The Rams Probably Gave Up Too Much for the Top Pick in This Year's Draft

The Rams traded up to snag the first overall pick from Tennessee, but they may have given up too much.

Before enough coffee was consumed by most on the East Coast Wednesday morning, Peter King came down with a hammer regarding the the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Simple, concise and just lacking enough detail to send the NFL world into a frenzy. Perfect. 

The specifics of the trade would come out somewhere within the immediate flurry of reaction, and at the moment, things looks like this: The Tennessee Titans traded the top overall pick in the draft, along with a fourth-round pick (113) and sixth-round pick (177) to the Los Angeles Rams for the 15th overall pick, 2 second-round picks (43 and 45) and a third-round pick (76) in 2016. The Titans also received the Rams’ first- and third-round picks in 2017. 

That’s certainly a lot to take in, so here is the full trade in table form:

Titans GetRams Get
2016 15th2016 1st
2016 43rd2016 113th
2016 45th2016 177th
2016 76th 
2017 1st 
2017 3rd

It’s quite a haul for the Titans, and the Rams give up a package reminiscent of what the team received from Washington in 2012 when the Rams traded away the second overall pick. When we thought there would never be a trade like that again because of how well the Rams fared in the ultimately one-sided deal, it turns out the Rams want to see what the other side of that trade is like. Of course, that trade involved three first-round picks and second-round pick, but this is the closest the NFL has come to that type of trade since that draft.

While the Rams came out of the Washington trade as the clear winners, the Titans are the early favorite in this one. With the trade, the Titans now have six picks within the first 76 selections. That’s a nice setup for a team with more than a few holes on the roster. 

Tennessee didn’t really fare well anywhere on the field last year by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP measures the value of each play on the field based on how an average team would be expected to score in each scenario using historical data. The Titans finished 31st in schedule-adjusted NEP per play on offense and 18th on defense. Tennessee now has multiple early shots of gaining young talented players to add to the young core currently on the roster, specifically Marcus Mariota. Sliding back to 15th in the first round also doesn’t preclude the Titans from taking an offensive tackle to bolster the line to protect their quarterback.

For the Rams, the object here to to grab a quarterback while they can. Los Angeles has spent all offseason talking up Case Keenum, who finished 21st in Passing NEP per drop back last season, but that proved to be little more than a smokescreen. The Rams spent most of the Washington haul on defensive players, which has led the offense to be void of talent at a few positions. The only worse than the Titans in Adjusted NEP per play on offense last year was these Rams.

Trade Value

How we view this trade depends on how we place value on draft picks, and there’s a couple different ways. 

And, of course, any value system also greatly impacts the outlook of this trade before any of the players selected. 

The most modern valuation of these picks comes from Chase Stuart of Football Perspective. He created a system that bases the value of each pick by the average Approximate Value from Pro Football Reference that the selection would be expected to produce over the first five years of a career. Using this system, the Titans come out as the winner of the trade before even factoring in the two 2017 picks received. 

The total AV of picks the Titans gave up comes out to 40.7, while the 2016 group of picks the Rams gave up has an AV total of 45.6. That gives the Titans a 111.5 percent return, plus an additional first- and third-round pick next year.

Titans GiveAVRams GiveAV
Total40.7 45.4

But for years, NFL teams have based the value of draft picks off the Jimmy Johnson chart, the original pick value system. Teams have each attempted to modernize the chart on their own, but the original chart shows more often than not how some teams still value these picks. In this system, the Titans are only receiving 70.5 percent in 2016, which makes the Rams’ 2017 picks necessary to find equal value. 

Titans GiveJJ ValueRams GiveJJ Value
Total3088.6 2180

There’s still some unknowns about the trade, like who the Rams are targeting with the first overall pick. While the wide belief is Los Angeles is favoring Carson Wentz, Jared Goff is apparently not out of the question. This also leads intrigue to where the Cleveland Browns will go at number two if the quarterback they liked most is the same favored by the Rams. Or it gives them leverage to trade back if they were never sold on a quarterback there in the first place. It also likely leaves really good players on the board for the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars with the next three picks.

The Rams felt they needed a quarterback, and they took quite a shot -- probably too much of one, depending on the value chart -- to be in position to get one. Whether they’re right or not is a different story.