Last year I created a draft value card for the 2018 MLS SuperDraft that purported to give a rough estimate of the relative value of each draft slot. With the SuperDraft approaching on Friday, it’s time to update that card, so here it is:
With FC Cincinnati entering the league there are now 24 selections in each round for a total of 96 slots. The values are expected career values of players selected at each draft position, taking into account performance of players drafted in the previous four seasons. The values are then scaled so that the top draft pick is 100.0.
The relative values of the draft picks have changed very little from last year but the decline in value is apparent when one compares previous draft curves. The figure below compares curves of expected career value relative to the normalized draft position for the years 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019. (Position 0.0 is the first pick, 1.0 the final pick, and 0.5 the final pick of the second round.) Beyond the first seven or eight players of the first round, the value of the remaining slots has declined significantly, and especially so for the mid-draft slots.
In light of this apparent reality, it’s little wonder that Philadelphia Union’s sporting director decided to give away his team’s draft picks.
We also have this helpful information on the complex nature of MLS transactions. FC Cincinnati first executed a trade with LAFC in which the West Coast side sent this year’s #16 draft slot and $175,000 in GAM for Cincinnati’s fourth-round selection and their Allocation Ranking in 2020 (provided that they finish outside the top five in Allocation Ranking Order). Then, FC Cincinnati sent $150,000 in GAM to Philadelphia in exchange for all their draft picks in 2019.
As we receive more data on the amount of GAM that is included in trades involving MLS draft picks, we should be able to extend our models to come up with the expected value of a draft pick in terms of allocation money. All this sounds like a nice academic exercise, but given the current and declining values of these draft selections, how much longer can the college draft last?