At least on paper, general manager Brett Veach and the Kansas City Chiefs crushed the NFL draft in 2022.
Having said that, you’ll always find one ultra-critical analyst in this business and for KC, that was ESPN’s Seth Walder. During a recent article ranking the top NFL draft trades, the analytics expert took issue with the Chiefs’ decision to swap picks with the New England Patriots in round one.
Walder labeled this the best trade in the draft, but unfortunately for Kansas City, he considered New England the clear winners. Here was his reasoning.
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McDuffie Trade Doesn’t Follow the Analytics
The full trade sent KC the No. 21 pick for three later selections (Nos. 29, 94 and 121).
Walder noted that the Patriots acquired 6.4 “chart points” while only giving up 4.1 — using Pro Football Reference’s approximate value chart. This was tied for the best trade return in the draft. He explained further:
Unless there’s a quarterback involved, I think it’s important to evaluate trades separate from the players selected at those spots. The trade is the process, the pick is the result. And while I’ll touch on the result in a minute, we should be judging the process — and New England’s process in this trade was very strong. The overwhelming conclusion of charts based on actual player performance is that the difference in production you get out of a player selected at, say, pick No. 29 is much closer to what you get out of pick No. 21 than trades typically indicate. Yes, the player selected at 21 has a better career outlook, but the difference between them and a player at 29 is substantially smaller than the value of additional third-round and fourth-round selections.
In other words — analytically speaking — moving from No. 29 to No. 21 was not a jump worth making in Walder’s opinion. “As far as the trade itself, New England absolutely comes out ahead,” the ESPN analyst concluded.
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The Fallout of the Deal
Walder did not have a problem with the selection, per se, he had an issue with the package.
“Now, did the Patriots squander that value by selecting Cole Strange at No. 29? I would argue yes,” he added. “One of the clearest errors a team can make is selecting a player long before they need to, and that seemed to be the case with Strange. Our Draft Day Predictor indicated there was a 93% chance Strange would be available at the Patriots’ second-round selection. And while we certainly may have misread the market, the Rams’ reaction tells us it probably shocked teams, too.”
This was an important clarification, being that the Patriots ended up reaching on an interior offensive lineman that many had projected as a third-round prospect.
The Chiefs on the other hand landed cornerback Trent McDuffie, a top-tier talent at a shallow position. They also had a surplus of draft capital and could afford to sacrifice a couple of mid-round picks.
Taking all of that into account, the Patriots did turn one selection into four potential prospects, but was it worth it? If they had drafted a wide receiver like Christian Watson or an edge rusher like George Karlaftis, we might be singing a different tune.
Instead, Bill Belichick chose Strange, and the long-term grades on this trade will be determined by the careers of McDuffie and the New England four.