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How the Chiefs and Ravens came to agree on the Orlando Brown trade

A new report from Peter King gives some perspective on the complicated deal.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, a bombshell landed in our midst: the Kansas City Chiefs traded for Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

The deal sends Kansas City’s first-round pick (31st), third-round pick (94th), the first of their two fourth-round picks (136th) and their 2022 fifth-round pick to Baltimore in exchange for Brown, the Ravens’ second-round pick (58th) and their 2022 sixth-round pick.

Of course, the only way to make sense of this trade is to figure the relative value of the draft picks involved. Since the Chiefs were also getting a veteran player in the deal, the total value of the picks they gave up minus the total value of the selections Baltimore gave back would equal the draft pick the Chiefs were (theoretically) giving in exchange for their new left tackle.

All weekend, you’ve been hearing how pro football writers have concluded the Chiefs gave up somewhere between a mid-first-round pick and a mid-second-round pick for Brown; it just depended on which draft pick value chart the analyst was using.

Which one did the Chiefs and Ravens use? According to Peter King’s NBC Sports “Football Morning in America” column from Monday morning... all of them.

Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta and Kansas City GM Brett Veach sought a middle ground. The Ravens thought a pick low in the second round was poor value. Kansas City thought a first-round pick was too rich. So they borderline split the difference. They would try to frame a deal with a value for Brown between the 43rd and 45th pick, approximately—but Kansas City had a low first-round pick (31st overall), and so they’d have to figure out how to equalize the value.

To do this, each team would have to use a draft pick value chart. The most well-known of these is the one Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson created in 1989, in which the first overall pick is worth 3,000 points and the last pick of the seventh round (224th overall) is worth one point. But many others have been created since then — all of which have used different methods to replace Johnson’s chart — which reflects the perceived value of draft picks — with one representing their actual value.

According to King, both GMs consulted multiple charts while constructing the deal.

In this case, Veach had eight to 10 charts he used, while DeCosta had four, and they both had Johnson’s chart. So they began to work on the Chiefs figuring out how to give the Ravens value of a pick in the mid-forties.

And these charts undoubtedly gave widely different results for the deal.

On a chart designed by Chase Stuart of Football Perspective, widely quoted by respected scribe Bill Barnwell, adding up Kansas City’s first, third, fourth and fifth-round picks, and getting a Baltimore second [and sixth] in return, was the equivalent of the Ravens getting the 23rd pick in return for Brown. Another chart Kansas City used found that plugging in the same picks resulted in the value of the 75th pick.

But according to the Johnson chart, the deal they made ended up right where the two GMs wanted: the Chiefs giving a pick value between the 44th and 45th to get Brown.

Does this mean that the two teams essentially threw away all of the more modern charts in favor of Johnson’s seat-of-the-pants calculation from three decades ago? Not really.

Instead, it’s more likely that both GMs were able to see the deal as favorable to them based on the chart they personally prefer — while at the same time, the well-known Johnson chart (while it is acknowledged by just about everyone to be flawed) would show the rest of the league that the deal was fair to both teams.

It will be years before we’ll be able to truly evaluate the winner and loser of this trade. It will depend not only on which players each team selects with these picks this weekend, but also on some taken a year from now — all of that in addition to how well Brown fits into the Kansas City offense and how long (and for what cost) he remains with the team.

In the meantime, the deal may be seen as fair to both sides — just like an NFL trade is supposed to look.

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