Most probably won't remember, but in the days leading up to the Brandon Marshall trade, once we knew he was going to be traded and the question was simply what we would get back, I predicted that we would end up with two 2nd round picks as compensation. This obviously ended up becoming the case. So how did I know that McXanders would specifically want to bring in 2nd round picks? The key is value.
Amidst all the talk of the Alphonso Smith trade(s), there is one constant- we continue to refer to his pick as having been a first rounder. And that is close to the truth, in that we traded away our 2010 first round pick (#14) in order to use the #37 pick of the 2009 draft to take him. However, that does NOT equate to having used a first round pick on Alphonso Smith. It equates to having traded a first round pick, and then used a 2nd round pick to select him. This seemingly unimportant distinction, however, carries a lot of weight. Follow me after the break...
If you look at New England's draft strategies for the past decade, you will notice an interesting trend. Here are NE's picks in the first 3 rounds beginning in 2000-
|3.14||RB||J.R. Redmond||Arizona State|
|3.24||DB||Brock Williams||Notre Dame|
|1.13||DL||Ty Warren||Texas A&M||from CHI; trade drafts picks 2003 1.14 and 6.20 (was from NYJ; trade draft pick 2003 1.04 plus rec'd 2003 1.22 and 4.19 (was from WAS; compensation WR Laveranues Coles))|
|2.04||DB||Eugene Wilson||Illinois||from HOU; trade draft picks 2003 2.09 and 3.11 plus rec'd 2003 4.20|
|2.13||WR||Bethel Johnson||Texas A&M||from CAR; trade draft picks 2003 2.18 and 4.23|
|1.21||DL||Vince Wilfork||Miami||from BAL; trade draft pick BAL used to select QB Kyle Boller (2003)|
|2.31||DL||Marquise Hill||Louisiana State|
|1.32||OL||Logan Mankins||Fresno State|
|3.20||DB||Ellis Hobbs||Iowa State||from BAL; trade picks 2005 2.32 plus rec'd draft pick 2005 6.21, 2006 3rd Round (TBD)|
|3.37||OL||Nick Kaczur||Toledo||compensatory pick|
|2.04||WR||Chad Jackson||Florida||from GB; trade 2006 2.20, 3.11|
|1.24||DB||Brandon Meriweather||Miami||from SEA|
|1.10||LB||Jerod Mayo||Tennessee||from NO|
|3.15||LB||Shawn Crable||Michigan||from NO|
|3.31||QB||Kevin O'Connell||San Diego State|
|2.02||DB||Patrick Chung||Oregon||from KC|
|2.08||DL||Ron Brace||Boston College||from OAK|
|2.09||DB||Darius Butler||Connecticut||from GB|
|3.19||WR||Brandon Tate||North Carolina||from NYJ through GB|
|3.33||LB||Tyrone McKenzie||South Florida||compensatory pick|
|1.27||DB||Devin McCourty||Rutgers||from DAL|
|2.10||TE||Rob Gronkowski||Arizona||from CHI through TB and OAK|
|2.30||LB||Brandon Spikes||Florida||from MIN through HOU|
|3.26||WR||Taylor Price||Ohio||from DAL|
# of 1st round picks- 10
# of 2nd round picks- 13
# of 3rd round picks- 11
So what does list this tell us? First, NE is clearly targeting 2nd round picks to acquire in their trades. And this is particularly the case over the past few years. However, it is also striking that NE has only 3 picks in 11 years in the upper half of the 1st round. Granted they have been an excellent team, but they have had high picks (acquired in trades) that they have generally relinquished (other than in 2001 and 2008 (in 2003 they actually moved back to the 13th pick from the 4th)). So what is their draft strategy, and how does that apply to Alphonso Smith?
Clearly, they, and McX, are focused on value. In the 1st round, and particularly the upper half of the round, the prices paid to rookies are exhorbitant. However, beginning in the latter half of the 1st round, and continuing into the 2nd, the prices fall incredibly quickly. By the time you reach the latter half of the 2nd round, the salaries for players become essentially the same, excepting signing bonus.
One can easily make the analogy to a fantasy football draft. In a FF draft, there will be the few elite players that cost tremendously to acquire (in draft pick terminology). However, after the first half of a round or so, the talent levels off significantly to the point where the next 10-15 players will often have roughly the same worth. However, they still must be selected in order, and if this were the NFL, the players selected highest would be paid exponentially more than those selected last. In fact, the range is extreme- although one could argue the relative merits of the 10-15 players, in terms of worth they are all very similarly valued. Yet, by nature of the in-order selection process, the players selected highest will make exponentially more money than those selected last. So there becomes a severe disconnect between cost and worth.
And this value discrepancy is at the heart of the NE/ McX draft strategy. Rather than pay higher prices for relatively equal talent, trade into the area of the draft with the greatest value ratio (latter part of 1st- end of 2nd) and choose players from that range. Then even if the players don't work out, there will be much less sunk cost, and more capital will be freed to improve the team elsewhere (FA, etc.).
So, in discussing Alphonso Smith, it is actually very important to remember that we TRADED a 1st round pick to acquire him, but did not SELECT him with a 1st round pick. Although this makes no difference in draft pick terms, it makes a tremendous difference in $ terms. Because we actually made a much smaller $ investment in Smith than if we had used a 1st round pick to select him, we saved quite a bit of money that can be used to address other roster shortcomings. So in essence, the trade becomes
2010 1st round pick (#14) for
2009 2nd round pick (#37) AND $
$ can then become FAs which help our team win a championship. See the distinction?
(btw, this post is by no means an attempt to defend the particular selection of Smith, simply to defend the general strategy of targeting and acquiring 2nd round picks)