Posts by Tony Villiotti

Draft day trades

As the NFL draft approaches, there is lots of chatter this year regarding the possibility of early first round trades. Whether that talk turns into action depends on the Texans and the Rams. With the first pick in the draft will the Texans jump on a quarterback, take Jadveon Clowney or trade the pick?

As the NFL draft approaches, there is lots of chatter this year regarding the possibility of early first round trades. Whether that talk turns into action depends on the Texans and the Rams. With the first pick in the draft will the Texans jump on a quarterback, take Jadveon Clowney or trade the pick? At the second selection, are the Rams happy with Sam Bradford at quarterback? Do they think they are strong enough at defensive end to bypass Clowney? Will they trade out of the pick?

With all this talk, I thought it would be timely to look back at a few of the biggest trades in recent years. In my opinion, the three biggest draft day trades of the past several years are:

• The Falcons surrendering five draft choices, including two first round picks, to move up from the 26th slot to the 6th slot in the first round to take WR Julio Jones;
• The Redskins trading four choices, including three first round picks, to move from #6 to #2 and select QB Robert Griffin III; and
• The Browns giving up four draft choices to move up one spot in the draft and take RB Trent Richardson.

Each of the trades will be discussed in turn below. It is interesting to note that in the Falcons/Browns trade and the Redskins/Rams trade, the teams receiving extra choices seem more than willing to trade away the choices they received. Is this a case of General Managers being smart and attempting to stockpile picks, or do the GMs treat those picks as a bonus that they are more willing to risk than their “base” picks”? It is impossible to state with certainty, but it appears that there is at least a fair chance that the latter is the case.

Julio Jones Trade
I would think that the Falcons pretty much got what they expected with Julio Jones. Jones caught 133 passes for over 2000 yards and 18 TDs in his first two seasons and may have been headed to his best season in 2013 before being injured.

The Browns received choices 26, 59 and 124 in 2011 and 22 and 118 in 2012. Here is what happened subsequent to the initial trade:

• The Browns traded the #26 pick plus their #70 for the Chiefs' #21 pick and selected DT Phil Taylor. Taylor has been, in my opinion, an above average player but the best player in the deal was the #70 pick, DE/LB Justin Houston. The #26 pick was WR Jon Baldwin, who certainly belongs in the bust category right now.
• The Browns used the #59 selection on WR Greg Little, who has been largely disappointing.
• The Browns used the #124 pick on RB Owen Marecic, who was cut after two seasons.
• The #22 pick in 2012 was used to select Brandon Weeden, yet another disappointment.
• The 118th pick in 2012 was used as part of the trade to move up and take Trent Richardson in the 2012 draft.

The Falcons certainly made out better in this trade. The Browns moved down 20 slots and ended with not much to show for it. In my opinion, moving down that far in the first round is usually not a good idea.


Robert Griffin III Trade
The jury is still out on RG3, so that somewhat colors this conversation. He followed an excellent rookie season with a year that was marred by injury. Though he threw for about the same number of yards, all of his other numbers were down and he threw twice as many interceptions as a second year player. The Redskins viewed Griffin as a franchise QB and were willing to pay the price to get him. If he turns out not to be the franchise guy, this will turn out to be a terrible trade for them. The Rams, on the other hand, believed they had their future QB in Sam Bradford and saw the trade as a major opportunity to get better at multiple positions.

The Rams received selections 6 and 39 in 2012, 22 in 2013 and 2 in 2014. It remains to be seen what they will do with their 2014 pick, but here is what has happened so far:

• The Rams traded the #6 pick in 2012 to the Cowboys for the #14 pick (which they used to select DL Michael Brockers) and the #45 pick in 2012.
   -Morris Claiborne was selected by the Cowboys with the #6 pick.
• The Rams then traded the #45 pick to the Bears for the #50 pick (used to select RB Isaiah Pead) and the #150 pick (used to select OL Rokevious Watkins).
   -Hindsight being 20-20, the Rams pretty much wasted pick #45 and should have hung onto it as the Bears the pick to take WR Alshon Jeffery.
   -Pead hasn’t done much yet and Watkins was cut prior to the 2013 season.
• The #39 pick in 2012 was used to select CB Janoris Jenkins who is starting for the Rams.
• The Rams traded the #22 pick in 2013, along with a seventh round pick, to the Falcons for the #30 pick (used to select LB Alec Ogletree), the #92 pick (WR Stedman Bailey) and the #198 pick.
   -Ogletree started every game as a rookie and Bailey showed some promise.
   -The #198 pick was used in a package with the #184 pick for a fifth round pick in 2013 that they spent on Zac Stacy, who led the team in rushing as a rookie.

With a #2 pick still to come in the upcoming draft, the Rams have made out pretty well in this trade as they acquired three defensive starters and a starting running back. A case could be made that what the Rams have gained so far is really just gravy as their selection in the second slot in 2014 the same pick they surrendered in the initial trade.

If Griffin lives up to expectations, though, this could end up being a win-win for the two teams.

Trent Richardson Trade
The Browns moved up one spot in the 2012 draft to take Trent Richardson in a trade with the Vikings. They gave up four trade choices, but three were of the “lottery ticket” variety. Richardson had a promising start but later disappointed. The Browns were able to get some of their money back by getting the #26 pick in 2014 from the Colts in a 2013 trade. Here is a summary of what happened to the Vikings after the initial trade:

• The #4 pick used to take Matt Kalil, who has started all 32 games in his NFL career.
• The #118 pick was used to take WR Jarius Wright who been a backup.
• The #139 pick was used to select DB Robert Blanton, who has been a backup.
• #211 was traded to the Titans for a 6th round selection in 2013 that was then re-traded to the Cardinals for DB AJ Jefferson and pick used to take LB Michael Mauti.

While not much of a premium was paid, the Browns ended up making a risky selection (a RB) rather a more conservative selection (an offensive lineman). The Vikings got the player they would have selected with their selection anyway and also picked up a few marginal players. On paper this should have been a fairly even trade, but with Richardson’s career at a tenuous point this could end with the Browns having wasted a series of picks.

Some Observations

While there is nothing in my review of the three trades that provides any concrete trade rules, I do have a couple of observations from the review of this and other trades:

• Different rules apply to trades to acquire franchise QBs than other positions.
   -The trick is to be sure you are actually getting a franchise QBs.
   -Teams do tend to overpay and overdraft QBs.

• Don’t trade too far down in the first round.
   -While many say it’s really the late round picks that separate teams, most of the value in the draft is in the early picks – – quantity is not a substitute for quality.
• Don’t be so quick to trade picks received in a trade.
   -This is a variation of the second observation but accumulating late round draft choices is not what wins the draft.
• Don’t be too quick to trade up in the first round to take a player at a skill positions (WR, RB).

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Who should get the most help from the 2014 draft?

All teams have high hopes entering a draft, but some are better positioned than others to get help. The key to having a good draft yield is to have as many choices as possible in the early rounds. In some cases that expectation is “earned” by being a crummy team and in other instances

All teams have high hopes entering a draft, but some are better positioned than others to get help. The key to having a good draft yield is to have as many choices as possible in the early rounds. In some cases that expectation is “earned” by being a crummy team and in other instances it is achieved by front office maneuvering. The new economics, with lower pay for draft choices, makes it even more important to draft well.

Before getting into which teams should expect the most help, I first reviewed the general expectations for the entire draft. Out of the 256 draft selections in the 2014 draft:

• 225 players should see the field at least once
• 128 players should play at least five seasons
• 92 players should be starters for at least two seasons
   -A starter is someone who starts at least eight games in a season
• 54 players should be starters for at least five seasons
• 42 players should start as rookies
• 20 players should make the Pro Bowl at least once
• 11 players should be named All Pro at least once

Three teams improved their draft expectations by making trades. Here are the trades that resulted in a team getting extra choices in the first three rounds:

• The 49ers get the 56th pick in the draft from the Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith trade
• The 49ers get the 77th pick in the draft from the Titans as a result of moving from the 34th pick to the 40th pick in the 2013 draft
• The Browns get the 26th pick in the draft from the Trent Richardson trade with the Colts
• The Browns get the 83th selection from the Steelers in exchange for the 111th pick in the 2013 draft
• The Rams get the 2nd pick from the Redskins as the final installment in the RG3 trade
   -Ironically, the Rams gave up the 2nd pick to the Redskins as the first part of this trade
• The Vikings get the 96th pick from the Seahawks as part of the Percy Harvin trade

In establishing draft yield expectations by team, I used the projected number of five-year starters as the metric. (The more restrictive measures, such as post-season honors, have a limited number of data points.) Draft expectations typically change considerably during the draft as teams move up and down in the draft via trades, but here’s how it stands right now.

It should be noted that expectation range from a high of 2.7 five-year starters to a low of 0.7, so the difference is two five-year starters. The distribution is as follows:

Both the Browns and the Rams have two choices in the first round. The Browns also added two more choices by trading 2013 selections for better 2014 choices. The Rams have five extra choices with the real prize being the second selection in the draft. They also added three late round compensatory picks plus a seventh rounder from the Colts in a trade (Josh Gordy).

While not listed in the highest expectations group, it should also be noted that, barring trades, the 49ers should do very well while their archrivals, the Seahawks, are at the other end of the spectrum. The 49ers added a net of four choices with a second round pick as part of the Alex Smith trade, a third round pick as a premium for moving down in the third round in 2013, two seventh round picks in minor trades, while surrendering a sixth round pick for Blaine Gabbert (with additional compensation dependent on playing time).

Of the bottom four teams, all have lost draft choices via the trades. The team with the lowest expectations (Colts) surrendered a first round pick in exchange for Trent Richardson and a fourth rounder in exchange for an extra fifth round choice in 2013. The Seahawks lost a third-round choice as part of the Percy Harvin trade while adding a fifth-round selection in getting rid of Matt Flynn. The Broncos, Chargers and Panthers all have the same expectation.

These expectations are tempered, of course, by the current state of a team. A playoff team will generally have fewer openings than a bad team, but it is also true that a drafted player with ability will find a place to play in the NFL,

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Draft winners and losers

On May 11 (the day after the completion of the 2014 draft) football fans will be inundated with draft grades for NFL teams. While this makes for some interesting reading, we must bear in mind that these grades are for players that have yet to be seen in an NFL uniform.

The irony

On May 11 (the day after the completion of the 2014 draft) football fans will be inundated with draft grades for NFL teams. While this makes for some interesting reading, we must bear in mind that these grades are for players that have yet to be seen in an NFL uniform.

The irony is that, while there are isolated exceptions, by the time a draft class is truly “gradable” there is little interest in doing so by the media. Draft classes will begin to disassemble as early as the 2014 training camp and continue as players drop by the wayside one by one. It will not take long for a draft class to lose its identity.

This article attempts to remedy this situation by taking a look back at past drafts and identifying the winners and losers in those drafts at this point in time. The issue of who had the best draft in 1994 is not particularly relevant right now so I confined this review to the 2004 through 2013 draft classes. The evaluation of recent drafts is problematic as careers are still evolving, but I will do a preliminary assessment anyway.

The assessment of draft classes is not a cut and dried exercise. Do you focus only on impact players or place more emphasis on solid starters? How much weight is given a player departing the team that drafted him after his rookie contract expires? There are a myriad of factors to be considered. I will try to weigh all relevant factors in my analysis.

2004 DRAFT

WINNERS
This is a tough call between the Chargers and Cardinals, with the minor edge going to the Chargers. This was the Eli Manning draft with the Chargers taking Manning and sending him to the Giants for Philip Rivers and draft choices that turned out to be Shawne Merriman (2005) and Nate Kaeding (2004). San Diego’s 2004 draft ended up with four players who were selected to the Pro Bowl at least once, though Michael Turner had to move onto Atlanta to get playing time and earn his honors.

The Cardinals also had a great draft, adding Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith. Fitzgerald and Dockett have spent their entire careers in Arizona, while Dansby and Smith moved on midway through their careers. Regardless, four solid starters with two Pro Bowl level players is an enviable draft.

LOSERS
It might be unfair to downgrade the Ravens’ draft because they did not have a first round selection, but their draft class started only 90 NFL games in their careers. Second round selection Dwan Edwards accounted for 65 of those starts, but only 23 were for the Ravens, as Edwards moved on in free agency. Basically there was no help for the Ravens in this draft.

Of the teams with a full complement of draft selections, neither the Eagles nor the Vikings did much to help themselves. The Eagles had 10 selections but no second round pick. Shawn Andrews was the only player who added much value and he had only 57 starts in his career. The Vikings had eight selections and three picks in the first three rounds. Kenechi Udeze was the most productive player selected but his career ended prematurely when he was diagnosed with leukemia after four seasons.

2005 DRAFT

WINNERS
The Cowboys were the clear winner of the 2005 draft, selecting three Pro Bowl players as part of a draft class that started 560 NFL games. Demarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett and Chris Canty were part of this draft, along with RB Marion Barber. Burnett didn’t do much for the Cowboys and all but four of his starts were split among the Chargers, Dolphins and Raiders. No team was really a close second to the Cowboys.

LOSERS
All you need to know about the Bills draft (with no first rounder) is that Duke Preston was the best starter drafted. Roscoe Parrish saw plenty of action as a kick returner but he started only five games in his career. Third round draftee Kevin Everett had his career end early due to injury and contribution was limited.

Of the teams with first round selections, the Bengals were possibly the unluckiest team in the history of the draft. First round pick David Pollock saw his career end due to injury early in this second season; second rounder Odell Thurman was suspended for drug and alcohol abuse, effectively ending his career; and third round pick Chris Henry was involved in a series of off-field incidents before being killed in a fall from a pickup truck.

2006 DRAFT

WINNERS
There is strong competition for the winner of this draft. I would have to give the edge to the Saints as they turned eight picks (with no third round pick) into six starters. This list of starters includes Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, Rob Ninkovich, Zach Strief and Marques Colston. Ninkovich, of course, is best known for his play with the Patriots and Bush was moved by the Saints to Miami in a trade in which they received practically nothing in return.

The Broncos, also without the benefit of a third round pick, had a great draft crop that did not stay long in Denver. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall saw things differently than management and were traded for a combination of hits and misses that included Tim Tebow, Demaryius Thomas, Orlando Franklin and Richard Quinn. Elvis Dumervil was lost through a paperwork foulup with nothing received in return.

LOSERS
The Rams had the worst draft as they turned 10 overall picks and five in the first three rounds into only 109 total career starts with second round TE Joe Klopfenstein having the most with 38. First-rounder Tye Hill was a bust as were all three third round picks.

2007 DRAFT
WINNERS
The 49ers were the clear winner of the 2007 draft as they selected three players who achieved All-Pro Status. They parlayed two first round picks into Patrick Willis and Joe Staley and also added Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown later in the draft.

The Ravens trailed the 49ers but picked up three players who achieved Pro Bowl status in Ben Grubbs, Marshall Yanda and Le’Ron McClain. Grubb and McClain both departed from Baltimore relatively early in their careers.

LOSERS
The Colts and the Rams brought up the rear in the 2007 draft. The Colts had nine selections with four in the first three rounds and ended up with only 105 career starts from the group. First round pick Anthony Gonzalez had two decent seasons before hurting his knee and never returned to form. Second round pick Tony Ugoh played three seasons for the Colts before being waived. Clint Session was the only other player to see much NFL action.

The Rams had eight selections in a full complement of choices in the first three rounds but were able to get only 107 starts from the group. Most of these came from 1st round pick Adam Carriker but he had only 25 of his 58 starts for the Rams before being traded to the Redskins for basically nothing.

2008 DRAFT
WINNERS
The Chiefs were the clear winner of the 2008 draft adding six players who became NFL starters. This group included Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Albert, Brandon Flowers, Jamal Charles, Brandon Carr and Barry Richardson. Kansas City had 12 total selections and six in the first three rounds and they made good use of them. This group is starting to disassemble, though, as Carr and Richardson left in free agency before the 2012 seasons, Dorsey before the 2013 season and Albert after the 2013 season.

LOSERS
The Steelers had a full complement of picks but earned the loser title in this draft. Only Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Mundy achieved starter status, and Mundy’s one starting year was with the Giants. Mendenhall had three starting seasons with the Steelers before moving on to Arizona and then retiring after the 2013 season.

2009 DRAFT
WINNERS
This is a tough call between the Lions and Packers. The Lions had 10 selections and five in the top three rounds and added Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy and Sammy Lee Hill.

The Packers added an All-Pro selection in Clay Matthews along with BJ Raji and TJ Lang.

LOSERS
The Broncos failed to take advantage of a great opportunity. They had 10 picks with five of those in the first two rounds. Knowshon Moreno has started 45 of the 96 starts registered by this group and he has moved on to the Dolphins for the 2014 season. Fellow first-rounder Robert Ayers, after a pretty good start to his career, has started only three games in his last two years. None of the three second-round picks has made an impact with all being cut or traded after only a couple of years.

The Cowboys had 12 total selections but none in the first two rounds. This group of players started only 32 NFL games with 25 of those from TE John Phillips. Phillips left the Cowboys in free agency before the 2013 season. 

2010 DRAFT
WINNERS
Probably not surprisingly, three 2013 playoff teams did well in this draft. The Seahawks arguably did the best adding Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, Kam Chancellor and Anthony McCoy.

The 49ers list is shorter but still impressive with Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and Navorro Bowman in their draft class.

The Patriots draft looked better before the Aaron Hernandez episode but still included Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes.

LOSERS
The Vikings probably had the worst draft despite having eight selections with two in the second round (none in first or third). Only Chris Cook has evolved into a starter and it took until his third season to earn that distinction and he has departed for San Francisco.

2011 DRAFT
WINNERS
While this draft is still a long from getting a final evaluation, the Browns lead the pack with Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little, Jordan Cameron and Buster Skrine added to their roster. Cleveland had eight selections with one in the first round, two in the second and none in the third.

LOSERS
The Packers appear to be in the worst position here despite having 10 selections with their full complement in the first three rounds. First choice Derek Sherrod has not contributed so far and third-round pick Alexander Green was waived before the 2013 season. Randall Cobb should be a contributor along with possibly Davon House.

2012 DRAFT
WINNERS
The Rams have a tenuous lead over the rest of the league at this point. The Rams had 10 selections with five in the first three rounds, partly due to the RG3 trade. Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson seem to have claimed starting roles with the potential for Brian Quick to step up as well. K Greg Zuerlein also seems solidly entrenched.

The Colts with Andrew Luck also have to be in the discussion. Add Coby Fleener, Duane Allen and T.Y. Hilton to the mix and they could easily move to the top.

LOSERS
The 49ers traded AJ Jenkins, their first round pick, to the Chiefs for Jonathan Baldwin in an exchange of first round flops. Second round pick LaMichael James plays behind Frank Gore and may be his ultimate successor. At this point, though, no one from this draft class has started a single game for the 49ers.


2013 DRAFT
WINNERS
Several rookie classes look good in 2013. The Jets are off to the best start as five (Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson, Geno Smith, Brian Winters and Tommy Bohannon) of their seven selections started at least eight games in 2013.

The Bears, Bills, Bucs, Chargers, Jaguars, Rams and Texans are also in the conversation.

LOSERS
Rookies from the Dolphins and Broncos are off to the slowest start. Only TE Dion Sims started even a single game for the Dolphins.

First round pick Sylvester Williams started four games for the Broncos, Kayvon Webster started two games and Montee Ball saw considerable actions for the Broncos so there is still a lot of promise for the Broncos draft class.

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How deep is a draft?

The upcoming 2014 draft is generally considered to be one of the deepest in recent history. Steelers front office executive Kevin Colbert, for instance, was quoted as saying that this is the deepest draft he has seen since he broke into the NFL. In Colbert’s case, that is a long time, as he has

The upcoming 2014 draft is generally considered to be one of the deepest in recent history. Steelers front office executive Kevin Colbert, for instance, was quoted as saying that this is the deepest draft he has seen since he broke into the NFL. In Colbert’s case, that is a long time, as he has been the de facto general manager of the Steelers since 2000 and entered the league as a scout in 1984.

But how much a difference is there among draft classes? This article addresses the issue from the perspective of both an entire draft class and individual playing positions within a draft class. The metric used as the measuring stick in this article is the number of games started by members of a draft class.

The analysis was restricted to the draft classes from 2004 through 2013. While information would be more complete if older draft class data is included, the older data is also less current and generally of less interest. As a result I decided to restrict the years covered by the analysis to the past 10 years.

By Entire Draft Class
In evaluating the degree of difference among entire draft classes, I considered the cumulative number of starts after one, three and five years for each draft class. All 10 draft classes were included in the one-year analysis; the 2004-2011 draft classes were included in the three-year analysis; and the 2004-2009 draft classes were included in the five-year analysis.

The actual years used in the measurements were dependent on the year of the draft class. For example, the one-year analysis for the 2004 draft class included only 2004; the three-year analysis included 2004-2006 and the five-year analysis included 2004-2008. The 2005 draft class analyses included 2005, 2005-2007 and 2005-2009 and so on.

The general conclusion regarding the variation among full draft classes is that there can indeed be a significant amount of difference between the best and worst draft classes. A few more specific observations are as follows:

• The differences among draft classes are the widest when measured at the end of the first year
• The degree of difference among draft classes, as measured by games started, is 15-16% after the third and fifth years
• At this writing, 2006 looks to have been the best draft year out of the past 10
o This is a tentative conclusion as comparisons to the last couple of drafts will play out as those draft classes evolve
• The relative success of draft classes (as measured by number of starts) seldom changes much after the third year

The following table shows the best and worst among the draft classes for each of the time periods measured:

By Playing Position
Not unexpectedly, the variations are more pronounced when reviewed by individual playing position. The evaluation is also more complex as the measurement exercise must consider variables such as (1) the number of players drafted at the position, (2) the success of the players drafted and (3) a combination of both.

When just looking at the number of draftees, Wide Receivers have the narrowest range between the highest and lowest number of players in a draft class during the period from 2004 to 2013. For the same period, Running Backs and Tight Ends have the widest range.

The following table shows a summary by position.

It might be expected that the positions with the narrowest range among draft classes might also have the narrowest band when looking at the best and worst of the cumulative games started. This turns out not to be true.

In reviewing the variation among drafts by cumulative games started, I accumulated the number of starts by playing position at the end of five years. (This restricts the analysis to the 2004-2009 draft classes.) The analysis shows pretty wide variations at every playing position.

The following table summarizes the best and worst years among the draft classes by playing position and shows the number of games started at the end of the five-year measurement period. To help focus on the variation among draft classes, the final four columns show (1) the variance between the highest and lowest number of starts, (2) the portion of that variance attributable to the number of players drafted (volume), (3) the portion of the variance due to the quality of the selections and (4) the quality variance divided by the average.

This ratio shown in the final column is intended to give a quick way of assessing which playing positions have the greatest year-to-year variance. The higher the percentage in the final column, the higher the variance for that playing position. A high variance is indicative of a wider range between the best and worst years. For example, there is little difference year-to-year among offensive linemen. On the other hand, draft classes for linebackers can be very good or very bad.

A few observations based on this table:

• I found it very surprising that line backers had the highest ratio
o This is due to the 2006 draft class registering about 1 ½ times as many starts as any other year while staying close to the average number of draftees
• I was not surprised that Running backs showed so much volatility
o The injury factor may be at play here
o The 2008 draft yielded about double the number of starts than any other draft class in the measurement period but 24 RBs were drafted versus the average of about 19
• There is lower variation year-to-year among offensive and defensive linemen than any positions

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The value of compensatory picks

An annual highlight of the NFL Owner’s Meeting is the awarding of compensatory draft selections. The number and location of the selections is determined through a heavily guarded secret formula that is based on the net loss of unrestricted free agents in the previous offseason. A fellow by the name of Craig Turner has

An annual highlight of the NFL Owner’s Meeting is the awarding of compensatory draft selections. The number and location of the selections is determined through a heavily guarded secret formula that is based on the net loss of unrestricted free agents in the previous offseason. A fellow by the name of Craig Turner has done extensive work on predicting compensatory picks, which in turn leads a reader to a greater understanding of the process. I suggest you google Craig if you are interested in learning more.

On Monday, 32 compensatory selections were granted for the upcoming draft, four coming at the end of the third round; eight at the end of the fourth round; four at the end of the fifth round; seven at the end of the sixth round and nine at the end of the seventh round. The Ravens and Jets have the most compensatory selections, with four each.

But how important is the exercise in acquiring talent in the draft? This article looks at the value associated with the compensatory selections from three perspectives:

• The total value added to the draft by the 32 extra selections
• The value redistributed to the team’s receiving compensatory selections
• The relative value of the compensatory choices compared to the players lost

Data from the previously published article entitled “Draft Probabilities” was used as the basis for the value discussion. That article presents probabilities of success for 10 different metrics based on where the draft choice was located. For purposes of this article the probabilities are converted to the expected number of players. For example, the 97th draft position selection (the first 2014 compensatory choice awarded) has an 18.0% chance of becoming a five-year starter. This translates into that choice producing 0.18 five-year starters. These are referred to as player equivalents (or “PE”) in the remainder of this article.

The compensatory selection process adds 32 additional draft slots to the draft. The following table compares the value of adding 32 picks at the end of the draft to the value received by the teams receiving compensatory selections. The value is expressed as the number of PE for six different metrics and represents the sum of the 32 extra draft choices in each instance.

Not surprisingly, this shows that the 2014 compensatory picks awarded do provide more value to a team than just getting selections at the end of the draft, but the margin is not that great. Unfortunately for the teams who did not get compensatory draft choices this excess value comes from their pockets as the compensatory picks (with the exception of those at the end of the seventh round) result from the compensated teams “cutting in line”.

Focusing on five-year starters, history tells us that the compensatory picks will yield almost three (2.78 to be exact) five-year starters. This is about one more five-year starter than if the picks were just awarded at the end of the draft.

The next table shows the distribution of the five-year starters, and each of the other metrics, by NFL team. Teams are sorted by number of five-year starter PE.

This table reinforces the fact that the driver of value is not the sheer number of choices awarded but is more dependent on the location of the choices granted. The 49ers, for example, were given only one selection but has a greater probability of landing a five-year starter than the Cowboys and the Rams, each of whom have three compensatory picks.

The most relevant point, though, is that no team can expect a high return from the choices they received. The team that stands to gain the most in 2014 from the compensatory picks is the Ravens and they have only a 50-50 chance of gaining a single five-year starter.

Are NFL teams “made whole” for their free agency losses through compensatory draft choices? I looked at three situations that were pretty clear-cut before considering the question:

• Ravens lose Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed and Cary Williams
   –History says they will gain two players who last five seasons, one player who starts for two seasons and have a 50-50 chance of adding one five-year starter
• Steelers lose Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mundy and Mike Wallace
   -History says the compensatory picks will yield one player who lasts five seasons, have a 75% chance of adding a two-year starter and one chance in three of adding a five-year starter
• Packers lose Greg Jennings and Erik Walden
   -History says the compensatory picks will yield one player who lasts five seasons, they have a 60% chance of adding a two-year starter and a 28% chance of adding a five-year starter

It seems clear (though clearer in some cases than others) that teams are not made whole but are given some semblance of compensation.

Finally, the NFL press release on this subject included historical information on the number of compensatory selections awarded since the practice began in 1994. This summary is presented below. Keep in mind that not all teams (e.g., Browns and Texans) were active during the entire period. The selections awarded the Houston Oilers were combined with those granted the Tennessee Titans for purposes of the summary.

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Imports and exports: Part II

A few articles ago, the subject of NFL teams importing and exporting players was explored. One of the comments received from a reader suggested that I look at the first round and first three rounds separately because of the importance of the early rounds. This article supplements the original article as

A few articles ago, the subject of NFL teams importing and exporting players was explored. One of the comments received from a reader suggested that I look at the first round and first three rounds separately because of the importance of the early rounds. This article supplements the original article as suggested by the reader.

The following two tables summarize import/export information for games started in the 2013 NFL season, initially for the first round alone and then for rounds one through three combined. Each table first shows the number of games started for each team by first round selections, with games split between their own draft choices and players who were first round draft choices and then acquired from others. The tables then show (1) games started for others by a team’s first round choices, (2) all games started by a team’s first round choices and (3) net imports or exports. Calculation references are shown as appropriate.

Some takeaways from these tables:

• Over 25% of all 2013 starts by first-round draft choices were by players who no longer play for the team that drafted them.
    -Of those, about half changed teams via trades.
    -28% of starts by players selected in the first three rounds were by players who changed teams.

• Teams that are net importers of players drafted in the first three rounds tended, at least in 2013, to be more successful than others.
    -For both first round selections and picks in the first three rounds, six of the top eight net importers made the playoffs.
• Being a net exporter of players did not tend to be a good thing in 2013.
    -The Steelers, Cowboys and Dolphins (in varying orders) were the top three exporters for the first round, first three rounds and all draftees and, ironically, all finished exactly with .500 records in 2013.
• The Bengals drafted the most first round players that started 2013 games for other teams
   -Justin Smith (16 starts for 49ers); Carson Palmer (16 starts for Cardinals); Johnathan Joseph (15 starts for Texans); Keith Rivers (8 starts for Giants) 
• The Packers had no players drafted in the first round start 2013 games for other teams.
• The Jaguars drafted the the most players in the first three rounds who started 2013 games for other teams.
    -Reggie Nelson (15 starts for Bengals); Eugene Monroe (11 starts for Ravens); Eben Britten (4 starts for Bears); Justin Durant (6 starts for Cowboys; Rashean Mathis (13 starts for Lions); Khalif Barnes (16 starts for Raiders); Darryl Smith (16 games for Ravens); Greg Jones (5 games for Texans); Terrance Knighton (16 games for Broncos); Derek Cox (11 games for Chargers)
• The Browns had the fewest players drafted in the first three rounds start 2013 games for other teams with only 15
    -Trent Richardson accounted for eight of those starts.

Finally, the last table below summarizes for your convenience the net imports/exports by group of rounds. This table does not explain why teams are net importers or exporters (maybe poor drafting and failure to sign free agents on one side of the coin and good drafting and a willingness to resign players when free agency hits on the other side), but it does identify the category in which each team falls.

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Boom or bust: A look at draft probabilities

In my last article, I laid out the case for splitting the NFL draft into seven draft choice ranges that do not correspond to present rounds. I further postulated that all draft choices within each range have about equal value in terms of future success. To refresh your memory, the seven draft

In my last article, I laid out the case for splitting the NFL draft into seven draft choice ranges that do not correspond to present rounds. I further postulated that all draft choices within each range have about equal value in terms of future success. To refresh your memory, the seven draft choice ranges were:

1. Selections 1-13
2. Selections 14-24
3. Selections 25-46
4. Selections 47-73
5. Selections 74-114
6. Selections 115-187
7. Selections 188 and later

In this article I review the probability of achieving various milestones for each draft choice range. Ten milestones were selected for review and are listed below, along with the draft years considered in the probability calculations.

Regarding the draft years included in each analysis, the general policy was to establish a measurement period that allows one extra year to achieve a milestone For example, in determining whether a player started for five seasons or more, he was allowed six years to achieve those five years as a starter. This meant cutting off the five-year starter analysis with the 2008 draft year so as to allow draftees from 2008 six seasons to achieve both five years in the league and five years as a starter.

I acknowledge that a full analysis cannot be done until after a player’s career is over. The methodology employed in this article, for instance, does not count the player who takes longer than the one-year grace period to achieve a milestone. Take Jordy Nelson of the Packers as an example. He was drafted in 2008 but did not achieve starter status until the 2011 season, his fourth year. While he has only three years as a starter right now, it is highly likely that Nelson will ultimately achieve five-year starter status but he is not counted as a five-year starter yet.

The following table shows the probability of achieving each of the milestones for each of the draft choice ranges. For example, 91.3% of the players selected in the 1-13 draft positions have historically played five years or more and 71.3% of them were starters for at least five years.

This table also demonstrates that the biggest change in going from one draft choice range to another is in drafting players who subsequently earn post-season honors. For example, the probability of drafting a five-year starter declines modestly (10% or so) going from the 1-13 group to the 14-24 group. The decline in players winning post-season honors, though, is about 40%.

Some may prefer data by draft round instead for draft choice range. This next table reports the same information by draft round.
 

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The draft: When 13=1

Many fans tend to think of the draft as an orderly process where a drafted player has less chance of success than the players picked before him and more chance of success than the players selected after him. While there is some truth in this, I have a different view and think the data

Many fans tend to think of the draft as an orderly process where a drafted player has less chance of success than the players picked before him and more chance of success than the players selected after him. While there is some truth in this, I have a different view and think the data shows that there are really ranges of draft choices that have approximately equal value.

While the cut-off points for these draft choice ranges are largely a subjective determination, many objective factors were considered in determining the end point of each draft range. These factors include the number of career starts, the number of players who were selected for Pro Bowls, the number of players who received All Pro recognition, the number of players who were starters for certain period of time, the number of players whose careers lasted a certain period of time and the number rookie starters.

Based on a review of the data from the last 20 drafts (1994 through 2013) here are the draft ranges I am espousing:

1. Selections 1-13
2. Selections 14-24
3. Selections 25-46
4. Selections 47-73
5. Selections 74-114
6. Selections 115-187
7. Selections 188 and after

The assertion here is that there is very little, if any, advantage to moving up within any of the groups (e.g., from 13 to 1) because, historically, results have been about the same for all draft positions in that range. To illustrate this point, here is a summary comparison of the outcomes for selections one and 13.

The only caveat is that it may make sense for a team to move up within a range to take a player at a high value position, such as quarterback, if demand exceeds supply. This is what the Redskins did when they move up to take RG3 in the 2012. Whether that move made sense or not, depends on whether you asked the question at the end of the 2012 season or the end of the 2013 season.

In this analysis, a player receives credit for a Pro Bowl appearance only if he was an original selectee, regardless of whether he played in the game or bowed out due to “injury”. Alternates and other substitutes do not receive credit for a Pro Bowl appearance.

The next table illustrates the degree of difference among the draft choice ranges. In order to demonstrate the point in a concise fashion, the table focuses only on Career Starts and Pro Bowl selections. For each of the two measures and for each range of draft choices the table shows the average for the entire group and then the best and worst scores (along with the draft position posting those scores).

This table also shows pretty significant differences in the best and worst measurements within each draft choice range. This illustrates the “choppiness” of the data and draft results. The following table further illustrates this point by showing number of career starts by draft position for position one through position 13.

This table reinforces the conclusion that the establishment of the draft ranges is more art than science.

My next article will focus on the probability of selected outcomes by draft range. For that analysis I will get away from using the whole 20-year period and use time periods that make the most sense for the selected metric. For example, a player selected in the 2013 draft cannot possibility have been a five-year starter or have a five-year career because he has not been in the league long enough, so a shorter period will be used for that metric.

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Imports and exports

With free agency underway, it is difficult to keep track of all the player movement that is taking place. Long gone are the days when you could buy your favorite players jersey, secure in the knowledge that he would likely play his entire career in your city.

One aspect of player movement that

With free agency underway, it is difficult to keep track of all the player movement that is taking place. Long gone are the days when you could buy your favorite players jersey, secure in the knowledge that he would likely play his entire career in your city.

One aspect of player movement that has intrigued me since the early days of free agency is whether certain teams serve as suppliers of talent for the rest of league, either because they draft better and have surplus talent or because, for whatever reason, they lose players in free agency. This article will address this issue using the 2013 season as the “laboratory”. Before jumping to the answer, the issue must be placed in its proper perspective.

Games started will be used as the chief metric in this article. For the 2013 season, there were a total of 11,264 games started (32 teams times 16 games times 22 starting positions). Here is a summary of those starts:

This article will focus only on drafted players. It is simply too difficult to track the movements of undrafted players. Many try out for several teams before “making it” in the NFL, so which team would qualify as their original team (and can I identify that team with the information available to me)? Rather than cloud the analysis, I will stick just with drafted players. It is worth noting, though, that theRaiders (127), Patriots (107), and Packers (100) accounted for about 18% of all 2013 starts by undrafted players. The average per team is 59 starts so these teams are about double the average.

As a first order of business, I reviewed 2013 season data to determine (1) where drafted players came from as measured in number of starts and (2) how many of those starts were made for the team that originally drafted a player. The following table shows that information for each NFL team. The columns labeled “Tot” shows the number of games started by draftees of each team. As you can see the columns add to 9390 and equals the subtotal from the above table. The columns labeled “Own” represent the number of 2013 games started by players for teams that drafted them. The columns add to 6389 and equal the number of games reported in the preceding table.

The above table shows that the Steelers are well ahead of the rest of the league in both categories. As a long-time (40+ years) Steelers season ticket holder, I am rather surprised to see the Steelers position. While they still carry the reputation as a good drafting team, recent Steelers drafts have been mediocre at best. There are no surprises at the very bottom of the standings, as both the Raiders and Redskins would have been logical guesses. I was somewhat surprised, though, to see the Bears and Giants so close to the bottom.

With the context established, I next turned my attention to the supplier question raised earlier in the article. The first part of the question was really answered in the first table in this article. That table shows that 3001 games were started by players for teams other than the one that drafted them, showing that there are indeed suppliers and purchasers in the league.

The final table below provides the missing piece of the puzzle as it identifies the teams that were net importers or exporters of talent.

The net exporter and exporter designations are described below:

• Net Exporter
  -Game started for others by players they drafted > games started for them by players drafted by others
• Net Importer
  -Games started for them by players drafted by others > games started for others by players they drafted

The following table shows the number of starts “exported” versus the number of starts “imported” with teams sorted by the net of the two numbers. A positive number in the net column indicates that a team is a net exporter and a number in parentheses indicates a team is a net importer.

This information shows that the Steelers were the league’s top net exporter in 2013, followed by the Panthers, Dolphins, Cowboys and Packers. The biggest importers of talent from other teams for 2013 were the Bears, Redskins, Vikings, Giants and Colts.

The Steelers top ranking is primarily a function of their league-low number of “imports” as they rank only fifth in the number of starts exported, behind the Panthers, the Dolphins, the Cowboys and the Jaguars.

The Bears rank as the leading net importer while ranking second (behind the Colts) in total number of starts imported. The Redskins trail the Bears as a net importer and rank fourth (behind the Colts, Bears and Cardinals) in total number of starts imported.

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Which teams are the most efficient in the NFL Draft?

The NFL free agency period always reminds me just how important the NFL draft is in building a team. I have heard at least a few NFL executives equate the draft to buying wholesale and free agent signings to buying retail, and that analogy makes perfect sense.

In the age of salary cap,

The NFL free agency period always reminds me just how important the NFL draft is in building a team. I have heard at least a few NFL executives equate the draft to buying wholesale and free agent signings to buying retail, and that analogy makes perfect sense.

In the age of salary cap, the inherent advantage to a team that drafts well is magnified. But are there really teams that draft better or are the draft outcomes a combination of luck and draft position (i.e., how high is the draft choice)?

I think there is more luck involved in the draft than NFL front offices and their fans would like to believe. Was the selection of Tom Brady luck or skill? I was not in the draft room with the Patriots that day, but how highly could they have had Brady ranked to wait until the sixth round to pick him? My contention is that the Patriots were no smarter than anyone else that day, just a lot luckier.

I have written several articles regarding the drafting efficiency of NFL teams, most of which dive deep into statistical details in support of an assertion. In this article I will take a very simple, and probably oversimplified, approach to the subject. Here are the basics of the analysis used for this article:

• The draft was divided into two segments – first three rounds and then the rest of the draft
   -In the first three rounds an NFL team expects the player or players selected to contribute
   -Later, a team hopes a player will contribute but cannot count on it

• For each team, the number of draft choices within each segment and the number of games started by those draft choices was aggregated
• The total number of games started was then divided by the number of players drafted to determine starts per draft choice, the principal efficiency measure used in this article
• The number of players that made the Pro Bowl at least once was also determined as supplemental information

The total number of starts for a team by drafted players is a function of several things: the number of draft choices that a team has, the location of those draft choices and how efficiently the selections are used. Before focusing on draft efficiency, let’s look at the total number of starts by team for players drafted from 2004 through 2013. Complete information by team is shown at the end of this article.

This table indicates that the Tennessee Titans' draft classes yielded more games started than any other team. Please remember that these are total games started by the draft classes, not just the games started for the Titans. So if a player leaves the Titans for another team, his starts for the second team are still credited to the Titans.

I next looked at draft efficiency by team for the first three rounds for the 2004 through 2013 draft years. Teams by quartile and in order of efficiency (with number of players who played in at least one Pro Bowl in parentheses) are shown below.

This table shows that the Falcons were the most efficient drafting team in the first three rounds from 2004 through 2013. The Falcons averaged about 49 starts per player drafted versus the league average of 37 games started per player drafted. The Colts bring up the rear with only 27 starts per player drafted. It should be noted that the number of starts is understated because many of the players drafted are still in mid or early career. The information is useful, though, for a comparative analysis such as this. A final accounting cannot be completed until most of the players have completed their careers, and the information is stale by that point.

The following table looks at the efficiency of NFL teams in the last four draft rounds. It can be seen that the ranking of team efficiency is significantly different as compared to the first three rounds. In weighing the importance of the last four rounds it should be noted, for the 10 years studied, that 67% of total starts come from the first three draft rounds and 77% of all Pro Bowl players come from the first three rounds. It is not surprising that this makes the first three rounds much more important.

Here are the results for rounds four through seven:

The lack of consistency in the team efficiency between the first three rounds and the last four rounds is noteworthy. With the same front office making all the selections, I would have expected to see more consistency between the two tables. The Chargers are the only team to rank in top eight of both tables.

I also combined the two groups into a table that shows the results for all rounds of the draft. A note of caution here, though, as the location of the draft choices may have a major impact on the total table. For example, a team with most of its selections in the first three rounds will appear outperform a team with the opposite situation. The numerator is mainly dependent on the first three rounds (35,983 starts versus 17,643 starts). The denominator, on the other hand, is most heavily influenced by the final four rounds (1563 selections versus 979 selections).

As I was writing this article and then reviewing the results, one thought kept recurring. What’s the deal with the Patriots? The Patriots are undoubtedly one of the most successful teams in the league but their draft efficiency, according to this simplified analysis, is among the worst in the league. We will circle back to this issue in future articles.

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Top 25 second and third round flops

When NFL draft flops are discussed, the conversation usually centers around the first round and the names Ryan Leaf, Mike Mamula (whether deserved or not) and JaMarcus Russell are popular conversation topics. Teams also have high expectations, though, for players selected in the second and third rounds of the draft. In the second round,

When NFL draft flops are discussed, the conversation usually centers around the first round and the names Ryan Leaf, Mike Mamula (whether deserved or not) and JaMarcus Russell are popular conversation topics. Teams also have high expectations, though, for players selected in the second and third rounds of the draft. In the second round, for example, the general expectation is that the average draftee will start over 40 games in his NFL career and over 90% of drafted players will start at least one game. These expectations will be covered in more detail in a future article.

So flops in the second and third rounds do hurt. Teams are expecting help in those rounds, not buying a lottery ticket as they are largely doing later in the draft. In this article, I identify some of the recent second and third round flops. The composition of the list and the order of the flops is largely a matter of opinion but I have tried to base my opinion on facts to the extent possible.

Players drafted between 2004 and 2011 were reviewed and considered for my “flop list”. Draftees from 2012 and 2013 were excluded because there are still opportunities for those players to be at least somewhat successful.

First, some facts about the less successful members of the 2004 through 2011 draft classes:

• 63 players of the players drafted did not start a single NFL game
   -83 players started five games or fewer
• 10 players did not play in a single NFL game
• Of the 53 players who did play in at least one game

   -20 played only one NFL season
   -15 played only two NFL seasons
   -11 played only three NFL seasons
   -Six played only four NFL seasons
   -One played five NFL seasons

There is no question that injury plays a role with many of the players who end up being disappointments. For simplicity sake, no players were disqualified from my list due to injury. The assumption made was that injury is part of the game and it is not feasible to separate a career-impeding injury from one that does not stop a player from taking the field.

The following table lists my top 25 flops and includes the team that drafted the player, his playing position, the year he was drafted, the number of years in the NFL (only years in which the player was on the field for one or more games count) and number of starts.

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Playing time analysis

This article reviews 2013 NFL playing time from two perspectives:

• Whether there are significant differences by playing position regarding the round in which “contributers” have been selected
• Whether there are significant differences by playing position regarding the experience level of “contributors”

The measure used to gauge playing time is

This article reviews 2013 NFL playing time from two perspectives:

• Whether there are significant differences by playing position regarding the round in which “contributers” have been selected
• Whether there are significant differences by playing position regarding the experience level of “contributors”

The measure used to gauge playing time is the number of plays from scrimmage. The term “contributors”, as used above, refers to any player who participated in one or more scrimmage plays during the 2013 season.

The use of plays from scrimmages is deemed superior (though less widely available on a historic basis) to number of starts because it is a better indicator of how much time a player spends on the field. In reviewing the data, for example, there are many occasions where a fullback may start but ultimately sees the field less the third wide receiver.

Only 2013 scrimmage plays are considered in this article. It would be preferable to use multiple years but I have data only from 2012 and 2013 available to me.

The source of data for this article is the weekly “Game Book” published by the NFL. The Game Book information was used as the basic raw data and I then aggregated it into a form useful for this and other articles. Fullbacks are ignored for the rest of this article due to their minimal number of plays from scrimmage.

The following table reports the percentage of scrimmage plays by round for each playing position. For example, of all the scrimmage plays for centers, 19.7% were by first round draft choices, 42.3% by first and second round choices, etc.


Several things stand out in the table:

• It is no surprise that quarterback are the only position with more than 50% of scrimmage plays scrimmage coming from first round choices.
   -Defensive ends are next with nearly one-third
• For all positions except tight end and safety, at least half of the scrimmage plays come from players selected in the first three rounds.
   -Even the two exceptions are close to 50%
• Quarterbacks and linebackers have the lowest percentage of scrimmage plays from rounds four through seven
   -Tight ends have the most
Linebackers, safeties and running backs have the most scrimmage plays by undrafted free agents

The second part of this review accumulated scrimmage plays by both playing position and NFL experience. The purpose was to review (1) how quickly a player saw playing time and (2) career longevity. At some point, this data will also be useful in judging the degree by which the salary cap hurts veteran players.

Here is the summarized information by playing position.

Some of the key takeaways from this data are as follows:

• Players entering the NFL in the most recent five years accounted for 61% of all plays from scrimmage.
   -Defensive tackles and safeties were the highest
   -Quarterbacks and offensive linemen were the lowest

• Over 11% of all plays from scrimmage were by rookies.
• Safeties and tight end had the highest percentage of playing time by rookies.

   -Centers and defensive ends were the lowest
• Quarterbacks tended to have the most experience, with nearly 40% of plays from scrimmage generated by players in the NFL before 2006.
• Running backs in the league since before 2006 accounted for only 7% of plays from scrimmage.

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Getting some free agency perspective: 2013 review

Another important phase of the NFL offseason will begin on March 11 as free agency gets underway. To help set the stage, this article will take a look back at 2013 free agency and its “big picture” outcomes. This will provide some indication of what can be expected this year and provides at least

Another important phase of the NFL offseason will begin on March 11 as free agency gets underway. To help set the stage, this article will take a look back at 2013 free agency and its “big picture” outcomes. This will provide some indication of what can be expected this year and provides at least a modicum of perspective.

The following table shows teams ranked in order of starts by players signed through free agency (with number of plays from scrimmage as a tiebreaker). The table also shows each team’s 2013 record and the number of signings by contract length. Average contract length is included in the table, although I’m not sure if that metric provides any meaningful insights into a team’s free agent strategy.

Free agent signings, for the purpose of this article, include signings both before and during the 2013 season. Players acquired via waivers and players that re-signed with their 2012 team are excluded. A handful of players are included twice. This situation arises if a player joins two different teams as a free agent (signed and subsequently cut by one team, then signed by a second team).

This table shows that teams can be successful with or without a significant number of free agent signings. Having said that, though, it is interesting to note that of the bottom six teams (in number of free agent starts), four made the playoffs versus only one team in the top six. If the teams are split into two 16-team halves, however, the difference disappears. Both the top 16 teams and bottom 16 teams include six playoff teams.

Free agent signings were also reviewed for differences by playing position. The table below summarizes the information for each playing position. There is little difference by position in the length of contracts.

There are, though, pretty major differences in the number of starts per signee. Positions can be grouped into four categories based on similar characteristics. Quarterbacks and fullbacks, while included in the table, are omitted from any discussion due to the small number of data points.

Following is a brief description and commentary on each of the four categories:

• Offensive Linemen
   -Most likely to start with an average of about seven starts per free agent signed
   -Interestingly, there were only half as many offensive line signings as defensive line signings

• Defensive Players
   -Average between 4.5 and 5.5 starts per free agent signed
   -D-backs are at upper end of scale, linebackers at lowest

• Receivers, including both TEs and WRs
   -Average about 3.5 starts per free agent signed
• Running Backs
   -As risky in free agency as in the draft, averaging only about 2.5 starts per free agent signed

Here is the table that contains the information upon which the above is based.

Finally, 2013 free agency was studied by contract length to see whether performance conformed to expectations. While there are certainly exceptions, a general expectation is that a longer contract term will be required to sign a better player. Free agents signed to longer contracts do indeed appear to start more games than players signed to shorter contracts. The following table illustrates this point:
 

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Which colleges produce the most NFL talent?

This seems like a pretty easy question to answer. Just start with Alabama and go from there, right? I thought I would be just a little more scientific, though, and compile actual data By my count, players from over 200 different colleges started NFL games during the 2013 season. Of that group, 37 colleges

This seems like a pretty easy question to answer. Just start with Alabama and go from there, right? I thought I would be just a little more scientific, though, and compile actual data By my count, players from over 200 different colleges started NFL games during the 2013 season. Of that group, 37 colleges each accounted for 100 starts or more and, as a group, 57% of total starts.

The following table lists the 37 teams in order of the number of 2013 NFL games started. Those starts are divided into (1) those by players who entered the NFL before 2009 and (2) those who entered the league in 2009 and after. Finally, the table also includes each college’s won/loss record from 2009 through 2013.

While Alabama does rank sixth in number of games started by its former players, the table shows that the answer to the “what colleges” question is not as cut and dry and some may think. The table includes a few surprises both in the omission of some teams I expected to see (e.g., Clemson and Missouri) and the inclusion of some teams I would not have expected to see (e.g., Illinois and Virginia). In fact, about 25% of the teams listed had won/loss records below .500 for the years 2009-2013. California is the poster child for these teams. The college is ranked in a tie for fourth most 2013 games started (and ahead of Alabama and Ohio State) while posting a 24-38 record.

The analysis was then extended to determine whether the 37 colleges were a more efficient source of talent than rest of the college football universe. The term “efficiency” is used in a broad sense to indicate whether the yield (measured by the number of 2013 starts in this case) exceeds what might have been expected given the number of draft selections.

In this article, efficiency is reviewed for each round and the measure used is the number of games started per draftee (“GSD”). The GSD calculation is limited to players drafted between 2009 and 2013 and the games those players started during the 2013 season. GSD cannot exceed 16, the number of regular season games. As an example of the calculation of GSD, the 37 colleges accounted for 117 first round draft selections that started 1244 NFL games in 2013. The GSD would be 10.63, derived by dividing 1244 by 117.

The next table shows a comparison of the 37 colleges to the remaining colleges and then all colleges.

The respective GSDs indicate that, with the exception of sixth round draftees, players from the Top 37 tend to be more successful than draftees from other colleges, meaning those draft choices were more efficiently used.

The analysis was then further extended to review individual colleges within the Top 37. The principal issue in doing so is the limited number of data points for each college. No school had more than 34 draft selections (stretched across seven rounds) and Boston College had only five draftees in the 2009 through 2013 time period.

The next table shows the GSD by round for each the 37 colleges that had at least 20 players drafted from 2009 through 2013.

Where “None” is used, it means a team had no draft selections in those rounds. No attempt is made to present an overall GSD due to the impact that location of draft choices would have on the calculation. Miami, for example, had no first round draft choices from 2009 through 2013, likely resulting in a lower overall GSD than a team like Alabama, which had 14 first round selections in the same period. That lower GSD would be driven largely by the quantity of draft choices and would not be representative of the efficiency of the draft choices that a team did have.

The data presented in the above table can be summarized into which teams were more (and less) efficient by rounds. Generally, three teams are listed by round and category except where there are ties.

It is interesting that Alabama does not appear on the “most efficient” list for any round. Georgia and Florida are the only colleges to appear three times in the most efficient column. Are Alabama players “overdrafted”? This at least raises the issue.

On the least efficient side, Ohio State appears on that list for five of the seven rounds. Another potential case of “overdrafting”? Again, no definitive answer here but the issue is raised.

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2014 Combine performance: Defensive Backs

Defensive backs wrapped up the Combine on Tuesday. This article reviews the performance of the participating defensive backs. As mentioned in my earlier articles, the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This is very meaningful information that

Defensive backs wrapped up the Combine on Tuesday. This article reviews the performance of the participating defensive backs. As mentioned in my earlier articles, the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This is very meaningful information that I usually obtain from other sources. Complete 40-yard splits will be reported in a wrap-up article later in March.

This article reports each player’s measurement by percentile. That is, if a player’s measurement is in the top 10% of all performances since 1999 his measurement would be reported as 10% (raw scores are reported at any number of websites and would be redundant to report here). A low score is better than a high score (e.g., 10% is better than 20%). IF “DNP” is reported in a column, it means the player did not participate in that drill.

Cornerbacks

This year’s group was a step slower than the historical average but did better somewhat better in the jumping drills. Here is a comparison of the current year versus the historical average.

In the individual player listings, the up or down arrow reflects the drills judged to be most and least predictive of future performance in my article “2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE”. An up arrow indicates most predictive and a down area indicates least predictive. Past QB results have shown very little correlation between NFL performance and any of the drills, so none of the drills are highlighted.

The individual results are shown on page 3 of this article. These results do not include the 10-yard split which is an important indicator for corner backs, so any evaluation is somewhat premature until those results are obtained. Jason Verrett and Justin Gilbert had the best Combines, followed by Phillip Gaines.

There was much buzz about Darqueze Dennard and Kyle Fuller. Any evaluation of their performance is blurred by the variety of 40-times that are circulating. For example, Dennard was reported to have run a 4.42 40 but the official NFL times how him running a 4.51. Which, if any, is right? It makes a big difference in evaluating performance. The official NFL numbers for Dennard and Fuller are not all that impressive, but the unofficial numbers give an entirely different picture.

Safeties

With the exception of the bench press, which has questionable importance, this year’s group did not do as well as historical averages. Only six drill performances made the top 10% list based on historical results. For comparison purposes it is worth noting that 17 performances by cornerbacks, though there were nearly double the number of corners.

The following table compares current year results to historical averages.

Individual performance information is shown at the end of this article. Maybe this will change once the 10-yard splits are included, but the lack of speed was apparent was apparent when 40 times were reviewed.

Of the 20 safeties, only six had scores that ranked in the top half of all historical times. Of that group, Deone Bucannon and Brock Vereen would probably get the nod as having the best Combines. Daniel Sorensen did great in the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill but his 40 time was in the 90th percentile as were his vertical and broad jumps. Overall, the safeties did not perform well in gym shorts and I was hard pressed to come up with Combine “winners”. 

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2014 Combine performance: QBs, RBs, and WRs

Skill position players took the field on Sunday as the Combine continued. This article reviews the performance of the skill players. As mentioned in my earlier article, the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This

Skill position players took the field on Sunday as the Combine continued. This article reviews the performance of the skill players. As mentioned in my earlier article, the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This is very meaningful information that I usually obtain from other sources. Because of the importance of the 10-yard splits to running backs and wide receivers, though, I did use the 10-yard information from www.walterfootball.com. Complete 40-yard splits will be reported in a wrap-up article later in March.

This article reports each player’s measurement by percentile. That is, if a player’s measurement is in the top 10% of all performances since 1999 his measurement would be reported as 10% (raw scores are reported at any number of websites and would be redundant to report here). A low score is better than a high score (e.g., 10% is better than 20%). IF “DNP” is reported in a column, it means the player did not participate in that drill.

Quarterbacks

As compared to recent years, the super-athlete was missing from this year’s quarterback crop, resulting in a drop-off in most measurements.

In the individual player listings, the up or down arrow reflects the drills judged to be most and least predictive of future performance in my article “2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE”. An up arrow indicates most predictive and a down area indicates least predictive. Past QB results have shown very little correlation between NFL performance and any of the drills, so none of the drills are highlighted.

Johnny Football and Logan Thomas rated the highest in the Combine drills. Thomas was particularly interesting given his size (6-6 248) but his inconsistency in game situations is well known to those who follow college football.

Running Backs (over 210 pounds)

For evaluation purposes, running backs were split into those who weigh 210 pounds or less and those who weigh more than 210 pounds. This is less arbitrary than one might think as 210 pounds is about the historic size midpoint for running backs.

The 2014 group of large running backs appears to be somewhat less athletic than those of the past. Here is a comparison of current and past performance.

I will not repeat the comments regarding individual performance that were made in the previous section. Here is the individual information.

Andre Williams, George Atkinson and Tyler Gaffney were arguably the best performers but no one blew away the competition. As noted above, none of the large running backs had times in the 10-yard or 40-yard splits that are in the top 10% historically.

Running Backs (210 pounds or less)

As a group, the smaller running backs were slightly slower than historical averages in the 10-yard split but a little better in the other drills. Unfortunately, the 10-yard split is, in my humble opinion, the most important predictor of success at this position. Here is the comparison of current and past years.

Three players (Dri Archer, Tre Mason and Jerick McKinnon) stuck out as the top performers. Archer is very small (5-8 173) and figures to be more of a situational player. McKinnon was not very well known heading into the Combine and his draft position might tell us how much weight the Combine carries in player evaluation. Based on Combine performance it is hard to imagine anyone from this group being a particularly high draft selection.

Here is the listing by player.

Wide Receivers

There were a lot of good individual performances in the wide receiver group. For example, of the 48 WRs, 10 had 10-yard split times that were among the best 10% historically. That is double what would normally be expected. 2014 performance versus the historic average, as shown in the following table, was slightly better across the board.

Individual information is shown below. Judged strictly by performance in the measurable drills, Jeff Janis was a standout. Janis has great size (6-3 219) and recorded the fastest 10-yard and 40-yard times. Donte Moncrief is another large receiver (6-2 221) who posted excellent Combine scores. Brandon Cooks of Oregon State and John Brown of Pittsburgh State were the only two receivers who posted top 10% times in both the 10-yard and 40 yard splits. Cooks is a projected first rounder while Brown is a dark horse. Other first rounders including Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans did well enough in the Combine to maintain their positions.

This year’s group of wide receivers appears to have great depth and great values will be able to be obtained later in the draft.

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2014 Combine performance: Defensive front seven

Defensive linemen and linebackers were featured in Monday’s Combine drills. It is somewhat difficult to evaluate defensive ends because of differences in responsibilities. A defensive end in a 4-3 scheme tends to be smaller and more of a pass rusher. A defensive end playing in a 3-4 is bigger and is usually similar to

Defensive linemen and linebackers were featured in Monday’s Combine drills. It is somewhat difficult to evaluate defensive ends because of differences in responsibilities. A defensive end in a 4-3 scheme tends to be smaller and more of a pass rusher. A defensive end playing in a 3-4 is bigger and is usually similar to a defensive tackle. The best way I could think to address this was to divide front seven players into three groups:

• Defensive tackles and large defensive ends, with larger defensive ends assumed to be more like tackles
-Defensive ends weighing 265 pounds or more were placed in this group
-This cut-off by weight may mischaracterize certain players such as Jadeveon Clowney and make their numbers look better, but it is probably the most objective methodology.

• Small defensive ends (weighing less than 265 pounds) and outside linebackers
• Inside linebackers

An additional problem I faced in this article is that, at the time this writing, the NFL has not yet posted 20-yard shuttle timings for defensive linemen. I have no choice but to omit that drill for those players.

As mentioned in my earlier articles, the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This is very meaningful information that I usually obtain from other sources. Complete 40-yard splits will be considered in a wrap-up article later in March.

This article reports each player’s measurement by percentile. That is, if a player’s measurement is in the top 10% of all performances since 1999 his measurement would be reported as 10% (raw scores are reported at any number of websites and would be redundant to report here). A low score is better than a high score (e.g., 10% is better than 20%). IF “DNP” is reported in a column, it means the player did not participate in that drill.

Defensive Tackles and Large Defensive Ends

This year’s group, even with the inclusion of Clowney, was not quite as athletic as in past years. Here’s the comparison:

In the individual player listings, the up or down arrow reflects the drills judged to be most and least predictive of future performance in my article “2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE”. An up arrow indicates most predictive and a down area indicates least predictive. The “NA” indicates the NFL has not posted the information.

Before discussing other players, I wanted to look at Clowney’s “slash line” if he was classified as a small defensive end. His current line is 10%/90%/10%/10%/20%. This would change to 10%/60%/20%/20%/70% so he would not look quite as good with the change. Aside from Aaron Donald from Pitt, who is deservedly receiving kudos for his Combine performance, the other top performers tended to be on the smaller side and included Chris Smith, Kerry Wynn and Kareem Martin. Kaleb Ramsey scored well in the bench press but did not participate in any other drills.

Small Defensives End and Outside Linebackers

The ability to rush the passer is using a requisite for this position as defenses try to combat today’s offensive juggernauts. This is a key element for the defense so plenty of attention is paid to this group. As a reminder all outside linebackers and defensive ends who weigh less than 265 pounds are combined for this analysis.

Aside from the bench press this group’s performance was very close to the historical averages.

I will not repeat the comments regarding individual performance that were made in the previous section. Here is the individual information.

Though generally considered to be a late round choice, the performance of Kevin Pierre-Louis was the high point at this position, and maybe the entire Combine. Four of his drills ranked in the top 10% historically and the other two were in the top 20%. Howard Jones from tiny Shepherd University in West Virginia probably had the #2 performance at the position. Ryan Shazier decided to not run the 40 but that did not hurt his draft stock. Khalil Mack also maintained his draft position. Jordan Shipp received notice for his times in the 2-yard shuttle and 3-Cone drills but did not run or jump particularly well.

Inside Linebackers

This was a rather strange group. Other than the Vertical Jump, which I think is an important indicator, this group’s performance was reasonably comparable to historical averages. Other than the bench press, though, there were only two performances (Telvin Smith in the 40 and Avery Williamson in the 20-yard shuttle) that made the top 10%.

It is difficult to find a standout Combine performer in the group, with many drills being skipped (about 1/3) and lots of up and down performances across the drills. Khari Fortt probably had the best Combine of the group. Telvin Smith participated in only three drills and did well in two of them, but did not do well in the Vertical Jump,the principal indicator of success. Jordan Zumwalt was probably the most consistent performer as his measures were in the top half of each of the five drills in which he participated.

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2014 Combine performance: Tight Ends and Offensive Line

Saturday was a busy day at the Combine as offensive linemen and tight ends took to the field. With the measurements (at least for the most part) on the record and available to hardcore fans, it is time to evaluate what happened. All the data used as the basis for this article comes from

Saturday was a busy day at the Combine as offensive linemen and tight ends took to the field. With the measurements (at least for the most part) on the record and available to hardcore fans, it is time to evaluate what happened. All the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This is very meaningful information that I usually obtain from other sources, but I will have to ignore the splits as I do not yet have the information.

This article reports each player’s measurement by percentile. That is, if a player’s measurement is in the top 10% of all performances since 1999 his measurement would be reported as 10% (raw scores are reported at any number of websites and would be redundant to report here). A low score is better than a high score (e.g., 10% is better than 20%). IF “DNP” is reported in a column, it means the player did not participate in that drill.

Centers

Here is how 2014 performance as a group compared to the 1999-2013 average.

As the table indicates, 2014 performance was a mixed bag with performance in some drills being worse and others being better.

Now we turn to individual performance. The up or down arrow reflects which drills were judged to be most and least predictive of future performance in my article “2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE”. An up arrow indicates most predictive and a down area indicates least predictive. The absence of the 40-yard splits prevents this from being as meaningful as it could be.

No one jumps out as having great across the board performance. One could argue that Gabe Ikard was the biggest standout as he did the best in the 20-yard shuttle and 3-Cone drills, both judged to be significant indicators of success.

Guards

Here is how 2014 performance as a group compared to the 1999-2013 average.

The 2014 group seems to be slightly faster than the average of past years but did not fare as well in the vertical jump or the broad jump.

I will not repeat the comments regarding individual performance that were made in the previous section. Here is the individual information.

Big 10 players set the pace for guards. Ryan Groy, who I have not heard discussed much at all, was arguably the best performer in the group. As someone who is a Penn State season ticket holder I must admit being pleasantly surprised by John Urschel’s performance. Conor Bofell from Iowa also did well. The Big 10 trio was joined by Xavier Su’a-Filo as the top Combine performers at the guard position.

Tackles

Offensive tackles certainly stole the show on Saturday. The players that were highly rated all did well in the Combine drills and did nothing to hurt their cause. First, here is a summary of the full group.

The only drill where 2014 did not outperform the average was in the vertical jump.

In addition to the big name guys (Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson) who got most the attention, Joel Bitonio, Wesley Johnson and Matt Pachan also did very well.

Tight Ends

Eric Ebron was the big name going in, and he did not hurt himself with his performance.
Colt Lyerla has the best overall performance, though his off-field issues may affect his draft fate. Here is a look at the overall group.

With the exception of the 20-yard shuttle and the 3-Cone drill, the tight end group pretty much exceeded the average. The averages in those two groups were affected by fact that the top three athletes skipped the drills.

The individual performances reflect that both Lyerla and A.C. Leonard set the pace for the field. Joe Don Dunham caught everyone’s attention with his bench press but did not participate in any other drills.

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A look back at the 2013 Combine

Immediately after 2013 Combine ended and well before the draft, I wrote an article (“Wrapping Up the 2013 Combine”) that identified players who had the best (as subjectively determined) overall performance in the measurable Combine drills. This was done for each playing position and ended up including 43 players (“the Group”).

With the

Immediately after 2013 Combine ended and well before the draft, I wrote an article (“Wrapping Up the 2013 Combine”) that identified players who had the best (as subjectively determined) overall performance in the measurable Combine drills. This was done for each playing position and ended up including 43 players (“the Group”).

With the Combine upon us, it might be of interest to look back and see how the Group fared, both in the draft and in their rookie seasons. With the limited number of data points there is little useful information to be extracted, but it does provide a “snapshot” of how the best on-field performers in the 2013 Combine class made out.

Unfortunately, the Combine does not exist in a vacuum and it is not possible to make any definitive statements regarding whether the Group’s Combine performance helped or hurts a player. For example, most players participate in a pro day at their college and their performance at those days can mitigate, raise questions about or confirm Combine performance.

Almost 90% (38 our of 43) the Group were drafted, with the other five signed as undrafted free agents. The distribution by draft round is as follows:

• Round 1 – 11 players (4 OL, 1 TE, 1 WR, 1 QB, 3 DE/OLB, 1 CB)
• Round 2 – 5 (1 WR, 1 TE, 1 QB, 1 RB, 1 CB)
• Round 3 – 7 (1 OL, 2 WR, 1 DT/DE)
• Round 4 – 5 (1 OL, 1 WR, 1 LB/DE, 1 CB, 1 S)
• Round 5 – 1 (1 S)
• Round 6 – 5 (2 OL, 1 WR, 1 RB, 1 LB/DE)
• Round 7 – 4 (1 TE, 2 DT/DE, 1 LB/DE)

Of the 38 drafted players, three missed the entire 2013 season due to injury and a fourth retired due to concussion issues.

The Group accounted for over 16% of all games started by rookies and about 34% of the games started by first round draft choices. The table on the next page lists each of the 43 players, the round drafted, the team that drafted or signed them and their level of participation from scrimmage in the 2013 NFL season.

It was interesting to note that all of the five undrafted players were at the so-called skill positions (two were running backs, two were wide receivers and one was a quarterback). It is also notable that none of the four running backs in the Group started a single game.

Does this tell us anything about skill position players? Not really, because of the limited sample size.

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2014 Combine viewing guide

2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE
by Tony Villiotti

The next milestone on the journey to the NFL draft is reached this week with the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Offensive linemen will roll into town on Wednesday and head out on Saturday. Other position groupings follow the offensive linemen with defensive backs wrapping up

2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE
by Tony Villiotti

The next milestone on the journey to the NFL draft is reached this week with the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Offensive linemen will roll into town on Wednesday and head out on Saturday. Other position groupings follow the offensive linemen with defensive backs wrapping up the annual event on Tuesday, February 25. Here is a summary of the schedule for each playing position.

The NFL Network will provide 60 hours of live programming of the event beginning on Thursday, February 20. The Combine is one of the highlights of my year and forces me to think creatively so that I can manage to watch most of the 60 hours without incurring the wrath of my wife. This was a lot easier before she retired.

This article is intended to make it easier for fans to make sense out of the jumble of numbers that will be scrolling across our television screens. There are two basic questions a fan may have while watching the Combine. First, how does what I just saw that player do measure up against other guys who play the same position? Second, how important is this drill in predicting future success? The first question is much more easily answered and that will be addressed first.

The table at the end shows information by playing position and for each drill based on Combine results from 1999 through 2013. The table includes:

• The average measurement for each position
• The cut-off for a measurement that would rank in the top 10% since 1999
• The cut-off for a measurement that would rank in the top 30% since 1999
• The cut-off for a measurement that would rank in the top 50% since 1999

This table is a handy reference guide to be consulted while watching the Combine.

There a few protocols that were followed and which will be useful for you to know regarding the reference guide:

• Running backs have been split into two groups – those weighing 210 pounds or less and those weighing over 210 pounds – because of the different characteristics between the two groups. This split is arbitrary. There should be a split, it just is not clear where it should be.
• Fullback and special team players are excluded from this analysis.
• For purposes of this analysis, defensive ends weighing less than 265 pounds (admittedly an arbitrary breakpoint) have been combined with outside linebackers.
-Many players come out of the college with an uncertainty about whether they will play outside linebacker or defensive end.
-This uncertainty can be due to either the player’s ability or the defensive scheme played by the team who drafted the player.
• Defensive ends weighing 265 pounds or more have been grouped with defensive tackles for the same reason.

Now, how important are these drills anyway? In recent years it has been the “in thing” to trash the importance of the Combine, but why do all these NFL folks keep showing up? I have kind of a middle of the road view on the matter. There is no way to rely strictly on numbers to make a talent evaluation. On the other hand, though, more information is better than less information and I believe that the Combine does serve a useful purpose in that regard. I have tried a handful of different ways to quantify the importance of a drill in predicting success, but have not yet found one that is “the answer”. I am going to use a new one for this article. While I will not bore you with all the calculation details, my basic methodology is to take the top 10, 20 and 30 performers for each drill and then track the success of those players.

I tend to stay away from the use of standard deviations (though I understand them and know how to use them) and the like for evaluation purposes in favor of a less technical approach. Using this methodology, I identified the drills that seem to me to be most and least predictive of success.

Here is a summary of my somewhat subjective conclusions. Some are counter-intuitive while others are what we would expect.

Regarding quarterback, the one consistent thread in past analyses has been that there is no drill that predicts quarterback success (see Tom Brady). For that reason, I did not address the quarterback position.

Happy viewing! That honey-do list can wait.

The chart is below. Click it for an enlarged version.

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Rookie playing time: A snapshot

With the seventh week of the NFL season now concluded (though some teams have played only six games), DRAFTMETRICS compiled a listing of the rookies who have seen the most playing time so far. The data used was the weekly player participation information provided by the NFL.

Following are the top 50 rookies

With the seventh week of the NFL season now concluded (though some teams have played only six games), DRAFTMETRICS compiled a listing of the rookies who have seen the most playing time so far. The data used was the weekly player participation information provided by the NFL.

Following are the top 50 rookies in terms of average plays per scrimmage per game (special teams plays excluded). This is strictly, of course, a reporting of the QUANTITY of plays and not QUALITY, so it should be taken in that context.

A few interesting sidebars to the above table:

• Only the Broncos, Dolphins and Steelers do not have a player on the top 50 list
• The Bills have the most players on the list (four) followed by the Bucs, Cowboys, Jaguars and Patriots (all with three)
• A breakdown of the 50 by round is as follows:
Round 1 – 22 players
Round 2 – Nine players
Round 3 – Six players
Round 4 – Three players
Round 5 – Two players
Round 6 – Two players
Round 7 – One player
Free Agents – Five players

• A breakdown by playing position is as follows:
Defensive Backs – 14
Offensive Linemen – 12
Wide Receivers – 8
Defensive Line – 6
Linebackers – 4
Quarterbacks – 3
Tight Ends – 2
Running Backs – 1

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Early returns on rookie contributions

The days of the NFL draft are always filled with hope. Seventh round draft choices are seen as “the answer” to a team’s woes and undrafted free agents are virtual sure things. Reality sets in during training camp. That seventh round choice isn’t quite as good as you thought, your prized rookie suffers an

The days of the NFL draft are always filled with hope. Seventh round draft choices are seen as “the answer” to a team’s woes and undrafted free agents are virtual sure things. Reality sets in during training camp. That seventh round choice isn’t quite as good as you thought, your prized rookie suffers an injury that slows his progress and so on. The contribution of a rookie class comes down to a few key determinants: the player’s ability, the speed of the player in adjusting to the pro game, avoiding injury and the opportunities to replace a holdover starter. A poor team, of course, can be expected to have more opportunities for a rookie to start than a good team.

So how is 2013 shaping up so far? DRAFTMETRICS, using data from the NFL, summarized the number of plays in which rookies (both drafted and undrafted) participated in over the first four weeks of the season. These numbers are plays from scrimmage and exclude special teams.

It should be noted that the Packers and Panthers have played only three games, so their totals are misleading. The number of plays in parentheses for each is the conversion of their three-game rookie plays into an equivalent four-game number.

As can be seen above the Bills have had by far the greatest contributions from rookies. The Bills have had three rookies (E J Manuel, Kiki Alonso and Robert Woods) start each of the first four games and a fourth rookie (Nickell Robey) who has seen significant action.

The Jaguars trail the Bills but Jonathan Cyprien, Luke Joeckel, Josh Evans and Ace Sanders have all seen significant playing time.

The Browns and Broncos have had the least help from rookies. Only Barkevious Mingo has seen modest playing time for the Browns and the Broncos have received even more modest help from Montee Ball and Kayvon Webster. The Broncos, of course, have done just fine without much help with rookies.

DRAFTMETRICS also took a look at the progress of first round draft choices. The following shows the number of games played, number of games started and number of scrimmage plays for each first round selection.

16 of the 32 first round picks have started all of their team’s games. Excluding the injured Jonathan Cooper, Sylvester Williams and Cordarrelle Patterson have seen the least amount of action with 43 plays each.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Retaining starters and free agent activity: Training camp edition

With three weeks remaining until the start of NFL training camps (and having just returned from the beach), this seems like a good time to update DRAFTMETRICS analysis of returning starters and free agent activity. To refresh your memory, this analysis reports the number of games started by players still with their 2012

With three weeks remaining until the start of NFL training camps (and having just returned from the beach), this seems like a good time to update DRAFTMETRICS analysis of returning starters and free agent activity. To refresh your memory, this analysis reports the number of games started by players still with their 2012 team as well games started by players acquired through free agency or other means in the offseason.

The proposition put forth here is that having experienced players is a good thing and it is even better if continuity is enhanced by the players gaining that experience with your team. DRAFTMETRICS acknowledges that the number of game started is far from a perfect way of evaluating experience, particularly the quality of the 2012 starters. For example, in this analysis:

• 16 games started by Peyton Manning are the same as 16 games started by Ryan Fitzpatrick
• The acquisition or retention of premier players (such as Darrelle Revis) who missed much of 2012 due to injury tend to be undervalued because of the few games started in 2012.

Still, though, this analysis does give some insight as to the experience level of each NFL team. There remain a number of unsigned free agents and further veteran player cuts are inevitable, so these numbers will continue to change. DRAFTMETRICS will not update this analysis again, though, until the opening of the regular season.

Almost three-quarters of the games started in the NFL last season were by players who remain with the same team for the 2013 season. There is a wide disparity among NFL teams, with the Redskins returning players representing 95% of 2012 starts while the Raiders return less than half that number. Please remember that each team has 352 potential starts (16 games times 22 starters per game). The
following table shows the number of 2012 games started by players remaining on each team’s 2013
roster.

So far in the offseason, players accounting for over 17% of 2012 starts have moved onto a different team. Remaining unsigned free agents started over 7% of 2012 games. The following table shows the total 2012 games started by both returning players and players acquired in the offseason.

As you can see, the Titans have been the leader in acquiring new players, resulting in their having far and away the most experienced 2013 roster in terms of 2012 starts. Will that translate into a successful 2013 season? Time, of course, will tell.

Looking at the totals is informative, but it is also useful to look at the experience level of players under contract by playing position. This will, in theory at least, identify the teams that are most reliant on the draft, players moving from backup to starting duty and players returning from injury. One obstacle in doing this analysis is that team’s employ different base personnel groupings.

• Some teams play a 3-4 defense while others employ a 4-3
• Some teams use a fullback and others don’t
• Some teams use multiple tight ends while others don’t

DRAFTMETRICS addressed this issue by grouping positions (e.g., combining all front seven players). The following tables show the experience level of each team in the four groupings. Teams are shown alphabetically within each experience level. Quarterbacks are excluded from these tables, but are
shown in the “raw data” tables in the Appendix to the article.

Raw data by NFL team is included in the Appendix.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Grading the trades of the draft

By DRAFTMETRICS count there were 26 trades between Thursday and Saturday. The trades can be categorized as follows:

If you have read any of our prior analyses you already know that DRAFTMETRICS breaks the draft into seven Value Groups (picks 1-13, 14-40, 41-66, 67-86, 87-149, 150-189

By DRAFTMETRICS count there were 26 trades between Thursday and Saturday. The trades can be categorized as follows:

If you have read any of our prior analyses you already know that DRAFTMETRICS breaks the draft into seven Value Groups (picks 1-13, 14-40, 41-66, 67-86, 87-149, 150-189 and 190+) and each selection within a Value Group has equal value based on historic results. Selection #13, for example, has the same value as selection #1. Therefore, if a team trades within a Value Group any premium received in the form of an additional draft choice or choices is “gravy” as the team trading down did not really give up anything. Below, each trade is summarized, with the type of trade identified by the following abbreviations.

More of on DRAFTMETRICS review of past draft day trades can be found in an article entitled “Draft
Strategy: Move Up or Move Down?”

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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2013 draft expectations: By the numbers

With the draft now completed, DRAFTMETRICS has re-calculated who should expect the most help. The methodology used in calculating the expected results is as follows:
• The probability of achieving various milestones for each selection by each team was determined based on the article “Digging Deeper into Draft Probabilities”
• The

With the draft now completed, DRAFTMETRICS has re-calculated who should expect the most help. The methodology used in calculating the expected results is as follows:
• The probability of achieving various milestones for each selection by each team was determined based on the article “Digging Deeper into Draft Probabilities”
• The probability assigned was based on when the selection occurred (i.e., in which Value Group does the selection occur) and the playing position drafted
o There are different probabilities for each playing position as indicated in “Digging Deeper into Draft Probabilities”
• The probability of success was converted into number of players
o A 50% chance of a player achieving a milestone equals

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2013 NFL Draft versus the average: Looking at the numbers

Many of the pre-draft commentaries focused on the quality and depth of the draft at each playing position. In this article, DRAFTMETRICS measures what actually happened in 2013 versus the average of the past five years. Looking at the top three rounds gives an indication of what NFL teams thought of the top end

Many of the pre-draft commentaries focused on the quality and depth of the draft at each playing position. In this article, DRAFTMETRICS measures what actually happened in 2013 versus the average of the past five years. Looking at the top three rounds gives an indication of what NFL teams thought of the top end players and looking at the entire draft offers a glimpse atthe depth of the draft. The following table compares the averages from the 2008 through 2012 drafts to the just completed 2013 draft.

Some of the items of interest noted by DRAFTMETRICS were as follows:
• The pattern of drafting QBs was significantly different than over the past five years
o 2013 QBs drafted were “clumped” in the 4th and 7th round, with eight of the 11 QBs drafted in those rounds
o No QBs at all drafted in rounds five and six
o Only 3 QBs drafted in first three rounds versus average of 5.4
• Defense dominated in the first three rounds of the draft
o On average, there are slightly more than three more defensive players than offensive players selected in the first three rounds
o In the 2013 draft, there were 13 more defensive players than offensive players selected in the first three rounds
• The big difference in those first three rounds was the number of corners and safeties drafted
o 16 corners versus average of 11.4
? Over the entire draft, the number of corners drafted was lower than average
o 9 safeties versus average of 7
• Also contributing to the change in mix of offense versus defense was fewer QBs, RBs and WRs being drafted in the first three rounds than average
• Over the last four rounds of the draft 10 more DEs than average were drafted
o This was somewhat offset by the number of LBs, but not entirely
o There is always the classification issues with the “tweeners” at the two positions

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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What to expect on Day 3 of the NFL Draft

The 2013 draft grinds to a halt today with 157 selections in rounds four through seven. While there are always success stories that come out of the late rounds, the chances of drafting a long-term starter pretty slim. The chances of success with a drafted player continue to decrease as the draft progresses.

The 2013 draft grinds to a halt today with 157 selections in rounds four through seven. While there are always success stories that come out of the late rounds, the chances of drafting a long-term starter pretty slim. The chances of success with a drafted player continue to decrease as the draft progresses.

The draft unfolds as follows:
• All the selections in round four have the same probability of success as the last ten picks in round three.
• Round five is split into two almost equal parts.

o The first 16 selections in round five have the same chance of success as the round four selections
o The remainder of the round five selections have a lower rate of success than the selections in the first half of the round

• Round six is also split almost equally
o The first half of round six has the same rate of success as the selections in the second half of round 5
o There is a drop-off in success in the second half of round 6

• All of the round seven selections have the same rate of success as the selections in the second half of round six. The following table reflects these splits and also provides the actual probabilities of achieving the selected milestones.

The next table shows the difference in achieving milestones for all playing positions for the combined rounds four through seven. Pro Bowl and All Pro selections are omitted from this table because of the small number of such selections.

Running backs and wide receivers tend to be the least productive late round selections. Offensive linemen and defensive ends tend to be the most productive, but all the rates are low.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Evaluating wide receivers by size and speed

Wide Receivers have the widest height range of any playing positions. In the past 20 years, Wide Receivers as short as 5-7 have been drafted as early as the fourth round (Craig Yeast of Kentucky and Travis Hannah of USC) while receivers as tall as 6-6 (Matt Jones of Arkansas) have been drafted in

Wide Receivers have the widest height range of any playing positions. In the past 20 years, Wide Receivers as short as 5-7 have been drafted as early as the fourth round (Craig Yeast of Kentucky and Travis Hannah of USC) while receivers as tall as 6-6 (Matt Jones of Arkansas) have been drafted in the first round . This wide range leads one to wonder whether height plays a significant role in determining when a player is drafted.
To answer this question, DRAFTMETRICS divided wide receivers into three groups and then studied the
drafting patterns for the 1993-2012 drafts. The three groups were:
• 5-10 or shorter(“Group 1”)
• 5-11 to 6-1 (“Group 2”
• 6-2 and taller(“Group 3”)

The following table shows that, with the exception of the first round, Group 2 Wide Receivers are most frequently drafted, with the fewest number of draftees coming from Group 1. Only 10% of first round draftees were 5-10 and shorter. In fact, Kendall Wright was the first first-round draft choice in Group 1 since Mark Clayton in 2005.

DRAFTMETRICS then made a cursory review of the careers of the players comprising the three groups to see if there were any lessons to be learned. DRAFTMETRICS conducted this review this by determining the number of players by group and by round that achieved the milestones of (1) a 5-year career and (2) at least one year as a starter. It is recognized that this cursory reviews ignores the fact that 2009-2012 draftees cannot possibly have had a five-year career. DRAFTMETRICS assumes that this affected all groups equally and, therefore, did not distort the comparative results.

There are no earthshaking trends noted in the next table, which shows the percentage of Wide Receivers who achieve the two milestones discussed above. While there is variation by round, Group 2 and 3 tend to be slightly more successful than the shorter receivers. It is also worth noting that there is an unexplainable drop off in the results of Group 3 in the sixth round of the draft. Without that drop off, for which I have no logical explanation, the results of Group 2 and Group 3 would be pretty close to identical.

Having reviewed the implications of size alone, DRAFTMETERICS next introduced 40 times into the mix. Does speed itself, or speed in conjunction with size, make a difference at Wide Receiver? This analysis is hampered by the fact that DRAFTMETRICS only has access to the Combine 40 times for just over half the Wide Receivers that were drafted but that is a sufficient number of data points to be meaningful.

Somewhat arbitrarily, DRAFTMETRICS established a cut-off of a 4.50 40 time as the dividing line for this analysis. The following table shows the number and percentage of players in each of the Groups that ran the 40 in less than 4.50 and those that ran 4.50 or slower. It should be mentioned that most of the players studied did run 4.60 or better. Only 30 of the 159 players who ran 4.50 and higher had times higher than 4.60.

As can be seen in the table the percentage of players that ran less than 4.50 was fairly close to the same for Group 1 and Group 2. Group 3 had a far lower percentage of players that ran under 4.50, except for the first round. The importance of speed for a first round draft choice is obvious from the table. Over three-quarters of first round draft choices ran the 60 in less than 4.50 seconds.

One thing DRAFTMETRICS found somewhat surprising is that the percentage of players who run sub-4.50 40 times continued to drop off throughout the draft. It might have been a reasonable expectation that at some point in the draft, NFL teams would take more chances on fast receivers with weaknesses in other areas but this does not seem to have been the case.

The final step in this analysis was to compare the results by the combination of speed and size. (The population size is even smaller for this exercise as a total of only 228 players achieved the milestones.) For this purpose, DRAFTMETRICS measured only the number of players in each size group and speed group who became five-year starters (with the same acknowledgement regarding the 2009-2012 draftees as above). The following table summarizes the results.

This table does not show a meaningful differences in success rates, but does show that receivers that Group 3 players that run below 4.50 do a have marginally higher overall success rate. This despite have no success at all, still unexplainable, in the sixth round. Wide Receivers who run 4.50 and higher actually have higher success rates than the faster receivers in five of the seven draft rounds. There is such a large difference in favor of the faster Wide Receivers in rounds five and six, though, that the faster players have an overall edge.
To sum it all up, the most significant findings in this analysis are:

• Wide receivers measuring between 5-11 and 6-1 make almost half of the receivers drafted
• There is not a major difference in success among the three “height groups”

o Slight edge to receivers 5-11 to 6-1
• Receivers 6-2 and taller have an inexplicable lack of success in the sixth round of the draft
• Speed is very big factor in being drafted early, regardless of height

o 77% of first round receivers run the 40 in 4.50 or less, compared to about 50% in the rest of the draft
• Wide receivers 6-2 and over and who run less than 4.50 in the 40 have a success rate that is moderately higher than the other groups
o This despite having a 0% success rate in the sixth round
• Wide receivers 5-11 to 6-1 have the highest success rate among draftees who run the 40 in 4.50 or higher
• Faster wide receivers do have a higher success rate, largely the result of rounds five and six

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM</a> can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Retaining starters and free agent activity: Part 5

With the draft less than a week away, free agent signings have slowed considerably. There still plenty of unsigned free agents, but at this point it is likely that the vast majority willsign after teams see how they do in filling their needs in the draft.

DRAFTMETRICS has updated its tracking for

With the draft less than a week away, free agent signings have slowed considerably. There still plenty of unsigned free agents, but at this point it is likely that the vast majority willsign after teams see how they do in filling their needs in the draft.

DRAFTMETRICS has updated its tracking for all the signings as of Thursday morning. The status of the players who started the 11,264 NFL games is reflected in the following table.

About 25% (2661 starts) of 2012 games were started by players who became unrestricted free agents, were traded or were released. Players accounting for about 60% of those 2661 starts have signed with new teams. That still leaves a large number of experienced players available to sign in the free agent market. These numbers will continue to change right up until the start of training camp.

While far from perfect, one way DRAFTMETRICS has measured the experience level of teams is to track the 2012 games started by players on their current roster. This first table shows the number of 2012 games started by players retained by their 2012 team.

The maximum number of games is 352 (16 games times 22 starters). This table shows that the Redskins have the most experienced set of returnees, in the context of 2012 gamesstarted, with the Raiders bringing up the rear. This ignores or mitigates the impact of players who were injured in 2012, of
course, but it does give an indication of the level of experience. DRAFTMETRICS also considered the number of 2012 games started by all players on a team’s present 2013 roster. This includes players retained plus players signed as free agents. The Titans’ busy offseason leapfrogs them into first place with the Seahawks and 49ers remaining in second and third place, respectively. The Chargers and Raiders flip places at the bottom of the heap in this analysis.

The table on the following page presents a more complete picture by individual team. DRAFTMETRICS will periodically update this information as the offseason progresses.

Summary of Off-Season Team Building Activities by Team
All Information Represents 2012 Starts
April 18, 2013 Update

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Draft strategy: Move up or move down?

The phones in NFL war rooms generally get a pretty good workout during the draft. Some teams are looking to move up and grab a player they covet before another team can select him. Other teams do not see anyone exciting at its draft spot and would just as soon move down and add

The phones in NFL war rooms generally get a pretty good workout during the draft. Some teams are looking to move up and grab a player they covet before another team can select him. Other teams do not see anyone exciting at its draft spot and would just as soon move down and add an extra pick or two. Trades happen when either there are two teams with complementary strategies (e.g., one wants to trade up and one wants to trade down) or a team looking to trade up offers enough of a premium to entice a potential trade partner.

Typically, some variation of the Trade Value Chart is used to determine the fair value for a trade. DRAFTMETRICS is not a fan of the trade value chart but at least it brings a semblance of structure to the trade process.

In this article, DRAFTMETRICS addresses the issues surrounding move up/move down decisions. DRAFTMETRICS will first establish the relative value of draft choices and then determine, given the consideration involved, whether recent trades favor the team moving up or the team moving down. The Value Groups previously defined by DRAFTMETRICS are used to establish the relative values. To refresh your memory, the seven Value Groups are as follows:

The premise of the Value Group is that every selection within that Value Group has the same chance of success. The 13th selection, for example, has the same chance of success as the first selection. DRAFTMETRICS reviewed the relative value of draft choices for each of five possible metrics:
• The probability of at least a five-year career
• The probability of being at least a three-year starter
• The probability of being at least a five-year starter
• The probability of being selected to the Pro Bowl at least once
• The probability of being selected as an All Pro at least once.

Data was used from the previously published “Digging Deeper into Draft Probabilities” to establish the relative values under each metric, as shown in the tablesin Appendix 1 to this article. The most appropriate metric depends on the Value Group. For selections in Value Group 1, for example, a team really is not hoping for a player to have a five-year career without reaching starter status. The team is looking for an impact player, so the Pro Bowl and All Pro metrics may be the most appropriate. For a selection in Value Group 7, though, a team may be content to draftsomeone who can be a backup and the five-year career metric can be the most appropriate.

As a side note, multiple All Pro selections were excluded from the metrics because there is such a dominance of the measure by selections in Value Group 1 (e.g., 24 ofthe 50 three-time All Pros drafted from 1993-2012 were from the first 13 picks) that the comparative values were completely distorted. The relative values establish the minimum consideration that should be acceptable to the team trading down. Appendix 1 shows, for example, that when moving from Value Group 2 to Value Group 3 and using five-year starter as the operativemetric, a team moving down should receive at least a selection in Value Group 4 in addition to the Value Group 3 selection.

DRAFTMETRICS identified 82 instances from 2010 through 2012 where a team traded up on or somewhat before the day of the draft. DRAFTMETRICS divided the trades into four categories:

• Trade-ups within the same Value Group (“Same VG”
• Trade-ups from one Value Group to another (“New VG”)
• Trade-ups with future year draft choices involved (“Future”)
• Trade-ups with players as well as draft choices involved (“Mixed”)

The 82 trades can be summarized as follows:

DRAFTMETRICS did no further analysis of the “future” and “mixed” categories because they introduce a level of complexity that would take the article off on a tangent.

Trade-Ups In the Same Value Group

Exactly half of the 82 trade-ups occurred in the same Value Group (e.g., selection #50 was traded for selection #45 with both selections having the same value). In those cases the team trading down always has the advantage as they would typically receive a premium as an inducement to make the trade. The team trading down almost always has the most leverage in any trade up scenario.

The next table summarizes the consideration received in the 41 trade-ups in the same Value Group. The five situations where no or multiple consideration was received typically involved multiple draft selections, all within the same Value Group, where a team moves up in the selection order but not to a different Value Group.

Moving down within a Value Group is pretty much a no brainer unless a team bypasses a player it really wants. The team receives a selection with the same chance of success as the one they surrendered plus a premium, so why wouldn’t they make the trade?

Moving from One Value Group to Another

The 20 trades where a team traded up from one Value Group to another are summarized in Appendix 2. Appendix 2 shows both the minimum value that should have been received (as reported in Appendix 1) and the actual consideration received, both expressed as selections in a Value Group. The minimum trade values are presented for each of the five metrics.

The table in Appendix 2 shows that the consideration paid often has more to do with how far a team moves up than it does with the Value Group. DRAFTMETRICS believes the Value Group approach has more validity than going strictly by the number of positions moved. Although there is a certain intuitive logic that supports the case that each successive draft position is worth a little more than the one preceding it, DRAFTMETRICS believes it has demonstrated in prior articles that this is not the case. Rather, “clumps” of draft choices have had the same historical outcome and this is reflected in the Value Groups.

While acknowledging that the sample size is small, the review of the 20 trades may shed at least a little light on the proper strategy. The following table summarizes the 20 trades and includes:
• The number of trades in each transaction type (e.g., Value Group 2 to Value Group 1)
• The most relevant three metrics (in order) for each transaction type
• Whether the team trading up or down has the advantage as measured by the value of draft selections exchange
• Comments on the transaction type

In the 20 transactions studied, teams trading up generally paid less than the relative value charts would indicate. This would tend to indicate that teams trading had the advantage in those trades.

Appendix 1: Relative Values by Valuable Group for the Five Metrics

Notes:
(1) As an example of how to use the tables, the “Five Year Career” table indicates that a Value Group 4 selection plus a Value Group 6 selection were equivalent to a Value Group 1 selection.
(2) Two “x”s indicates that two selections in that Value Group must be received

Appendix 2: Listing of Trades Where a Team Moved to another Value Group

Notes:
(1) This chart is read as follows. The first transaction listed represents a team trading up 8 spots from Value Group 2 to Value Groups 1. The team that moved up paid a Value Group 2 selection and a Value Group 3 selection to move up. Using the probability of a 5-year career as the metric, the relative value for a VG1 selection is a Value Group 4 pick and a Value Group 6 pick. At the other end of the spectrum, if the 1-Time All Pro is used as the metric, the team moving up would have to send a Value Group 2, Value Group 3, Value Group 4 and Value Group 5 selection to the team moving down.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Revisiting the 2012 first round trades

One thing that is a virtual certainty regarding the 2013 NFL Draft is that there will be movement via trades in the first round of the draft. Last year there were eight such trades on draft day, and another (the RG3 trade) well in advance of the draft.

In this article DRAFTMETRICS

One thing that is a virtual certainty regarding the 2013 NFL Draft is that there will be movement via trades in the first round of the draft. Last year there were eight such trades on draft day, and another (the RG3 trade) well in advance of the draft.

In this article DRAFTMETRICS reviews the nine first round 2012 trade-ups, both to get a sense of the consideration paid to move up and to offer opinions on whether the moves made sense. The first round includes two of the DRAFTMETRICS Value Groups (selections 1-13 and selections 14-40).

The “premium received” section for each trade shows the number of players received as a premium for each of four metrics. In most cases, a team does not receive the equivalent of a full player as a premium. In the first trade, for example, the Rams added .660 of a one-time Pro Bowler. This indicates that there is a two-thirds chance that they would actually add such a player.

Redskins surrendered the #6 and #39 choices plus first round choices in 2013 (turned out to be #22) and 2014 to move up to the Rams’ #2 and take RG3.

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: On paper a big edge to the Rams, but if RG3 plays like he did as a rookie, stays healthy and continues to progress the price paid will be worth it. Franchise quarterbacks are so valuable that a team has to pay what it takes to get one. Paper advantage to Ram as follows (and assuming the 2014 first rounder is after pick #13):

PREMIUM PAID TO THE RAMS:

Browns acquired the #3 pick from the Vikings in exchange for #4, #118, #139 and #211

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: This was a head scratcher on draft day. The Browns paid two to three times the premium paid by the Jaguars to move up from #7 to #5. The Vikings were are also able to trade the 2012 #211 pick for #176 in 2013, plus get the player they likely would have selected with the #3 pick anyway. The only way this trade makes sense is to consider the premium paid by the Browns asinsurance against another team moving up and taking Richardson.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE VIKINGS (including subsequenttrade of #211):

Jaguars acquired the #5 pick from the Bucs in exchange for the #7 and #101 picks

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: Any time a team moves down and stays within the first 13 picks, it is
going to win the trade on paper. The Bucs later traded the #101 pick as part of another first
round trade-up.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE BUCS:

Cowboys acquired the #6 pick from the Rams for the #14 and #45 picks

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: This trade is kind of a mixed bag as the Rams improved their chances of landing a five-year starter but decreased their chances of drafting an impact player. As a general rule, DRAFTMETRICS hates to see teams trade out of the first 13 picks unless the return is overwhelming. The Rams subsequently traded #45 for #50 and #150, which was a good trade for them.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE RAMS:

Eagles acquired the #12 pick from the Seahawks in exchange for the #15, #114 and #176 selections

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: Once again, the team trading out of the top 13 wins on the chances for a starter but loses on chances for an impact starter.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE SEAHAWKS:

Patriots acquired pick #21 from the Bengals in exchange for #27 and #93

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: DRAFTMETRICS likes the strategy of trading down in the same Value
Group and acquiring a premium along with it, so it likes what the Bengals did.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE BENGALS:

Patriots acquired pick #25 from the Broncos for #31 and #126

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: This a carbon copy of the previous trade between the Bengals and Patriots, even for the exact number of spots moved up, and comments regarding a trade down in the same Value Group also apply here.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE BRONCOS:

Vikings acquired choice #29 from the Ravens for #35 and #98

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: This trade is exactly like the prior two, with even the number of spots moved being the same, and the same comments apply.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE RAVENS:

The Patriots traded their #31 selection plus #126 to the Bucs for #36 and #101

DRAFTMETRICS OPINION: Selections #31 and #36 have the same value and so do #101 and #126 so this is a completely neutral trade. The Bucs extracted no premium for moving down.

PREMIUM PAID TO THE BUCS: No premium was paid.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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How much difference is there between drafts?

This is the time of year the experts tell us how good or how bad this year’s draft class is, which playing positions have a lot of depth, and so forth. By the time the outcome of the draft class can truly be measured, though, the class has lost its identity and any discussion

This is the time of year the experts tell us how good or how bad this year’s draft class is, which playing positions have a lot of depth, and so forth. By the time the outcome of the draft class can truly be measured, though, the class has lost its identity and any discussion centers around anecdotal situations. (e.g., the 2004 QB class).

In this article DRAFTMETRICS sets out to measure the results of past draft classes in order to determine how results vary from year to year. The 1993 through 2006 draft classes were reviewed for this purpose. The analysis ends in 2006 because that class has pretty much taken form by that time and players have had a reasonable amount of time to achieve the five-year milestones that DRAFTMETRICS often employs. Classes after 2006 are still evolving and it may be at least somewhat premature to conduct a full review of their results, at least in regards to the five-year measures. The following table summarizes the draft results by class.

This table shows that some years are indeed better than others. It is somewhat interesting that the gap between best and for five-year starters is lower, on a percentage basis, than any other measure except for three-year careers.

The fluctuations are more pronounced when viewed by playing position. The following table shows the number of five-year starters by playing position from each draft class. Every position shows fluctuations where the best year has at least double the number of five-year starters as the worst year. For example, the 1994 draft class produced only six five-year starters at defensive back while the 1998 draft class ended up with 16 five-year starters.

Another way to compare the draft classes is by number of games started. This permits DRAFTMETRICS to track results on an intermediate basis and even the most recent years can be compared to other years. The following table shows the cumulative number of games started for each draft class after each season (limited to 10 years for presentation purposes). The table indicates, for example,that players from the 2003 draft classstarted a total of 703 games in their rookie season, a total of 1857 games for their first two seasons combined and so on down the line.

This analysis supports the contention that there are good and bad years. The table also allows the reader to see which years are shaping up as good years before the final tally is in. 2006, for example, looks to be a very strong year.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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The Urgency Index

Last year, DRAFTMETRICS introduced the Urgency Index (the “Index”). The purpose of the Index is to provide guidance in situations when a team has multiple position needs and is trying to develop a strategy regarding when to address each need.

The concept embodied by the Index is that, when in doubt, a

Last year, DRAFTMETRICS introduced the Urgency Index (the “Index”). The purpose of the Index is to provide guidance in situations when a team has multiple position needs and is trying to develop a strategy regarding when to address each need.

The concept embodied by the Index is that, when in doubt, a team should first draft the position for which there is the largest disparity between the chances of success from drafting now versus drafting later. The Index is the mechanism by which the differences are measured. The Urgency Index is based on historical information from the 1993 through 2006 drafts and compares the probability of drafting a five-year starter in the Value Group being reviewed with the probability of drafting a five-year starter all in later Value Groups. The formula for the Index is as follows:

• The historic probability of drafting a five-year starter at a particular playing position in a Value Group, divided by
• The historic probability of drafting a five-year starter at that same playing position in all later
Value Groups, times
• 100</p>

For example, 64.0% of wide receivers drafted in the first 13 selections have gone on to become five-year starters while 13.0% of wide receivers drafted after that have achieved that status. So the Urgency Index is 492, calculated as 64.0%/13.0%, or 4.92, multiplied by 100.

The following table shows the Index for each playing position in the first six Value Groups. There is no Index for picks 190 and later (Value Group 7) because there are no later draft selections to consider.

A higher Index means that history suggests there is more urgency to draft a player at a given playing position in that Value Group. An index of 100 means that players drafted later have had the exact same level of success as those drafted in the current Value Group. An index of less than 100 indicates that players drafted later have actually had more success than those in the current Value Group. The Index is only used within a Value Group. That is, it is meaningless to compare the Index for selections 1-13 to the Index for selections 14-40 because the numbers are not comparable. The sole purpose of the Index is to allow comparisons WITHIN a Value Group.

As an example of how the Index would be used, consider a team that needs help at both linebacker and wide receiver and is drafting in the top 13 selections. In this example there are equally rated players available at both linebacker and wide receiver. With no other considerations in play, the wide receiver would be selected first because wide receiver has an Index of 492 versus 405 for linebacker. This means there is a greater chance of drafting a linebacker who starts for five years later in the draft than there is for a wide receiver.
The more data points there are, the more meaningful the Index. Quarterback has relatively few data points, so the Index approach may be less meaningful there. Plus, a team should never wait to draft a game changer at quarterback and a team would be unlikely to resort to the Index in that situation anyway.

DRAFTMETRICS recognizes that many factors affect the playing position a team drafts and that the Urgency Index is only one of those. A team’s needs and the availability of talent at the position of needs (your basic supply and demand scenario) weigh most heavily in the equation. DRAFTMETRICS believes, though, that there is a role for the Urgency Index in planning a team’s draft strategy, especially as a tiebreaker when deciding between equally talented players at different positions.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Are draft choices from big-time programs less risky?

In the recent DRAFTMETRICS article “Draft Tendencies for NFL Teams”, there was discussion regarding the fact that college teams from Automatic BCS Qualifier conferences (“AQ Schools”) dominate the draft. This seems quite reasonable given the fact that the AQ Schools dominate the college game and always land the lion’s share of the

In the recent DRAFTMETRICS article “Draft Tendencies for NFL Teams”, there was discussion regarding the fact that college teams from Automatic BCS Qualifier conferences (“AQ Schools”) dominate the draft. This seems quite reasonable given the fact that the AQ Schools dominate the college game and always land the lion’s share of the nation’s best recruits.

The next logical issue to consider is whether players drafted from the AQ Schools have had better results in the NFL. In my early days in the business world, I was involved in a purchasing decision regarding business equipment. Someone told me then that “no one will ever criticize you for picking IBM.” Is that kind of thinking at play here? Is picking a player from a major college considered a safe play that won’t be criticized like a personnel executive might be if he selected a player from Podunk U?

DRAFTMETRICS acknowledges that it will never have a real answer to those questions without actually sitting in the draft room. The numbers are examined, though, to see what can be learned. As a first step, DRAFTMETRICS further expanded the data regarding the level of dominance by the AQ Schools. The following table shows the number of draft choices in each “Value Group” for each of the three college categories used in “Draft Tendencies for NFL Teams”. “O-BCS” indicates other BCS schools (e.g., Conference USA, etc) and A-ELSE indicates all colleges that are not included in the first two categories.

DRAFTMETRICS then compiled the successrates by Value Group for each of the three college categories. The 1993-2008 drafts were used for 3-Year and Rookie Starters and the 1993-2006 drafts were used for 5-Year Starters.

These results are clouded a bit by the limited sample size, especially in the “All Else” group. That group has a 100% success rate for players selected with the first 13 picks, for example, but there were only two such players. The bottom line is, though, that the table does not reflect any evidence that suggests draftees from the AQ Schools are less risky.

DRAFTMETRICS next reviewed the list of draftees to see whether the analysis was affected by any of the categories having a disproportionate distribution by playing position. The following table suggests that
this is not the case.

As a final step, DRAFTMETRICS compared the number of five-year starters for each category to the number of expected five-year starters (based on 1993-2006 drafts) considering the number and location of the draft choices. This analysis shows that AQ Schools do slightly worse than expected and the colleges in the other two categories do somewhat better. Here is the summary:

While not overwhelming,the evidence suggests that drafting players from AQ Schools is no less risky than drafting players from other colleges. It does appear that NFL teams are more inclined to take a player from an AQ School and, by reaching for such a player,they lower their success rate DRAFTMETRICS touched on one last issue in its analysis. The AQ Schools have been discussed as one group of schools, but the group consists of six conferences plus Notre Dame. The following table shows the number of draft selections for 1993-2006 for each conference and their success rate with five-year starters, with Notre Dame grouped with the Big East for the purposes of this article.

DRAFTMETRICS also performed the expected versus actual five year starter calculationsfor each group and it resulted in the following conference rankings:

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Draft tendencies of NFL teams

Are certain NFL teams more inclined to draft small college players than others? Do any NFL teams favor players from certain conferences? There is no way to answer these questions without being inside the draft room of every NFL team, but in this article DRAFTMETRICS reviews the data to see if there are any

Are certain NFL teams more inclined to draft small college players than others? Do any NFL teams favor players from certain conferences? There is no way to answer these questions without being inside the draft room of every NFL team, but in this article DRAFTMETRICS reviews the data to see if there are any
apparent tendencies. Even apparent tendencies may be a matter of circumstance, though, so no definite conclusions can be reached. It is still interesting, in DRAFTMETRICS’ opinion, to look at the numbers and reach at least a couple of supportable conclusions.

The analysis in support of this article is based on the last ten NFL drafts (2003-2012). Colleges are divided into three categories:
• Automatic Bowl Championship SeriesQualifying conferences (“AQschools” )
• All other BCS schools (Mid American Conference, Conference USA, etc)
• Any colleges that do not fit in the first two categories

Dividing colleges up by conference is pretty much like trying to hit a moving target these days, but DRAFTMETRICS opted to keep it simple by placing colleges in the conferences they played in during the 2012 football season.

This article will not address the comparative draft results for the players from the colleges in the above categories. That issue, though, will be the subject of a future article before the draft. As you might expect, players from the AQ schools dominate the draft. Here is the breakdown in terms of number of players drafted:

This breakdown, not unexpectedly, varies by round with the AQ schools more dominant in the earlier rounds than in the later rounds. The next chart shows the rate of decline in dominance of the AQ schools and the increased number of players drafted from schools in the other two categories.

With the context established, DRAFTMETRICS reviewed the data to see if there were major differences among the NFL teams in the percentage of players drafted from AQ schools. The data shows that there is a quite a spread among teams with the Seahawks drafting 90% of their players from AQ schools and
the Jaguars drafting only 57%. Despite the two extremes, though, nineteen of the thirty two teams were within 5%of the overall average of 77.4%. The distribution of the teams and their percentages are shown in the following table.

The domination of the draft by AQ schools seems quite logical to DRAFTMETRICS. The major schools get the best recruits and they are the most likely to become professionals. There does not seem to be any widespread bias either in favor or against players from the AQ schools. Where the Seahawks and the Saints have drafted such a high concentration of players from AQ schools does lead one to consider whether it is a drafting philosophy they employ. At the other end of the spectrum, DRAFTMETRICS is quite sure the Jaguars don’t avoid players from AQ schools, but it is possible they tend to roll the dice a bit and take chances on players from non-major programs. That is, of course, just conjecture.

DRAFTMETRICS next reviewed the data to determine if any NFL teams seemed to have a preference for teams from certain conferences or groups of conferences. There were some fairly significant preferences noted. Whether this is a result of a real bias in favor of those conferences or not is impossible to determine. One the one hand a case could possibly be made that the Falcons favor SEC teams (they draft SEC players at nearly double the rate of the league average) because they are in the middle of SEC country and they probably see more of those players. On the other hand, though, scouting has become such a national exercise with the advent of video and events such as the Combine that one could just as easily make the opposite case. Plus, the schools with the second through fifth highest percentage of drafted SEC players are not in the middle of SEC country, so that logic would clearly not apply to them.

The following tables show the teams with the highest and lowest percentage of draftees from each conference of group of conferences. The Falcons 32%in the SEC portion of the chartindicates that 32% of all their draft selections were from the SEC.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Studying the draft record of NFL Teams

In the recent DRAFTMETRICS article “Late Round Draft Picks: The Key to Success?” the 2012 season was reviewed to determine whether success in the late rounds was an important success factor for ”good” teams. In this article, DRAFTMETRICS digs back into history to see if success at the draft has more

In the recent DRAFTMETRICS article “Late Round Draft Picks: The Key to Success?” the 2012 season was reviewed to determine whether success in the late rounds was an important success factor for ”good” teams. In this article, DRAFTMETRICS digs back into history to see if success at the draft has more to do with drafting skills or accumulating extra draft choices.

DRAFTMETRICS focused its review on five-year starters produced in the 1993 to 2006 drafts. A player must have started at least eight games in each of at least five seasons to be counted as a five-year starter by DRAFTMETRICS. This time period was selected because it allowed adequate time (seven seasons) for players to become five-year starters. The Browns and Texans were excluded from the analysis because of the small number of data point as they entered the league in 1999 and 2002, respectively.

I have received several requests to do an analysis such as this for General Managers as their “draft record” may be at least as relevant as an individual team. DRAFTMETRICS cannot do that at this time but will add the General Managers to its data base over the summer months and will be in a position to do such an analysis in the future.

For purposes of this article, teams are given credit for a player they drafted regardless of whether he started for that team for all five seasons. For example, Antonio Cromartie was drafted by the Chargers, where he started for three seasons before moving onto the Jets where he attained the five-year starter milestone. The Chargers receive credit for all of his starts because they drafted him, and the purpose of this exercise is to measure drafting ability.

There is a wide variation in the number of five-year starters resulting from the draft choices of NFL teams during the study period, with the Packers and Steelers each drafting 35 and the Lions at the low end with 17. The average number of five-year starters for each team is 26. Here is how each team stacks up.

This leads to the issue of determining why a team ended with more or fewer five-year starters than the average. Were they better judges of talent? Or was it simply a matter of accumulating draft choices?

DRAFTMETRICS tried to answer these questions by first calculating how the actual number of five-year starters a team produced compared with the number they should have given the number and location
of their draft choices. This was done by categorizing each team’s draft choices into the seven Value Groups and applying the average league results (from the DRAFTMETRICS “Digging Deeper into Draft Probabilities” article). As a reminder, the Value Groups and the probabilities of drafting a five-year starter in each is shown below

After making that calculation,DRAFTMETRICS then determined the variation from the average that resulted from a team’s draft position and number of draft selections. The following table summarizes the results of the two calculations.

The “Efficiency” column shows how many more or fewer (indicated with a minus sign) five-year starters produced compared to what they would have been expected to produce, The “Choices” column shows the effect of their draft position and number of choices on the actual number of five-year starters. For
example, the 49ers draft choices produced 4.52 more starters than would have been expected. Their draft position and number of choices cost them 0.52 five-year starters, leaving them with a net total of four five-year starters more than the average.

The best and worst from the above table are as follows:

<p> Three teams stand out in these numbers, two of them good and one bad. The Packers and the Steelers represent the good. It is interesting to compare how they achieved their efficiency ratings. The Packers were very consistent. They had only two selections in the first 13 choices, but after that they had
positive efficiency in every Value Group exceptthe 67-86 picks. Green Bay did very well in the late rounds with at least of a margin of two five-year starters above average in each of the Value Groups after the 86th pick. The Steelers, on the other hand, achieved two-thirds of their positive efficiency from the 87-149 picks. The Lions were pretty bad across the board, but especially so with the 14-40 picks and 87-149 picks. Overall, though, they produced fewer than the expected number of five-year starters in five of the seven Value Groups.

Finally, DRAFTMETRICS cannot leave this subject without a brief discussion about the “L” word, or Luck in this case. If a team truly had a superiorscouting and front office staffin comparison to its competition, one would expect a fair amount of consistency in draft results. Recognizing that injury and non-football related matters can cause some bumps in the road, this consistency seemed to be lacking in our review (the Packers looking like an exception).

One example illustrates the point. With selections 14-40 the Eagles had one of the worst records of any team, with 3.85 fewer five-year starters than expected. With selections 41-66 the Eagles had one of the
best records, with 2.03 more five-year starters than expected. There may be explanations other than luck, but it was the same group of guys making the selections in both cases and in one case they stunk and in the other they were geniuses. It does cause you to wonder, though, if the draft is more like blackjack than bridge.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Retaining starters and free agent activity: Part 4

The DRAFTMETRICS definition of a starter is someone who started at least eight games. For purposes of this article, a player must have started eight games or more in 2012. This excludes such players as Brian Cushing and Troy Polamalu who missed games due to injury and players such as Colin Kaepernick who

The DRAFTMETRICS definition of a starter is someone who started at least eight games. For purposes of this article, a player must have started eight games or more in 2012. This excludes such players as Brian Cushing and Troy Polamalu who missed games due to injury and players such as Colin Kaepernick who earned a starting position later in the season, but not soon enough to meet the DRAFTMETRICS definition.

No attempt was made to factor such players into the starter information shown in this article. While there are some obvious example such as Cushing, Polamalu and Kaepernick , it would simply require too much conjecture to make allowancesfor all injured or late-starting players. In addition to the focus on number of starters, DRAFTMETRICS presentsinformation by playing position so that the reader can get a better sense of what a team’s needs may be.

DRAFTMETRICS compiled information for the tables on the next two pages of this article. The first table shows the number of 2012 starters retained on the 2013 roster by playing position. The second includes
acquisitions of starters during the offseason. For example, the first table reflects the fact that the 49ers return 19 starters from their 2012 roster. The second table shows that the 49ers acquired Craig Dahl (free agency) and Anquan Boldin (trade), bringing the total number of 2012 starters on their 2013 roster to 21.

The second table shows that, as of this point of free agency, 21 of the 32 NFL teams have either retained or acquired 18 or more starters. The Titans lead the way with 25 starters and the Jets bring up the rear with only 12 starters. The teams are be divided into several categories based on the number of 2012 starters on their 2013 roster at this point in time.

The Titans have signed eight free agents who were starters during the 2012 season. Will that serve as the springboard to 2013 success? It is also interesting to note that six 2012 playoff teams have 21 or more starters on their current roster, possibly a scary thought for other teams in pursuit of the playoffs.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Late round draft picks: The key to success?

DRAFTMETRICS’ fantasy (I know, I know, but wait until you are 66) is to find a “magic formula” for building a successful NFL team. No such formula exists, of course, but that doesn’t mean that DRAFTMETRICS will stop looking. In this article DRAFTMETRICS explores the notion that successful teams gain an

DRAFTMETRICS’ fantasy (I know, I know, but wait until you are 66) is to find a “magic formula” for building a successful NFL team. No such formula exists, of course, but that doesn’t mean that DRAFTMETRICS will stop looking. In this article DRAFTMETRICS explores the notion that successful teams gain an edge through their draft selections in the later rounds. Under this theory, early round players are so well scouted that no NFL team can gain a competitive advantage through their early round selections.

There are plenty of anecdotal examples (Tom Brady, et al) to choose from in making this argument. To examine this theory and set a context, DRAFTMETRICS reviewed data from the 2012 season for players who were still playing for the team that drafted them. Such players are referred to “Retained Draft Choices” in the remainder of this article. Retained draft choices were examined rather than all draft choices in order to exclude the effects of free agent signings, leading to a “purer” analysis.

Excluding the handful of players who were supplemental draft selections, Retained draft choices accounted for 6577 games started during the 2012 season. This represents almost 60% of all games started. The percentage breakdown by round follows, comparing Retained Draft Choices with All Draft Choices.

While it has no apparent bearing on the issue at hand, it is interesting to note that players drafted in the first three rounds are more likely than later round picks to be retained by the team that drafted them. If the more successful teams did a better job of drafting in the later rounds, one would expect there to be data supporting that point. DRAFTMETRICS compiled the following table that compares the percentage of 2012 starts by round for (1) playoff teams, (2) teams that did not make the playoff but had .500 or better records, (3) all team with winning records – the sum of items 1 and 2– and (4) teams that finished below .500. This data is for retained draft choices only.

As you can see from the table, there are only marginal differences in the composition of games started among the categories of teams. While playoff teams do indeed have a higher percentage of starts by Retained Draft Choices selected after the third round, the margin is relatively insignificant. From this, the conclusion can be drawn that any advantage from excellent late round drafting is not held by all winning teams.

When DRAFTMETRICS reviewed data by individual teams, it became apparent that the number of draft selections could have a bearing on the composition of games started. Draft choices from 2008 through 2012 accounted for about 75% of all games started in 2012, so DRAFTMETRICS focused on the number of draft choices in those years. The following table summarizes the raw data by individual team.

Based on this table, and considering both the number of starts and the number of draft choices, DRAFTMETRICS characterized the late round success (defined as round 4 and after) of each NFL team into three categories:

This indicates that three 2012 playoff teams had better than expected success with late round draft selections, six had a “normal” level of success and three had worse than expected results. Playoff teams are in bold.

This leads to the conclusion that a high level of success with late round draft choices, while certainly attained by some winning teams, is not a significant critical success factor. The table also shows that the premise about teams having the same relative level of success in the early rounds is also not the case. DRAFTMETRICS will touch on this issue once again but over a different period of time in one of its articles next week.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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2013 draft expectations: The rich get richer

Now that the compensatory picks have been doled out, we know that there will be 254 players selected in the draft and who will be drafting when. The draft order will certainly change due to the traditional flurry of trades before (and mostly) during the draft. The impending changes in draft order, though, will

Now that the compensatory picks have been doled out, we know that there will be 254 players selected in the draft and who will be drafting when. The draft order will certainly change due to the traditional flurry of trades before (and mostly) during the draft. The impending changes in draft order, though, will not affect the overall expectations for the draft.

DRAFTMETRICS expects the following outcome from the 2013 draft based on the results of the 1993-2006 drafts:
• 171 players will play at least three seasons
• 130 players will play at least five seasons
• 77 players will start for at least three seasons

– A starter is someone who starts at least eight games in a season
• 58 players will start for at least five seasons
• 42 players will start as rookies

– This is based on the draft years 1993-2012 rather than 1993-2006
• 24 players will be selected for at least 1 Pro Bowl
• 10 players will be selected for at least 3 Pro Bowls
• 13 players will be selected as an All Pro at least once
• 3 players will be selected as an All Pro at least three times

Which team should make out the best? San Francisco, if they keep its entire allotment of 14 picks (including five of the first 93), figures to be biggest beneficiary of the draft. Since the purpose of the draft is to help bring parity to the league, it does seem a little crazy for a Super Bowl participant to be in San Francisco’s position. With an already talented roster, though, it is hard to imagine that they will be able to realize the full benefit of their draft situation. It would not be surprising to see some trade activity by the 49ers. One logical move for the 49ers would be to package their 31st and 34th picks and move up into the top 13.

The following table reflects what history says about how the teams are likely to divvy up the 77 projected five-year starters. DRAFTMETRICS apologizes in advance for the use of “fractional bodies” but that’s how averages work. The numbers in this table represent the number of five-year starters a team can expect from the 2013 draft based on data from the 1993-2006 drafts.

Teams at the top and bottom of the expected results are usually there because of trades or other means of adding or losing draft choices.Here’s how this year’s teams did it.

Top 4 Teams
• The 49ers added the 34th pick in exchange for Alex Smith, the 74th pick from trading a 4th round pick (#103) to the Panthers in 2012 and the 131rd pick as a compensatory selection
• The Dolphins have the 12th pick overall, and also added the 54th pick by trading Vontae Davis and the 82nd choice by trading Brandon Marshall
• The Vikings added the 25th selection in the Percy Harvin deal
• The Bengals added the 37th pick in the Carson Palmer trade

Bottom 3 Teams
• The Saints forfeited their 2nd round pick as a result of the bounty case
• The Colts surrendered their 2nd round pick for Vontae Davis and their 5th round pick to the 49ers in a 2012 trade up
• The Redskins happily surrendered their 1stround choice to move up in 2012 and take RG3

Where are the three projected three-time All Pros likely to end up? History tells us that It is likely that two of those players will end up on the roster of the teams that occupy the one through thirteen draft slots and the other three-time All Pro will end up randomly on the roster of one of the remaining 19 teams. The table below shows a full summary of 2013 draft expectations by NFL team. These expectations will change once the actual selections are made and the historical risks of individual playing positions are added to the mix. DRAFTMETRICS will publish the updated expectations after the conclusion of the draft.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Retaining starters and free agent activity: Part 3

The second week of free agency is about over and DRAFTMETRICS has updated its tracking for all the signings as of early Sunday evening (at least the ones it knows about). The status of the players who started the 11,264 NFL games has changed only slightly from last week’s update.

The second week of free agency is about over and DRAFTMETRICS has updated its tracking for all the signings as of early Sunday evening (at least the ones it knows about). The status of the players who started the 11,264 NFL games has changed only slightly from last week’s update.

These numbers will continue to change, of course, as free agency continues. DRAFTMETRICS will make further updates as activity warrants, but will definitely have an update right before the draft.

So far, players who started over 10% of all 2012 games have been signed by new teams. There are still players accounting for about 14% of 2012 starts available on the open market. Future updates will track activity related to those remaining players and any other personnel moves.

As part of its analysis DRAFTMETRICS identifies the teams that figure to be the most experienced, in terms of 2012 games started, headed into the 2013 season. The following page shows the detail by team. This table shows the current rankings, in order of 2012 games started by players under contract, of each NFL team. Bear in mind that each team will have 352 starts per season.

The biggest change from last week’s summary is that the Titans now have the highest number of 2012 games started on their 2012 roster. The number of games could be considered to be a little overstated in that the Titans new backup quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) started 16 games last season. But the Titans have added three starting offensive linemen, two starting safeties and a starting running back. In addition the Titans retained or tendered players who started 278 of their 352 games last season.

It should also be noted that only three teams (Bengals, Cowboys and Packers) have yet to add a player through free agency who started one game or more in 2012.

Summary of Off-Season Team Building Activities by Team
All Information Represents 2012 Starts
March 25, 2013 Update

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Money and the NFL draft

Managing the salary cap has become one of the most critical tasks for NFL front offices. If anyone needed a reminder, the days leading up to 2013 free agency served that purpose. NFL teams released players and renegotiated contracts so they could be in compliance with the cap and continue to do so even

Managing the salary cap has become one of the most critical tasks for NFL front offices. If anyone needed a reminder, the days leading up to 2013 free agency served that purpose. NFL teams released players and renegotiated contracts so they could be in compliance with the cap and continue to do so even now in order to provide wiggle room for new acquisitions.

This left DRAFTMETRICS to wonder how much of a role economics plays in the NFL draft. Is there a strategy that reduces player acquisition costs without affecting the level of talent added to the roster through the draft? Such a strategy would free up more money for use on established veteran players and alleviate salary cap pressures. To explore this question, DRAFTMETRICS used (with permission) contract information from the very informative and highly recommended website www.overthecap.com as well as its own data on probabilities of player success.

It was necessary to create a vacuum of sorts in order to perform this analysis. Otherwise the number of variables would cloud the results. DRAFTMETRICS employed several simplifying conditions in order to create that vacuum. These included:
• Compensation picks were ignored, reducing the draft to seven rounds with 32 selections each
• Trades and penalties were ignored, resulting in the team with the first draft choice also having the 33rd, 65th, 97th, 129th, 161st and 193rd selections

• It was assumed that all players received the full value of the contracts they signed
– DRAFTMETRICS acknowledges that this is not realistic as many players are cut and do not receive the full value of the contract
– Most first round contracts, though, are now fully guaranteed
– This assumption simplifies the analysis with minimal impact on results

There is a considerable difference in the cost of the draft for a team at the top of the draft order as compared to a team at the bottom of the order, with the first round selection accounting for about 85% of the difference. The differences between the first and 32nd picks (with dollars in thousands) are shown in this table:

The question becomes whether the owner of the first pick is receiving good value for the extra $11.2 million in bonus money being spent in the first round. If not, it amounts to the equivalent of a regressive tax on the worst teams.The next table summarizes projected 2013 draft spending by draft position (using the simplifying
conditions presented above). Draft spending is split between the first round and the rest of the draft. All dollars shown are in thousands.

In the DRAFTMETRICS article titled “Digging Deeper into Draft Probabilities”, it was established that each of the first 13 picks of the draft have about the same rate of success. The same similarity of results was established for selections 14 through 40 (the next Value Group).

This makes the economic strategy in the first round rather simple. Picking 13th is better than picking in any of the first 12 slots because the same result(based on history) can be obtained at a cheaper cost. Comparing the cost of the first pick with the 13th, there are differences of $2.2 million in the 2013 salary cap hit, $8.8 million in bonus money and $12 million in total contract value. These differences shrink with each successive selection (e.g., second pick vs. 13th, etc.).

This same situation exists with the 14th and the 32nd pick, with the 2013 cap hit having a difference of over $500 thousand. Again, why pay more to get the same result? The best first round economic strategy, then, is to move from the top of a Value Group to the bottom of that same Value Group. There are always exceptions of course. DRAFTMETRICS is quite sure that the Colts and Redskins were happy to pay the price for Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin. If a player is truly an impact player, they are worth the extra dollars.

The question of moving from one Value Group to anotherin the first round ismore complex, and largely depends on the consideration received or surrendered to make the move. What is the impact of moving between the (1) first pick to the 32nd pick or (2) the 13th pick to the 32nd pick? This table summarizes the comparison:

The answer to the question depends on the value a team places on a successful player. It seems to DRAFTMETRICS, though, that it is awfully expensive to move up to the next Value Group. This seems certainly true when moving from 32 to one and probably true to move from 32 to 13. And this analysis
does not even consider the premium paid to move up. So part two of the strategy is that is better to move down, not up,when going from one Value Group to anotherin the first round.

The best economic strategy beyond the first round is not so obvious.One thing that immediately stands out is that, as the size of contracts shrink,there is not that wide of a range in cost between the first and 32nd draft positions. The cumulative difference in impact for all draft selections after the first round is $600 thousand as measured by the 2013 cap hit, chump change in the context of the total amount being spent on player contracts, and less than $3 million in contract value. Since the additional compensation cost to move up is not prohibitive, it makes sense to do so whenever a reasonably priced opportunity presents itself. The team improves its probability of success at a relatively low cost. The economic strategy here is, in direct contrast to the first round, to move up to a higher Value Group whenever you can.

The following table compares, in the aggregate, what was paid versus what was received for each drafting position after the first round. The data for “What They Got” came from the DRAFTMETRICS article “Digging Deeper into the Draft”. All dollars are in thousands.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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How long does it take to start in the NFL?

No, this is not an article about NASCAR. Starting Velocity, in DRAFTMETRICS parlance, is how fast a player becomes a starter, measured in seasons. A starter is defined as a player who starts at least eight games in an NFL season.

Most DRAFTMETRICS articles are about establishing reasonable expectationsin the draft.

No, this is not an article about NASCAR. Starting Velocity, in DRAFTMETRICS parlance, is how fast a player becomes a starter, measured in seasons. A starter is defined as a player who starts at least eight games in an NFL season.

Most DRAFTMETRICS articles are about establishing reasonable expectationsin the draft. For example, what does history suggest about the chances of a team selecting a starting wide receiver early in the first round? Past articles have addressed the probabilities of drafting players who achieve various milestones related to career length, starter status and post-season honors.

In this article, DRAFTMETRICS addresses the time element by reviewing Starting Velocity for players who have been starters for one, three orfive seasons. A player who starts for five seasons will be included in the analysis of the Starting Velocity for all three milestones (in the form of the number of seasons it takes him to achieve each milestone). It is important to understand that Starting Velocity does not consider the probability of a player starting. It is calculated based only on those players who achieve the specific starter milestone, and excludes players who never reach starter status.

The following table shows the percentage of players achieving starter status by the number of seasons played and also the average number of years to achieve each milestone. Regarding the average number of years, an average of 2.3 years means that the average player became a starter part way into his third season.

The table should be read as follows:
• 37% of all first-time starters achieved that status asrookies, 30% in their second season, etc.
• 35% of all three-year starters achieved that milestone in their third season.
• 34% of all five-year starters achieved that status in their third season.

The takeaway from this table is that starters ascend to that status relatively rapidly. About two-thirds of
the players who achieve the starting milestones do so within one year of the minimum (e.g. 64% of those who achieve five-year starter status do so by their sixth year in the league). Most people correctly assume that the Starting Velocity is faster when a player is drafted earlier. The following three tables validate that instinctive conclusion. The tables show information for each of the “Value Groups” identified by DRAFTMETRICS in “The Real Seven Rounds of the NFL Draft”. The percentages in the table reflectthe distribution within each Value Group (e.g., 74% of all players selected with picks 1-13 who start at least one season do so in their rookie season).

These tables confirm that earlier draft choices do tend to start earlier. The tables also show a significant dividing line between (1) the first 66 picks and (2) later selections for both three- and five-year starters, as shown below, when looking at the percentage of players who achieve each of those milestones
within one year of the minimum:

As the above shows, the drop-off from the 41-66 group to the 67-86 group is 20% and 22%, respectively, for the three- and five-year starters. This is about double the normal decline from Value Group to Value Group.

The final issue addressed by DRAFTMETRICS is whether the Starting Velocity variessignificantly by playing position. DRAFTMETRICS took a look at this on both an overall basis and within Value Group. Only the overall information is presented here (on the next page) for the sake of brevity. Fullbacks are excluded because of the relatively few data points. Once again, the information is presented for each of the three starter milestones.

Some highlights on the review by position:
• There are not huge differences among the playing positions
• Offensive tackles achieve the starting milestones faster than other positions
• QBs are the slowest to achieve the startingmilestones, followed by defensive linemen
• The following categorizes the performance of each playing positions in reaching each milestone
within one year of the minimum

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Retaining starters and free agent activity: Part 2

The first week of free agency is drawing to a close and there has been no shortage of big stories, ranging from the Elvis Dumervil fax mystery to the Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin trades. DRAFTMETRICS self-assigned role in the reporting of offseason personnel activity is to track the movement, or the lack

The first week of free agency is drawing to a close and there has been no shortage of big stories, ranging from the Elvis Dumervil fax mystery to the Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin trades. DRAFTMETRICS self-assigned role in the reporting of offseason personnel activity is to track the movement, or the lack thereof, of the players who started 2012 NFL games.

DRAFTMETRICS will periodically update its reporting to reflect the most recent personnel activities. As of early Sunday evening, the status of the players who started the 11,264 NFL games in 2012 is summarized as follows:

These numbers will change, of course, as more personnel transactions occur.

So far, players who started about 8% of all 2012 games have been signed by new teams. There are still players accounting for about 17% of 2012 starts available on the open market. Some of those will be resigned by their 2012 team, some will move on to new teams and some will find there is no longer a market for their services. Future updates will capture activity related to those remaining players.

As part of its analysis DRAFTMETRICS identifies the teams that figure to be the most experienced, in terms of 2012 games started, headed into the 2013 season. The following page shows the detail by team. This table shows the current rankings, in order of 2012 games started by players under contract, of each NFL team. Bear in mind that each team will have 352 starts per season.

Summary of Off-Season Team Building Activities by Team
All Information Represents 2012 Starts
March 18, 2013 Update


(1) Represents Starters Retained plus 2012 Games Started by Acquired Players

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Retaining starters and free agent activity: Part 1

The first day of free agency is always one of the biggest news days of the NFL off-season. Not only does free agency begin, but teams are busy getting down to the salary cap by releasing players or restructuring existing contracts.

In an article titled “2013 Free Agency: Setting the Stage”,

The first day of free agency is always one of the biggest news days of the NFL off-season. Not only does free agency begin, but teams are busy getting down to the salary cap by releasing players or restructuring existing contracts.

In an article titled “2013 Free Agency: Setting the Stage”, DRAFTMETERICS pointed out that in 2012 35% of the Unrestricted Free Agents who changed teams did so in the first week of free agency and 56% changed teams in the first two weeks. There is no reason to expect that 2013 will be any different and, indeed, plenty of deals have already been done or are in progress. DRAFTMETRICS will leave the reporting of individual free agentsigning to others, but it will be tracking player movements at the team level by focusing on the players who started one game or more in the 2012 season. In this article DRAFTMETRICS reports the number of games started for each team by players in the following categories:

• Players who remain with their 2012 teams
• Players who are restricted free agents
• Players who are unrestricted free agents
• Players who were released or waived
• Players who were traded
• Players who retired

The total number of games started for each team is 352 (22 playing positions times 16 regular season games). Players will change categories as free agency progresses. For example, if an unrestricted free agent signs with his former team he will move from being an unrestricted free agent to a player who remains with his 2012 team.

The following table shows the breakdown of games started for each team as of the evening of March 12. Teams are shown in order of number of games started by players who have been retained. Based on past history, it is assumed that all restricted free agents will sign with their 2012 team so their starts are added to the games started by players under contract. As seems to be the case with everything else this offseason, the Seahawks and the 49ers are the leaders at this point in retaining starters with over 300 games started by players who remain from 2012. The Jets and Chargers bring up the rear with less than 200 games each.

This table will be periodically updated to reflect additional personnel activity. The table will also be expanded to include players signed from other teams to give a quantitative measure of each team’s experience heading into the 2013 season.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Digging deeper into draft probabilities

In last week’s article titled “The Real Seven Rounds of the NFL Draft”, DRAFTMETRICS presented the case for viewing the draft as having seven segments (called Value Groups) based on the similar probabilities of success for all selections within each Value Group. In this article DRAFTMETRICS takes it a step further,

In last week’s article titled “The Real Seven Rounds of the NFL Draft”, DRAFTMETRICS presented the case for viewing the draft as having seven segments (called Value Groups) based on the similar probabilities of success for all selections within each Value Group. In this article DRAFTMETRICS takes it a step further, first reaffirming the conclusions in last week’s article for more restrictive time periods and then presenting data by playing position.

In this article all data except five-yearinformation is based on the results of the 1993-2008 drafts. Five year information is based on the results of the 1993-2006 drafts. These ranges were selected in order to allow the opportunity for each playerin the selected time period to achieve the milestones. For example, a player selected in the 2006 draft has had a reasonable opportunity to play seven NFL seasons and establish himself as a five-year starter.

Let’s clarify a few protocols before proceeding with further discussion:
• A player earns a “starter year” for each year in which he started eight or more games
-A five-yearstarter has started at least eight games in each of at least five seasons
-A rookie starter started at least eight games in his rookie season
• A player is credited with a season played only if he appears in at least one game
• A player receives credit for a Pro Bowl appearance only if he was an original selection for the game, whether he played or not
• A player receives credit for an All Pro selection if he was named to either the Associated Press or Pro Football Writers of America All-Pro teams.

Following is a table that reflects historical results by Value Group. This is essentially the same information shown in “The Real Seven Rounds of the NFL Draft” but for the time periods described above and with a few moremilestones. While good players come from all parts of the draft,the table shows that, among other things, a player drafted in the first 13 picks is 10 times more likely to become a five-year starter than a player selected in the last 60 picks (74.7% versus 6.8%)

Again, this table does not show that you can only get good players early in the draft. Rather, it makes the somewhat obvious point that the earlier a player is drafted the more likely he is to be successful and addresses the question of “how much more successful”.

As one might expect, results vary by playing position within each Value Group. Tables showing the probability by playing position are included at the end of this article. If you like numbers, you will love those tables.

For those who are more interested in a brief overview,the following table focuses on only one milestone (five-year starters), which could possibly be the most important measure, and shows the probability of drafting a five-yearstarter by playing position within each Value Group. Data is shown only for those positions with 10 or more draftees in that Value Group.

It is interesting to note the significant fluctuations across playing positions afterthe first 13 picks of the draft. Is this due to randomness or a real difference in risk? Here are the main conclusionsreached by DRAFTMETRICS:
• Offensive linemen tend to be the least risky positions to draft
• Offensive tackles stood out as by far the safest bet in the first 13 picks of the draft
– 20 of the 21 offensive tackles started as rookies and the only exception started in his second season
– 94% became five-year starters, 81% were selected for at least one Pro Bowl and 62% were honored as All Pro at least once
– All OT who were three-time Pro Bowl selections were selected in the first 13 picks• RB andWR tend to be the riskiest positionsto draft
DRAFTMETRICS has no evidence to support this, but for RBs this is probably largely a function of the injury risk at the position
– Significant drop-off in the probability of three-year versus five-year starters

– Over one-third of the RBs who became five-year starters were selected in the first 13 selections
– There were 70 WRs who became five-year starters and 57 of those were selected in the first 86 selections in the draft
– Later round WRs are lottery tickets

– Rookie WRs are less likely to start than any other playing position
– No WRs selected between picks 150 and 189 started as rookies and less than 1% started from selection 190 through the end of the draft
• It’s no surprise that QBs tend to get pushed up earlier in the first round
– As many QBs were taken with the 1-13 picks as are taken with selections 14-66
– QBs had the lowest probability of starting as rookies with selections 1-13 and were second only to WRs over the entire draft
– Success rates are low with the 14-66 selections and none of the 12 QBs taken in the 67-86 selection range became three-year starters
• Late round LBs (picks 190 and after) rank among the lowest probabilities of success
• Corners drafted with selections in the 67-86 range and then 150 and after tend to be risky
• Offensive linemen and safeties have the highest probability of starting for picks 190 and after
• DEs selected between the 67th and 149th picks tend to be more successful than other positions
– Pretty close to average in the first 40 picks and 150th pick and later
• On an overall basis about three-quarters of three-year starters go on to become five-year starters with RBs the lowest at 58% and QBs the highest at 90%

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The real seven rounds of the NFL draft

The NFL has had seven rounds in its draft since 1994. The teams with the worst record in the preceding year draftsfirst and the Super Bowl champion has the last pick in each round. It has been ingrained in our thinking that the value of the draft choices is perfectly logical with the first

The NFL has had seven rounds in its draft since 1994. The teams with the worst record in the preceding year draftsfirst and the Super Bowl champion has the last pick in each round. It has been ingrained in our thinking that the value of the draft choices is perfectly logical with the first choice being worth more than the second choice,the second being more valuable than the third, all the way down to the end of the draft.

DRAFTMETRICS, though, has consistently held the belief that the draft can be divided into several groupings of selections within which all the draft selections have an equal chance of success. (These groups have been called Value Groups in past DRAFTMETRICS writings and will be referred to as such in this article.) As discussed below, this means a player selected with the 13th pick has the same chance of success as the player selected first.

In its analysis of drafts from 1993 through 2012, DRAFTMETRICS has concluded that there are indeed seven “rounds” of the draft, just not the same seven as the NFL. The seven Value Groups designated by DRAFTMETERICS are:

1. Selections 1-13
2. Selections 14-40
3. Selections 41-66
4. Selections 67-86
5. Selections 87-149
6. Selections 150-189
7. Selections 190 and later

These Value Groups were determined based on a review of a number of objective factors but is, by necessity, somewhat subjective in establishing the cut-offs. The following table, which considered all drafts from 1993-2012, shows some of the factors considered and summarizes the results by Value Group.

There are two points of clarification about this table. First, regarding Pro Bowl appearances, a player is only given credit for a Pro Bowl selection if he was an original selection. No credit is given for being selected as an alternate or injury replacement. A player receives credit whether he actually participates in the game or not. Second, it should be noted that the probabilities cited in the table are somewhat understated because of the inclusion of the 2011 and 2012 drafts. For example, 90% is actually a perfect score for the probability of playing three seasons or more because players drafted in 2011 or 2012 can’t possibly have reached that milestone.

In a future article or articles, DRAFTMETRICS will present success probabilities based on a shorter time period, with all players considered in the analysis having the opportunity to achieve the selected milestones. Using the full 20 years works fine for this analysis, however, as it is intended to be viewed more in relative than absolute term and treats all Value Groups the same. DRAFTMETRICS will also address differences by playing position in future articles.

There are some interesting value implications that will be addressed in a future article. In the 2012 draft Andrew Luck, the first player selected, received a contract with a guaranteed value of $22 million, while Michael Floyd (the 13th pick) signed a contract with a guaranteed value of $10million. This example seems a little silly give the respective rookie seasons of the two, but historically the two players have the same probability of success, yet one is paid twice the amount of the other. This has some interesting strategy implications, but that’s a story for another day

A final point that should be emphasized is the “bumpy” nature of the results. There are significant variances in results within each of the selection ranges. As an example, here is the range of results in the first 13 selections and then for selections 14-40.

This bumpiness indicates that there are outliers in each of the Value Groups and does not invalidate DRAFTMETRICS Value Group approach.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at @draftmetrics

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2013 Free Agency: Setting the Stage

March 12 is the next critical date in the NFL offseason. By that date all teams must be in compliance with the salary cap and the free agency period officially begins. Before the real action starts, DRAFTMETRICS set out to provide some perspective by reviewing data regarding 2012 free agency.

The term

March 12 is the next critical date in the NFL offseason. By that date all teams must be in compliance with the salary cap and the free agency period officially begins. Before the real action starts, DRAFTMETRICS set out to provide some perspective by reviewing data regarding 2012 free agency.

The term “veteran free agents” , as it is used in this article, includes (1) players whose contract have expired and who are free to sign with any team, (2) players who have become free agents by having their contracts terminated for salary cap or other reasons and (3) players who are no longer affiliated with an NFL team.

The signing of veteran free agentsis an important part of building and maintaining an NFL roster. Players acquired as veteran free agents accounted for almost 27% of all games started in the 2012 NFL season (versus 59% for a team’s own draft choices). The 2992 games started by veteran free agents marks the second consecutive year of increased startsfollowing a steady decline in the preceding years.

The 2992 games started by veteran free agents in 2012 included starts by players acquired as early as 2002 (Charlie Batch of the Steelers). Following is a breakdown showing the number of 2012 starts made by players acquired in free agency in each year.

The remainder of this articlewill focus on the 2012 veteran free agent class. DRAFTMETRICS first compared the initial impact of the 2012 veteran free agent class to the 2012 draft class as show below.

This shows that veteran free agents do, understandably, have a larger initial impact than draftees. A significant number of veteran free agents are on one-year contracts, though, so that advantage shrinks rather rapidly. The number of 2012 games started by the 2011 veteran free agent class, for example, is 771 compared to 1108 for the 2011 draft class.

DRAFTMETRICS then took a closerlook at the players whose contracts expired andmoved on to become free agents. As per an August 29, 2012 press release from the NFL, there were 143 such players (referred to as Unrestricted Free Agents, or UFAs)in 2012. Following is a comparison of this group of 143 players with other veteran free agents.

From this data one can see that the group of 143 UFAs accounted for both most of the games started and players who started at least eight games. The players making up the 143 UFAs fall into one of several categories:
Players who started eight or more games: 50 players
Players who started at least one game but less than 8 games: 39
Players who didn’t start but were back-ups: 18
Players who cut in the preseason: 25
Players who were placed on injured reserve: 7
Players who retired: 4

The sum of the number of players who started (50 + 39, or 89) does not equalthe number of players who started at least one game in the table above, as logic would suggest, because two players were cut by their original team ultimately started a game for their new team.

The above indicates that the UFAs tended to more successful than other veteran free agents. This also shows up in the contracts they signed, as the UFAs tended to be better players and get longer contracts.

DRAFTMETRICS reviewed contract information for the 72 players who started at least eight games in 2012. The most significant deals signed by “other veteran free agents” were by Peyton Manning, Kamerion Wimbley, Eric Winston and Steve Hutchinson. Multi-year, big money deals were far more numerous among the UFAs, led by the contracts of Mario Williams, Brandon Carr, Vincent Jackson and Pierre Garcon. More than half the contracts signed by UFAs were for three years or more. A summary of the deals by contract length is presented in the following table.

Finally, DRAFTMETRICS reviewed the number of games started by NFL teams to see which teams were the primary “players” in the veteran free agent market. This is large driven, of course, by a team’s salary cap situation.Number of starts by draftees is also included in the following table. “New Guy Starts” are starts by players in their first year with the team.

DRAFTMETRICS acknowledges that the “new guy starts” numbers do not include players acquired through trades or rookie free agents. That information is not currently available but will be developed at a later date.

The “New Guy Analysis” shows thatthe Rams, Colts and Broncos had the most new faces among veteran free agents and the 49ers, Steelers and Falcons had the least. It is interesting to note that both the top three and the bottom three contained two playoffs teams.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Monday’s Combine drill performance vs. history

Defensive linemen and linebackers wrapped up their drills on Monday. NFL.com and a number of other websites are reporting the individual results as they become available. For some reason, the NFL has not yet released all the final results for Monday’s drills. My wife’s theory is that someone spilled coffee on the results.

Defensive linemen and linebackers wrapped up their drills on Monday. NFL.com and a number of other websites are reporting the individual results as they become available. For some reason, the NFL has not yet released all the final results for Monday’s drills. My wife’s theory is that someone spilled coffee on the results.

Rather than reporting the raw scores, DRAFTMETRICS has determined where each player’s results fall in the context of all Combine results since 1999. The percentage reported on the enclosed sheets represents where the player’s results rank among all results at his playing position for that drill. For example, a 100% for Sam Barrington in the 40 yard dash means that his 40 time of 4.91 places him in the bottom top 10% (his 100% indicates his time is not fast enough to put him in the top 90%) of all 40s run by linebackersfrom 1999-2012. Jonathan Bostic’s time of 4.61, on the other hand, places him in the top 20% of all 40s run by linebackers from 1999-2012.

Scores run from 10% to 100%(with a score of 100%meaning that the player’s score was in the bottom 10% of all recorded scores). A low score is better than a high score, with 10% being the best. All scores were obtained from the NFL.com website. No 40-yard splits are reported on that site so they are excluded from this “quicky” look at the results.

As mentioned above the NFL has not yet posted the final results for defensive linemen in the 20-yard shuttle and the 3-Cone drill. We will update this article when they do. We are also not showing the “3-Drill Average” that we showed in our other summaries because (1) so many linebackers skipped drills and (2) the missing drill results for defensive linemen.

There are four sets of results shown following this article:
• Linebackers
• Defensive Tackles
• Defensive Ends weighing 270 pounds or more
• Defensive Ends weighing less than 270 pounds

The splitting of the Defensive Ends by size is intended to split the defensive ends into pass rushing defensive ends and other defensive ends. The size differentiation is admittedly arbitrary but it’s the best we can do at this time.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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How did this draft’s Tight Ends rank at the combine?

Rather than reporting the raw scores from this year's combine, DRAFTMETRICS has determined where each player’s results fall in the context of all Combine results since 1999. The percentage reported on the enclosed sheet represents where the player’s results rank among all results at his playing position for that drill.

For example,

Rather than reporting the raw scores from this year's combine, DRAFTMETRICS has determined where each player’s results fall in the context of all Combine results since 1999. The percentage reported on the enclosed sheet represents where the player’s results rank among all results at his playing position for that drill.

For example, a 70% for Braxton Cave in the 40 yard dash means that his 40 time of 5.33 places him in the top 70% (or well into the bottom half) of all 40s run by centers from 1999-2012. Terron Armsteads’s 40 time of 4.71, on the other hand, places him in the top 10% of all 40s run by offensive tackles from 1999-2012.

Scores run from 10% to 100%(with a score of 100%meaning that the player’s score was in the bottom 10% of all recorded scores). All scores were obtained from the NFL.com website. No 40-yard splits are reported on that site so they are excluded from this “quicky” look at the results.

In an earlier article, DRAFTMETRICS reviewed the drills which seem to have the great correlation with future results. The top three drills for tight end, per the DRAFTMETRICS article, are as follows:

• Bench Press
• Broad Jump
• 20-Yard Shuttle

Each player’s results are followed by their average score in the top three drills for each position. An average was not calculated if a player did not participate in all three drills. Tyler Eiffert had the best “Three Drill Average” followed closely by Vance McDonald.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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Sunday at the Combine vs. history

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers wrapped up their drills on Sunday. NFL.com and a number of other websites are reporting the individual results as they become available.

Rather than reporting the raw scores, DRAFTMETRICS has determined where each player’s results fall in the context of all Combine results since 1999.

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers wrapped up their drills on Sunday. NFL.com and a number of other websites are reporting the individual results as they become available.

Rather than reporting the raw scores, DRAFTMETRICS has determined where each player’s results fall in the context of all Combine results since 1999. The percentage reported on the enclosed sheets represents where the player’s results rank among all results at his playing position for that drill.

For example, a 90% for Tyler Bray in the 40 yard dash means that his 40 time of 5.05 places him in the top 90% (or near the bottom) of all 40s run by quarterbacks centers from 1999-2012. Geno Smith’s time of 4.59, on the other hand, places him in the top 10% of all 40s run by quarterbacks from 1999-2012.

Scores run from 10% to 100% (with a score of 100% meaning that the player’s score was in the bottom 10% of all recorded scores). A low score is better than a high score, with 10% being the best. All scores were obtained from the NFL.com website. No 40-yard splits are reported on that site so they are excluded from this “quicky” look at the results.

In an earlier article,
DRAFTMETRICS reviewed the drills which seem to have the great correlation with future results. The top three drills for the three positions that were highlighted on Sunday, per the
DRAFTMETRICS article, are as follows:

Each player’s results by drill are followed by their average score in the top three drills for each playing position. An average was not calculated if a player did not participate in all three drills. Just as described above, 10% is a perfect score and 100% is the worst score. A separate “scoresheet” for each position follows.

Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at draftmetrics@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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