Since 2011, no GM has lost more draft pick value in trades than Saints’ Mickey Loomis
Using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart, here's how much net value every GM has generated from draft pick trades that don't involve players going back to 2011 pic.twitter.com/C9gYVZNYV1
— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) March 12, 2023
Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes he gets you. And when you trade up as often as the New Orleans Saints have under Mickey Loomis, you tend to pay a higher price than you’d like. The latest illustration of this comes from Pro Football Focus analyst Arjun Menon, who created a graph showing the net trade value gained or lost by every active NFL general manager dating back to 2011 (when a new collective bargaining agreement introduced the modern rookie wage scale, dramatically shifting how draft picks are valued).
And no general manager has lost more value for his team than Loomis — who, to be fair, shares a lot of blame with former Saints head coach Sean Payton for the aggressive draft strategy. New Orleans has traded away future picks to move up in the current draft more frequently than many other teams around the league. Look at their history:
2022: Traded a 2023 first-round pick to get another selection in the first round (spent on LT Trevor Penning)
2020: Traded a 2021 third-round pick to move up for LB Zack Baun in the third round
2020: Traded a 2021 sixth-round pick to land TE Tommy Stevens in the seventh round
2019: Traded a 2020 second-round pick to move up for C Erik McCoy in the second round
2018: Traded a 2019 first-round pick to move up for DE Marcus Davenport in the first round
2017: Traded a 2018 second-round pick to land RB Alvin Kamara in the third round
2016: Traded a 2017 fifth-round pick to move up for DT David Onyemata in the fourth round
2015: Traded a 2016 sixth-round pick to move up for CB Damian Swann in the fifth round
2011: Traded a 2012 first-round pick to land RB Mark Ingram in the first round
If you’re keeping track, that’s a total of six picks in the first, second, and third rounds traded to move up and get Ingram, Kamara, Davenport, McCoy, Baun and Penning. And we aren’t even counting the many trades that only included packaging up late-round picks in the current draft, only future assets. It’s early for Penning, but of that group you could only say it was worth it with certainty for Ingram, Kamara and McCoy.
Why trade up so often? The Saints work with a smaller big board of draft prospects than most other teams, viewing the pre-draft process as a series of disqualifications to limit their options to players who best fit what they’re looking for. Many teams often have 120 to 150 draftable grades on their board. New Orleans usually has 75 to 90. So when a player they value is just outside of reach, they’re comfortable making a move to go get them. At the same time, they don’t see as much value in trading down; Loomis hasn’t moved back in the draft since 2007.
The Saints have a strategy that is tough to beat when it works. But their eagerness to trade up can get them burned, especially when the players they covet don’t meet expectations. Trading up so often has a cost that’s paid in the later rounds, when teams need to get depth players. When the Saints miss on a player like Davenport after trading up, and lose key contributors in free agency, it’s really difficult to field a competitive roster. Hopefully they’ll learn from that and tweak the strategy.
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