The NFL world had a complete meltdown when Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders traded Khalil Mack, arguably the best defensive player in the NFL at the time, to the Chicago Bears for some draft picks.
Khalil Mack ranked 12th in the NFL last season in sacks (12.5) and he returned one for a touchdown. He finished last season with an additional 47 tackles, 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and his 12.5 sacks were the most for a Bears player in 26 years and he made a 4th Pro Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders gave up 29.2 points-per-game which was the worst in the NFL, they gave up 467 total points which was the worst in the NFL, they ranked #7th worst in yards-per-game, and they were 10th in penalty yards.
Those aren’t the stats you want to see from a first-year head coach like Jon Gruden who’s supposed to be a rainmaker. The Raiders finished the season 4-12-0 but the silver lining is they’ll have three first-round draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the 4th, 24th, and 27th overall picks. They’ll also get the 35th overall pick. The Raiders received the 24th pick in the Khalil Mack trade along with a 2020 1st Round pick, 6th round pick, and a 2020 3rd round pick.
Was it worth trading one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL for draft picks? According to the analytics community, it was. At the 2019 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, they gave the Oakland Raiders the ‘Transaction of the Year’ award for the Khalil Mack trade.
Vic Tafur of The Athletic chatted with Daryl Morey, Rockets GM and SSAC founder, about the analytic community’s choice to give this award to Oakland despite the NFL world calling it one of the worst trades in history (via FTW):
“Everybody else thought it was a terrible trade, but draft picks are very valuable,” Morey said. “Analytics tends to fly in the face of popular convention pretty often.
“We don’t care about what people say.”
And while the Raiders haven’t even drafted the two players yet, Morey said the results of the picks will be assessed in a separate analysis down the road.
“We look at the process more than the result,” Morey said. “Getting first-round picks can be the right thing even if the picks aren’t executed well.” (via)
‘We don’t care about what people say’ sounds EXACTLY like something you’d expect to hear come out of Jon Gruden’s mouth after getting blasted for taking a team that was 12-4-0 just two years ago to a 4-12-0 record last season.
I do get the sense that Jon Gruden’s playing the long game here and stockpiling young talent in the form of draft picks in anticipation of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas for the 2020 season so they can hit the ground running and win over a new city with early success. But that could just be an easy narrative to see because that Khalil Mack trade never made any sense unless you were going to make good and quick use of all the freed up salary cap space.