Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Price of Randy Moss

Here's a quick guess at what a third-round pick -- which was apparently the going rate for one of the best WRs in history -- is worth.

Here are all third-round draft picks from 1991 to 2000. It can be assumed that all of these players have completed their careers or, in a few cases, we've seen enough of them to get a reasonable idea of how successful they've been. We can use PFR's Approximate Value as a guideline, sorting by CarAV to see who the best third-round picks were. The top five are:

Terrell Owens - 116
Jason Taylor - 115
Ronde Barber - 110
Aeneas Williams - 104
Curtis Martin - 101

If the Vikings actually gave up a player of that caliber for a few years late in Randy Moss' career, then it was a bad move, for certain. (I'll ignore the 7th-rounder the Vikings got from New England.) But those are just five players, out of 323 3rd-round picks, or about 1.5% of all picks. Sorted by AV, here are the number of players, and their percentage of all 323 picks:

100+: 5 (1.5%)
80-99: 5 (1.5%)
60-79: 9 (2.8%)
40-59: 27 (8.4%)
20-39: 65 (20.1%)
0-19: 212 (65.6%)

That means that about 2 out of every 3 3rd-round picks are essentially valueless -- players who achieve a career AV of less than 20. The 20-39 isn't much better, and the 40-59 tier hardly represents players you would regret not having on your team; the high end of that bracket gives us players like Ray Buchanan, James Jones, Brian Griese, and Darrell Jackson -- useful, but not overly significant.

Here's another way of looking at it: Coming into this season, Randy Moss has averaged about 14 points of AV per year, and that includes his hideous years with Oakland. Assuming the Vikings have him for three years, and assuming some decline in his skills -- with years of 12, 10, and 8 AV, that would give him 30 points of AV, which would make him better than 255 of the 323 3rd-rounders (78.9%) in our sample. So, you could say that there's about a 4-in-5 chance that this was a good deal for the Vikings and a 1-in-5 chance that the player the Pats get -- which will, we hope, be a late 3rd-rounder -- will be good enough to offset the loss of Randy Moss.

I'm happy with those odds.