ATM: Draft Changes Make Picks Less Valuable

| February 9th, 2021

The NFL Draft is always a crapshoot, but in 2021 the odds of hitting are even lower, making the picks – at least the early selections – less valuable.

We’ve heard the story hundreds of times. A team likes a player’s tape, brings him in, puts him on the whiteboard and falls in love. In some instances, teams fall in love at dinner meetings in which the player made the reservation under a fun name and then walked them back to his crappy Toyota.

Same old story. But that won’t happen this year.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, all teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing in-person or giving medical exams to any draft prospects outside of a school’s pro day or an all-star game because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a ban on all private workouts, facility visits, dinners and film sessions with prospects.

Communication can be done virtually or at structured events, but teams don’t like that. They want to get prospects in their building, have them speak to position coaches and work them out to see if they can do the specific thing the team wants the player to be able to do.

This is particularly important for quarterbacks.

Teams want to have them throw a variety of passes to see if they can do more than they’ve shown on tape. The scripted workouts at pro days don’t give them that opportunity. They also want to go through film and try and pick the quarterback’s brain, but they can’t do that either.

It isn’t just the quarterbacks. There might be an edge player who had his hand in the dirt in college, but NFL teams want to see how he moves in space; a cornerback who could switch to safety; a tackle to guard, etc.

The hit rate on draft picks wasn’t all that high in the first place. While this might help the GMs who obsess over details that don’t matter, it will certainly make each pick a little more mysterious to the team. Each pick is going to be less valuable to the people who hold them and whose jobs are on the line.

If ever there was a year in which teams would be more willing to trade picks for established veterans, this is it. NFL decision makers already didn’t value first round picks as much as Twitter eggs. Now they will be even less protective of those picks.

This is why draft compensation in trades may be higher in traditional value, but lower in actual value.

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