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## What’s a draft pick worth? (part II)

Posted by Doug on March 30, 2007

A couple of posts ago I summarized the work of Cade Massey and Richard Thaler who, after studying the NFL draft rigorously, claim that it is not what it seems. Where I hope to add to the discussion is by seeing if the Massey and Thaler's theoretical results actually translate to the field.

I don't have that done yet, but it will happen next week. In the mean time, the following fact is worth pointing out. If you add up the Massey-Thaler surplus value of every draft slot, the team with the first pick (i.e. the worst team) still has the most surplus value, and the team with the last pick has the least. More interesting, though, is that the difference between the most and least amount of total value is almost nothing:

```
Total
surplus
TM  value
==========
1  3.723
2  3.717
3  3.709
4  3.702
5  3.694
6  3.686
7  3.677
8  3.669
9  3.659
10  3.651
11  3.640
12  3.629
13  3.617
14  3.607
15  3.595
16  3.582
17  3.569
18  3.555
19  3.543
20  3.529
21  3.514
22  3.499
23  3.487
24  3.475
25  3.462
26  3.449
27  3.435
28  3.423
29  3.410
30  3.395
31  3.382
32  3.366
```

The units are millions of dollars of surplus value. So the Raiders endowment of draft slots is theoretically worth \$3.72 million in surplus performance, while the Colts' is worth \$3.37 million. So the logical conclusion of Thaler and Massey's paper isn't that the worst team gets the worst draft slot. It's that the worst team gets, all things considered, the best draft slot, but only by an insignificant amount.

If you think about it, it should be obvious that, even under the Massey-Thaler hypothesis, the Raiders' collection of picks is worth more than the Colts'. If you consider #33 equivalent to #32, #65 equivalent to #64, and so on, the only difference is that the Raiders have #1 while the Colts have #224. Massey and Thaler do not claim that the #1 pick is a liability. While not as valuable as the other picks in the first round, it's still more valuable than pick #224.