Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah went into his first NFL draft in the GM seat with a plan to trade down from the No. 12 pick and accrue more assets. He has been fairly open about that being the plan.
Adofo-Mensah and company did what they set out to do, sending the No. 12 and 46 picks to the Lions for picks 32, 34, and 66. That was the first of a league-high six trades the Vikings made over the three days of the draft. They were happy with the deal that was made and the players they ended up with, and the controversial Lions trade was supported by outcome-based charts.
The issue, at least in the eyes of some, is that Adofo-Mensah didn’t get a good return in the trade based on the traditional charts. Those charts, most notably the Jimmy Johnson version that has been around forever, assign a point value to each pick and have long been used to set the market for deals.
One anonymous NFL executive raised an interesting point in a recent story from The Athletic’s Mike Sando: because Adofo-Mensah didn’t stick to the charts in the trade with the Lions, that might have sent the message that it’s OK for other GMs to send low-ball offers in the future.
“I get that, in his mind, you compare and contrast the two scenarios and in his mind, he liked the other scenario better,” an exec said. “But you set a precedent for future trades. They already know you are an analytics guy, so you are probably going to want to trade down, and then with your first trade, you go pretty far from the traditional point system, so it sets the tone. Maybe our first offer will always be lower because we know it is Kwesi and he will want to trade down.”
One exec who spoke to Sando liked the trade for Minnesota, based on the idea that players drafted in the 12 to 66 range aren’t all that different.
“Looking at the picks in isolation and putting a dollar value on each one of them, I have the Detroit-Minnesota trade as a win for the Vikings, because my curve is pretty flat and the Vikings got that third-round pick,” an exec said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love Jameson Williams, but it’s one of those things where you just never know on the player.”
But again, the issue some had with Adofo-Mensah’s big move was the potential precedent set by not sticking to the established market.
“Analytics tell you the draft pick has value and teams tend to underestimate the value of later picks while overestimating the value of higher picks,” an exec said. “So if you make a trade like Kwesi did, the value was accurate, but the problem is, you missed the trade market because you needed to get more. Even if it was the right value, you left money on the table.”
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According to Sando, the NFL is “still trying to pick up the scent on Adofo-Mensah’s first draft as GM.”
“It looked like they were just trading to trade,” an exec said. “They got some picks. Maybe it worked out. I don’t know. Interesting situation.”
One evaluator Sando spoke to thought the Vikings reached on some of the picks they made, while another executive was surprised by the move out of 12 given the consensus idea that there was a drop-off in talent after the first 14-16 players.
“My theory is they didn’t think the corner, [Trent] McDuffie, was worth the 12th pick,” an evaluator said. “If they thought it was a deep corner draft and this [Andrew] Booth kid and [Akayleb] Evans can play, then the trade works for Minnesota.”
I recommend checking out the full article from Sando, which has this kind of anonymous league insight on all 32 teams’ drafts.
A similar story from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler supports the idea that the belief around the league was Adofo-Mensah was going to trade back no matter what.
A first-time general manager eschewing his first draft pick for the right to move back 20 spots might seem like a surprise, but for those who know Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, this was a telegraphed move. “He’s trading out. Guarantee it,” an AFC scout said. “He’s all about value and volume.”
Another note from Fowler’s piece: Oklahoma linebacker Brian Asamoah II, who the Vikings got with the No. 66 overall pick, “was consistently mentioned among scouts as an underrated player in the draft process.”
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