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Did the Giants get fair value in Kadarius Toney trade?

The enigmatic wide receiver brought more value than many people think

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Thursday’s shocking trade by New York Giants General Manager Joe Schoen that sent Kadarius Toney to the Kansas City Chiefs for two draft picks has had the football world buzzing since it was announced. In return for Toney, the Giants received a third-round compensatory pick that the Chiefs were awarded as a result of Ryan Poles being hired as the Chicago Bears GM plus the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

There has been a wide range of opinion about the trade among Giants fans. Some argue that since Toney was a first round pick (No. 20), getting anything other than a first in return means that the Giants did not receive equal value in the trade. If Toney had been as successful as some other 2021 first=round picks...say, Micah Parsons or Rashawn Slater (to rub salt in the wound for those who did not like Dave Gettleman’s trade-down that led to the Toney pick), that argument might have merit.

Ranking by Approximate Value

But Toney was a depreciated asset - a player who couldn’t stay on the field, appearing in only 12 out of 24 games and having only two performances of note, in consecutive games against New Orleans and Dallas in 2021. What value should we assign to that? Pro Football Reference calculates an Approximate Value (weighted from more to less successful years to emphasize the former) for every NFL player that is in effect a combined assessment of how much the player has played and how good he has been when he did play. Their current weighted AV for Toney is 3. That’s tied for 66th with 18 other players among 2021 draftees. Here are the other players whose performance is judged by PFR to have been of comparable value to Toney thus far:

Data courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Maybe you see some names in that list that you would have been happy to trade straight up for Toney. But if so, then either they are players few expected to have much success (e.g., RB Khalil Herbert) or you are probably judging mostly by your view of them before the draft. The AV for these players is telling us that despite the pedigree of some of them (the list includes four other first rounders), their performance to date in the NFL has been disappointing, or inconsistent, or both.

If the NFL were to re-draft 2021 and rank exactly by AV, Toney would be equivalent to a pick in the upper to middle part of Round 3. So by that measure, getting a late Round 3 pick (probably in the vicinity of No. 100, since compensatory picks are added at the end of each round) plus a Round 6 pick seems like a reasonable haul.

A common sentiment seen on Twitter in the past 24 hours is that since the Round 3 pick is a comp pick and thus at the end of Round 3, it is effectively only a fourth-round pick. This is objectively incorrect, of course. But here’s another way to look at it. The New York Football Giants sit today with a 6-1 record, second-best in the NFL. If you think they will wind up anywhere near that lofty rank by season’s end, then they will be drafting next year somewhere in the vicinity of picks 90-96 in Round 3. If so, then the comp pick obtained for Toney may be within 10 picks of their own third-round pick.

Trade value charts

A different way to approach the question is to ask what the draft picks acquired by Schoen are equivalent to. There are numerous trade value charts around for this purpose. The most commonly cited one is the Jimmy Johnson chart, which assigns inordinately high value to the highest draft picks and almost no value to late draft picks. There is no science behind this chart — it merely reflected what Johnson felt was right and what the prevailing views of the NFL cognoscenti were at the time.

We now know that high draft picks are greatly overvalued, and lower draft picks undervalued, by most people. A more objective approach to trade value was created by Over The Cap’s Jason Fitzgerald and Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger. Their approach was to let the NFL’s own spending behavior determine value: The salary paid to each draftee at the end of their rookie contract was their measure of how good the NFL itself considers each draftee to have been once they’d had a chance to play in the NFL. The resulting Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart is much flatter than the Jimmy Johnson chart:

Data courtesy of Over The Cap

If we use this chart to asses the trade, here is what we get. Let’s assume for illustration that the comp pick is No. 100 and that the Chiefs’ Round 6 pick is No. 224. The combined value of these picks is 666 + 258 = 924 points. According to the chart, this is equivalent roughly to the No. 60 pick, late in Round 2. Getting in effect a late second round pick for a first round pick who has played in half his team’s games? Not bad.

Specific examples

Yet another way to view the picks obtained by Schoen is to ask what types of players have been drafted at these stages. The always informative NYGfaninCLT has provided information on players drafted in the third round comp pick range and early fourth round the past couple of years:

It all comes down to whether Giants fans trust Schoen to find good value late on Day 2 of the draft. Schoen drafted tight end Daniel Bellinger at No. 112 this year, and he is arguably the best of all the TEs drafted in 2022 even though he was the sixth one selected. Dane Belton, drafted at No. 114, is part of the regular rotation of safeties used by Wink Martindale.

Other gems found late in Round 3 and early in Round 4 the past couple of years include running back Dameon Pierce of Houston (505 yards, 3 TDs, 81.7 PFF grade), center Quinn Meinerz of Denver, graded 80.0 by PFF in a part-time role this year, edge defender Baron Browning (3 sacks and a 70.7 PFF grade this year), and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown of Detroit (90 receptions, 912 yards, 5 TDs last season).

Looking at Round 6, it’s worth remembering that from the 2022 draft, the Giants’ own Darrian Beavers was on his way to getting significant snaps at linebacker this season before his injury. Offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer has claimed the starting left tackle position for the Chargers after Rashawn Slater’s season-ending injury. The 2021 draft’s Round 6 included running backs Elijah Mitchell, who claimed the starting job for the 49ers over third round pick Trey Sermon, and Khalil Herbert, who rotates as starting RB for Chicago. No Giants fan will forget guard Trey Smith, a starter for the Chiefs since entering the league. And Giants fan favorite, edge defender Quincy Roche, was a sixth round selection by Pittsburgh.

Perhaps Toney will play as soon as Kansas City returns from its bye a week from Sunday, stay healthy, and become the other-worldly receiving threat that we all saw he had the potential to be. Or maybe he will continue to get injured and wear out his welcome in Kansas City as quickly as he did at 1925 Giants Drive. There is no way to know yet, just as there is no way to know whether picks Joe Schoen acquired for him will yield one or two great Giants of the future. But the cloudy crystal ball we have right now says that it was a fair trade.