Draft Boards as Periodic Charts

When the team in on the clock, there is not a lot of time to evaluate any possible trades. In order to properly evaluate a possible trade, a team must have already done a lot of work in preparation. Teams need lots of information on the value of each draft pick and player and what they are worth to themselves and their possible trading partner.

One tries to maximize the value of all the draft picks and of the players that a team might want. In order to do so, a team needs access to lots of information that has organized for quick and easy understanding. One builds a draft board.

In this regard, draft boards are similar to the periodic chart of elements in chemistry. The elements are arranged in a particular order and grouping provides lots of information beyond just a listing.

two by two matrix

Players are listed by position and round. Then multiple players can be listed by their relative and absolute approximate value.

The board may have multiple players for each position/round slot or not have any entries. The missing values, or gaps, are just as informative as filled in slots. The presence of missing values on your board is a good reason to trade up or down instead of standing pat.

One of the more interesting things about the original periodic chart is that Mendeleev also predicted some properties of then-unknown elements that would be expected to fill gaps in this table. Most of his predictions were proved correct when the elements in question were subsequently discovered. Mendeleev's periodic table has since been expanded and refined.

Not every player should be on a teams board for a host of reasons: scheme, need, intangibles. Different teams will have different draft boards. That means good players will not be on a given team’s board and passing on those players is not a bad thing even if they are successful elsewhere. Differences in various teams and media evaluations can lead to radically different choices on draft day.


A mere listing of player rankings does not indicate the gaps between player one and the next player at that same position or their ability. Player one could be world class or terrible. The next player could be almost as good to the first player or a world apart. Thus a good board will show the estimation of not just the ranking but absolute difference in player talent. For more discussion on ranking see

It is harder to compare a player at one position to another position. Some of the considerations must be to evaluate each player according to some absolute value for his position from prototype to warm body.

That is the reason to estimate the rounds in which each player will be taken. Two or more players may be estimated to have similar talent and be in the same round. Yet, the second, third, or later best player at one position may be rounds ahead or behind the best player at a different position.

Demand by all other teams

One has to estimate the supply for each position each year. The depth can be important to determine if a team wants a player at a position and should take him when they get the chance or pass. If there are lots of players with the same talent, one might pass until another round.

We have seen where if the quality is thin – you can take him now and lose some opportunity value of not selecting another player [losing some draft point value] or pass and risk not getting the player at all. We took Frederick when we could, because he would NOT be there on the second round.

Perhaps Dallas has had great player evaluation, but missed the boat on what other teams wanted too. Other teams have their own evaluations for each player and those evaluations do not match – with different evaluation criteria, weights for those criteria,differences in evaluation of the player himself, intangibles, need, etc.

Additionally teams must consider whether the player is ready NOW or his future potential. This is the high floor or high ceiling issue and part of the answer is independent of the player, but involves the team.

Does the team have a low or high risk tolerance? High floor guys have less risk, but may not be the better player later. High ceiling players may not be as good today but could be much better later. Yet the risk is that the player may NEVER reach that potential.

Further complicating that ceiling/floor debate is the ability of the team to wait. If they need a player now, then later doesn’t help. Yet if they have adequate depth today, the team can wait to see. If the player works out, then we get a GREAT player, if not – NEXT. Further, if you have depth, one can accept a high floor guy to fill in for more adequate depth instead of trying for a GREAT player.


One can do lots of things to optimize a team's draft chances. One can look at the values of each pick – whether traditional chart or Harvard. Draft pick values are based on the probability of success. The earlier the pick, the more likely one has of success. History can provide a good indicator of success for a given pick or a given round with more information by position.

One can look at every pick, not just the first pick and use portfolio management techniques. Teams have multiple needs and have to determine whether to take a player at position one or position two. Thus they should note the supply and demand for each position and weigh the probabilities of being able to fill both positions not just the best player at a given draft pick.

For example, suppose a team has two needs of two positions. Make the need as close as possible for ease of understanding. Yet at one position, A, there is little quality depth and and at position B, there is lots of depth. It is easy to see that one might pick position A over B, even if the best absolute player may be at position B.

More picks give you more opportunities to be successful. Several years ago we selected Jenkins in the first round and Scandrick in the fifth round to give us multiple chances of getting a CB.

Yet one should remember that early picks are more valuable for a reason. Jenkins was the first round pick as he had much better potential. Scandrick, was more NFL ready but was thought to have maxed out his potential already.

It is not just quantity of picks but quality. History has shown a sweet zone of rounds 1-3. There are about 100 NFL players in each draft, mostly foundin rounds 1-3. The distribution is generally in tiers that do not quite match the rounds - a few no brainers that everyone wants - more players of lessor talent - more players of lessor talent or a small flaws - some players with major flaws, but otherwise great talent and thus hit or miss - more player with some talent in a particular area

Typical flaws are based on intangibles, injury risk, small college etc

By the time the 4th round appears, most players are hit or miss. If you can identify the flaws and mitigate them, the team can get good talent, but the risk is high. After that the probability of success is low. Late picks are not much better than UDFA.

UDFA, if they make the team, actually have higher success rates as they can choose the team that best fits their skill sets. Romo chose Dallas over Denver due to the QB depth on each team.

There are lots more UDFA than late picks. Individually their success rates are low, but the sheer number makes up for them. Here it is a matter of numbers but the probability of success is still much lower than in rounds 1-3 even with the numbers involved.

One can play around with the differences in draft point values and make trades. Every draft chart is just a quick source of information to start negotiations.

Draft chart mismatches.

The draft chart made trades easier. This is similar to the amount of world trade if there is an easy conversion of two different currencies. One can guess what a Botswanan Pula is worth to the Guatemalan Quetzal. I have no clue off the top of my head. Raise your hand if you had even heard of either currency. [I did not use the Yap currency because OCC WOULD know it off the top of his head.]

Yet while any chart is beneficial, there are some flaws. NE was one of the first to take advantage of relative mismatches.

Note the major difference in early and later first round picks was overvalued. Thus NE used a strategy of trading their earliest picks for more later picks. This is best done trading an early # 1 gaining for a later pick and adding another 2nd or 3rd round pick. With multiple picks, each individual pick is still risky, but as long as you are in the first three rounds, the odds of success are still fairly good. Even if a single pick is a bust, there are still several others that add to the depth/quality of the team.

This overvaluing of earliest picks may be minimized by the introduction of the rookie salary schedule. In the past the salary cap hit of failing with earliest picks made the risk much higher.


Draft picks are options. Like all options, the true value is in the underlying instrument – for draft picks the actual player selected.

Every pick has a risk, some early picks are misses and some late picks are hits. The best that one can do is get a higher percentage of players to make the team and play. Yet after a player makes the team it really does not matter where the player was selected, except for slotting purposes for pay and for the 5th year option for #1 picks.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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