2010 NFL Draft: Does Trading for Draft Picks Make Sense? Ask Jerome Bettis

Victor SpurrierContributor IIApril 20, 2010

ASHBURN, VA - APRIL 15:  Washington Redskins Donovan McNabb works out at the Washington Redskins training facility on April 15, 2010 in Ashburn, Virginia  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

What if I offered you Ernie Conwell and Ryan Tucker for Jerome Bettis?

How about John Bowie for Randy Moss?

If you think you're being low-balled here you aren't alone. 

NFL GM's frequently trade Pro Bowl caliber players for draft picks, but do these transactions really make sense, or would it be smarter to trade for other talented players? 

NCAA and NFL production often don't go hand in hand.  Successful college players like Akili Smith and Tim Couch, for example, aren't always successful NFL players.

Often times top-flight talent needs to be traded because they simply aren't fitting in with the city, the coaching staff, the other players, or they are disgruntled for some other reason. 

Randy Moss was not a good fit in Oakland.  He had one good, and one very, very disappointing season in Oakland.  Trading Moss was not necessarily the wrong move for the Raiders.  The got a fourth round pick which resulted in the selection of John Bowie. 

Bowie, who now plays for Cleveland, had a career in Oakland marred with injuries.  He played a whopping five games, and had an astounding two tackles. 

As far as I can tell Randy Moss is worth more than two tackles.  Had the Raiders traded for a player instead they probably would have gotten more production than five games and two tackles.

Donovan McNabb was traded for a second round pick this year, and either a third or fourth round pick next year.

I have always been a proponent of getting rid of Donovan.  He will not win a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, and it's time to move on.  That said, trading for draft picks is a risky business. 

Between 1996 and 2003 19 percent of second round picks resulted in Pro Bowl players, and 10 percent of third round picks resulted in Pro Bowlers. 

Overall the likelihood of the Eagles selecting a Pro Bowler is 39 percent at best.  Between 2000 and 2003 third round picks are only 5 percent likely to make the Pro Bowl.  The overall likely hood could be considerable lower than 39 percent. 

The statistics make it clear that dealing for an established Pro Bowl talent is the better option.

Trading for anything less than a second and third round pick seems unwise.  This is especially clear considering the drop in performance of third round players.

The top 10 players have a 56 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl and average 2.05 Pro Bowls per player.

Players selected between 11-20 have a 39 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl and average 1.28 Pro Bowls per player.

Players selected between 21-30 have a 26 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl, and average .81 Pro Bowls per player.

Players selected in the first round as a whole have a 39.5 percent percent chance of making the Pro Bowl, and average 1.3 Pro Bowls per player.

Second round players have a 19 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl, and average .47 Pro Bowls per player,.

Third round players have a 10 percent chance of making the Pro Bowl, and average .27 Pro Bowls per player.

When you look at the statistics picks outside of the first round really aren't as valuable as many NFL GMs seem to believe.  You aren't likely to find your next star, so you shouldn't trade a current star for a draft pick outside of the first 20.  The logic of trading for picks doesn't hold water, and often backfires on NFL teams.

Notes about the statistics:

Years 1996 - 2003 were used.  I felt that players chosen after 2003 weren't given adequate time to make the Pro Bowl, and would result in inaccurate statistics. 

I used the picks 1-32 for the first round, 33-64 for the second round, and 65-96 for the third round to make the statistics relevant.  Past years have had less teams so some adjusting was needed.  This could lead to the data being inaccurate for a 32 team draft. 

Picks past 96 in the third round weren't (compensatory picks) weren't factored in because they would make the third round longer than the first two, and distort the data.  Thirty-two picks defined a round.