Interesting article: http://www.footballperspective.com/are-certain-teams-better-at-drafting-than-others/
The short answer is "No" with a very interesting look at AJ Smith and Bill Polian.
The bottom line is that all the GMs and scouts in this business are well-schooled pros, and statistically speaking no one is meaningfully better than others and innately knowing which players are going to be busts and which players are going to become stars and exceed their draft position. As simple and obvious as that sounds, I think MANY of us intuitively believe (or at least want to believe) the opposite.
The article doesn't flesh out the implications of its conclusion, but here's mine: Although no GMs are inherently better than their peers at drafting when it comes to hits versus misses, some teams are better at strategic aspects such as draft day maneuvering, stockpiling picks, extracting value in trades, and the like. Again, this is simple and obvious, and I think the evidence is already pretty clear that Baalke does fit into this category of adept draft day GMs along with guys like Belichick and Newsome.
Now, why we should NOT trade up significantly in this draft
I think the reason most commonly given is: "This draft is deep and not top-heavy, and you can get roughly the same caliber player at 15 as you can at 40."
That may be true, but I think the above article provides a far stronger reason not to trade up. "Good" GMs are going to have misses; "bad" GMs are going to have hits. It's like flipping a coin. Everyone's luck runs hot and cold. That's why I hope Baalke doesn't get too carried away with talk of "our guy." Especially in this new salary cap era, you are far better off bringing in more and more bodies on rookie contracts. And by stockpiling picks in the first two or three rounds, you increase you chances of finding star players.
I bet if we could run an experiment where one team drafts at #10 every year for five years and another team drafts at #35, #45, and #55 in those five years, then fast forward another 2-3 years, Team B would have more quality depth from those picks (kind of obvious) AND ALSO have more blue-chip, Pro Bowl type players (more counter-intuitive). Even if Team A never "misses", Team B only has to find a "gem" 33% of the time to keep pace in the "stud" department.
Summary: The odds say trading 31 and 34 (or 34 and 61 and 93, etc) is a bad strategy, but if you do it, you damn well better be right.
[ Edited by LieutKaffee on Apr 22, 2013 at 3:21 PM ]