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11 Apr 2013

Historical Draft Efficiency: Best and Worst Drafts

Two weeks ago, I introduced an updated version of my draft efficiency model, and last week I presented franchise rankings based on the two resulting metrics, value above expectation (VAE) and return on investment (ROI). Today, we turn our attention to the best and worst draft classes (i.e., the group of players selected by a given team in a given year).

Much to my surprise, ranking draft classes turned out to be not so easy because the first question one has to answer before coming up with a set of rankings is sneaky tough: Which stat should I use to determine the rankings? VAE is a measure of total value added, while ROI is a measure of percentage value added. So what's more important, then: adding more value or being more efficient? This dilemma is not unlike trying to decide whether DYAR is a more appropriate measure than DVOA when trying to rank individual players.

Of course, as reader Kal pointed out in the comments to last week's piece, there's also something to be said for evaluating a draft class based on total value, regardless of expectation (i.e., by Adjusted Career AV per Year). Now, I obviously think VAE and ROI are much better gauges than sheer value -- otherwise, what's the point of this entire series? Nevertheless, getting a ton of value (above expectation or not) is an accomplishment in its own right, and shouldn't be entirely ignored.

This being 2013, I put the question to Twitter. And while I got good feedback, it didn't settle the issue in my mind. Adjusted CarAV/Yr (i.e., total value) will probably fit the conventional wisdom, but almost certainly overrates larger draft classes. ROI has the opposite problem: It's probably going to overrate smaller draft classes, even if we set a "minimum number of picks" limit. VAE, on the other hand, will almost certainly fit conventional wisdom more than ROI, but will also tend to overrate large draft classes.

In the end, I've decided to list the best and worst drafts according to all three measures, and let you, the readers, decide for yourselves. Of note, though: We're only dealing with the top 222 picks in a given draft, and draft classes needed a minimum of six picks to qualify for the rankings.

Best and Worst Drafts by Adjusted Career AV Per Year

A few years ago, the NFL Network did one of their "Top 10" shows on the very topic we're addressing today (click here for video). Somewhat amazingly, despite not catering to an audience of NFL historians and statisticians and having no pretense of objectivity, five of the eight post-merger draft classes on their list were indeed among the top 35 in total value, regardless of expectation.

One of those five, however, is a perfect example of what happens when you don't take expectations into account. No. 2 on their list was the combined 1991 and 1992 drafts of the Dallas Cowboys. I have no qualms with the 1992 draft class being on there, as it ranked 55th in VAE (+8.5) and 119th in ROI (+35.6%) in addition to ranking 24th in CarAV/Yr (32.4). We're talking about 959 qualifying draft classes here, so I'll allow a viewership-based fudge factor; 1991 is another matter entirely. Yes, the Cowboys' 1991 draft class ranked 35th in CarAV/Yr (29.7), but it actually brought a negative ROI (-17.2%), and ranked in the bottom 100 according to VAE (-6.2). The reason for this discrepancy is that, with 11 picks in the top 110, their expected CarAV/Yr of 35.8 was by far the highest of any draft class from 1970 to 2007. (The expansion Seattle Seahawks of 1976 were No. 2, with 33.0 expected CarAV/Yr.)

With that little digression out of the way, here is a table showing the top 10 and bottom 10 draft classes from 1970 to 2007 according to Adjusted CarAV/Yr:

Best Drafts by CarAV/Yr (min. 6 Picks) Worst Drafts by CarAV/Yr (min. 6 Picks)
Team Year # of Picks CarAV/Yr Team Year # of Picks CarAV/Yr
PIT 1971 15 44.3 KC 1972 6 4.8
SD 1975 14 43.2 MIN 1990 7 4.3
CIN 1972 8 42.9 STLC 1975 7 4.2
BALC 1974 14 38.5 WAS 1992 6 3.8
CHI 1975 9 38.5 SD 1980 7 3.7
DAL 1975 10 38.1 MIN 1989 6 2.8
NO 1981 14 37.9 MIN 1970 6 2.6
SF 1986 10 37.6 SD 1972 6 2.5
NO 1972 15 36.9 SF 2002 7 2.5
PIT 1974 10 36.4 PHI 1992 8 1.1

As expected, the rankings are highly dependent on how many picks the team had, even with the six-pick minimum.

Most of the bottom 10 shows up later, so for now I'll only make one observation from that side of the table. The Minnesota Vikings had 13 total picks (in the top 222) between 1989 and 1990, and got a total of 7.1 Adjusted CarAV/Yr. What's more, only three of the 13 registered higher than 1.0: David Braxton (No. 52 pick in 1989), Marion Hobby (No. 74 in 1990), and Alonzo Hampton (No. 104 in 1990).

On the positive side of the ledger, the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 1986 San Francisco 49ers are the only two draft classes that overlap between this top 10 and the NFL Network's top 10. Of course, it's ironic that a list overly reliant on the conventional wisdom of total value would omit a Steelers draft from the early 70s that turns out to have been the most valuable of them all.

Of Pittsburgh's 15 picks in 1971, seven produced more than 3.0 CarAV/Yr. There are the obvious guys like Hall of Famer Jack Ham (No. 34), and half of the Steel Curtain: Dwight White (No. 104) and Ernie Holmes (No. 203). Less obvious are Gerry Mullins (No. 86) and Larry Brown (No. 106), who helped pave the way for Pittsburgh's running game, and Ralph Anderson (No. 126), who started at free safety in 1972 before getting traded in 1973 to make way for two-time Pro-Bowler Glen Edwards.

Finally, there's Pittsburgh's first pick in 1971, Frank Lewis (No. 8), who was the type of player that totally goes unnoticed to people like me (i.e., born in the late 70s and not a savant when it comes to NFL history). Lewis started at wide receiver in the pre-Swann-and-Stallworth days, a three-year period (1972-1974) in which the Steelers threw for a total of 5,596 yards. (For comparison, Drew Brees threw for 5,476 in the one-year period of 2011.). With Stallworth perpetually injured in 1975 and 1976, Lewis remained a starter in name only, but was overshadowed by Swann's exploits. Then in 1978, Pittsburgh traded Lewis to the media blackout known as Buffalo, where his career took off. He had the longest receiving touchdown in the league that season (92 yards), and made the Pro Bowl in 1981 thanks to 1,244 receiving yards. Until this series, I honestly had no idea Frank Lewis existed.

The 1974 Baltimore Colts had another draft class that featured seven players with over 3.0 CarAV/Yr, and further educated me about the vagaries of NFL football circa the 1970s. Wide receiver Roger Carr (No. 24) made the Pro Bowl in 1976 after leading the league in receiving yards (1,112) and yards per catch (25.9). Fred Cook (No. 32) and John Dutton (No. 5) were bookends of the Sack Pack (Mike Tanier wrote about them six years ago; of course he did).

Where things get weird is that, in an era with minimal player movement, Dutton was one of five players from this group of seven that the team subsequently traded away. Robert Pratt (No. 67) was a seven-year starter at left guard before being traded to Seattle in 1982. Freddie Scott (No. 174) didn't start at wide receiver until his fourth (and final) year in Baltimore, but saw his career take off after being traded to Detroit in 1978. Meanwhile, Noah Jackson (No. 161) and Greg Latta (No. 188) played in different leagues altogether during their rookie seasons (Canadian Football League and World Football League, respectively), both were traded to the Bears in 1975, and both became multi-year starters along the line in Walter Payton's offense.

One final draft class worth mentioning is the 1981 New Orleans Saints -- if for no other reason than that it puts a date certain on my NFL consciousness. That draft class had six players with at least 3.0 CarAV/Yr, most of whom have names I actually recognize. Rickey Jackson (No. 51) made the Hall of Fame in 2010 based on his exploits as a member of the Dome Patrol (NFL Network's No. 1 linebacker corps of all time); but more notably he helped my favorite team win the Super Bowl in 1994. George Rogers (No. 1) won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1981, and is one of only 33 rookies since the merger to be named first-team All-Pro. Elsewhere, cornerback Johnnie Poe (No. 144), strong safety Russell Gary (No. 29), defensive lineman Frank Warren (No. 57), and tight end Hoby Brenner (No. 71) each started with the Saints for at least five seasons. (Stat of the day No. 1: Brenner made the Pro Bowl in 1987 despite only 280 receiving yards, which is third fewest since the merger.)

Aside from all the interesting minutiae I learned, the main lesson from rankings draft classes by Adjusted CarAV/Yr is that it overvalues having lots of picks -- specifically lots of early picks. The five best players from Pittsburgh's 1971 draft were among their first six picks. The 1974 Colts had six picks in the first three rounds, and four produced at least 3.0 CarAV/Yr. And even more to the point, New Orleans had five picks in the first three rounds of the 1981 draft, and those players ended up being the best five of their entire draft. To me, it's pretty obvious that total value paints part of the draft rankings picture, but there remains a lot of empty white space if you don't add in the color of expectations. I'll try to do that now.

Best and Worst Drafts by Return on Investment

As I said at the outset, the concern for ROI-based rankings is that they will overrate smaller draft classes. Well, as soon as I clicked "sort" in Excel, the worry became a reality, and that's why I instituted a six-pick minimum. Without it, instead of there being six draft classes at +100.0% ROI or better, there would be 11. To boot, the top three would all have come courtesy of the notoriously draft-averse 1970s Washington Redskins. Last week, I mentioned George Allen's drafts in 1972 (one pick in the top 222, +142.9% ROI) and 1975 (two picks, 156.1% ROI), but the highest-ROI draft class of them all was two years after he left. In 1979, the Redskins had two picks (Nos. 103 and 182), and got a +163.5% return on their investment.

On the flip side, no pick minimum would take us from zero "It's as if we weren't even there" drafts (i.e., -100% ROI) to two. The 1982 San Diego Chargers had two picks in the top 222 (Nos. 188 and 215), got nary a game from defensive back Hollis Hall, and got three seasons from punter Maury Buford, who had one in every 10 punts blocked during his rookie year.

The other awful draft class with fewer than six picks in the top 222 was that of the 1975 Kansas City Chiefs, which you might notice came just three years after the above-listed 10th-worst draft class according to total value. Quite a run they had going back then. Of the Chiefs five picks in 1975, four never played a game. The fifth, running back Morris LaGrand, had 37 yards from scrimmage in 11 games with Kansas City, but got traded to New Orleans midway through his rookie year. That offseason, LaGrand got selected by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the veteran allocation draft, but couldn't even make the roster of (or get a midseason callback from) a team that would end the year at 0-14.

Here is the table showing the top 10 and bottom 10 draft classes according to ROI:

Best Drafts by ROI (min. 6 Picks) Worst Drafts by ROI (min. 6 Picks)
Team Year # of Picks ROI Team Year # of Picks ROI
PHI 1977 6 +139.2% MIN 2005 7 -66.6%
CIN 1972 8 +124.1% PHI 1984 7 -67.6%
CHI 1975 9 +111.2% BUF 1975 9 -69.0%
NE 1995 6 +109.3% MIN 1989 6 -70.4%
PIT 1974 10 +107.0% WAS 1992 6 -73.3%
MIA 1970 7 +104.0% SF 1971 12 -73.9%
SF 1986 10 +99.4% SD 1972 6 -76.3%
IND 2006 6 +98.3% MIN 1970 6 -77.3%
CIN 1971 7 +97.4% SF 2002 7 -79.8%
CLE1 1990 7 +89.1% PHI 1992 8 -91.8%

The first thing that jumps out at me from this table is that, yeah, it favors drafts with fewer picks. The second thing is that the Philadelphia Eagles own both the most efficient and the least efficient drafts since the merger. This isn't the first time we've seen their 1992 draft class in a table, but it's also not the last time, so I'll get into the details a little later.

The 1977 draft class, however, is an incredible tale of turning lemons into lemonade. They didn't have a pick until the fifth round (No. 119), and the 7.6 expected CarAV/Yr of their six picks was the seventh-lowest among qualifying draft classes. (For comparison, that's about one-fifth of the 1991 Cowboys draft class discussed earlier.) They end up No. 1 in ROI because those six late-round picks produced the 24th-highest VAE (+10.6). Most notably, nose tackle Charlie Johnson (No. 175) was a five-year starter who made first-team All-Pro in 1980 and 1981. That pick was good enough to produce a +584.6% ROI. At No. 154, the Eagles took running back Wilbert Montgomery, who started six years, made two Pro Bowls, and led the league in yards from scrimmage in 1979.

Of the other draft classes above +100.0% ROI, Bill Belichick benefitted from two: The 1990 Cleveland Browns and the 1995 New England Patriots. The Browns/Ravens draft resulted in power running back Leroy Hoard, who made the Pro Bowl under Belichick in 1994, as well as two starting defensive ends: Rob Burnett (No. 129) also made the Pro Bowl in 1994, and Anthony Pleasant (No. 73) had 11.0 sacks under Belichick in 1993.

Five of the Patriots' six picks in 1995 brought at least +50.0% ROI, the lone exception being Dino Philyaw at No. 195 (-100.0% ROI). Hall of Famer Curtis Martin (No. 74) and center Dave Wohlabaugh (No. 112) combined for +226.9% ROI, and cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock (No. 88) produced +85.4%. All three of them were gone by the time Belichick returned as head coach in 2000, but two key components remained from the AFC Champion defense Belichick helped coordinate in 1996 (as the Tuna's "assistant head coach"): Ty Law (No. 23) brought +56.8% ROI and Ted Johnson (No. 57) brought +80.3%.

Moving over to/from the dark side of the table (Belichick segue pun FTW!), let's revisit that 2005 Minnesota Vikings draft class, shall we? Two years ago, our own Tom Gower gave Troy Williamson a pass as the biggest wide receiver bust because of the immense shadow cast by Mike Williams' 272-pound bust. After the incredible shrinking Williams had a renaissance in Seattle three seasons ago (his ROI improved to -65.9%), we can officially put Williamson and his -73.2% ROI back on the mantel.

If only it stopped there, though! Let's not forget that, 11 picks after whiffing on Williamson, Minnesota whiffed on defensive end Erasmus James at No. 18 (-67.5% ROI). In the second round, they whiffed on offensive lineman Marcus Johnson (-56.2%). In the third round, they struck out looking at the hands of defensive back Dustin Fox (-100.0%). Then, in the fourth round, the golden sombrero came courtesy of running back Ciatrick Fason (-75.2%). In 2005, it was Rob Brzezinski, not Jacque Jones, who led Minnesota in strikeouts.

Best and Worst Drafts by Value Above Expectation

There were 20 draft classes with at least six picks in the top 222 that failed to result in a single positive-VAE player, only one of which shows up in the bottom 10 overall: It's those 1992 Eagles again! (Details soon, I promise.) In contrast, there were only three draft classes that didn't have a negative-VAE pick. I mentioned the 1990 Browns earlier; the other two were the 1998 Cowboys and the 1983 Bears.

After ragging on the wildly overrated 1991 Cowboys draft class, it's only fair to give their 1998 class its propers. It just missed making the tables, but it produced the 21st-best VAE among qualifying draft classes (+11.0), as well as the 13th-best ROI (+81.9%). The worst pick was Greg Ellis, who made a fine 12-year career for himself, thereby exceeding the expectations of a No. 8 pick (+0.5 VAE). The best pick was Darren Hambrick (+4.1 VAE) at No. 130, although he "Attitude Era-ed" himself out of the league after only five seasons. The other four picks were five-time Pro-Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams (+2.3 VAE) at No. 38, and three players who had mild success after leaving Dallas: safety Izell Reese (+1.7 VAE) at No. 188, offensive lineman Oliver Ross (+1.0 VAE) at No. 138, and serial killer Michael Myers (+1.5 VAE) at No. 100.

Unlike draft classes for the 1990 Browns and the 1998 Cowboys, the 1983 Bears draft class shows up in the VAE table below and in the NFL Network's Top 10. Incredibly, Chicago got Hall of Famer Richard Dent at No. 203, and his +4.7 VAE ranks just outside the top 100 most valuable picks since the merger. Sixteen picks later, they took Mark Bortz, who played his entire career in Chicago, was an 11-year starter at left guard, and made two Pro Bowls. In addition, they got half of their Super Bowl-winning secondary: safety Dave Duerson (+2.3 VAE) at No. 64 and cornerback Mike Richardson (+1.9 VAE) at No. 33. And even their two first-round picks brought positive VAE: No. 6 pick Jimbo Covert was a two-time All-Pro left tackle, and No. 18 pick Willie Gault was the favorite deep threat of Tecmo Bowl players across the land.

Here is the table showing the top 10 and bottom 10 draft classes according to VAE:

Best Drafts by VAE (min. 6 Picks) Worst Drafts by VAE (min. 6 Picks)
Team Year # of Picks VAE Team Year # of Picks VAE
CIN 1972 8 +23.8 LARM 1982 9 -10.5
CHI 1975 9 +20.2 ATL 1972 12 -10.6
PIT 1974 10 +18.8 MIN 2005 7 -11.3
SF 1986 10 +18.8 BUF 1975 9 -11.7
PIT 1971 15 +17.2 PHI 1992 8 -12.1
GB 1990 9 +15.3 DAL 1972 11 -12.6
CHI 1983 8 +15.2 STLC 1970 14 -12.8
PIT 1987 9 +14.7 NO 1975 10 -13.7
SD 1975 14 +14.6 SEA 1976 16 -15.2
CIN 1971 7 +14.5 SF 1971 12 -17.4

That 1983 Bears draft class contributes to why I like this list more than the others: It's a good mix of conventional wisdom and whatever is the opposite of conventional wisdom. It's the only list with three members of the NFL Network's top 10 (1974 Steelers, 1986 49ers, 1983 Bears). It's also got that 1971 Steelers draft class that contributed heavily to their first two championships, and the 1987 class that helped bring the franchise out of a 1980s abyss. In addition, it's got the 1990 Green Bay Packers draft class that spurred their min-90s run of NFC dominance.

At the same time, it's got a few draft classes that ended up being for their franchises a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. For instance, the best picks in San Diego's 1975 draft class made their names elsewhere. Running back Rickey Young was the 164th pick (+4.3 VAE), but only started three years with the Chargers before being traded to Minnesota for Pro Bowl guard Ed White. As a member of the Vikings in 1978, he led the NFL with 88 receptions.

Hall of Famer Fred Dean (+3.6 VAE) went to San Diego at No. 33, but then, like many Chargers of the day, went to San Francisco a few years later, and helped the 49ers start a dynasty. The third "value that got away" was ninth-round linebacker Larry Keller (+1.8 VAE), who started for two years with the Jets after never playing for the Chargers. (Stat of the day No. 2: Third-rounder Mike Fuller is one of only 38 non-kickers/punters since the merger to have made an extra point.

And now we come to the elephant in the room, which I hinted at in last week's piece, and have downright ignored so far today despite it showing up on the positive side of all three top 10 lists: The 1971 and 1972 Cincinnati Bengals. At first, when I saw this result, I was apprehensive. There had to be a glitch in the system somewhere. Then I remembered that the Bengals of the early 1970s were in the same division as the dynastic Steelers, and also had to compete with mini-dynasties in Miami and Oakland. Basically, the Bengals were just the first in a long line of post-merger franchises whose only affliction was horrible timing. Until this past season, the modern-day Ravens may as well have been a direct descendent.

In five seasons from 1972 to 1976, the Bengals went 46-24, but only made the playoffs twice. In 1973, they got in after a 10-4 regular season, but a Week 5 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh meant they didn't win the division, and therefore had to travel to Miami to play the defending- and soon-to-be-repeating champs. In 1975, they went 11-3, but had to play their first playoff game in Oakland because Pittsburgh went 12-2. In 1976, they missed the playoffs at 10-4 because -- here's a surprise! -- the Steelers won their head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of a regular season win ... in Pittsburgh.

That kind of weird wild stuff ca. 1972 shouldn't take away from the Bengals' draft classes, however. Of their 15 picks in the top 222, 10 produced at least +2.0 VAE. There's obviously Ken Anderson (No. 67 in 1971), who is to statheads what Mick Tingelhoff is to Peter King: the "he" in "How the hell is he not in the Hall of Fame?"

But there's also Tommy Casanova (No. 29 in 1972), who was a six-year starter at safety, returned punts, made the Pro Bowl three times, and was voted first-team All-Pro in 1976. His +6.1 VAE ranks as the 23rd-best individual pick since the merger. Stan Walters (No. 210 in 1972) started at tackle for three years until getting traded to Philadelphia in 1976, where he subsequently made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons (+5.6 VAE). Fred Willis (No. 93 in 1971) was Cincinnati's starting fullback (+4.2 VAE) until being traded to the Houston Oilers for Charlie Joiner in 1972; and of course, Joiner went on to join the Hall of Fame thanks to what he did with the Chargers, not the Bengals.

I could go on, but one final high-VAE pick worth mentioning was strong safety Neal Craig (No. 171 in 1971), whose career in Cincinnati was progressing nicely until the combination of ownership revenge and depth-chart dynamics found him banished to Buffalo in 1974. And in true Bengals fashion, the emerging backup who replaced Craig, Lyle Blackwood, was himself traded to the Baltimore Colts in 1977, where he proceeded to lead the NFL in interceptions his first year there.

The Exciting Conclusion

Thousands of words ago, I said I was going to present the numbers, and let the readers decide. Well, you can do your deciding in the comments section, but here's my take. If we look at the totality of above stats, I think it's pretty clear which draft classes should be in the conversation for absolute best and worst since the merger.

In terms of absolute worst, the 1992 Eagles draft class is in a league of its own. It's the only one to show up in all three tables, and it's dead last in two of them. As already mentioned, it was one of 20 draft classes to feature zero positive-VAE picks. But wait, there's more!

Of Philadelphia's eight picks in the top 222, none had an Adjusted CarAV/Yr over 0.5, and five couldn't even break loose from zero: running back Siran Stacy at No. 48 (-2.7 VAE), running back Tony Brooks at No. 92 (-1.9 VAE), return specialist Jeff Sydner at No. 160 (-1.2 VAE), guard William Boatwright at No. 187 (-1.1 VAE), and linebacker Chuck Bullough at No. 214 (-0.9 VAE). Incidentally, Boatwright has the ignominious distinction of not even having his own PFR player page -- and yet he was somehow the Eagles third-best pick behind Bullough and fifth-round defensive back Corey Barlow (-1.0 VAE). For the sake of Eagles fans reading this, I'll stop there instead of bringing up their literal waste of a pick at 102nd overall.

In terms of absolute best, things aren't as clear, although it seems to me there are four worthy candidates: 1986 49ers, 1975 Bears, 1971-1972 Bengals, and 1974 Steelers. The first and last of those are in all three tables, as well as among the NFL Network's top 10. I tend toward ranking them as the top two -- in no particular order -- because it's hard to argue against Pittsburgh's four Hall of Famers, and San Francisco's six picks in the third and fourth round were Tom Rathman (No. 56), Tim McKyer (No. 64), John Taylor (No. 76), Charles Haley (No. 96), Steve Wallace (No. 101), and Kevin Fagan (No. 102). That's just ridiculous value (+16.9 VAE) to get in the span of 47 mid-round picks.

The Bengals are obviously my "wild card," pun very much intended, which leaves us with the 1975 Bears. The two words almost always associated with that draft class were "Walter Payton:" He returned +4.0 VAE as the fourth overall pick. However, five other words we should associate with the value of Chicago's 1975 draft class are "Joe Theisman of Testicle Trauma," aka fourth-rounder Virgil Livers. In a five-year career, Livers started at cornerback each season, and ranked ninth in punt return average as a rookie. As the No. 83 pick in an average overall draft, that's good enough for +4.2 VAE. I'm not silly enough to argue that Livers' VAE makes him a more valuable pick than Payton, but I will argue Livers deserves to be known for something other than an unintended PSA for male athletic supporters.

That's it for today, and that's it for VAE/ROI splits for franchises. The plan for the remaining two weeks before draft day is to go granular, culminating with the best and worst individual picks.

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 11 Apr 2013

86 comments, Last at 01 May 2013, 8:10am by dmstorm22

Comments

1
by Dean :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 12:29pm

Not surprised to see the '92 Eagles draft on that list. In an era of colossal busts, that was probably the worst Eagles draft of all.

They didn't have a #1 pick, and the littany of no-names goes from Siran Stacy to Pumpy Tudors. The only player with any name recognition (which should not be confused with actual NFL ability) was Casey Weldon.

Just awful.

6
by ElJefe :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:23pm

To tell the rest of the story ....

The Eagles 1992 1st-round draft pick was traded on draft day 1991 in order to move up to select Antone Davis. Pause for shuddering from all readers who remember the Eagles of that era.

The team they traded with to acquire that pick was the Green Bay Packers. The Packers later traded the Eagles 1st-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons, who selected forgettable RB Tony Smith.

Since he is now retired, I feel it is safe to invoke the name of the player Atlanta traded to Green Bay for that selection ... Brett Favre.

Overeducated Layabout

8
by Dean :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:41pm

I was trying to block that part out. And it's not even the worst draft day trade of the decade for the Eagles.

18
by ElJefe :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:12pm

You leave Mike Mamula alone! I know I'm in the minority, but I think Mamula got a bum rap. He wasn't a bad player; if he had been drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round, he would have been a folk hero in Philly. It wasn't his fault he was overdrafted.

More to the point: He was a square peg in a round hole. Mamula was a 3-4 outside linebacker. If he had been drafted by a 3-4 team he might have been Kevin Greene. Instead, Ray-Bob has him nose-to-nose with a Tackle on every play. I'm not sure even Lawrence Taylor could have made that work well.

Overeducated Layabout

39
by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:24pm

MAMULA REFERENCE

41
by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:32pm

Ah, I love Mike Mamula. He helped the Bucs more than pretty much anybody else. Tampa had the 7th pick in 1995, and Philly traded their first (#12 overall) plus two seconds that year for the right to jump up for Mamula. Tampa took Warren Sapp at #12, then used those two seconds to get back into the first round and take Derrick Brooks at #28. That's right, Mike Mamula himself is responsible for Tampa drafting two Hall of Famers, changing around an eternally losing franchise, and winning a Super Bowl. As a Bucs fan, I utterly adore every mention of Mike Mamula with big, sloppy kisses.

This leads to an actual semi-relevant question--based on the draft analysis, does that 1995 first round for Tampa count as the best single round ever in a draft, or a least best first round? It's pretty hard to do better than two first-ballot HOFers in one round (if Brooks doesn't walk into Canton on the first ballot, there is no football justice in the world).

42
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:59pm

You are correct, sir! TB95 is highest-VAE first round by a single team in a single year (+10.8). SF07 , which Tom talked about the other day, is 3rd to this point in the careers of Willis and Staley (+8.9). Second is LARM71 because of Jack Youngblood and Isaiah Robertson (+9.2).

In terms of all rounds (covering the top 222 picks, at least), TB95's first round is behind only BAL72's second round (+14.8), which actually had 3 picks: Lydell Mitchell, Glenn Doughty, and Jack Mildren.

44
by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:18pm

You know, there's nothing quite like having your long-running prejudices confirmed by actual math. Now I can wield my fandom with much better efficiency!

46
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:00pm

Alright, now the door is opened to the follow-up question: worst 1st round ever? From my memory, I'd say 92 Colts, but there's gotta be someone worse.

47
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:12pm

What, is everyone here a modern-day Howie Schwab?

IND92 is technically second-worst at -7.2 VAE behind TB86 (-7.8 VAE). However, almost all of that was because TB86 took Bo Jackson No. 1, but then he chose baseball over being employed by that franchise for even a second. So, in my mind, I'd go with IND92 (Quentin Coryatt and Steve Emtman) as the worst.

Have to say, though, despite these spot on guesses kind of weirding me out, it's nice to see that this system continues to pass the smell test, even at tiny sample sizes.

51
by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 5:41pm

Just seems wrong that Tampa doesn't rule the list, considering the "success" they had. I was having this discussion the other day elsewhere, and threw this out:

1994 1 6 Trent Dilfer QB
1993 1 6 Eric Curry DE
1991 1 7 Charles McRae T
1990 1 4 Keith McCants DE
1989 1 6 Broderick Thomas LB
1988 1 4 Paul Gruber T
1987 1 1 Vinny Testaverde QB
1986 1 1 Bo Jackson RB

That's year, round, overall #, player, position. Yes, sports fans, that's eight top-seven picks in nine years, and I invite you to argue whether Dilfer or Testaverde (the Tampa years, not the later ones) was the second-best of those picks. That is, I believe, the singly saddest sentence I have ever written, and, if you need me, I'll be off in a corner sobbing.

Another relevant question thrown at the end of a Bucs rant; how does the 1996 Ravens first round stack up? Ogden and Lewis were both in the first, but both were drafted slightly higher relatively than Sapp/Brooks, so I presume the relevant value is slightly lower?

52
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 8:01pm

Wait, do you mean it seems wrong they don't rule the franchise rankings of the last piece in the series? Or that they don't rule the "worst team in the first round" rankings? Because my comment that you replied to was only about a single team in a single first round of a single year.

If we're looking at aggregate numbers over all first rounds from 1970 to 2007, TB ranks 27th (-12.7 VAE). And if we limit ourselves to first rounds during the period from 1986 to 1994 (i.e., the one you focused on), yeah, they're dead last at -19.7 VAE. Next-worst is ATL at -15.1, so TB definitely rules that list.

60
by Jimmy :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 4:26pm

The Bears drafted Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus with consecutive selections in the first round. It was pre-merger though but those two might be two of the best players ever.

72
by Dean :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:10pm

It's less about what they got and more about what Tampa Bay got.

9
by Andy G (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:43pm

On the plus side, Pumpy Tudors is one of the better NFL names ever.

16
by Jimmy :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:08pm

This.

If you can't get exited about cheering for Pumpy then you are officially no fun.

25
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 3:48pm

I can't believe I never heard of Pumpy Tudors before. That he was a punter (according to drafthistory.com) makes him even more awesome.

28
by RickD :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 12:46am

Sounds like one of Henry VIII's illegitimate half-wit children.

2
by Insancipitory :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 12:38pm

Stunned that only one Seahawks team showed up, and that it was the '76 draft, and not any from the Flores Behring era.

22
by IrishBarrister :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:32pm

I suppose that goes to show that there's a difference between "consistently poor" and "historically bad" concerning draft picks.

56
by Insancipitory :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 11:21am

The horrors I have seen at QB. The (attempted) trade of Kenny Easley for Kelly Stouffer. Dan McGwire. So much pain.

23
by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:39pm

Re the Flores era: Of 959 draft classes w/ 6+ picks, 1992 SEA ranked #882 in Adj CarAV/Yr, #732 in VAE, and #814 in ROI. 1993 SEA was actually positive VAE/ROI. 1994 SEA only had 5 picks.

Don't want to go into full Behring era (believe draft-wise that's 89-97, right?), though, because a "Seahawks Draft Efficiency" piece might show up sometime in the future. Will say there were some real stinkers in there, though. Six of 9 were negative VAE/ROI, and 5 of those 6 were -3.8 VAE or worse.

57
by Insancipitory :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 11:25am

Yeah, Behring would be 89-97. I don't know if it's actual fact, but 'common knowledge' is Behring was intentionally running the team into the ground to drive away local support enabling him to move the team to LA. Flores was just a short but brutal stretch from 1992 through 1994.

3
by Travis :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 12:58pm

(Stat of the day No. 1: [Hoby] Brenner made the Pro Bowl in 1987 despite only 280 receiving yards, which is third fewest since the merger.)

Brenner's season was limited to 12 games due to the strike.

I doubt his season was of Pro Bowl level, however. Brenner finished 8th among NFC tight ends in receiving yards, was a late injury replacement for Mark Bavaro, and his (first?) alternate status was likely boosted by his status as the Saints' player rep. (Hardly any players voted for those who crossed the line; Joe Montana got all 13 first-place votes from the NFC coaches, but only 14 of 52 first- and second-place points from the players.)

4
by Travis :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:14pm

(Stat of the day No. 2: Third-rounder Mike Fuller is one of only 38 non-kickers/punters since the merger to have made an extra point.)

Fuller made what would today be a two-point conversion; he was the Chargers holder and ran in an aborted snap.

19
by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:15pm

Appreciate these postscripts since, like I said in the piece, I'm not a pre-80s NFL history savant. Always fun to learn.

5
by rageon :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:22pm

Excellent series.

My only disappointment was that there wasn't more post-mid-90s teams on best/worst lists, as I wasn't born for a number of the drafts or was too young to remember.

11
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:48pm

It is intersting that a majority of the drafts in both the good and bad lists come from the 70s. I wonder if this is just a random thing, or if there's been some shift in the philosophy of how teams use the draft. And if it's the latter, what was the shift?

15
by rageon :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:01pm

I think there's at least some possibility that as there became more money associated with owning a football franchise (or perhaps some other reason), teams wised up as a whole. Baseball is more my sports, so I'll use that -- I think there's evidence that as recent as even 10 years ago, there were vast differences in the level of talent involved in running teams and evaluating talent. I think that gap has closed considerably since then. Just about every team puts money into all sorts of evaluation methods that were very rare a decade ago.

If the same is true for football, I think it would explain why the differences in draft value from best to worst are more extreme. And I suspect it probably is true. Teams have much more data available to them, both statistical and scouting-related (imagine how many more players are watched on film today versus 1970). If some team was being ran by some former player who happened to marry the owner's daugther or something, but he had no clue what he was doing, I'd expect his drafts to be horrible. There aren't many GMs like that around anymore.

17
by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:11pm

Admittedly, I think two things are at play here:

1) It's a byproduct of my era adjustments. It's simply the case that the top 222 picks in the draft have produced more sheer value over time. Therefore, later drafts are getting downward adjusted, and earlier drafts are getting upward adjusted. Basically, those 70s drafts are getting rewarded for bringing positive relative value in an era when drafts as a whole weren't producing as much sheer value.
2) At least as it relates to the first table, it's a byproduct of the fact that earlier drafts had more picks in the top 222 because there were fewer teams.

There's so much I can do with this stuff that a "Best/Worst Drafts of the Salary Cap Era" or "Best/Worst Drafts of the 1980s" column could easily happen in the future. In fact, I'd venture to guess it probably will.

24
by JMM* (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 3:07pm

One factor to consider is the efficiency of information in the market. John Stallworth was passed on by the Steelers for several rounds because they knew his tape was not widely circulated. As information became more widely circulated, I would include the joint scouting organizations in this discussion as well, gems like Stallworth were harder to horde.

55
by Jerry :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 7:20am

This is it. In the Fifties, a lot of "scouting" involved letters from friendly college coaches around the country. A team might not see a player until after they drafted him. (We're talking about an era where pro football was not a financial powerhouse.) Things have evolved to where they are today, with the combine and pro days and video that's almost instantaneously available. Along the way, different teams adapted at different speeds. A few clubs were ahead of their peers in scouting the traditionally black colleges (including the '70s Steelers), and they reaped benefits.

7
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:40pm

Some context here:

A typical HOFer is worth from 9-12 CarAV/Yr. 15 is in the argument for best-ever at position. Jim Brown was worth 20.

A draft with a value of 40 is basically like drafting 3-4 HOFers.

10
by Andy G (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:48pm

I don't think that's a good way to look at it. The CarAV/Yr is based on the number of players drafted. So...the Steelers getting 44 CarAV/Yr with 15 players is *decent*, but doesn't strike me as equal to drafting 3 or 4 HoF players.

12
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:50pm

That's not a very Moneyball attitude.

14
by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:01pm

I think you guys are both correct, but talking about 2 different things. The 44 CarAV/Yr for PIT71 can be interpreted as basically drafting 4 HOFers, and 11 nobodies. However, I also agree that, in the context of 15 picks (worth 27.0 expected CarAv/Yr by the way), it's not as impressive. That's why they don't show up in the top 10 of the ROI list. Basically, you guys are manifesting the exact dilemma I talked about in the intro. PIT71 got a ton of sheer value and relative value, but it wasn't an all-time best draft in terms of pick-by-pick efficiency.

13
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 1:58pm

Eating 14 bowls of Special K is basically like eating 1 bowl of Total.

20
by ElJefe :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:18pm

But what about a single bowl of Super-Colossal Colon Blow?

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/colon-blow/n9822/

Overeducated Layabout

21
by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 2:29pm

Oh man. Glad to know there are other people out there who fondly remember the Colon Blow SNL promo. Another personal favorite of mine from back in the day:

"It's all just talk, unless it's the one they call Coldcock."

26
by Lance :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 3:50pm

"... and serial killer Michael Myers (+1.5 VAE) at No. 100."

So great!

27
by Danny Tuccitto :: Thu, 04/11/2013 - 4:09pm

Thanks. Over the course of a few thousand words, have to add in some humor here and there.

29
by Usernai (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:26am

I'd like to see adjustment for yearly variations in draft talent. Some produce tons of great players, others tons of duds. So if you consider average careerav produced for an entire draft as the denominator and that produced in a given year as the numerator, you can automatically adjust for changed draft rules and variations in the talent pool in one fell swoop.

31
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:56am

That's exactly what I did (i.e., adjusted for yearly variations). See the original post in the series (linked up top).

30
by Usernai (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:31am

Also in re: Cincinatti, clearly Paul Brown and Bill Walsh couldn't win the big one.

On a serious note, I see Walsh left after 1975 and Brown retired in the middle of the 1976 season but how could they have blown that seemingly clear succession to Walsh? The implications to football history might have been staggering.

61
by Karl Cuba :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 5:31pm

Brown though Walsh was too soft and cerebral and so gave the job to another coach. Walsh disagreed and quit in response to being overlooked after running the offense very successfully, so Brown blackballed Walsh. That's how Walsh ended up at Stanford and out of the NFL for a while.

86
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 05/01/2013 - 8:10am

Yeah. I've only read accounts from the Walsh side (notably, 'The Genius' a book I recommend about the Walsh 49ers), but Brown was really vindictive towards Walsh after Walsh left.

32
by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:13am

For a team the just can't understand what the draft is about, the Jets just can't seem to get onto the worst draft list in this article. Who would have thought?

73
by Dean :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:12pm

Who the hell is Mel Kiper, anyway?

77
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:58pm

My favorite draft moment ever. And for the record, Kiper and Tobin were both wrong. Tobin took Trev Alberts, who washed out of the league within a couple years due to injuries. Kiper was advocating for Trent Dilfer, who was mediocre on his best day.

Also, Tobin had a valid point that Kiper's opinion doesn't matter much, because he doesn't have to live with the consequences of being wrong. Overall, an unprofessional display by both parties, which made for great TV.

33
by CBPodge :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 7:26am

It feels to me that you're comparing apples and oranges here a bit by comparing drafts from the 70s which had approximately a million rounds to drafts since the mid 90s with 7 rounds. I know its the same number of players picked in each one, but it feels like it's easier to get a higher return from picking 12 times than picking 7 times.

Any chance of us seeing some of the tables if you only consider the years since the NFL went to a 7 round draft?

That being said, I think the fact that the Steelers 1974 draft shows up in every single one of the "best" tables pretty much shows that you are on the right sort of lines with your analysis. I'd argue that if it didn't show up in the top 10 drafts ever by any measure, then that measure is wrong!

49
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:18pm

Yeah, I mentioned this issue in a reply up above (Comment 17). It's a valid point, and I can run a piece like the one you're describing at some point in the future.

Also, totally agree with your last paragraph.

34
by CBPodge :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 10:16am

Also, what about a table measuring Career AV per year per pick? To get a draft in a 7 round draft that qualifies for the top 10 best ever you'd need an average per pick AV of 5.2. The Saints' draft in that first table has an average AV of 2.46. Hell, the Bengals' draft at #3 which has the best AV per pick is 5.36.

I mean, sure, getting a draft worth 40 AV of 15 picks is great, but getting a draft of 30 AV off only 7 picks is arguably better?

50
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:20pm

"Career AV per year per pick" is essentially ROI, with the added feature/improvement of weighting those picks by their expected Career AV.

35
by Jeff George (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 11:57am

How come the 2009 Dallas Cowboys draft class (12 picks, zero in professional football in 2013) doesn't make the list? Or are they so bad they're off the chart?

48
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 3:14pm

We're only going from 1970 to 2007 here, so I'll have to get back to you in two years.

58
by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 12:55pm

The parameters leave the 2008 Jets draft off this list too. I'm wondering where that one ends up (Gholston).

85
by Jim W. (not verified) :: Tue, 04/16/2013 - 1:56pm

That was a very bad draft but this isn't accurate. Victor Butler (Saints) and John Phillips (Chargers) just signed with new teams. I'm not sure but Jason Williams might still be on an NFL roster (he was with the Panthers/Eagles last year).

36
by Intropy :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 12:56pm

Here's an idea that probably requires way too much work.

Draft picks are resources supplied by the league to a team. The team is free to spend those resources in many ways. It can use the pick in the draft. It can trade picks for other picks. It can trade picks for players. It can forfeit them.

What is being measured in this article is how well does a team do in making draft selections. I think it would be really interesting to get insight into what return a team is able to get on its resources. Instead of comparing player value against the picks actually used by the team to make the pick, compare player value against the resources the team consumed to obtain that value.

That means, first, that you only consider the rookie contract for the pick (for the purposes of this discussion I think you'd want to consider any years playing for the drafting team under restricted free agency to be part of the rookie contract).

Second, any players obtained via trading away picks would count as value at the cost of the picks. That value would be credited up to the point where the player became an unrestricted free agent, where he would have become an unrestricted free agent but was instead extended, or retires.

These rules can potentially propagate somewhat. For example if you get a pick by trading a player that pick doesn't get you any credit because you didn't spend any draft resource to get it. But if the player you traded was on his rookie contract then the value you get from the subsequent pick should be credited to the pick of the player traded since that resource is now provided additional benefit to you.

Not only would this give good insight into how well teams do with the draft resources they have irrespective of how they choose to use them, it would provide some insight into what strategies tend to work best. It is wise to trade down? It it good to trade up? It it some combination like late draft trade ups work well but early draft trade downs win. Is getting a veteran for your pick on average better or worse than spending the pick in the draft?

45
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:38pm

"Here's an idea that probably requires way too much work."

I know it's only April, but I nominate this sentence for understatement of the year.

37
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:12pm

I followed the link and read that paragraph on Virgil Livers "The Joe Theismann of testicle trauma". I still can't believe the dude went out to play in the next defensive series AFTER his testicle was shattered. I'm cringing in pain just thinking about it.

38
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:16pm

Any chance of having a series like this broken down by general manager? Obviously not possible for all NFL GM's, but at least some of the more famous and infamous names in the war rooms of NFL history.

43
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 2:06pm

Sure. That can be done at some point in the future. If I were able to identify everyone who was in charge of each of these 1,000 or so individual drafts, I could split it out that way. Most likely, though, I'll discuss that sort of thing in the context of a team-by-team series.

63
by LionInAZ :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 11:41pm

I what you're trying to do here, Pianoboy, but I bet the crown for worst GM still goes to someone pre-Millen. Still have to contend with Mike Sherman. Hell, I'm shocked that no Millen draft ended up on any of these lists.

40
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 1:25pm

[duplicate post]

53
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 3:16am

There's been a few recent drafts that might come into the discussion for all time great too once all is said and done and the data is collected. A long way to get there of course, but the course is plotted so far.

54
by Danny Tuccitto :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 4:29am

Care to name names? That was mighty vague/cryptic.

59
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 3:05pm

Niners 2011 specifically.

Seahawks 2012 to a lesser degree.

62
by D :: Sat, 04/13/2013 - 7:29pm

My guess for most valuable pick; Tom Brady (199th overall 2000).

My guess for worst; Ryan Leaf* (2nd overall 1998).

*JaMarcus Russell is a close second

64
by Thok :: Sun, 04/14/2013 - 12:48pm

Actually, I'm wondering where San Diego 1998 is on the worst drafts lists. Leaf is obviously historically bad, and on the negative side they had also four late round picks who played 7 games combined. The closest thing they had to an average value pick is Mikhael Ricks. Is it just the lack of 3rd/4th round picks that's saving their rating?

69
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 8:19am

If I understand the selection criteria being used here, a team must have 6 picks in the top 222 of a draft to qualify for these lists. 98 Chargers had 5. So yeah, the lack of a 3rd and 4th probably did save them from being on this list, in a way.

79
by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 2:00pm

Yeah, SD98 only had 5 picks, so it didn't qualify for the rankings. With no pick minimum, however, it ranked 24th-worst in VAE (-9.3) and 14th-worst in ROI (-73.7%).

84
by Thok :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 6:59pm

I understand why you limit it to the top 222, but it seems a bit cheap that the Chargers "benefit" in the rankings from the fact that their last pick was 234th rather than 222nd.

65
by MC2 :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:31am

Statistically speaking (ignoring attitude problems), I'm pretty sure Akili Smith (who was also the 2nd overall pick) was even worse than Ryan Leaf was.

66
by Jerry :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 2:11am

Let's look it up:

Akili Smith has a career AV of 1. Ryan Leaf's is 2. JaMarcus has a whopping 7. So, yeah, they all stink. I would treat Approximate Value as approximate and not use it to rank two guys who are one point apart.

67
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 8:01am

Akili Smith was #3 overall in 1999, not #2. Your overall point still stands though.

70
by MC2 :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 11:04am

Ah yes, you're right. I was thinking McNabb was drafted the year before Smith.

Incidentally, the Smith pick seems even more brutal when you look at the guys who went 4th-7th: Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt, and Champ Bailey. Ouch.

68
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 8:14am

"My guess for most valuable pick; Tom Brady (199th overall 2000)."

By ROI, I can't imagine it's anyone other than Brady. By the other measures, I'm not so sure. He'd definitely be up there though, by any measure.

74
by Dean :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:16pm

Bart Starr called. He said, "bitch, please."

75
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:40pm

Kind of surprising for a 79-year-old, but I'll take your word for it.

71
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 11:32am

For worst I did a little poking.

With the basic formula we can get the approximate ExAV/Yr we just don't have the draft adjustments easily, but it gets you a ball park.

Knowing the Leaf and Smith would set the bar pretty low let me narrow things down a bit. The first pick should get you around 7.18 AV/Yr without adjustments. Since there is a natural log factor in there things fall off pretty quickly and you have the following AV/Yr numbers before the adjustments that can shift things.

1. 7.18
2. 6.37
3. 5.89
4. 5.56
5. 5.30
6. 5.08

Leaf, #2 overall, was in the NFL for 4 years (98-01) and earned a whooping 2 AV or .5 AV per year. So he sets the bar at -5.87 Value above expected per year. Smith also had a 4 year "stint" earning 1 AV for .25 AV/Yr though as a #3 he was only expected to bring in around 5.89 a year. So he was only -5.64 VAE/Yr. So Leaf looks worse but I don't know how the drafts they were taken in will adjust stuff. But it gives me some boundaries.

So really only a top 4 pick who earn 0 AV could be worse in that regard. Doing a quick search at PFF (doesn't seem to keep the sort so click on the CarAV heading twice to get the descending sort) doesn't give me a top 10 pick (10 is 4.49 AV/Yr) that had produced a 0 since 1970. I went back to the 10th pick because I was looking considering something else.

Leaf comes in at -23.48 total value under expected for his career. Smith at -22.56. Might there be another high draft pick who hung around for longer who could challenge that? Someone who was bad but and continued to drag the franchise down for more than 4 years?

Well there is always Detroit to give you hope for finding something else at the bottom of a barrel. With the 7th pick in 1987 they took a DE from Washington by the name of Reggie Rogers. He is shown as last playing in 92 so that is 6 years to get his whole 1 AV. The .17 ExAV/Yr for a 7th pick only gives a -4.74 ExAV/Yr so not over that -5 mark of the big guys, but you give that 6 years and the total of -28.42 gives a bigger "total awfulness" score.

Now sadly my find turns out to not be so good. He only played 4 years as he was out of the league in 89 and 90. He got back on a roster in 91 with, who else, Buffalo. I won't rerun the numbers as I'm too saddened.

Kelly Stouffer a #6 pick looked like he might have stuck around for 5 years, but he too only played 4 of those 5. Which made me look at Leaf again, he too was also out of the league for a year or at least isn't listed on any rosters for 99. Of course even at 3 years Leaf's skyrocket from .5 AV/Yr to .67 AV/Yr and from -5.87 to -5.71 ExAV/Yr still has him edging Smith out, though he only comes in at -17.13 for the total giving Smith that crown, for now.

So what about JaMarcus. That 7.18 ExAV/Yr is pretty high. His 3 year career got him 7 AV which is a whooping 2.33 a year and leaves him at -4.85 a year and only -14.54 total. He tries but just doesn't quite make it.

Then we come to Ki-Jana Carter, as he played 7 years to get his 12 AV as a #1 pick. That gives him -5.47 ExAV/Yr and a whooping -38.26 total.

So the metric does give challenges to Leaf and Smith and even says JaMarcus wasn't the worst #1 pick (Steve Emtman would be the other to look at with Carter and Russell, but his 13 AV in 6 years makes Carter clearly worse).

Now again I don't have any of the adjustment factors in there, so those are just ballparks when you are looking at value and the numbers are going to shift, but it was interesting to look at.

76
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 12:41pm

For the best Brady should be pretty safe. I did a quick pull of all the players who had earned 120 AV or more since 1970 and ran a few quick numbers on the "lower round" picks and my favorite "diamond in the rough" pick of Donald Driver just for fun.

Under Driver I put all the 200+ AV guys because while they were all taken relatively early they also produced a ton too.


Player...........Pick...AV...Years...VAE/Yr..Total VAE
Tom Brady........199....178....13....12.71....165.17
Zach Thomas......154....149....13....10.17....132.27
Lemar Parrish....163....127....12.....9.36....112.36
Shannon Sharpe...192....132....14.....8.40....117.60
Richard Dent.....203....122....15.....7.17....107.55
Mike Webster.....125....143....17.....6.88....116.98
Hardy Nickerson..122....131....16.....6.63....106.05


Donald Driver....213.....95....14.....5.88.....82.30


Ray Lewis.........26....222....17.....9.69....164.74
Brett Favre.......33....254....20.....9.61....192.22
Dan Marino........27....216....17.....9.38....159.49
Reggie White.......4....222....15.....9.24....138.63
Peyton Manning.....1....235....15.....8.49....127.30
Jerry Rice........16....246....21.....7.78....163.34
John Elway.........1....203....16.....5.51.....88.12
Bruce Smith........1....216....19.....4.19.....79.58

Again these aren't adjusted so things will change when Danny runs the real numbers.

So while Brady is outperforming expectations on a yearly basis better than anyone else I grabbed his total value isn't quite so clearly better than earlier picks as Favre played forever at a high to very high level and Ray Lewis wasn't too bad either. If Brady tails off he could slip behind him, Rice, or Marino, whose longer careers got them more total value. It's interesting to see Zach Thomas up there 5th round picks can still climb these charts.

Driver of course was just my homerism but it is interesting to see what a moderately long steady career can get you from a 7th rounder. He was never all pro, never lead the league in any major category and only made 3 Pro Bowls, but he comes out more valuable as a draft pick than a Hall of Famer selected first overall and is right there with another one.

Oh and for fun, since this only goes to pick 222 I poked at the very tail end and have the clear winner for the best 222nd pick in the draft. Good enough that he easily belongs in the quick charts above. Ladies and Gentlemen. Trent Green

Pick: 222, AV: 111, Years: 11, VAE/Yr: 9.23, VAE: 101.55

I can't really think of anyone else that might be lying in the weeds to knock off Brady up top even with adjustments that I don't have with the quick numbers.

78
by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 1:53pm

Obviously won't give anything away, but you guys are definitely in the ballpark. One thing I'd add to the conversation, though, is that the lower limit for ROI is -100%, and there were over 2,000 players drafted in the first 222 picks between 1970 and 2007 who ended up with -100% ROI. Players like Akili Smith, Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, etc., all had at least 1 AV, so ROI isn't even going to rank them in the bottom 2,000 or so. Now, VAE is another matter. It captures their horribleness much better.

p.s. At the top of the list, you're missing a few people, but there's particularly one MAJOR omission that I don't think is anywhere near as obscure to a casual fan as the others.

80
by MC2 :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 2:40pm

I would guess that you're referring to Joe Montana (82nd overall in 1979, 123 Career AV), or possibly Terrell Davis (196th overall in 1995, 72 Career AV).

81
by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 2:52pm

Yep, one of those two.

82
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 3:05pm

I didn't really scape too deeply with my quick searches of PFR, both Montana and Terrel Owens (showed up right next to each other in one of my searches) work out to around 9 VAE/YR and 135 or so total VAE for example. Definitely good but not really in contention for the other stuff I quickly scraped up. I also never bothered to really try and cherry pick, I just ran the searches and looked at the quick bracketing stuff. Since they search tools don't give great ways to work draft order and AV into the search while eliminating a bunch of stuff you know won't work well and I'm not just grabbing the full data set, late second to fourth round guys are simply not going to pop out quickly with the tools I have.

Terrell Davis is who I would have guessed if I wasn't using crude filters, but it's hard for me to easily catch the mid length career guys.

Davis is 10.14 and 70.97. So in the Zach Thomas range. I'd have to think more to try and spot others.

Jared Allen and Lance Briggs are probably pretty solid as well on a per year basis.
Yep Briggs is 9.66 and Allen 10.37.

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by LionInAZ :: Mon, 04/15/2013 - 6:19pm

I wouldn't dismiss the idea that Tom Brady is the most valuable draft pick of all time, but...

What is missing here is an analysis of UDFAs concurrently. For example, what would be the VAE of a James Harrison?