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19 Apr 2007

FO Re-run: Draft Position

Guest column by Tim Murray

Ed. note: This article was very popular last April, and we've had so many people asking about it that we decided to run it again. You'll find the original article and discussion thread here. These are all the same charts as last year; for updated charts with 2006 starters, you can buy the ESPN Magazine Draft Special. That's one of the many pieces of FO-related content. Not to sound like a salesman, but it's a really awesome combination of scouting from Scouts Inc. and stat analysis from FO, written for the hardcore football fan rather than the casual fan who reads the usual biweekly ESPN magazine. I'm awful proud of it. Anyway, enjoy Tim's article again. -- Aaron Schatz

Last April, Paul Tagliabue walked to the podium at Madison Square Garden and let the cat out of the bag. "With the tenth pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select Mike Williams, wide receiver, University of Southern California." Tagliabue is a pretty straight-laced guy, and a certain businesslike demeanor is probably a prerequisite for the Commissioner position, but you have to wonder how much Tags had to fight the urge to preface the pick announcement with, "You're not going to believe this."?

It wasn't the "Mike Williams"? part of the announcement that was so surprising -- Williams was generally regarded as a top five talent in the draft and draftnik extraordinaire Mel Kiper, Jr. had spent the first few hours of the draft on ESPN talking him up as the top talent. Rather, it was the "Wide Receiver"? part of the announcement that got everyone so hot and bothered. The Lions were, and by all counts still are, an awful team with gaping holes at just about every position that had used top ten picks in each of the previous two years on the wide receiver position.

Several hours later, the New York Jets provided another surprising announcement from the MSG podium by using their initial pick, a second-rounder, on kicker Mike Nugent. There was somewhat less initial surprise at this pick than that of Williams, but it did provide material for roughly half of the jokes in Pro Football Prospectus 2005. Again, the question is not Mike Nugent's ability as a place kicker, but rather whether using an early draft pick at that position was an efficient use of team building resources.

The central point in both instances was the position of the player being drafted. There is an oft-repeated draft cliche that could be called the "Best Available Player Theory."? If I had a nickel for every time I heard Charley Casserly explain his draft decisions while Redskins General Manager as "we picked the best guy on the board,"? I might be able to afford the ridiculous price of parking at FedEx Field next year. And he's just one of many GMs who use the standby line somewhat compulsively. The theory basically says: always pick the best player available, regardless of position. Picking the best player regardless of position was exactly what the Lions did, and exactly not what the Jets did. Both were extreme interpretations of the value of the Best Available Player Theory, and neither proved to be a wise decision.

Clearly there is a point between the two extremes where optimal adherence to the Best Available Player Theory exists. Having a remarkable collection of wideouts does you no good if there is no competent quarterback to throw to them or an offensive line capable of protecting the quarterback long enough for them to get open. On the other hand, grabbing a place kicker with your first pick because you believe that is your biggest need exhibits a complete disregard of the need for roster depth in the injury-laden NFL.

So how should GMs navigate the grey area in between? In practice, most seem to rely on their gut. The magnitude of influence the head coach wields is often a factor as well, typically pushing away from best available and toward greatest areas of need. The bottom line is that it's probably a more subjective than objective process. And for us numbers geeks, that just won't do.

One way to improve decision making would be to acquire knowledge of the "opportunity cost"? (to borrow a term from economics) incurred by any team that chooses to ignore a position of need in order to take the best available player. More simply put, if a team's positions of need can be addressed later in the draft (or even with an undrafted free agent) then the team can afford to go with the best available talent. In an effort to provide a cursory understanding of opportunity cost at each position I have compiled histograms of the round in which each starter on all 32 NFL teams was drafted. For each position we can see if certain positions can be addressed later in the draft than others, and identify where the real drop-off in talent seems to occur.

First, let's look at the distribution of starters at all positions, so we have an idea of how individual positions differ from the norm:

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 55%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 16%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 53%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 16%

The blue bars represent the percentage of league wide starters drafted in that round. The red bars represent the percentage of league wide starters drafted in that round that are still with the team that drafted them.

Both bars show a steady decline in the probability of players drafted in each subsequent round becoming starters, but with a somewhat unexpected rise between the sixth and seventh rounds. This is likely skewed by the fact that the NFL awards a lot of compensatory picks in the seventh round, so there are a few more seventh-rounders floating around than sixth-rounders. However, that shouldn't be enough to cause an increase, so we can probably presume that there is little to no talent drop off between the sixth and seventh rounds. One might also presume that this trend continues past those players selected in round seven, which would mean that there is very little difference between sixth and seventh round picks and "priority"? undrafted free agents. In other words, don't get excited when your teams lands a sixth round pick in a trade, it is only a small upgrade over signing a guy that went undrafted.

Another point of note is that the drop off between round one and round two is significantly larger than that in any other round. Does this mean that there is an added premium between rounds one and two? It probably does, but this effect may also be skewed by the enormous contracts handed out to first round picks which often force teams to give starting roles to their top picks whether they have earned them or not.

All of this is mildly interesting and useful, but the real value to draft strategy lies in the positional analysis. The individual position histograms can generally be grouped into four categories: top heavy, normal distribution, early round peak, and flat. Based on these categories we can make some general assumptions as to when it becomes too late in the draft to confidently address an area of need.

(Note: click here to download a list of the players considered at each position, and when they were drafted.)

Top Heavy

"Top Heavy"? are those positions which are almost entirely addressed in the early portion of the draft, mostly via the first round. The inference is that these are positions that need to be addressed very early in the draft. This group includes quarterback, running back, #1 wide receiver, defensive tackle, and offensive tackle.

Essentially what we see encompassed here are high-profile skill position players (QB, RB, and WR) and guys with exceptional athletic ability for their size (DT, OT). These are the types of players that are hard to miss when evaluating talent. Even a small college skill position player who puts up eye-popping statistics will grab the attention of scouts, so exceptional skill position players will rarely get overlooked. Those that do slide will 1) have durability (or "character"?) issues that have kept them off the field, 2) be somewhat raw in terms of technique, or 3) have been misfit to their college offensive system. Meanwhile, the "Planet Theory"? guys that you'll find excelling at offensive and defensive tackle are also going to make extra large blips on scouts' radar screens. (The Planet Theory is Bill Parcells' philosophy that there are so few men both large enough and athletic enough to be NFL linemen that they are intrinsically valuable.) They may not have impressive statistics to shed light on their talents, but their "measurables"? will make them very hard to miss.

Percentage with the team that drafted them:53%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 16%

The quarterback position is especially top heavy. Exactly half of the starting QBs in the NFL (when this data was collected) were drafted in the first round. For whatever reason, the sixth round has been fairly lucrative, but pretty much anything after round one is a long shot. Interestingly, some of the better signal-callers have not been selected in the first four rounds: Tom Brady, Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger, Trent Green, and Jake Delhomme. But only Brady has been productive for the team he was originally drafted by. (If the Saints had recognized the potential in either Bulger or Delhomme, they would have been a much better team the last few years. At least the Packers got some compensation for Brunell and Hasselbeck -- and seemed to have a pretty productive guy at QB anyway.)

The QB position is by far the toughest to fill, and most teams are (and should be) willing to fill it by any means necessary. First round QBs are no sure thing, but anyone picked after the first round appears to be a very long shot that will require several years of development. And even those late round guys that do work out will probably have to move to a new team to be successful. The bottom line here is that until you've found your guy you should jump at any opportunity to acquire a quality starter, be it early in the draft, late in the draft, via trade, or through free agency. Don't pass on a QB early in the draft because you also like a guy that could be had later. If you are really in need of a QB you should probably draft them both.

It's less imperative to grab a runner in round one, but the well appears to dry up after round four. It doesn't appear that you have to use a top pick to get one of the better runners, but it certainly improves your chances of success. Alternatively, you could just wait for the Broncos to get tired of the one they happen to have at the moment.

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 66%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 6%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 58%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 14%

Wide receiver is the only position the NFL lists on depth charts with a corresponding number one and number two. All the other positions with multiple starters are designated via left or right. This allows us to differentiate between the premium players and the secondary one on each team (more or less, that is. There are a lot of number twos that would be number one on another team. And occasionally the designations seem a bit off -- Terrell Owens was listed as number two by the Eagles in deference to Greg Lewis.) The histogram for WR1 is nearly identical to that of running backs. There's not much available after round four, first-rounders have a significantly greater success rate, and stars can be had in all of the first four rounds. As is the case with running backs, if you have a need here you'd better plan on addressing it in round one or with multiple picks in the first four rounds.

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 42%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 19%
Percentage with the team that drafted them:66%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 8%

The defensive tackle position is heavily weighted toward the first round, but fairly flat thereafter. This seems consistent with the Planet Theory explanation. The DTs with truly freakish abilities aren't plentiful enough to occupy most of the 57 starting DT positions in the NFL (there are not two per team because of the many 3-4 alignments in use), so once the elite guys are taken at the top of the draft the talent pool evens out quite a bit. The late round picks and undrafted players are almost entirely one-dimensional players that can occupy multiple blockers but aren't much of a threat to rush the passer. The lesson here appears to be that you're not going to have many opportunities to find a two dimensional DT, so don't pass on a guy like that lightly. Alternatively, if you are just looking for a big guy to occupy blockers on first and second down, that need can wait.

The offensive tackle histogram actually does not look particularly top-heavy, but a closer look reveals that most teams fill at least one of their tackle slots with an early round pick. Generally the top guy mans the left side, but that is not always the case. The key is that you need at least one guy on the edge who can be left in one-on-one situations and not need help. Those guys are rare, and are pretty much always picked early. Below are histograms which break down the position into "T1"? and "T2"?. This is not a reference to Schwarzenegger films or high speed internet connections. T1 is the starter for each team who was drafted earliest. T2 is the starter drafted later.

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 78%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 0%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 56%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 13%

That's quite a difference. So we see a dichotomy similar to that of the defensive tackle position. You'll need at least one elite guy, and you are going to have to find him early. Another point of note is the high percentage of T1s that are with the team that originally drafted them. This is probably a function of the particularly high success rate of early picks used on OTs and the tendency for teams to hold on to them. So the opportunities to find a top OT outside of the early part of the draft are extremely limited. If you don't already have a guy you can trust in one on one pass blocking situations, you'd better have a good reason to pass on one, no matter how early in the draft.


Normal Distribution

"Normal Distribution"? describes those positions where the histogram follows the pattern similar to that of all positions in aggregate. Normal Distribution includes defensive ends, cornerbacks, linebackers, tight ends, and number two wide receivers. These are positions where it's best to look for value. There are starting caliber players to be had at these positions throughout the draft, but there is definitely a drop off in success rate with each successive round.

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 58%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 9%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 59%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 6%

At defensive end and cornerback you pretty much get what you pay for. The elite players are usually gone by the end of round two, but there are plenty useful players available after that. These positions are somewhat intertwined in that a good pass rush can help mask poor cover guys and vice versa. As a result, most teams tend to spend early picks on either one spot or the other according to their defensive philosophy. Teams that neglect both positions are those that either use a 3-4 alignment where linebackers and safeties provide most of the pressure (like Pittsburgh) or have a defense that routinely gets lit up like a Christmas tree (like Arizona and Green Bay).

(Note: R.Bartell and E.Hobbs have been fixed in cornerback graph.)

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 69%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 9%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 44%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 26%

Linebacker is a position where there never seems to be a shortage of talent. It's kind of the anti-Planet Theory position. I'm not saying there are 6-foot-2, 230 pound guys that can run a 4.5 on every street corner in America, but there seem to be 10 to 20 in every draft class. The elite guys are set apart by instinct, desire, and hard work. That's not always easy to identify, so there will be some bargains late in the draft and even some that don't get drafted. The gifted guys who were extremely productive at the big time programs are the ones that go early and seldom disappoint, so there's no reason not use an early pick to fill a need at linebacker -- just don't do it at the expens of filling a need at a top heavy position. There will be good players available later if you know how to find them. OLB bargains are often undersized college defensive ends who make the transition to "playing in reverse"? well (like Clark Haggans and Adalius Thomas). ILB generally requires more football intelligence than OLB, so the bargains are in the form of guys with relatively average athletic skills but great football minds (like Zach Tomas and Antonio Pierce).

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 56%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 16%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 69%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 13%

Tight ends and number two wide receivers are usually the guys that keep defenses honest. Roll coverage toward Marvin Harrison and away from Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark at your own risk. Top notch TEs and WR2s are luxury items. They're great to have if you can afford them. Most teams can't, because they've got bigger needs elsewhere and wisely choose to address this one later in the draft. Every so often a superstar TE like Tony Gonzalez or Jeremy Shockey comes along with the kind of ability that allows them to be focal points of an offense, so they're worthy of an early to mid first round pick. Vernon Davis is probably one of these guys. But for the most part, TEs and prospective number two wideouts only slip into the back end of the first round when teams are looking to compliment an already strong roster.

Early Round Peak

"Early Round Peak"? includes only safeties and centers. In both cases the number of starters is at a peak after the first round (2nd round for safeties, 3rd for centers) and then reverts to a fairly normal distribution. The most likely explanation for this is that the top athletes usually get pushed to other positions in college and high school, so there just aren't many that are talented enough to warrant first round consideration.

Percentage with the team that drafted them:45%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 28%
Percentage with the team that drafted them:47%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 22%

Take a look at the former first round picks playing at safety. Other than Troy Vincent, who is a cornerback who moved to safety after slowing late in his career, you've got some pretty heavy hitters and exceptional ballhawks. But there have also been plenty of great players available deep into the draft. I think most of the guys with exceptional speed and the size to play safety get moved to wide receiver in high school and college, so the freakishly talented athletes are rare at this position. The type of guys that succeed here are similar to inside linebackers: guys with great football instincts that don't shy away from collisions. Those qualities can be tough to identify, especially with a lack of statistics to help identify the standouts. This is a position that can be addressed late in the draft if need be, but you'll be hard pressed to find a good one after the fifth round.

Centers taken in the first round don't seem to be consistently that much better than guys nabbed in rounds two or three. There's also plenty of solid guys who were available deep into the draft pool. Teams looking to address their offensive line early in the draft would probably be better off looking at the tackle position.


"Flat"? histograms are found at guard, fullback, and special teams. These are the positions where starters have been found with similar success in all rounds of the draft as well as via undrafted free agents. These are the positions where teams would clearly be better off filing needs with a training camp battle royale of sixth and seventh round picks and UFAs.

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 47%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 20%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 38%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 34%

The guard position has produced a number of quality players in round one like Steve Hutchinson and Alan Faneca. Teams with power running games probably need at least one power blocking guard they can run behind, which they'll probably need to find in the first three rounds. The successful zone blocking teams (Denver, Atlanta, Indianapolis), on the other hand, seem able to find solid performers amongst guys picked in round five or later.

Fullback is a position where there's just no reason to use an early round pick. The histogram is actually somewhat misleading, as most of the early picks are guys who are not true fullbacks. Rather, they are either H-Backs (Chris Cooley), players used often as featured runners (Greg Jones, Mike Alstott), or players who may be featured at fullback on the official team depth chart because the head coach has been joining them for recreational activities (Ricky Williams).

Percentage with the team that drafted them: 41%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 37%
Percentage with the team that drafted them: 59%
Percentage of Undrafted Free Agents (or 8+): 22%

Special teams are important. It is an area which teams cannot ignore and expect to be successful. But it should never be treated as more than an afterthought in the draft. Neither quality return men nor quality kicking specialists are more likely to be found earlier in the draft than late. In fact, most of the better special teamers do not find success with their original employer. If you need to improve your special teams, find a good special teams coach and pay close attention to the waiver wire. On draft day: fuggetaboutit.

Putting It Together

So what does this all mean when April 29 rolls around? First, let me point out that this is nothing more than a snapshot of history. 832 data points represents a lot of information, but it's still relatively small as sample sizes go. As further disclaimer, the past is not a perfect predictor of the future, although it's usually the best information we've got. Then again, a few years ago there were no data points telling us to go look for the next great tight end on Kent State's basketball team.

With that said, I believe there are some draft strategy guidelines that can be gleaned from the data:

1) Address your needs at "Top-Heavy" positions first and foremost, particularly QB, DT, and T1.
2) Look for value at the "Normal Distribution" spots. Many of the best value picks come from guys at these positions who slide into rounds two through four.
3) Immensely talented safeties are rare, but you won't have trouble finding a quality safety in rounds two through five. A talented RB like DeAngelo Williams is probably a better use of resources than someone like Donte Whitner if you've got a need for both.
4) Wait until at least the end of round one to fill a need at center. Nick Mangold is awfully talented, but not worth a top pick if you've got needs elsewhere.
5) Spend late-round picks and undrafted free agent bonuses to collect prospects on offensive line, one dimensional defensive tackles, fullbacks, and special teams. A few of these will work out, and allow you to use your more valuable resources elsewhere.

At the end of the day, every team has pretty much the same arsenal of resources with which to build their roster (although some may have a little more cash for signing bonuses than others). The teams which can manage to use those resources most economically will ultimately field the most talented teams. It's not just about player evaluation; it's also about knowing how and when to address your specific needs.

Tim Murray works for an investment advisory firm in Bethesda, Maryland. He's been an ardent NFL draft observer for the past fifteen years. If you have an idea for a guest column, something that analyzes the NFL from a distinctive point of view, please email us at info@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Guest on 19 Apr 2007

63 comments, Last at 25 Apr 2007, 3:28pm by Pat


by Trevor (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 11:57pm

2 great articles about the draft in 1 week. wow... thanks

by db (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:13am

I loved this piece the first time around. It would be very interesting to track this type of data for several seasons. Barring that, an update would be great.

by BigManChili (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:48am

Wow. Seriously. I'm impressed. Good read.

by BillWallace (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 3:14am

A redskins fan writing a huge draft analysis article? the IRONY

by Shawn (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 4:49am

To figure out who to draft you need to combine this (excellent) information with an analysis of the impact of each position on winning. Clearly, it is important to know where you can find starters, but finding starters at the impact positions is key. This article would seem to suggest that while pundits cry "defense wins championships", it's more important to find key offensive starters (QB, WR, RB, OT, TE1) at the top of the draft than defensive players, and this meets with most fans intuition as they watch the draft.

Moreover, when you add in the fact that FO has demonstrated on several occasions that it is easier to maintain offensive success year-to-year than defensive excellence, it is easy to see why teams draft offense early and the Colts repeatedly let their starting defenders go in free agency.

Being mainly a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions, I'm boggled at the fact that both teams seem determined to pass on first round WRs despite the blatant need in K.C. and the moderate need in Detroit (who cuts Corey Bradford, signs Az Hakim, cuts Az Hakim, signs Kevin Kasper, cuts Kevin Kasper, and re-signs Corey Bradford to then PASS on Calvin Johnson?)

The breakdown between #1 and #2 WRs also illuminates the necessity to use a 1st round pick on a WR if you want that receiver to actually make an impact. To try to dissuade fans on message boards in both cities that you have any better than a lottery ticket chance of finding a starter after the first round, I charted all of the drafts back to 1998 and found that 20 of the 41 starting WRs drafted in that time period were drafted in the first round. But, just as importantly, you had just as good a chance to draft a receiver who would go on to multiple 1000 yard seasons in the first round as you were simply a STARTER in the second round.

Another crucial piece of information to weighing value of positions on draft day is the average expected longevity of starters by position. If - and I have no more than anecdotal evidence suggesting it - QB and WR are positions where elite players have very long careers then those positions are twice as valuable as positions like RB, where even stars like Larry Johnson will soon need to be replaced.

Regardless, the Lions will probably still pass on Calvin Johnson (Dane Looker will be available when the Rams smartly draft Ted Ginn; hurray for Rams retreads!). And the Chiefs, despite having the worst WRs in the NFL, will take a player at a position like C or G (last year the Chiefs drafted a slow safety in the second round and seemed surprised he was beaten out by their 7th round draft pick).

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 8:35am

BillWallace (#4 )--

Why not? A Redskin fan can be completely objective about the draft, having nothing at stake. ;)

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 9:35am

this is interesting because I always regardied RB as a position which was better to fill later in the draft

go figure

by pawnking (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 10:02am

Very interesting. So the theory is go OT, QB, DT, then WR for your first and second round picks, and mine for other bargens later. By this idea, teams already loaded at these positions are the ones who should move down/trade for subsequent years' picks, while the teams with glaring needs at these positions should try to trade up. It also therefore makes sense that the Raiders should take a chance on Russell, simply because if there's even a 50% chance he'll develop into a great QB, he's worth the money.

Very cool stuff.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 10:19am

Great point about tackles. The left guy doesn't have to be the stud, the important part is that one of your tackles can be left in 1 on 1 situations.

Players can be moved to safety because of beyond terrible hands. Safeties are generally round 2 picks, because there are only so many Sean Taylors, Brian Dawkins and Troy Palamalous. Leron Laundry is one of those guys with freakish abilities that is marginally a lot better than what can be had in later rounds ( hence worth a 1st round pick). The bust rate is also probably lower for a safety with freakish skills.

My question though is regards the market inefficincies. These histograms are taking a snap shot at the current state of the NFL. Good teams, average teams, and bad teams. Why are we looking at "what is"? Why are we looking at everybody?

Robert Gallery was the #2 pick and a starter, but his underperformed the slot. In these statistics his team would have selected a Tackle #2 overall and started him, but that doesn't neccesarily mean that he is good. All it means is that his bad team doesn't have any better alternatives at tackle.

What I am getting at is maybe there is a better way to study the good " and efficient" teams that draft well, instead of ALL of the teams who draft, good, bad, average.

Instead of just offering critique, I would maybe suggest looking at teams that meet certain criteria ( winning percentage over 5 or 10 years) and then studying the trends on those teams.

If you draft a HOF QB in round 6, not only did you get outstanding value for that pick, but you won't have to waste future 1st round picks trying to find your quarterback ( who won't be better anyways).

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 10:23am

Or maybe the criteria for studying the teams would be if made they made the post season the past 2 years or so. That would leave out the Detroits, Oaklands and Arizonas of the world ( the market inefficiencies).

by james (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 11:07am

re 10,

This article wasn't meant to be that in depth, IMO. With the exception of a few guys who start for bad teams a starter in the nfl is a starter.

If we want to get picky we will have to point at the a starting DT plays significantly less plays than any other starter in the league.

This article is pretty much an abstract for a study they could very well turn out to be a 700 page manual if someone was inclined to cover every nook and cranny and the crannies of the nook and crannies.

by james (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 11:14am

re 8,

IMO top 10 picks are for guys who change the game.

For example in school there are A students and then there are the students that have to take independant study classes.

The rest of the first round is for A students but top 10 picks are a failure in a my mind if you don't find the type of guy who the other teams will have no answer.

This year there are at least 3 guys like that(CJ, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson)

If you draft one of these guys you cannot go wrong. I don't care what "needs" you have or what failures you have had in the past years if you let one of these guys go then you are an idiot.

Then there is Landry and Reivis. These guys are not as highly regarded as the other three but you cannot go wrong with them either, they are studs who played well since they were teens in college and that tends to translate well to the pros.

my two cents

by Led (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 11:23am

Seems to me it's more important to draft good players than draft players at any particular positions. That's why people talk about the best player available. You do that and you maximize the probability of drafting a productive player and minimize the risk of draft busts. It would one thing if you knew a particular tackle was a T1 or wide receiver a WR1, but you don't. You're picking individual players whose future performance is uncertain. BPA is intended to reduce the uncertainty as much as possible. The smartest teams address needs before they go into a draft with prior draft picks (former BPA's) and lower tier free agents so they don't HAVE to fill any particular need in the draft.

In my view, the only reason to deviate from BPA is early in the first round if you already have a high cap value player at the position the BPA plays. Then the short term problem of allocating so much of the cap to one position is prohibitive. Otherwise, stocking your team with the best players available will maximize the value of the draft over the long term.

by gds (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 11:43am

Did anyone see an article that lists the distribution of draft picks used by team, by position, by round over the last six years?
I can't remember where I saw it.....but it would be a really interesting article to read after this article. I remember one thing that stood out to me was how many defensive backs INDY had selected....it was way above the normal average of teams. If you know the article, please post a link.

by cjfarls (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 11:51am

This dovetails nicely with Shanahan's explanation on why the Broncos moved up to grab Cutler last year... I believe he said something like "top QB prospects don't drop past the first 10 very often, and we don't plan on being down in the top 10 draft slots anytime soon. Therefore when Cutler/Leinert slipped, we felt we had to take the chance, even though we feel we have a pretty good starter already (Plummer)."

by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:02pm

This article was OK until they tried to turn it from something descriptive to something prescriptive in the last section.

Any team that would focus on only addressing top heavy positions in the first round, instead of looking for the best player available is making a big mistake in my opinion.

I also think there can be something said for going against the grain.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:03pm

11- But not all starters are created Equal. Tom Brady is a starting quarterback but so is Charlie Frye.

It could turn into a 700 page manuel and it would cost time and money to create, but do you think it would be worth it? I would think that spending say 100,000 dollars on R&D would be worth it forn an NFL team. Spending that 100K could help you make the rich choices on a 100 million dollar salary cap in the future.

These agents, capologists and lawyers make money ON the investments, what about choosing the investments themselves?

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:10pm

13- If your taking the BPA then you have a wide spectrum of players to choose from. The BPA could be any of the positions on O,D or ST.

If your looking at finding the best RB for example, your discriminating the rest of the talent pool. Your only looking at RB prospects while ignoring all of the other players. The best RB prospect available might be a 7.7 out of 10, while there could be Receivers that are 8.4 out of 10, linebackers that are 8.2/10 and lineman that are 7.9 out of 10.

Of course you do also have to consider the demand side of the equation or the teams "need" to find the right match, but most teams don't only have 1 hole on their roster. The Colts won the SB last year and that team is far from perfect.

by gds (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:12pm

Read this article also. Very interesting insight into how teams draft.
Five Years of Draft Picks
4/4/2007 Guest Column by Mike Horn

by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:34pm

Great article.

Re #5: I too am a Chiefs fan. The FO numbers take issue with the conventional wisdom that the Chiefs WRs suck.

Eight teams had 2 WRs in the top 32 in both DPAR and DVOA last year. If WR talent were evenly distributed and divorced from QB quality every team would have 1 such WR. Some of thse teams will come as no surprise: IND, DAL, ARI, NO, CIN, STL, even DET.

The 8th one might be a shock be a shock to you: KC. Every year, Kennison and Samie Parker are maligned. Every year I look at DVOA and DPAR and see that they don’t look so bad, especially when you consider that Gonzalez absorbs a lot of cap and sees a lot of balls (which deflates the WRs DPAR). The Chiefs need to re-build their o-line and fix their defense. Kennison is getting old, so maybe he needs to be replaced some day - but looking at his numbers, he’s not the biggest problem they have.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:49pm

I kind of see where Chris is coming from, regarding that this is a snapshot of what the NFL is NOW, as opposed to what is BEST. But even looking at only the better teams doesn't necessarily tell you what is BEST--every team could be doing the draft "wrong" and someone would still have to make the playoffs and win every year.

I wonder how much these histograms actually represent sound strategy, and how much they reflect conventional wisdom among scouts and GM's. To cite a baseball example (from Moneyball), the Oakland A's managed to build a consistently competitive team with half or a quarter the payroll of the Yankees or Red Sox or Mets, because they identified things worth looking for in a player that the other 29 teams weren't looking for (OBP instead of BA, K percentage instead of ERA, etc).

Similarly, I wonder how much, say, RB is "top heavy" because most GM's think that drafting a RB in the first round is a good way to turn around a franchise, not because it's actually a good idea. I especially wonder this for RB given the expected shorter careers of RB's combined with the "fungibility" of average-to-good RB's, and the recent success of two-back systems.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:53pm

Nitpicky observation - the charts are just regular bar charts, not histograms. Histograms chart variable data along the x-axis, which means histogram bars are vertical, not horizontal. This would be seriously penalized by my college statistical analysis/research design prof.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:02pm

A thought on the consistency of offense versus defense, and how it affects the draft (in response to something Shawn said).

A defense (in anything, including football) is generally only as strong as its weakest link, because the offense chooses what part of it to attack, and a smart offense will always attack the weakest part of the defense. The interdependency between pass run and DB coverage clouds this a little, but in general, if one CB is awful, it doesn't matter how good the other is, because the QB will always throw to the CB. If a team is weak against the run, it doesn't matter how good their pass rush is because they'll get gashed for 5 ypc every play. If a team's run defense and pass rush is wonderful but their coverage is only so-so (see Minnesota), they'll get picked apart by the short passing game. So a dropoff, ANY dropoff, in a part of your defense (be it from injury, retirement, scheme change, or skill dropoff) will greatly degrade your defense's performance. There are a lot of variables in a defense, and nearly all of them have to be good for the defense to be good.

On the other hand, an offense is generally as strong as it's strongest link, because the offense chooses which link it uses. Again, there's some entanglement of this idea in football--a good passing attack will keep the safety back with will improve a poor running game, while a killer #1 WR will take some heat of the #2--but the point is that a random dropoff (injury, retirement, etc) won't affect the offense as much because they'll just use the weaker position less. A team with lousy TE's will just run more 3- and 4 WR sets, or more multi-back sets. A lousy LT can be compenstated for by giving him TE help. Hence, it doesn't surprise me that offenses are less variable.

From a draft standpoint, this implies that if you have just a few holes on offense and defense, you're better off plugging the defensive ones, provided you can plug nearly all of them, and in general "need-based" drafting makes sense on the defensive side.

However, if you have a lot of holes in both offense and defense, taking a good defensive player won't improve your team much because you'll still have defensive holes, but taking a BPA offensive player will, because you can structure a dangerous offense around the player.

Of course, supply of good players, which is also addressed in this article, plays a big role too. Which is probably why CB is top heavy, and elite CB's get paid so much even though they only cover one guy at a time. But I was just focusing on the demand side.

by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:04pm

9-The only problem is distinguishing between the franchises that draft positionally inefficient, compared to those whose talent evaluation is horrible.

by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:07pm

Following up on my comment in #20, below are the total DPARs of the top 2 wrs on each team from the minimum 50 passes table for 2006 linked below (top 2 in DPAR on each team unless noted).

Team Total
IND 90.3
CIN 62.8
DET 54.8
DAL 54
ARI 46.4
NO 45.1 Colston/Horn, not Henderson who was #1 in DVOA and beat Horn in DPAR
NYJ 38.3
STL 36.5 Holt/Bruce although Curtis had more dPAR and was 6th in DVOA
PIT 35.6
BUF 34.8
KC 34.3
PHI 30.9
CAR 29.1
SD 28.7
HOU 27.2
SEA 25.9 Jacksin/Branch; Hackett had more DPAR than Branch and was #2 in DVOA
BAL 22
NYG 21.6
NE 19.9 Caldwell/TBrown
SF 18.6
OAK 17.9
DEN 16.9
CHI 14.1
CLE 13.6
TEN 13 Bennett/BJones not Wade
JAC 10.8
MIN 7.7 Taylor/Williamson not MRobinson
GB 6.3
WAS 6.3
TB 1.9 Galloway/Clayton not Hilliard
ATL -1.9
MIA -2.9 Chambers/Booker not Welker

Some teams score high because of one very good wr and one bad one (in 2006): i.e BUF (Evans/Price). KC's pair was above average. FO readers will not be surprised by MIA's low number, driven by Chambers.

by Phil (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:12pm

Please, somebody take out the "numbers geeks" reference at the beginning of the article. Chris' head may explode because Tim Murray never actually played football.

kidding aside, I missed this one last year so it was new to me. Job very well done!

Lets keep race and mike vick out of this thread please

by Phil (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:15pm

I like where you're going in your suggestion (post #10). However, it would be near impossible to take pre-existing rosters into account, as well as free agency. i.e. the Pats roster pre-2001 looked completely different after they signed 20 free agents. How would you factor that into a normal draft stratagy?

by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:57pm


It depends. If you feel that NFL front offices are generally competent judges of player skill, the histograms reflect sound strategy. If not, they don't. All historical data recording can really do is point out prevailing trends; it doesn't attempt to determine the validity of the underlying assumptions or measurements that create them.

That said, I thought Chris made an excellent point (it's possible!) when he made the argument that this type of analysis should be done by a staff member of each front office. If it isn't, I think it should be.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 2:53pm

this is interesting because I always regardied RB as a position which was better to fill later in the draft

There's a name for running backs selected late in the draft.


by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 3:23pm

21- My sentiments exactly.

28- Teams spend so much money just to MAKE moves, that spending the NFL minimum salary on sabermetrics is well worth it. It might provide zero returns ( but then again so could the 53rd man on the roster), or the returns can uncover information that can have dramatic effects on a roster ( Oakland athletics). We are living in the information age and knowledge is power.

It's like paying commisions to a stock broker to BUY/SELL for you without spending any time/money on the actual evaluation. I know some NFL teams invest in "sabermetics", but I doubt they all do. That would mean that teams are relying on "older" evaluation models. It would be like an investment bank using only fundamental analysis while ignoring technical analysis or vice versa.

27- That is the whole point though. We are trying to use past draft information to make conclusions and predictions in the future. What if instead of studing the entire NFL we only studied 1 team ( the Lions). We would say that there is an extremely high important on drafting a receiver in the first round and that it's something that should be done on a yearly basis.

By looking at " what is", there is not enough time frame to weed out the market inefficiencies. If the Steelers knows that you don't draft an OLB in round 1 ( and they are a good team), but the other teams in the league don't know that, then then the data will be skewed.

My point is that to have a better representation of value, we should figure out what good teams do, while keeping the Raiders/Lions out of the data. What if Al David valued kickers in the first round and his team was 0-16, would his draft opinion have as much weight as Scott Piolis or Bill Polians? It does in this study.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 3:24pm

and I am not bashing Murrays article in any way shape or form. It was outstanding work. I wouldn't expect to see anything half as good in the popular media. However, this study can be improved.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 3:33pm

and I am not bashing Murrays article in any way shape or form

Nor was I. This is a fascinating article and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

In general, when I start thinking of ways to improve on any work, it means that the work in question was good enough that it warranted thinking about. Which is rare when you read NFL.com.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 3:49pm

Yeah, when you read an article from a Peter King or Pete Prisco, all you can do is laugh. This was a very stimulating football article and not fluff ( or about Starbucks, iPods, and the newest things King discovered that we have been using for years).

by chip (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 4:05pm

Great article. I'm surprised no one has stated the fairly obvious though, that while this is a very solid draft guideline, the "knowing how and when to address your needs" is entirely dependent upon specific O- & D-schemes. Zone blocking schemes, Cover-2 and 3-4 defenses, DEN's fungible RB situation, etc. all come to mind.

In each case, the specific scheme will require teams to use their 1/2nd pick on key players. Acquiring arguably the most important player in a Cover-2, an atheletic MLB who can cover the deep zone 3, can never be acquired in the 4th, 5th, 6th rounds (you could make the same case about WLB / S). DEN has proven year-in and year-out, that RBs are fungible and can be acquired in later rounds. A stout NT capable of being the focus in the 3-4 is worthy of top 32 pick if that's the missing piece to the puzzle for that defense. Each of these schemes have linchpins that must be addressed in the top rounds regardless of the "value" to be found in later rounds. Where the article provides true value, is not what you need to draft in top rounds (which is dictated by scheme), but where you get away cutting corners in the later rounds. MLK hits on this with his eleqant synthesis: "the defense is only as strong as its weakest link, while an offense is a strong as its strongest link"

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 4:34pm

What if instead of studing the entire NFL we only studied 1 team ( the Lions). We would say that there is an extremely high important on drafting a receiver in the first round and that it’s something that should be done on a yearly basis.

The reverse, actually. Right now the Lions starters at WR are Mike Furrey and Roy Williams. Furrey's an undrafted FA. Williams was a first-round pick. Rogers was waived, and Williams #2 probably should be. The Lions example would tell you that drafting a receiver in the first round is bad.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 4:44pm

Holy hell, the new interstitial ad is really, really bad and annoying.

Twice it has frozen Firefox.

Even if it hadn't, it would have ticked me off. Guys, please reconsider.

by Riceloft (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 5:11pm

Someone on a Browns messageboard I frequent brought up a good point. Something for the future versions of this article maybe.

Very interesting. I would like to see how good teams do it compared to bad teams. I wonder how the histograms would look if there was one at each position for playoff teams and one for non-playoff teams. Every team has starters - I'd like to see the difference between those who win and those who don't.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 5:15pm

I'm biting my lip, but I disagree with the statements that an offense is as strong as their strongest link and a D is only as strong as their weakest link. In any case, there isn't always a Fred Thomas sore thumb stick out to throw at, or a Dwight Freeney to run right at.

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 5:18pm

37- That is what I was getting at in posts 9 and 10.

35- Right now the Lions bear as much weight into this study as the Colts. A team potentially drafting a punter in round 1 has the same imput as a team drafting a franchise QB in round 1.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 6:02pm

I disagree with the statements that an offense is as strong as their strongest link and a D is only as strong as their weakest link.

It's a generalization, and hence not completely accurate. I said something similar in the MMQB thread, and kibbles and CA both were debating the idea with me during a discussion of which positions hold the greatest value. Of course there are exceptions, due to the interdependence of the different positions. A good pass rush can help hide a weak secondary, while a really inept #1 WR can make life more difficult for the #2 WR across the way (because coverage gets rolled that way). For specific cases and positions, both the offense and the defense have influence over the matchups...hence the "chessmatch".

But stepping back a level, it holds general truth. There are certain very major aspects of the game (e.g. running versus deep passing versus short, WCO style passing) that a team can either excel at, be average at, or be poor at. And it is the offense that chooses, through its play selection, how much of each major type of play is executed.

by Riceloft (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 6:05pm

Yeah, I'm thinking maybe just a split between the top 16 and bottom 16 teams. Split 'em by DVOA, record or even this years draft order(close enough to record anyway). Just something ;p.

We could even split it further by offense and defense w/ top 16/bottom 16 in each. Oh boy.

by JKL (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 6:49pm

"This is probably a function of the particularly high success rate of early picks used on OTs and the tendency for teams to hold on to them. So the opportunities to find a top OT outside of the early part of the draft are extremely limited."

I don't think this statement is true. I think the perception that OT has a higher success rate is because we do not have lots of statistics to directly quantify performance like we do with QB. Also, OT's that are failures may continue to start more games than a similiarly bad QB, as they can be moved to RT or even inside to G.

I've examined the early draft picks since 1978. So far, I only have the offensive position data. I looked at top 12 picks in the draft every year, and looked at team performance in the 5 years after that pick. Here is the info. It includes the overall winning percentage of all teams drafting that position in the top 12, the percentage of teams drafting that position that qualified for the playoffs in any given year, and the percentage of teams drafting that position that advanced to at least a championship game:

Combined winning percentage, rookie year of top 12 player drafted

WR 0.488 winning percentage . . . 29.7% Playoffs . . . 13.5% Championship Game
RB 0.477 winning percentage . . . 43.2% Playoffs . . . 13.6% Championship Game
OL 0.402 winning percentage . . . 8.2% Playoffs . . . . 2.0% Championship Game
QB 0.379 winning percentage . . . 12.5% Playoffs . . . 2.5% Championship Game

Combined winning percentage, Years 2-5 following draft of top 12 player

WR 0.494 winning percentage . . . 33.6% Playoffs . . . 9.4% Championship Game
QB 0.479 winning percentage . . . 31.4% Playoffs . . . 12.4% Championship Game
RB 0.473 winning percentage . . . 32.5% Playoffs . . . 8.0% Championship Game
OL 0.460 winning percentage . . . 28.2% Playoffs . . . 9.6% Championship Game

by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 7:15pm

41- This article just unleashed a lot of possibilities, I agree.

42- Excellent point about the lack of statistics to measure a Tackle vs a QB. Also the liquidity of the position ( moving to guard). Lenard Davis probably is better suited to play Guard, even though tackle is more valued.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 7:41pm

A team potentially drafting a punter in round 1 has the same imput as a team drafting a franchise QB in round 1.

I don't really think the interesting part of this study is how a team drafts. It's where the starters come from. That somewhat distinct from the team quality: a team has to be really, really bad before they choose to start a worse player over a better player because the worse player was drafted higher.

There are still plenty of DTs, CBs, RBs, etc. picked in day 2. They just don't end up as starters as frequently as linebackers, cornerbacks, or defensive ends.

by Bill Barnwell :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 7:54pm

A team potentially drafting a punter in round 1 has the same imput as a team drafting a franchise QB in round 1.


by Oily Harry (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 8:09pm

re: 15
That is why the Broncos win consistently.

re: 33
King will discover DVDs next month I predict.

That's all the oil I have for today. Gonna blaze soon. It's 4/20!!!

by kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 04/21/2007 - 2:44am

I don't like the T1 and T2 breakdown. You call the guys drafted higher the T1, and the guys drafted lower the T2, and then think it's meaningful that the T1s were drafted higher than the T2s?

I think it'd be a lot more meaningful to separate out the LTs from the RTs. Or, better yet, Blindside and Strongside. I mean, under the current system, last year George Foster was Denver's T1 and Matt Lepsis was their T2.

Re #46: re: 15
That is why the Broncos win consistently.
Agreed. For all the flak Denver's front office gets, there are very few teams who have demonstrated that they can consistantly acquire more talent than the Broncos.

by James C (not verified) :: Sat, 04/21/2007 - 8:10am

While everyone agrees that teams should conduct in depth statistical analysis of draft positions and value and so forth, I would be suprised if quite a few teams hadn't already done this. I know that when the Bears suffered a few years of really bad injuries they shelled out a load of cash on a study of how injuries occured and were prevented by all the teams in the league and in other sports. Good drafting would be an even more obvious place to spend research money, if you had carried out such a study you wouldn't shout the results from the rooftops though.

by milo (not verified) :: Sat, 04/21/2007 - 2:30pm

I looked at this data by plotting the numbers from the 4/4/2007 article. I used total wins for the x-axis. The numbers look to me to show that winning teams draft offense more than defense. So that if a team has two players rated evenly, one offense and one defense, and would toss a coin to determine which to draft, they would be better off pocketing the coin and taking the offensive player.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 04/21/2007 - 5:45pm

and the guys drafted lower the T2, and then think it’s meaningful that the T1s were drafted higher than the T2s?

No. It's meaningful that every team in the NFL has at least one tackle drafted 3rd round or higher.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 1:15pm

FYI, there is a related article from the Pro Football Reference Blog linked on my name. It analyzes the % total value (according to the trade value chart) that the league as a whole and each team in particular has devoted to each position.

by kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 6:16pm

Re #50: No. It’s meaningful that every team in the NFL has at least one tackle drafted 3rd round or higher.

Not without showing that a similar situation doesn't exist for every other position that has two or more starters. The more starters a unit has, the higher the highest-drafted player in that unit was likely to have come (all other things being equal, so no guards or safeties here). I'd suspect that if you compiled a list of the highest drafted WRs, DEs, DTs, or CBs on a team, you'd notice a similar "pattern".

Besides, it's not true anymore. With Foster gone, Denver no longer has a single offensive lineman taken on the first day.

by kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 6:20pm

To clarify that a little bit, Denver doesn't have a single STARTER on the OLine taken on the first day of the draft. Adam Meadows was taken in the 2nd round, but he's a backup. Both starting tackles were undrafted free agents.

by Not saying (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 7:08pm

Re: 53

Adam Meadows is currently listed on the depth charts as a starting tackle. Who is the starter if not him? They also have another backup from the 2nd round: Jacob Rogers.

I did a quick look through most team's WRs (not exhaustive). I didn't see one team that didn't have one of the top two from the top 3 rounds. A couple from the last picks in the third rounds, but it seems you might have a point in 52.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 12:20am

Not without showing that a similar situation doesn’t exist for every other position that has two or more starters.

Offensive guards. (You did say "for every other position" - therefore, showing one as a counterexample works fine.)

Wide receivers have a similar pattern because it's a similar style position, where you need at least one top talent.

WRs, DTs, and tackles are all "top heavy" positions. The only reason he did the T1/T2 designation was to clarify it, because it doesn't look as top heavy as the DT position at first glance.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 1:46am

FWIW, I like MJK's "rule of thumb" quite a bit. The logic works for me. Like many, it's imperfect, but it's the kind of easy to understand trusim that coaches should keep in mind--protect your weakest link on D, especially when the opponent's O has multiple facets. And a super-stud on O can really really dominate a game, even when it's planned around him (whether it's sheer numbers, or by drawing 2-3 players opening up the other side for a big game). Yes, there are days when Ray Lewis in his prime and others have almost single-handedly dismantled a team from the D side of the ball, but my gut says it happens more the other way around. I can easily imagine that if TMQ came up with it, he'd be able to find one or two games every single week that "proved" it and would not hesitate to trumpet this at every given opportunity.

Regarding Adam Meadows, memory is imperfect, but I think he was part of Indy's bookend OTs when they drafted OLs high--Glenn and Meadows taken #1 and 2 in the same draft. In the intervening 10 years, probably no OL higher than 4th. Hard to do that and maintain a productive, even dominant, O. Howard Mudd is a pretty good OL coach. (And 1997 was a super year for OTs, Orlando Pace, Walter Jones, and Tarik Glenn in the top 15 or so.)

And once a guy is 32 or so, can you safely disregard where the hell he was drafted? I mean 10 years and 150 games later, he's no longer a 1st or 2nd or 6th rounder, he's a seasoned vet whose contributions are far more influenced by the past 10 seasons than his draft position. No?

I wonder if there was a mock draft for coaches, mainly assistants... where some of these guys would fall.

by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 7:25am

It was good to re-read this. Link in my name is to an article on ESPN, arguing that DT is a 'risky' position in the draft. Essentially, it argues that "planet theory" makes teams reach, and that leads to disappointment.

"Since 2000, there have been 26 defensive tackles selected in the first round and 59 chosen as first-day picks. Only six have played in even one Pro Bowl game, and 15 are out of the NFL entirely right now."

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 9:59am

Denver has a huge advantage because they can have a very good rushing attack every year by plugging in lineman and running backs. ( thanks to their coaching staff).

Then they could use the rest of their draft and FA resources elsewhere. Their coaching staff/ Front Office give them good talent around that run game. It's not wonder they are one of the most consistant winning franchises in the league.

You would also think that smaller, faster lineman would also build right into their geographic advantage. You would think big road grading lineman ( like Lenard Davis) would tire quicker with that thinner air in Denver. The Broncos have more athletic lineman that keep coming after you.

by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 11:08am


The link above is to an ESPN article on DT being a "risk" position in the draft. It seems "Planet Theory" causes teams to reach for players.

to quote from the article,

"Since 2000, there have been 26 defensive tackles selected in the first round and 59 chosen as first-day picks. Only six have played in even one Pro Bowl game, and 15 are out of the NFL entirely right now.".

And it was good to read this again.

by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 11:10am


I'd link on my name, but every time I try the filter swallows my post. Very annoying.

The link above is to an ESPN article on DT being a "risk" position in the draft. It seems "Planet Theory" causes teams to reach for players.

to quote from the article,

"Since 2000, there have been 26 defensive tackles selected in the first round and 59 chosen as first-day picks. Only six have played in even one Pro Bowl game, and 15 are out of the NFL entirely right now.".

And it was good to read this again.

by Myron Cope (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 2:48pm

I liked this article quite a bit. For me, the next analysis would be what percent of players were successes (or failures) by each position in each round. Some positions have had many more players picked in R1 (QBs being much more common than, say, centers). You could then demonstrate the a risk factor. For example, if few centers were picked in R1 but a very high percentage of first round centers were successful, this would impact your draft strategy.

by kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 04/25/2007 - 5:55am

Re #54: Adam Meadows is currently listed on the depth charts as a starting tackle. Who is the starter if not him? They also have another backup from the 2nd round: Jacob Rogers.
Eric Pears (the guy who replaced Matt Lepsis when he went down last season) really impressed the coaches, and is supposed to get the start at RT next year.

Jacob Rogers is at best the #4 OT on the team, and I question whether he'll even make the final roster.

Re #55: Offensive guards. (You did say “for every other position� - therefore, showing one as a counterexample works fine.)

Umm... did you see where I stipulated it has to be a position that had a similar drafting pattern, and therefore Guards and Safeties need not apply?

Re #56: And once a guy is 32 or so, can you safely disregard where the hell he was drafted? I mean 10 years and 150 games later, he’s no longer a 1st or 2nd or 6th rounder, he’s a seasoned vet whose contributions are far more influenced by the past 10 seasons than his draft position. No?

Not only that, but Meadows is a special situation because he left Indy, went to Carolina, retired due to an injury, spent 2 or 3 years out of football entirely, came back, got Carolina to agree to waive his rights, and then signed with Denver as a free agent. In such an odd situation, I wonder just how relevant draft position is. Heck, any time you spend an entire season out of football (not suspended), I think that should effectively reset your status to "undrafted".

Re #57: Denver has a huge advantage because they can have a very good rushing attack every year by plugging in lineman and running backs. ( thanks to their coaching staff).

I always hate this perception of the Denver game. They don't "plug in linemen"- they spend more money on their offensive line than any other team in the entire NFL, it's not like they're just throwing together scraps and then coaching up a miracle out of it. Was Mark Schlabach just some guy they "plugged in"? How about Gary Zimmerman? Or Tom Nalen? Or Matt Lepsis, who is one of the highest paid tackles in the league right now?

Denver's offensive line isn't a motley collection of scraps that gets coached up- they're players available at a relative bargain price because nobody else is looking for players with their skillset (sort of how Pittsburgh got a ton of great linebackers in the '90s very late in the draft because no one else was running the 3-4), but they're certainly not "castoffs" or "stiffs". Denver also spends massive amounts of money to maintain an almost unheard-of degree of consistancy at the line from year to year. This elite offensive line is one of the biggest reasons why Denver's running game is always so good (no, despite what you may have heard, it's not just a product of the cut blocking system- it's a product of the stellar players who man the cut-blocking system).

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/25/2007 - 3:28pm

Umm… did you see where I stipulated it has to be a position that had a similar drafting pattern, and therefore Guards and Safeties need not apply?

I think you're missing the point of those graphs, then. It wasn't to show that OTs were different than DTs (or WRs). It was just to show that they were the same.

It's just that the all-position graph for tackles looks a little more normally distributed, so you have to stress the top-heavy nature. To quote: So we see a dichotomy similar to that of the defensive tackle position. And also similar to the WR distribution as well.

In such an odd situation, I wonder just how relevant draft position is.

I don't see why. He was a top-rated tackle in terms of original talent/skill. He still is. All that's different now is that the number of years he's expected to play is less.