SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all PFR content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing PFR blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Pro-Football-Reference.com ยป Sports Reference

For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

Assessing the Jared Allen trade

Posted by Doug on April 24, 2008

As you probably are aware, 26-year-old all-pro defensive end Jared Allen was just traded from the Chiefs to the Vikings in exchange for the 17th, 73rd, and 82nd picks in the upcoming draft. There was also a swap of sixth-rounders, but I'm going to ignore that.

This seems to me like a good deal for both teams. My favorite Viking blogger, Pacifist Viking, likes the deal from the Minnesota side:

If anybody would like to complain about giving up draft picks, I encourage you to look at Grant's Tomb for a list of players the Vikings have drafted since 2000 [Doug note: or you could click this customized query]. The draft is hit or miss: you can score big (Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson, Adrian Peterson), but you can also come away with no meaningful contributors (see 2000, 2001, and 2005). Draft picks in and of themselves are worthless; draft picks are only meaningful because they can be turned into starting players. The Vikings turned those three draft picks into a 26 year old who had 15.5 sacks in 14 games last season. They turned their draft picks into a very good football player, and that's what draft picks are for.

Very true; with all the draft hype, we have a tendency to forget that picks are just a means to an end. And they are hit-or-miss. But some more so than others. A third-round pick has a better chance of becoming a productive player than a fifth-round pick does, but not as good as a first-round pick. We're dealing with potentials here. Likelihoods. Probabilities. And that was PV's point. But I'd add that Jared Allen is just potential at this point too. We don't know what Allen's future looks like. Granted, we're much more confident about his future than we are about pick #73, but Allen belongs on the probability continuum too, just like a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and a fifth-round pick. Yes, he's very near the good end of it, but he's still on it. Everyone is.

This kind of thing is why I felt the need to develop the approximate value method. If we can put numbers on player seasons, then we can attempt to quantify statements like PV's above. What are these probabilities? What is the probability that the #17 pick in the draft will turn into a solid NFL player? What's the probability that Jaren Allen will continue to be one? What's the probability that the #17 pick will be more productive than Allen over the next year? Two years? Five years? What's the probability that at least one of the three picks the Vikings give up will be more productive than Allen?

Here's what I did.

I found all defensive ends between 1970 and 2003 who were aged 24 to 26 (Allen was 25 last year) and had an approximate value between 14 and 18 (Allen was 16 last season). There were 32 of them, and most of them were great players: Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Howie Long, Richard Dent, Lee Roy Selmon, etc. But there are a fair number of good-but-not-greats there too, like Jevon Kearse and Bill Maas (just for the record, I included DT/DEs and DE/LBs too --- anyone who had DE listed as one of his positions).

Then I looked at all players drafted between #12 and #22 (to approximate the #17 pick the Vikings gave up) and all players drafted between #73 and #82 (to approximate the kinds of players available with the two third-rounders) from 1993 to 2003. Obviously, both of these groups span the entire gamut in terms of quality. The first-rounders include Marvin Harrison, Wendell Bryant, and all points in between. The third-rounders obviously have lots of nobodies, but also include the likes of Jason Taylor, Curtis Martin, Steve Smith, and John Lynch.

Then I randomly selected one Allen comp, one first-round draftee, and two third-round draftees, and I measured how many of those draftees the Allen comp outperformed over the next five years. Then I repeated that process 999 more times and tallied up the results. Here they are:

In the year of the trade:

89.8% of the time, the Allen comp outperformed all three draftees
8.3% of the time, one of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
1.8% of the time, two of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
0.1% of the time, all three draftees outperformed the Allen comp.

79.4% of the time, the Allen comp had more approximate value than all three draftees combined.

In year 2:

66.9% of the time, the Allen comp outperformed all three draftees
21.4% of the time, one of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
9.8% of the time, two of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
1.9% of the time, all three draftees outperformed the Allen comp.

47.0% of the time, the Allen comp had more approximate value than all three draftees combined.

In year 3:

71.7% of the time, the Allen comp outperformed all three draftees
21.0% of the time, one of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
6.4% of the time, two of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
0.9% of the time, all three draftees outperformed the Allen comp.

48.9% of the time, the Allen comp had more approximate value than all three draftees combined.

In year 4:

59.5% of the time, the Allen comp outperformed all three draftees
26.2% of the time, one of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
10.8% of the time, two of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
3.5% of the time, all three draftees outperformed the Allen comp.

40.8% of the time, the Allen comp had more approximate value than all three draftees combined.

In year 5:

53.1% of the time, the Allen comp outperformed all three draftees
27.4% of the time, one of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
15.4% of the time, two of the three draftees outperformed the Allen comp
4.1% of the time, all three draftees outperformed the Allen comp.

37.6% of the time, the Allen comp had more approximate value than all three draftees combined.

On one hand, it's a good bet that Allen will be the best of the four players involved, even as far out as the 2012 season. On the other hand, the Chiefs have more upside. They could end up with two, or even three, very good players out of this deal. I'll let the reader decide for himself whether all this means it was a good or bad trade from either side. For me, it does nothing to sway me from my original assessment that, given where the two teams are right now, it works well for both sides.

And of course there are about a zillion factors that this analysis doesn't touch. Salary cap implications are one. The fact that Jared Allen is not a composite of 32 historical players, but rather is a unique individual, is another.

But this is a useful starting point for the discussion.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 24th, 2008 at 4:33 am and is filed under Approximate Value, General, NFL Draft. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.