It's no secret that NFL teams are generally willing to overpay when trading to move up in the draft, often surrendering far more draft value than the move up is worth via picks from the next draft or even the one after that. Teams are basically borrowing from their future draft capital for a pick they can use today -- and are paying exorbitant interest rates. It's not unlike putting a large charge on a credit card, paying tomorrow for something I get today. The difference is that teams tend to pay premiums far more exorbitant than the 20 percent interest a credit card company might charge.
Conversely, teams in the fortunate position to be sellers in this market can reap a windfall of future value. So, who walked away from the 2017 draft with the most added value for 2018? Let's measure each pick gained according to how much approximate value we can expect on average. AV is an aggregate performance measure created by Pro Football Reference.
The Browns have gone all-in with their Moneyball-style approach to drafting, trading down when possible to multiply their picks. By trading with the Texans to move down in the first round, Cleveland got Houston's first-round pick next year. The average first-round pick is worth 5.6 AV.
Meanwhile, the Browns will continue to collect on the trade that sent the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia in 2016. The Browns will have the Eagles' second-round selection in 2018, a pick worth 3.4 AV on average. But to balance out the trade, the Eagles get back the Browns' fourth-round pick, worth an expected 1.9 AV. That gives Cleveland a net total of 7.1 AV in additional draft value beyond its regular complement of selections. A team's regular seven picks are worth, on average, a total of 16.9 AV, which means the Browns will have 40 percent more draft value at their disposal going into the 2018 draft than the typical team.
All that extra draft capital will give the Browns enormous flexibility. They can do three things: (1) Cash in the additional picks on players they want, (2) trade them down for even more value in 2019 or (3) use them to trade up to select a potential blue-chip quarterback prospect without mortgaging away any future picks at an enormous discount. Now, all they need to do in Cleveland is improve on the team's shaky track record of picking quality players. If they can, we'll be pointing to their last couple of drafts as the turning point for the Browns franchise.
The 49ers made three trades with future picks involved. They'll get the Saints' second-round pick (3.4 AV), the Bears' third-round selection (2.6 AV) and the Broncos' fourth-round pick (1.9 AV) in 2018, worth a total of 7.9 AV.
The Bills gave up the No. 10 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for this year's No. 27 and No. 91 picks as well as a 2018 first-round pick. That selection, on average, would be worth the same 5.6 AV, but the Chiefs are expected to be a bit better than Houston this year, so the pick coming from the Texans might be a hair more valuable for Cleveland.
The Cardinals moved up in the second round, paying the Bears with four picks, one of which is a 2018 fourth-rounder. That pick will be worth 1.9 AV on average.
The Jets gave the Dallas Cowboys the No. 191 pick this year in exchange for a fifth-round pick next year. That pick is expected be worth 1.5 AV.
The Dolphins get the Buccaneers' seventh-round pick next year after a swap to move back four spots. That pick is expected to be worth 0.8 AV.
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