The Numbers Game

Talk radio around Minnesota has heated up with speculation that the Vikes might package their five picks on the first day of the 2006 draft to get USC's Matt Leinart. But the sad reality, according to assigned draft value numbers, it may not be enough.

For those Vikings fans hoping the team is going package a deal to move up in an effort to grab USC's Matt Leinart, you may want to keep them away from the Kool Aid.

Barring a trade of Herschel Walker-like proportions, moving up to the No. 2 slot to try to get Leinart is likely merely a pipe dream of fantasy football fans, not reality football fans. Why? Because the numbers just don't match up.

What numbers? A pretty well-respected value chart assigned to draft picks that has become as common around the NFL as the flip card that tells coaches when they should go for two points following a touchdown. The chart rates players from the first overall selection (3,000 points) to the last pick of the seventh round (two points). The scale drops quickly from the top, which makes a Leinart deal almost impossible.

Much like the 49ers faced last year when they had the first overall choice, the price tag at the top is too steep for most teams to jump on – unless there is a player they view as can't-miss. Obviously, Alex Smith didn't warrant that kind of consideration from the rest of the league last year. In fact, VU was one of the few draft sources that had Smith as our No. 1 overall pick for the two months leading up to the draft – most others had to reluctantly drop Aaron Rodgers in the days leading up to the draft (and 23 slots on draft day itself).

If the numbers are an accurate reflection of the value of a position in the draft, the Saints may have to take slightly less than market value for their No. 2 draft position. It's unlikely the Saints will stay at No. 2 and take Leinart considering the huge deal they gave Drew Brees. Sure, it's technically only a really expensive one-year deal if things don't pan out, but neither side is looking at that as anything more than a ground-zero scenario.

The value of picks at the top of the board drops very quickly. The difference between pick No. 1 and pick No. 4 is 1,200 points – a 40 percent value drop (No. 2 is 2,600, No. 3 is 2,200 and No. 4 is 1,800). Picks 5-8 drop in value 100 points each, making No. 5 1,700 value points and No. 8 1,400. The next 10 picks drop in value by 50 points each, which makes Pick No. 9 worth 1,350 points, and the Vikings' current pick at No. 17 worth 950 points.

If you're still following how value depreciation on picks goes, this is why Leinart at No. 2 is going to be a spendy proposition for whomever gets him. Even for the Jets to move up from No. 4 to No. 2, a trade that would include both their first- and second-round picks (Nos. 4 and 35) their value chart total would be 2,350 points – 250 points less than the value of the No. 2 pick by itself. For the numbers to match, if the Saints wanted draft-day value for the second pick, the Jets would need to trade their first three draft choices to make that deal – and they're picking from the 4-hole.

For the Vikings to make it work, it would almost have to involve several picks this year and most likely a first-rounder in 2007. The value of their picks is 950 at No. 17, 420 at No. 48, 390 at No. 51, 175 at No. 83 and 120 at No. 95. A little quick addition tells us that totals 2,015 value points. That would still leave the team nearly 600 points short for the value assigned to the No. 2 slot. While it should be noted that, if the Vikings offered the Saints five draft picks on the first day to move up, if the team had confidence in its scouting department, they might seriously consider it. But if they try a numbers match, it just doesn't add up.

But this shouldn't necessarily be viewed as reason for distraught Vikings fans to throw themselves under the bus. If the draft falls in such a way that either Vince Young or Jay Cutler should slide down the board, using the value formula could make for some interesting results. The first-round pick, first second-round pick and both third-rounders (1,665 points) would likely be enough to get bids at Nos. 4 or 5. If the Raiders want out at No. 7, a first- and second- may be able to get it done, but that would be a certainty for the Bills, Lions or Cardinals at picks 8-10.

There are still widely divergent viewpoints on where the quarterbacks in this month's draft are going to shake out – some believe that all three of the top QBs may go in the first four picks, but we're not that confident. What is more likely to happen is that the Vikings will head into draft weekend with a draft plan in place that doesn't address moving up. They'll be prepared to make five picks in the top 95 selections on the first day of the draft. But they'll also have a numbers sheet that they will assign values to the draft spots in front of them. If the draft falls in a way they like, they might start burning up the phone lines when the picks make it out of the top four.

With the solid cap management the Vikings have done, trading up to get Leinart would be possible, but it would assuredly cost them their first-round picks in 2006 and 2007 and more than likely at least one more first-day pick in this year's draft. That is a hefty price, but one that might be worth it if the Vikings are convinced Leinart can be an All-Pro quarterback.

The Vikings are eventually going to have to do something about QB – a draft-day issue they haven't had since Daunte Culpepper was handed the starting job in 2000. Brad Johnson probably has a shelf life of two years maximum and Mike McMahon was brought here more for his knowledge of Brad Childress' system than any delusions that he could be the next Peyton Manning. The quarterback of the future for the Vikings isn't on the roster yet. And, if they want it to be Leinart, Young or Cutler, they're going to have to pay for it. The biggest question on draft day will be this: Did the numbers match up?

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