Does it correlate with performance on the field?

Using data from the published study and a database of draft picks from 1999-2006, I assigned each pick its M-T value. I then summed each team's total M-T values and ranked them. Here is the list:

What stands out at first is which teams are at the top of the list and which are at the bottom. Tennessee is first, which makes sense because it's had a particularly strong regular season record during the 99-06 period which puts them near the bottom of the 1st round where M-T values are highest. St. Louis, which is third, has also had strong records. San Francisco, however, has not, and neither have several of the other teams at the top of the list. This indicates there is something at work beyond where teams' first round picks land based on regular season records.

The Redskins place last, consistent with their reputation of poor draft and salary cap management. In fact, they are significantly worse than the next worse team, Miami. The difference between the top team, Tennessee, and the bottom, Washington, is about $12 million in "surplus value" over the past 8 years.

How significant is this spread? If teams never traded picks, the team with the top pick in the draft would 'naturally' have a $3.7 million surplus value and the team with the 32nd pick each round would have a $3.4 million surplus value. Over an 8-year period, a team that had the highest 'natural' surplus every single year would accumulate only a $3.2 million advantage over the team with the lowest 'natural' surplus. A $12 million spread means something is at work well beyond simply where teams find themselves in the draft order each year.

Are some teams actively trading picks to maximize M-T surplus value? Without ever reading the M-T study or even conciously trying, teams might be forced into doing so because of various salary cap constraints. In following posts, I'll examine this further.

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1 Responses to “Massey-Thaler Draft Values”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think M-T values are important but are only part of the story!

    What if someone sums up the performance values of a superbowl team each year?

    Maybe to see, how many points one needs and then correlate it with the M-T values to figure who is paving the way for their team to the make the superbowl with the minimum amount of money!

    - DMax

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