What does Adofo-Mensah do if Thibodeaux slips?

It’s draft week, baby!

We all love the draft. Drama, intrigue and hope abound to make this the biggest soap opera and reality TV event in sports.

And few things are more fascinating to draft fans than a good old-fashioned slide on draft night.

We have seen it over and over again. Guys who are supposed to lock the top of the draft into a tailspin, leaving NFL teams and the media scrambling to figure out what we’ve all been missing so far. Sometimes it’s a major scandal (à la Laremey Tunsil and the most impactful bang in NFL history). Sometimes he’s just a player grossly overrated by the media as Vikings fans have seen him firsthand with Sharif Floyd. Minnesota got him the No. 23 pick in 2012 after being hyped as a among the top three draft players by band gurus like Mike Mayock and Greg Cossel.

The player endures a nauseating downtime in the Green Room as America watches and gossips like Bachelorette fans attended the sports equivalent of a rose ceremony.

But with this glorious spectacle, it is also an opportunity.

defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux entered this draft cycle as an almost unanimous top-three player, and many speculated that he would be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first contender for No. 1. But now Bovada is placing his chances of going first in Jacksonville at a huge +5,000. Thibodeau has endured an offseason of speculation over character issues, whether he loves football enough or is too concerned with his brand image off the pitch. This is how a consensual top player of this class at a privileged position has found himself collapsing in the draft media over the past few months.

And sure, the living organism that is Vegas seems to have corrected the madness around Thibodeaux. His draft over/under now sits at 4.5, putting him squarely between the New York Jets and the New York Giants. Seems like a logical place for the Oregon duck. However, for the purposes of the thinking exercise, what if the draft breaks illogically as it has so often done?

The Vikings sit at the No. 12 pick, with significant needs at the edge and defensive back. Thibodeaux would be an incredible addition to Ed Donatell’s defense, and the volatility of his projections this cycle makes him a prime candidate for this exercise. But you could easily change his name to another top player with volatile projections, like LSU’s. Derek Stingley or Our Lady Kyle Hamilton.

So what should Kwesi Adofo-Mensah do if a top player starts slipping?

Do you sit and wait patiently, with your fingers crossed, for the player to manage to drop to 12?

Patience can be rewarded on draft night. Swapping is often an inefficient practice, especially in a project like this with so many uncertainties. It might be better to maximize your chances of hitting by taking a lot of hits rather than getting aggressive for a player. If the slip occurs, that player can slip you at no additional cost.

That’s quite the gamble, though. You could easily get shot by a team in front of you. The aggressive teams behind you could easily get ahead with a tantalizing prospect within reach. However, it can work. For example, commanders in Washington remained patient and written Jonathan Allen ranked 17th in 2017 after receiving the hype in the top five.

But maybe it’s too risky. Fans want to see some aggression from their GM for once.

If a player like Thibodeaux slips, Adofo-Mensah has an important cost/benefit analysis to make. What value does he place on the player in question in relation to the distance covered?

NFL pick trades almost always favor the backing of the team, from a value standpoint. And surely an analytical GM like Adofo-Mensah would agree with that. Thus, the exchange of the draft order must be reserved for specific situations: to face a scarcity of the market, to get ahead of the competition or to take advantage of a significant value.

Let’s say Minnesota has Thibodeaux among the top three players on its roster. What if he slips to pick six with the Carolina Panthers on the clock? Many speculated that Carolina would be likes to exchange and accumulate more provisional capital. Does the opportunity cost justify a trade? Perhaps. If Minnesota only considers him a top-five player and he slides to Carolina’s pick, he’s probably still too ineffective to make the move.

There should be value thresholds for this scenario. Let’s take a look at the Rich Hill Chart, which uses the value of picks in previous drafts and how NFL teams traded them to determine a point value for each pick. Fair warning, there’s a bit of dreaded math ahead of us.

Let’s speculate on a trade to the Atlanta Falcons, another team that might be best for a trade.

A player in the top three (corresponding to the value of the third choice) is worth 514 points. For example, the value of the Atlanta pick (No. 8) is 326 points. The cost to go from choice #12 to 8 is around 75 points. However, the rising team often has to give a bit more to sweeten the deal, especially with a top player on the board. That could mean Atlanta would demand something as high as Minnesota’s second-round pick (worth 86), and I wouldn’t be shocked if it also required an extra fifth-round pick (worth of 8.7).

So, in summary:

  • Minnesota receives the No. 8 pick (326 points)
  • Atlanta receives picks No. 12 (250 points), 46 (86 points) and 156 (8.7 points)
  • Total points: Atlanta +18.7 points (equal to a fourth-round pick)

Minnesota is losing that surface trade. It’s a bad value. A fourth-round pick should be a legitimate contributor to your team, and you value a player who could be a bust or get injured.

But when we take into account that a player we like as much as third overall is there for us, all of a sudden it’s a different equation. Imagine it this way:

  • Minnesota receives a top-three player (514 points)
  • Atlanta receives picks No. 12 (250 points), 46 (86 points), 156 (8.7 points)
  • Total points: Minnesota +169 points (equal to a value in the middle of the first round)

That’s the kind of insane value that could fall into Minnesota’s range. Atlanta could get even more out of the Vikings in this scenario. But, frankly, it’s still a huge deal for this level of player, and well worth it. Minnesota’s assessment is that it would be irresponsible not to come up and get this deal done if it comes up.

It all depends on the right player and the right value. It is up to Adofo-Mensah to make a proper assessment. But draft slides happen all the time, and this possibility should be exciting for Vikings fans. They can finally have a GM ready to be bold and move.

Music to our ears.

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