Monday, March 12, 2012

The Best Way To Evaluate The RGIII Deal

One of the easiest things in the world to do is to grab an article and pick it apart in a blog. That said, I'm going to do precisely that.

The guys from the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective wrote a fairly interesting and critical analysis of the Redskins trade for the Rams' pick. Interesting, critical and wrong.

From an expected value perspective, the Redskins definitively lost this trade (to put it mildly). The second overall pick carries an expected Career Approximate Value Over Average (eCAVOA) of 435.4. The 6th and 38th overall picks have a combined eCAVOA of 525.1. If the Redskins had given up just these picks, they would have lost 89.7 eCAVOA, which is the equivalent of the 114th overall pick (the middle of the 4th round).

If this price had been the extent of the trade, it would have been defensible. A 525.1 eCAVOA translates to a CAV of 78.7, essentially equaling Matt Hasselbeck’s CAV. ~
For the Redskins to get the equivalent value from RGIII as they spent acquiring him, he must produce at least as much as Tom Brady.
If RGIII merely lives up to his eCAVOA, he’ll finish his career having slightly outperformed David Garrard (61 CAV). Because all-time-great quarterbacks are rare commodities, the Redskins likely lost value both on paper and in reality.

The post is worth a read. Heck, the whole blog is worth subscribing to. I would have to copy over a whole lot more than I am comfortable with to fully describe the analysis. Really though, I have no problem with the analysis such as it is. Kevin Meers (the author) describes the value of the pick in terms of the degree of talent that RGIII would have to return to make this trade valuable. To me, this is fundamentally wrong - even if mathematically correct.

The problem with this, and with all of the criticisms of the trade, is that they assume that the purpose of the NFL draft is merely to acquire talent.

It isn't.

Mostly it is exactly that, but it goes beyond that to something more fundamental. The purpose of the NFL draft is to put a team in the position to win a Super Bowl. Really, that's it. That's the entire purpose of this league. So I agree with the argument that RGIII would have to become Brady to make the trade worthwhile, if the Redskins win a Super Bowl with him playing a key role some time in the next decade then the trade is certainly worth it.

I could go further with this. The Redskins are one of the more interesting teams and have been far longer than Daniel Snyder has been the owner. Outside of a brilliant 12 year stretch they've been pretty poor, historically speaking. I believe there is an illusion that they've been more relevant than they have for a couple of reasons; one being that they happened to have their greatest stretch exactly through the period when the NFL was exploding in popularity, the other simply due to the division they are in and the opponents that they face.

A kind of fun game to play is to couch this trade of what the Redskins' expected return on those picks would have been, rather than an average team. With Allen and Shanahan, perhaps that return is better than their historical return but regardless it is more fun to frame this in the context of this franchise's history. Counting backward from 2004, the first year where Career AV currently has any relevance, Redskin first round picks returned AVs of 33 (Sean Taylor, unfairly low), 14, 27, 46, 57, 103, 53, 0, 38, 7, 39, 18, 12, these going back to the last Redskin championship in 1991. In 15 years, the Redskins drafted three first rounders who generated career AVs greater than 50. By comparison, this year's Giants had 6 players, last year's Packers had 7. In other words, the Redskins stink at using their first rounders on players who populate championship teams.

Looking only at quarterbacks, over the last 20 years the Redskins used the #3OA, #32OA, #25OA picks on quarterbacks while trading the #37OA for Donovan McNabb. The best player from that group was Jason Campbell who has generated a 40 carAV in 7 seasons.

Really this trade can't be evaluated for many years. By all accounts Griffin is one of the greatest quarterback prospects in memory, with amazing athleticism, intelligence and character. Most prospects do not deserve the value that the Redskin braintrust placed on Griffin. Griffin, in fact, just might.

Thom Loverro shares a different take

What could go wrong?

Griffin could stink on the field or be a problem off the field. Neither is likely.

The guy is off the charts in all measureables in football and life. He is perhaps the fastest quarterback in NFL history. He has a cannon for an arm. He is so smart he graduated early from high school and wants to be a lawyer. And he volunteers to take care of small children in his spare time.

He could get hurt, of course. But that is hardly a unique risk.

The draft picks the Redskins gave away could wind up being major contributors with the Rams for years to come. But if Griffin proves as great as advertised, no one will care.

No, the X factor in what could go wrong is not Griffin.

It is the Redskins.

They could really mess this up.

In fact, based on the news the Redskins will lose $36 million in cap space over this year and next, they already may have messed this up.

To believe that Griffin will become an elite NFL quarterback worth the high price paid by the Redskins is to believe that the Redskins won't get in the way of that development, that something inside Redskins Park won't go wrong.

That's a leap of faith.


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