Evaluating NFL and Fantasy League Trades

By Greg Alan (4for4 Founder) on Jul 6, 2010

Greg Alan's picture

Greg Alan is the founder of 4for4 Fantasy Football and comes from a deeply statistical and analytical business background. Greg is currently a managing member of The GNG Group. You unfortunately cannot find him on twitter.

I'd like to share one of my favorite analysis charts. It's called the Player Potential Grid. 

Over the years I've found it to be a rather handy reference guide. I really like this chart because it was designed to incorporate several intellectual properties. It mirrors a number of principles I've often heard cited by NFL coaches and GMs. 
 
Perhaps most exciting, when you leverage the grid with artful planning, it has a variety of applications. 
 
It can help you...
 
- evaluate NFL trades that include draft picks over one or multiple years
- evaluate your own league's keeper trades
- quantify, estimate and compare keeper league potential value
- improve your keeper rankings
- examine trades in redraft leagues
 
The grid is big. It covers 125 player rankings (draft picks) and it offers a three-year outlook as well. 
 
After the grid below, I'll go over a few examples on how it can be put into action. In addition, I'll highlight one of its best properties.
 
Round 1 This Year Next Year In Two Years
1 1200 600 300
2 1100 500 225
3 1050 400 205
4 1000 350 200
5 900 300 192
6 800 270 188
7 750 260 183
8 700 255 179
9 650 248 174
10 625 240 168
11 600 233 164
12 575 225 158
13 550 215 153
14 525 205 148
15 500 200 143
16 475 195 138
17 450 191 133
18 425 189 128
19 410 187 125
20 400 185 120
21 381 183 116
22 372 180 113
23 360 179 110
24 350 174 108
25 330 168 105
26 320 164 103
27 310 158 100
28 300 153 98
29 290 148 97
30 285 143 93
31 280 138 90
32 275 133 88
Round 2 This Year Next Year In Two Years
33 270 128 85
34 260 125 83
35 255 120 80
36 250 116 79
37 244 113 77
38 240 110 75
39 235 108 73
40 230 105 71
41 224 103 70
42 221 100 68
43 215 98 65
44 210 97 63
45 204 93 60
46 200 90 58
47 192 88 55
48 188 85 53
49 183 83 50
50 179 80 48
51 174 79 47
52 168 77 46
53 164 75 45
54 158 73 44
55 153 71 43
56 148 70 41
57 143 68 40
58 138 65 39
59 133 63 37
60 128 60 35
61 125 58 34
62 120 55 33
63 116 53 32
64 113 50 31
Round 3 This Year Next Year In Two Years
65 110 48 30
66 108 47 30
67 105 46 29
68 103 45 29
69 100 44 28
70 98 43 27
71 95 41 26
72 93 40 26
73 90 39 25
74 88 37 25
75 85 35 25
76 83 34 24
77 80 33 24
78 79 32 24
79 77 31 23
80 75 30 23
81 73 30 23
82 71 29 23
83 70 29 23
84 68 28 22
85 65 27 22
86 63 26 20
87 60 26 20
88 58 25 18
89 55 25 18
90 53 25 16
91 50 24 16
92 48 24 14
93 47 24 14
94 46 23 13
95 45 23 13
96 44 23 13
Round 4 This Year Next Year In Two Years
97 43 23 12
98 41 23 12
99 40 22 12
100 39 22 11
101 37 20 11
102 35 20 10
103 34 18 10
104 33 18 10
105 32 16 9
106 31 16 9
107 30 14 9
108 30 14 9
109 29 13 8
110 29 13 8
111 28 13 8
112 27 12 7
113 26 12 7
114 26 12 7
115 25 11 7
116 25 11 6
117 25 10 6
118 24 10 6
119 24 10 6
120 24 9 5
121 23 9 5
122 23 9 5
123 23 9 5
124 23 8 5
125 23 8 4
 
1) A Basic NFL Application
 
The team with the #2 overall pick this year gets an offer from the NFL team selecting 11th. They offer their 1st round pick (11th overall) and their 2nd round pick (43rd overall) for the #2 pick. Should the team with the #2 pick do it? 
 
Consulting the grid shows the #2 pick is worth 1100 points. The 11th pick is worth 600 and the 43rd pick is worth 215 points. Since 1100 > 600 + 215, all else being equal, the team with the #2 pick should not trade down.
 
2) How the Pros Do It
 
Jimmy Johnson was a magician on NFL draft day. He worked draft trades in record time and they almost always went his way. After he left the NFL, Johnson shared one of his favorite rules: a 2nd round draft pick this year has about the same value as a 1st round pick selected next season. In general, Jimmy was saying delaying a pick by a year is equal to moving up 32 picks the following season. 
 
Consulting the chart shows Jimmy is spot on! 
 
Example: A middle 2nd round pick this year (48th pick overall) has a value of 188. A middle 1st round pick next season is very similar. It has a value of 195. So, according to the chart, Jimmy was able to spot a fair trade in seconds just by following his rule of thumb. 
 
Next, lets use the chart to evaluate your fantasy situation using existing NFL players. 
 
3) Should You Pull the Trigger?
 
Should you trade a fantasy stud with a limited career to get a much younger player who looks to be on the rise? 
 
For arguments sake, say you think RB X will be the 20th best fantasy weapon this season. However, you also think he's going to wind down, get hurt and/or perhaps even retire after this season. 
 
On the other side, say you think young upstart QB Y will be the 100th best fantasy weapon this season. But, you believe the youngster will become the 50th best player in next season and the 25th best fantasy player two years from now. 
 
Everything else being equal, should you trade RB X before the start of this season for QB Y -- given the above assumptions? 
 
Some of you are saying, 'DO IT!' others, 'NO WAY!' 
 
Regardless of your opinion, how are you forming it? 
 
Let's just assume we all agree on the above RB X/QB Y assumptions (and I realize some of you don't). 
 
The real question is: Should you do the trade if you believe those assumptions?
 
Time to consult the Player Potential Grid. 
 
The chart shows it's actually better to keep RB X under those assumptions. Doing the math, it breaks down like this:
 
RB X = 400+0+0 = 400
QB Y = 39 + 80 + 105 = 224
RB X > QB Y (so keep RB X)
 
Clearly, only time will tell if this holds true. But in any case, I often find it comforting to consult an objective method. 
 
Moral of the Story: It's great to win down the road, but let's be real. NFL teams and fantasy owners alike prefer to win now, not later.
Filed Under: Preseason, 2010