The day after the NFL Draft, experts weigh in on which teams have done the best and worst work improving their teams. Much of this is predetermined by where a team picks, by free agent losses that determine each team’s pick count, and by trades made before and during the draft to get, give up, or trade picks. .
The real test of NFL general managers comes when their team is on time and makes a choice. At this point, the processes that led to their grand council and their assessments of the needs and value of the position come together. The true value of any draft pick doesn’t become clear until years later, when the evidence is laid out on each prospect’s NFL career. Right after the draft, however, it’s possible to compare the picks they made given the strengths they had with how those players were rated before the draft.
Fandom and draft pundits do this almost instantly, as evidenced by Twitter feeds. But draft success can also be quantified using two pieces of information. Draft value charts assign a numerical value to each draft position to gauge what is and isn’t fair trade, while large pre-draft charts by experts attempt to rank the quality of incoming players in the draft. The combination of the two allows us to calculate a “draft value above expected value” (DVOE) for each choice. He’s just asking how successful GMs have been in capitalizing on the picks they actually made, given how prospects were perceived at draft time.
Calculation of draft vs. forecast value
For the value of the peaks, we use the Table of Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft values from overthecap.com, which is based on the monetary values of second contracts, to objectively assess how the NFL itself rated players at each draft position. For the pre-draft ranking of players we adopt “The beast,“The Athletic Draft Guide compiled by respected draft analyst Dane Brugler.
To illustrate DVOE, consider some recent and surprising draft picks from the Giants:
Daniel Jones (2019): Jones was drafted No. 6 (2092 Fitzgerald-Spielberger value points), but The Beast rated him No. 53 (988 FS points), so DVOE = 988 – 2092 = -1104. 1104 roughly matches the No. 42 draft pick on the FS board, i.e. taking Jones that high was tantamount to losing a high pick in the second round.
Andrew Thomas (2020): Thomas was the first OT in the chart at #4 (2297 FS points) but The Beast ranked him #15 (1628 points), so DVOE = 1628 – 2297 = -669, equivalent to losing the No. 99 Pick. Brugler’s ranking suggests that Jedrick Wills (ranked No. 5) or Tristan Wirfs (ranked No. 8) would have been better at No. 4, but Wills was dominated by Thomas in 2021 and Wirfs, although excellent, plays RT, not LT.
Kadarius Toney (2021): Toney was drafted #20 (1482 points) but was rated #28 (1311 points) by The Beast, so DVOE = 1311 – 1482 = -171 points, equivalent to losing an agent free priority undrafted. There was a feeling that Toney was overdrawn, but this little DVOE illustrates that in reality, there’s little difference in value on average between picks under 10 positions except near the top of the draft.
Azeez Ojulari (2021): Ojulari was drafted No. 50 (1018 FS points) but was rated No. 16 (1595 points) by The Beast, so DVOE = 1595 – 1018 = +577 points, equivalent to an extra pick n ° 119 . This is an example of how medical red flags can lead to high value choices. (Just ask Giants fans if Trey Smith moved on in Round 6.)
DVOE during the Gettleman years
Here’s a DVOE summary of all the Giants’ picks from the four Dave Gettleman-era drafts. (The Beast only ranks the top 100 prospects and awards rounds to others, so I used mid-round or top-of-round values, as appropriate, for these lower picks. For 2018, I didn’t access only to Brugler’s top 100 large chart so I assign DVOE=0 to later choices.)
Drafts of the Giants 2018-2021
|2. Saquon Barkley||-352||6. Daniel Jones||-1104||4.Andrew Thomas||-669||20. Kadarius Toney||-171|
|34. Will Hernandez||269||17. Dexter Lawrence||-336||36. Xavier McKinney||29||50. Azeez Ojulari||577|
|66.Lorenzo Carter||-134||30. Deandre Baker||-63||99.Matt Peart||0||71. Aaron Robinson||77|
|69. BJ Hill||-21||95. Oshane Ximines||-83||110. Darnay Holmes||-9||116. Elerson Smith||-110|
|108. Kyle Lauletta||0||108. Julien Love||391||150. Shane Lemieux||76||196. Gary Brightwell||-137|
|139. RJ McIntosh||0||171. Darius Slayton||272||183. Cam Brown||-27||201. Rodarius Williams||21|
|143. Ryan Connelly||-149||218. Carter Coughlin||154|
|180. Corey Ballentine||169||238. TJ Brunson||-39|
|245. Chris Slayton||121||247. Chris Williamson||-20|
|255. Tae Crowder||-4|
|DVOE by Selection||-40||-87||-51||43|
Gettleman has drafted higher players more often than Brugler’s ratings would suggest, but many of the disparities are small (under 200 points) and he’s had some “bargains” as well. So why are the Giants still in another phase of rebuilding? The table above suggests several reasons:
- Every first-round pick in 2018-21 was a player ranked lower than where they were drafted. Several can be very good players for the Giants going forward, but several more trades (and one less trade) could have put the Giants roster in better shape. None of the first-round picks were universally acclaimed hits; typically about a third of first-round picks become big players, but none in recent years have been giants.
- Even when the Giants seemed to get good value on draft day (Hernandez, Love, Slayton), the player either underperformed or played adequately. The biggest deal of all was Azeez Ojulari; this choice may turn out to be the big exception to this general trend.
Evaluation of Joe Schoen’s Giants first draft
With that in the background, we can take a first look at how the Giants did last weekend. First, since Joe Schoen made two trades after the draft started for additional picks, we can assess them:
First, the Giants traded the No. 36 pick (1,184 FS points) to the Jets for the No. 38 (1,157 points) and No. 146 (474 points). It was clearly a good value for the Giants: 1157 + 474 – 1184 = +447.
Then the Giants traded No. 38 (1,157 points) to Atlanta for No. 43 (1,094 points) and No. 114 (600 points). It was also a good value: 1094 + 600 – 1157 = +537.
The net gain of 447 + 537 = 984 points from this pair of trades that brought two extra picks is roughly equivalent to having one extra second-round pick (#53).
Ultimately, however, draft performance is judged by the player picked with a team’s picks. The chart below shows the DVOE for the Giants’ 11 picks:
2022 Giants DVOE
|draft station||“The beast”||DVOE|
|draft station||“The beast”||DVOE|
|5. Kayvon Thibodeaux||2184||1946||-238|
|7. Evan Neal||2014||2443||429|
|43. Wan’Dale Robinson||1094||682||-412|
|67. Joshua Ezeudu||869||682||-187|
|81. Cordale Flott||773||425||-348|
|112. Daniel Bellinger||609||609||0|
|114. Danish Belton||600||425||-175|
|146. Micah McFadden||474||481||7|
|147. DJ Davidson||471||298||-173|
|173. Marcus McKethan||388||188||-200|
|182. Darrian’s Beavers||363||682||319|
|DVOE by Selection||-89|
For the most part, the DVOE values are consistent with the opinions on the selections as they were made:
- There was near-universal praise for taking Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 5 and Evan Neal at No. 7. Both meet the needs, and arguably both can be the best at their position in this draft. The Thibodeaux pick is slightly negative (i.e. ideally he would have been taken 1-2 picks lower) while the Neal pick is strongly positive (a #3 value taken from #7). We do know, however, that the pick streak was a strategic decision by Schoen: taking Thibodeaux when he got lucky with the first pick knowing that one of the two coveted OTs, Neal and Ekwonu, would be there for the second pick. . The sum of the DVOE values (+191) tells us that as a pair, these picks were a win for the Giants.
- For the remaining rounds of the draft, all but three of the Giants’ nine draft picks have negative DVOE. In particular, Wan’Dale Robinson and Cordale Flott were taken perhaps two to three rounds earlier than the value given to them by The Beast. Daniel Bellinger and Micah McFadden are the only new Giants picked at a time when value meets need, while the Giants’ final pick Darrian Beavers could be a sixth-round steal. The overall DVOE per player for this draft is similar to the lowest in Gettleman years (2019).
The true value of draft picks doesn’t become apparent until years later. Daniel Jones is still considered to have been a big reach; only a breakout 2022 season that cements him as the Giants’ QB of the future can change that narrative. Andrew Thomas was also a bit of a hit, but if he continues to rise, this pick will be seen in retrospect as a solid pick despite his negative DVOE. Kadarius Toney is a big question mark – will the small sample of scintillating performances on the court be the norm, or will injuries and off-court issues make him another first-round bust for the Giants? Azeez Ojulari currently looks like one of the best picks of the Gettleman era – first-round value achieved with second-round assets. And sometimes it just takes picking the right player in the right place, as seems to have been the case with Xavier McKinney, drafted to where he should have been but showing signs of becoming a great player.
The Joe Schoen – Brian Daboll diet clearly has different ideas about player rating than most pundits and fans. On the one hand, they identified the same areas of need as everyone else and wrote to fill them. It’s different from the Gettleman era. They also implemented the modern draft wisdom of trading and getting “more apple bites”, which Gettleman only did in his final draft. And they followed modern ideas of positional value, using four of their top five picks on high leverage positions that should be traded early (EDGE, OT, WR, CB) and leaving OG, TE, S , ILB, IDL, until mid and late rounds where good value can still be found at these positions. They just didn’t pick the players for those positions that people were expecting in most cases.
No big charts compiled by outside draft experts take into account the philosophies of specific teams: zone defenses vs. man, power/spread vs. out-of-area rushing attacks, Erhardt-Perkins vs. west coast vs. air raid, etc. . The Giants’ big picture likely reflects the coaches’ and GM’s perspective on which players have the specific traits they seek and who are suited to the specific ideas their coaches hope to implement. In four months we will begin to learn how successful they have been.