During the NFL Draft, the goal is always to find value by acquiring players who can impact the roster. Furthermore, teams expect players that were selected with high picks to stay with them and earn second contracts.
In this study, we compiled the first-round picks from 2013-2017 — all 159 of them — as these players have all completed their rookie contracts. We analyzed the picks at each position and determined whether or not they were a “hit.”
A “hit” was defined as a drafted player who signs a second contract with the team that they played their rookie contract on. This could be a player like Joey Bosa who was drafted by the Chargers, played his rookie contract, and was given a second contract. Another example could be Jalen Ramsey who was traded during his rookie contract but signed an extension with his new team, the Rams.
A player that was not a “hit” is a player who did not play through their entire rookie contract. An example of this would be Jameis Winston who did not sign a second contract with the Buccaneers.
While teams intend to hold onto the first-round picks they draft, that was not always the case, as the majority of players did not sign second contracts.
Below, we will look at the first-round hit rates for each position during the five-year-span from 2013-2017:
Before diving into the table, it is important to note that these are players from 2013-17 and may not fully represent the current state of the NFL but is still an effective group to look at since these players have all completed their rookie contracts.
In the table, we see that both RB and Center are the “safest” positions to draft in the first round, as they have the highest hit rate. That said, their positional value is not very high, as just 8 total players between the two positions were first-round picks.
The OT position is far from a guaranteed success in the league, but it does have a hit rate of close to 60%. Not only is the position successful, but it is also drafted often, as 17 were selected over the past 5 years.
After OT, the next most successful hit rate is another position along the offensive line. Five out of 10 OGs selected between 2013-17 agreed to second contracts.
Like OT, EDGE is a valuable position and another very common first-round selection. Under half of the players selected, 43.5%, signed second contracts with their teams.
WR and CB also saw large numbers of their position selected in the first round, especially as the league has grown into a pass-first one. While these players were selected in such large numbers, the hit rates of players from both positions were not too high.
From the 2013-2017 draft classes, the chances of a first-round LB or S getting a second contract was very low. Judging by their low success rates as first-round picks and the state of their respective contract markets, LB and S are both not the most valuable positions.
The contract market suggests that QB, OT, EDGE, and WR are the most valuable positions, and the first-round hit rates of each position mostly back that up, as QB, OT, and EDGE have been relatively successful, while the WRs have not been as much.
That said, as we examine future draft classes, it is likely that we see an increased hit rate on WRs thanks to the amount of talent that is coming into the league.
It will be interesting to see how future draft classes play out in terms of what first-round picks get signed to second contacts.