With the 49ers not slated to make a selection until the 99th pick of the 2023 draft, the question must be asked. What is it going to cost to trade up, and do the 49ers have the draft capital to pull a deal like that off?
With three picks in the third round and 11 total selections in this draft, the 49ers would appear to have the requisite ammunition to move up the draft board. However, given the fact the majority of those selections will fall on day three of the draft, how much value do these mid to late round picks carry?
One of the more traditional tools to measure the value of draft pick trades has been the Jimmy Johnson Trade Value chart, which was devised by the Hall of Fame head coach back in 1989. Johnson’s chart uses a point system to assign a tangible number to each pick, which in turn helps to simplify the value of any potential picks being exchanged.
The problem with using it in 2023 is the fact that Johnson’s chart was put together before the salary cap or rookie wage scale existed in their current formats. That changes the picture entirely when looking at the value of these picks.
For that reason, I prefer to use the Fitzgerald/Spielberger chart, created by Jason Fitzgerald and Brad Spielberger of Over The Cap. This chart does a much better job of taking into account the cost and production that can be expected for each of these picks.
Here is a brief description from Over The Cap’s website detailing how the chart was devised:
“The concept for this research was to use NFL salary data to retroactively grade every draft selection from 2011 through 2015 following the conclusion of their rookie contracts, and to use that data to better project the value of each future draft selection
First, we found the average of the Top 5 APY (average per year) contracts at each position in each year. For example, the Top 5 QB APY’s are $35 million, $34 million, $33.5 million, $33.5 million, $32 million. The average of these 5 APY’s is $33.6 million. An APY of $16.8 million would thus be 50% of Top 5 APY. We then converted every new contract in each year into a percent of the Top 5 APY average at the respective position.
In order to get a more accurate representation of the expected performance of a particular draft pick and increase the sample size, we smoothed the data by averaging out the post rookie-contract APY amounts for a few picks before and after each draft pick. The grouping of a few draft picks within a small range removed a lot of the variance that occurs in large part due to “busts” and generated more realistic projections, as the range more accurately reflects the quality of talent available to a drafting team. The ranges start very small (e.g. examining picks No. 1 + No. 2 for the No. 1 slot) and expand in the later rounds of the draft
Utilizing the Fitzgerald/Spielberger chart, here is where the 49ers 2023 draft haul is currently valued, with the points on the chart in parentheses.
Pick 99 - (671)
Pick 101 - (661)
Pick 102 - (656)
Pick 155 - (447)
Pick 164 - (416)
Pick 173 - (388)
Pick 216 - (276)
Pick 222 - (262)
Pick 247 - (208)
Pick 253 - (196)
Pick 255 - (192)
Total point value for 2023 draft: 4,373
I wanted to get a better sense of what this chart looks like in action and what kind of market there has been for trade ups in this range in recent history. So, I put together a list of the trades that teams made to move up in the third round of last year's draft.
I included the point value of each pick based on the chart in parentheses.
Teams that traded up in the third round of the 2022 draft:
Houston trades Denver 80 (779) & 162 (422) for 75th pick (812)
Total value of the trade based on the chart: Houston sends picks worth, 1191 points in exchange for a pick worth 812 points
Tennessee trades Las Vegas pick 90 (720) & 165 (412) for pick 86 (743)
Total value of trade according to chart: Tennessee sends picks worth 1132 points on draft exchange for a pick equaling 743 points
Carolina Trades New England pick 137 (507) + a 2023 3rd round pick in exchange for pick 94 (698)
Total value of trade based on chart: This one is a little trickier because at the time of the trade there was not yet a definitive value on the pick that New England would be receiving in 2023. We now know that the pick will be the 73rd overall selection in the 2023 draft, which equates to 826 points on the chart.
The final value was Carolina sending picks worth 1205 points in exchange for a pick valued at 698 points.
Indianapolis trades Denver pick 157 (438) and a 2023 3rd rounder in exchange for pick 96 (687)
Total value of trade based on chart: Once again we are dealing with a future pick, so the value at the time of the trade is much more uncertain than the finished picture now that the pick has conveyed to an actual slot we can account for.
The 2023 third round selection that Indianapolis sent to Denver is the 67th overall selection, which is valued at 869 points on the chart.
In total, Indianapolis sent 1125 points worth of picks in exchange for a pick that was valued at 687 on the chart.
Now, the clear takeaway from these examples is the fact that the team trading back came away with a sizable advantage in point total based on the chart. The important thing to remember here is the fact that cost plays a major role in the valuation of this chart.
Having two players on the extremely team friendly rookie wage pay scale that comes in the middle rounds is generally going to be more valuable than one. Whereas the variance in production isn’t going to vary too much throughout the selections being made in the middle rounds.
Meaning, unless you trade up and select a true difference maker, the team coming away with more picks effectively has more chances to land a player who will contribute something to their team. While also being able to expect a relatively similar level of production that they would have gotten from the slot, they originally traded back from.
Given the fact that the 49ers already possess a talent rich roster, they are in a better position than most teams to be the one in the deal who is forced to part with the extra capital. Whether or not they will remain to be seen.