Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 May 2013

Grading the NFL Draft

Draft grades, teacher style.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 02 May 2013

37 comments, Last at 06 May 2013, 12:17pm by bravehoptoad


by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 6:00pm

What an fascinating and awesome article! Awesome work, Mike. I'll contrast this to whoever the guy was that SI.com had grading the draft online. He gave the Broncos a poor grade freely admitting he didn't understand what they were trying to do. Mike not only understood their strategy, but decided they'd been proficient at it. And interesting takes on both the Patriots and Colts, just to name a couple.

by Theo :: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 6:31pm

In the other thread "2013 NFL Draft Report Card Report" there were quite a few requests for a "draft grade 6 years later". This was regarding the draft graders, not the drafters or draftees.

A good idea is to write a similar article about the 2007 draft class. Does anyone know if someone writes those articles?

If no one does it, I might do it myself.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 6:22am

Do you mean this sort of article?


List of links to 1998 - 2006 at end ...

by Theo :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 6:59am

I mean an article like that, that looks back on how the teams have drafted... and to continue on that: what the 'experts' then thought about the draft.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 7:13pm

I like the grading style, though it won't be easy to include these draft grades in next year's review here on F.O. It was certainly the most fun set of draft grades to read. It also felt as if three times as much thought went into them.

Tangential question: is Tanier using "blue-chip" right? A blue-chip stock is a big, safe one, right? IBM, Nissan, etc., etc. Doesn't dazzle, but usually safe in a downturn? Relatively low risk, mediocre reward?

The kind of players he's describing don't seem to metaphorically match the kind of stock he's talking about (and let's not get into the difficulty of visualizing someone "swinging for blue chippers." I'm picturing a bewildered Barry Bonds at the end of his swing, surrounded by a flurry of drifting paper stocks.)

by Jon Goldman (not verified) :: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 10:01pm

Yeah, Mike seems to have an idea of what the teams actually want to accomplish with their picks.

As to your second question: From Wikipedia: "According to the New York Stock Exchange, a blue chip is stock in a corporation with a national reputation for quality, reliability, and the ability to operate profitably in good times and bad. The most popular index which follows U.S. blue chips is the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 blue-chip stocks that are generally the leaders in their industry. It has been a widely followed indicator of the stock market since October 1, 1928."

So it means consistently top-notch.

by Tim Wilson :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 5:30am

Top-notch and with the appropriate attendant price tag. Blue chip stocks cost a lot and reliably perform well. The previous poster indicated a concern over "mediocre return," but that actually makes them an even better fit with first-round picks or high-priced free agents. The type of "high reward" assets you're talking about would be more equivalent to a Tom Brady or other late round fliers that have the potential to vastly outperform their acquisition cost.

by SandyRiver :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 10:42am

College recruiters use "blue chip" to describe highly sought-after HS athletes. This is probably closer to what is meant in the article.

by Dr. Parent of Two Schoolchildren (not verified) :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 12:02pm

I also found the grading shtick awesome, both as a commentary on pedagogical grading practices and as a commentary on NFL draft grading practices.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 7:40pm

This is obviously off-topic, but I recently tried visiting FO using the free WiFi from a local hospital, and it got blocked as "adult content." Might have something to do with those "10 grossest things young women do in bed" ads.

by BigWoody (not verified) :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 12:16am

WAIT!..what? Where are these ads? I only get Cheap Car ads. Damn!

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 11:09am

I've got one on the page right now saying "20 shameful things girls secretly want you do." These places can't even structure sentences properly! I hope things are going okay for FO, because they've got the bottom of the barrel when it comes to advertising.

by Dr. Just Ignore Her Piercing Eyes (not verified) :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 11:54am

Bring back Catholic Match Girl!

by Will Allen :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 9:37pm

Lemme guess.....one of the shameful things was drafting Mark Sanchez in your fantasy league.

by Theo :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 6:15pm

If you can, I would highly recommend Ad Blocker Plus.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 05/02/2013 - 11:10pm

To get some sense of modern professional football, imagine the Vikings and Packers in a remake of Freaky Friday, except the swapped people merely change organizations. If Rodgers had horns on his hat, and Ponder a consonant on his, how would the money line change on the two games between the teams this season?

by speedegg :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 12:48am

whoa. I don't like draft grades right after the draft, but this was different. Good review of teams ability to identify needs, assess talent, and go get talent.

More process driven than result driven, but you definitely see what teams have a plan and what teams have hope...and hope is not a method.

by ammek :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 7:05am

Why is it only ever offensive linemen that are projected as "ten-year starters"? Of the 10 active players drafted in the first three rounds in 2003 who have started for nine seasons or more, only one (Jordan Gross) is a lineman. Three are defensive backs, two are receivers.

by Dean :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 8:38am

Because with other positions we have stats to measure them. A 10 sack guy. An 80 catch guy. Etc.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 10:04am

Because good offensive linemen have careers lengths longer than good players at all other positions, except perhaps for kickers.

Or you're Lou Groza, who was both.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 11:48am

the (non special teams) position where players stick around longest is almost certainly quarterback. both top qbs and some journeymen routinely play into their late 30s. even the best left tackles rarely make it to 35, and they're often finished as top players around age 30, often because of injuries. the situation is worse for guards. I don't have a good sense for centers, but it wouldn't surprise me if the freaks like jeff saturday and kevin mawae are very rare.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 05/05/2013 - 1:13pm

All players who last 15 or more years are rare.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 10:33am

"Because good offensive linemen have careers lengths longer than good players at all other positions, except perhaps for kickers."

Except they really don't.

For players over >=34 last year, there were 12 OL, 12 DBs, 10LB, 7WR, 5 DL, 4 QB, and 19 P/Kers.

Frankly, of that, I'd say LB age the best, as there are typically 5 starting DBs and OL, and only 3.5 starting LB. (other than kickers/punters of course)

by Dice :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 12:15pm

By far the most entertaining of the draft grading articles, and IMO the best of them.

by maxnote :: Fri, 05/03/2013 - 11:27pm

Great analysis. I haven't read much non-Seahawks based draft analysis because most people don't understand what different teams were trying to do. This article was the exception.

I have 2 minor quibbles.
1. I don't think Werner was a very good pick for the Colts. While I think he would be a good 4-3 end, I think he'll have trouble playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker, because he isn't quite as fast or agile. It seems like they just cut Freeney because he had the same problem: great DE, but bad OLB. In my opinion, the reigning executive of the year has made a lot of bad moves this offseason (see: Walden, Erik)

2. I disagree with San Fransisco's "Outstanding" use of resources. It seemed to me like the prevailing opinion in the front office was "Well, our team is so stacked that most of the guys we draft won't make the team anyway, so we should find a way to draft less players. If I was a Niners fan, I would have liked to see them take more guys, and even if they didn't all make the team, they would have had a better chance to find a diamond in the rough. They also could have traded more picks for picks next year. The 49ers still had a great draft, especially with Carradine and Lattimore, but I'm not as scared of them as I could have been.

by Kaelik (not verified) :: Sat, 05/04/2013 - 8:46am

As to your statements about San Fran:

1) Would you rather take 14 guys in the seventh to find the diamond or one guy in the first? If you don't have a lot of room on your roster, it is a lot easier to get quality players from earlier picks, because you don't have to hope you successfully evaluate a bunch of questionable players before final roster deadlines.

2) I'm sure they would have traded more picks for next year if anyone was willing to make that deal. The consensus was that this draft was crap, not a lot of teams seemed eager to get a specific guy in this draft enough to give up a pick next year for him.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 05/04/2013 - 11:28am

From opinions I've read it was poor at the top half of the first round but strong in the mid rounds.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 05/04/2013 - 3:33pm

Which probably isn't that useful for a team like San Fran who already have strong players throughout their roster.

by Karl Cuba :: Sun, 05/05/2013 - 12:46pm

I'm not sure your criticism of the niners makes that much sense, trading in to future drafts is great if a team is offering you the chance to do so but you cannot know if that was the case. They did pick up a third rounder next year to go with the 2/3 for Alex Smith from the Chiefs, the 3/4 in compensation for losing Dashon Goldson and I believe a seventh for Taylor Mays. It is entirely possible that they will end up with a similar amount of draft capital as they had this year.

Your other argument is that they should have drafted more players but why would they want to draft a load of players who will end up on other teams' rosters? They did take eleven players as it is and the guys taken after the fifth round will likely have to go to the practice squad or maybe the inactive portion of the roster.

You also have to take into account that they added Anquan Boldin and a decent backup quarterback in Colt McCoy with the draft capital they had.

My only real quibble with the niners' draft is that I would have liked to see a true nose guard like John Jenkins or maybe Jesse williams but it seems that the niners think they have that covered with Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey.

by LionInAZ :: Sun, 05/05/2013 - 10:54pm

My complaint is that it seems the 49ers got a high grade because they picked up high injury risk players like Carridine and Lattimore below their perceived value -- but under the assumption that the Niners wlll have the same injury luck that they've experienced the past couple of years, so those picks won't be forced to start befrore they're ready.

by Kaelik (not verified) :: Sun, 05/05/2013 - 11:34pm

I think the point is that they have the depth already in most cases, that even if they did experience injuries, they would be able to handle it better than most any other team. They picked up high risk players because if some of them pan out, they are better off than they would have been, and if no one pans out, they are still just fine because they do already have the depth.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 10:37am

"I think the point is that they have the depth already in most cases, that even if they did experience injuries, they would be able to handle it better than most any other team. They picked up high risk players because if some of them pan out, they are better off than they would have been, and if no one pans out, they are still just fine because they do already have the depth."

Right, but its kind of strange that he lauds the 49ers for doing that, and then criticizes several other teams that are also very good (like the Patriots)

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 7:50am

Well give them Reid, McDonald, Lemonier, Patton and Boldin and they have a decent haul without anything from Carradine and Lattimore.

Carradine's rehab seems to be progressing nicely, so that's probably less of a risk and Lattimore is a way down on the depth chart, below Gore, Hunter, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon. It would take a major rash of injuries for the niners to need Lattimore this year.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 8:35am

Carradine and Lattimore were 2014 picks not 2013 picks. That's how I look at it. Since they couldn't find a trade partner who who would give them a pick next year, they took players who they can stash on PUP/IR. I expect both will end up on IR before the season is out, though they might start on PUP so that they can potentially get some practice time (the four week window) before ending up on IR and being part of the 2014 draft class but with a year of classroom under their belts.

As mentioned, when you don't have a lot of needs, you take the high upside, high risk players, preferably as late as possible, and you take a few solid depth players. It's what they did, it's what the Patriots have done in the past that confused people too.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 10:47am

My issue with the "Drafting 2014 players" thing is that a huge part of a draftpick's value is the below-market contract.

When you draft a guy and put him on IR the first year, you've essentially thrown away a third of the value of the pick. You've pretty much assured that you won't have a chance to sign him to a longer deal before the end of the first contract also.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 11:43am

Yes but the upside is high enough that if you don't draft them, someone else will and then you don't have them at all if they do work out. The other option is you draft someone who isn't injured and doesn't appear to have as much upside, they don't make your deep roster, you cut them and then they are signed by someone else, and you completely threw the pick away. Is 3 years of a Pro Bowl or All Pro player better than 0? If you are rebuilding you can't generally afford to do this. If you are established, you can, and Seattle, Green Bay, New England, and a few other teams can and do draft the same type of players, you can't just let them go completely.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 12:17pm

I wonder if San Francisco's continual willingness to draft from the All-ACL team is that they're OWNED by a doctor. He knows the importance of medical resources; consequently they're more confident in their ability to diagnose and treat those problems.