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.

Approximate Value and the 1997 top draft trades

Posted by Chase Stuart on May 30, 2008

In 1997, the Jets traded the 1st pick in the draft. But to look at why the Jets did that, you have to go back one year earlier.

In 1996, New York had spent about as much money as any team had ever spent in one NFL off-season. They signed a star quarterback fresh off a Super Bowl season. They gave him two studs to throw the ball to: one, a 26 year old who had just recorded 1300 receiving yards the season before, and the other, the first pick in the 1996 draft. The passing attack would be augmented by two bookend tackles, one a former Pro Bowler and the other a former first round pick, and a guard who had started 16 games each of the past six seasons. This offense was going to be explosive, and this team was going to win now. And after spending countless millions of dollars, the Jets won one game in 1996.

After Peyton Manning turned down the chance to go to NY, the top prize in the '97 draft was Orlando Pace. Considering the Jets holes everywhere, and salary cap problems, breaking the bank for Pace wasn't an option. Usually, the first pick goes for a high premium, but everyone knew the Jets had to sell for pennies on the dollar. Gerald Eskenazi, a well versed Jets historian, wrote this piece in the New York Times in 1998:

Pace was the titanic 6-foot-7-inch, 320-pound product who was generally considered the finest college player available once quarterback Peyton Manning opted to remain at Tennessee for his senior season. Indeed, during the 1996 season, Dick Haley, the Jets' draft director, suggested that Pace could anchor the position for 10 years and then go to the Hall of Fame.

But with the Jets coming off a league-worst 1-15 season, neither Pace nor any other individual was what Parcells was looking for. "I need volume," he explained then.

Thus, he began a series of moves. Parcells traded his top pick for the Rams' first-round choice, which was No. 6 over all, and third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks.

Parcells then took the first-round pick and moved down to the eighth spot, trading places with Tampa Bay, who also yielded a fourth-round pick in the deal.

Parcells wasn't done yet. The third-round choice he had obtained from the Rams was exchanged for Denver's lower third-round choice, with the Broncos including their sixth- and seventh-round picks as part of the exchange.

Just like that, one choice became seven. And from those seven picks Parcells found four players who are playing prominent roles with the Jets:

*Starting linebacker James Farrior, the first-rounder. (It is uncertain that he will return from a knee injury, which kept him sidelined the last three games, to face the Rams.)

*Ward, a third-rounder, is the No. 3 receiver.

*Johnson, a fourth-round choice.

*Jason Ferguson, a starting defensive tackle, who was the seventh-round selection.

The dealing started because Parcells and Rams Coach Dick Vermeil trust each other.

"We could make it quick because I know what he means," Vermeil said.

Parcells added, "When we agree on something, that's it."

Parcells likes to say, "We got lucky with Leon Johnson."

He also points out: "Sometimes you've got it all in place and there's one player missing. You don't have a quarterback."

So Parcells isn't bragging, just yet, about trading away that No. 1 pick. He knows that Pace could wind up in the Hall of Fame and those now-flowering Jets could be just a footnote to the team's history.

In addition to those four players mentioned, the Jets drafted Terry Day, Chuck Clements and, I think, Lawrence Hart. It can be pretty complicated analyzing these trades, so I'm going to simply look at what each team started with and ended up with.

The Jets started with the 1st pick (Orlando Pace), and ended up with seven players.

Jets

Could have had:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Orlando Pace	T	114	97	95

Ended up with:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
James Farrior	LB	84	69	57
Dedric Ward	WR	21	19	20
Leon Johnson	RB	13	12	12
Jason Ferguson	DT	54	45	45
Terry Day	DT	0	0	0
Chuck Clements	QB	0	0	0
Lawrence Hart	TE	0	0	0
Total			172	146	134

The bulk of the value there comes from Farrior and Ferguson, and I think it's reasonable to conclude that those two players are worth more than Orlando Pace, even if he's clearly the best player out of the group.

What about the Rams? They started with the 6th pick -- which turned out to be Walter Jones. They also gave up their third round pick (which was traded by the Jets to the Broncos), a fourth round pick (Day), and a 7th round pick (which I think was a 1998 7th round pick, Lawrence Hart).

Rams

Could have had:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV

Walter Jones	T	109	86	76
Dan Neil	G	50	43	44
Terry Day	DT	0	0	0
Lawrence Hart	TE	0	0	0
Total			159	129	120

Ended up with:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Orlando Pace	T	114	97	95

The Jets also made a trade with the Broncos. New York traded its high third round pick for Denver's low third round pick, and a 6th and a 7th.

Broncos

Could have had:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Dedric Ward	WR	21	19	20
Chuck Clements	QB	0	0	0
Jason Ferguson	DT	54	45	45
Total			75	64	65

Ended up with:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Dan Neil	G	50	43	44

Finally, the Jets traded with the Bucs, too. Tampa gave up the 8th pick in exchange for the 6th pick, and also Tampa's 4th round pick, which turned out to be Leon Johnson. But instead of keeping the sixth pick, the Buccaneers traded down with Seattle in exchange for the Seahawks' first and third round picks.

Buccaneers

Could have had:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
James Farrior	LB	84	69	57
Leon Johnson	RB	13	12	12
Total			97	81	69

Ended up with:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Warrick Dunn	RB	112	89	88
Frank Middleton	G	36	31	32
Total			148	120	120

And how did Seattle do? The Seahawks got Walter Jones thanks to the trade-up, but of course, lost out on Dunn and Middleton.

Seahawks

Could have had:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Warrick Dunn	RB	112	89	88
Frank Middleton	G	36	31	32
Total			148	120	120

Ended up with:
		pos	carAV	perAV	draftAV
Walter Jones	T	109	86	76

That's a lot of trading. The table below gives some insight into the winners and losers, by tallying the difference for each team between what they ended up with and what they could have received.

Winners and Losers

               carAV	perAV	draftAV
Jets	        58	 49	 39
Bucs	        51	 39	 51
Broncos	       -25	-21	-21
Rams	       -45	-32	-25
Seahawks       -39	-34	-44

It's hard to think of the Rams or Broncos as losers, because they both won a Super Bowl in a year where the lineman they drafted started sixteen games. Pace may wind up in the HOF one day, and he's certainly been a better than average #1 draft pick (remember, the average AV of the #1 pick is just 73; Pace is already at 97). Further, in terms of the NFL draft value chart, the Rams got a steal. It just turns out that the 7th round pick they gave up was someone that would wind up starting over 100 games in his career.

The Seahawks are the big losers in one sense, but Walter Jones has been an outstanding sixth pick in the draft. After Tim Brown and James Lofton, he's in the next tier of top sixth picks with Lomas Brown, Torry Holt, John Riggins, Kevin Carter and Richard Seymour. He's clearly been an above average sixth pick in the draft, but Seattle did lose out on a very good player in Warrick Dunn and a pretty good guard in Middleton. Of course, Seattle has had pretty good RB and G play over the years, too.

The Jets rank ahead of Tampa in career value, but not in draft value. That's because players like Farrior and Ferguson gained a lot of their career value later in their careers. The Bucs won a Super Bowl, although neither Dunn nor Middleton was in it. But both plays gave Tampa Bay good value over the years, and they got some strong immediate returns with both. Many might think Walter Jones was a much better player than Dunn -- he's made five more Pro Bowls and four more All Pro teams. Approximate value probably overrates Dunn and underrates Jones, but don't forget that Dunn ranks 20th in NFL history in yards from scrimmage. He's been a very, very good player. I'll just play the approximate card here, and say approximate value doesn't always get it right.

As for the Jets? It's easy to say that Pace turned out to be a great pick, and the Jets traded the 1st pick for cheap besides that. But it looks like New York did okay for themselves in this one. Dedric Ward and Leon Johnson weren't great, but were capable players that both played sizable roles on the '98 team that nearly won the Super Bowl. Ferguson and Farrior were very good players, although the Jets didn't capture nearly as much of that career value as they would have liked. The only thing I can say for certain, is that the Jets would have been much happier if a certain college kid in Tennessee had different aspirations.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 30th, 2008 at 5:31 am and is filed under Approximate Value, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.