Positional Draft Review: Part 2

Following last week’s article — “Positional Draft Review: Is the First Player Taken Always the Best?” — there remained a wealth of draft data to study. So, check out some other interesting findings from our draft deep dive. Of note, the following charts cover the last 11 drafts from 2011 through 2020. Please see last week’s article for a deep explanation of some of the metrics covered below.

Breaking Down Team Draft Value by Round

What teams have accumulated the best players by Career AV per game in the first round? First, an examination of the total value accumulated:

San Francisco and Cleveland top our leaderboard. However, both teams benefit greatly from their number of first-round picks and the average position of those picks. With 15 and 16 first-round picks over the last 11 drafts, San Francisco and Cleveland have selected more players in the first round than anyone else. Moreover, Cleveland’s average first-round draft pick is 13th, the fourth lowest average selection behind only Jacksonville (ninth), and both Washington and Buffalo (12th). Meanwhile, Seattle and Green Bay finish at the bottom of our leaderboard. Seattle and Chicago tie for the lowest number of selections in the last 11 drafts (8), thus its unsurprising to see both teams in our bottom five. Additionally, both New England and Green Bay’s average first-round draft pick have been higher than any other team (26th and 24th), meaning they are selecting at the back of the first round more often than any of their competitors.

To account for the disparity in number of 1st round selections and the position of those picks, an examination by average value of the selections:

The following leaderboard gives us a better idea of the best and worst first-round drafters over the last 11 drafts. Kansas City has repeatedly picked in the middle of the first round, yet they top our leaderboard by average Career AV per game. This is unsurprising when seeing first round selections like QB Patrick Mahomes, CB Marcus Peters, OT Eric Fisher, and S Eric Berry, among others. Perhaps more impressive is Baltimore 4th place finish given their average draft position of 23rd, the third highest of any team. Baltimore has nailed various late first round selections like QB Lamar Jackson and CB Jimmy Smith. On the other hand, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Green Bay all remain in our bottom of five. As noted previously, Green Bay’s average selection has been higher than any other team outside of New England. But while New England has moved out of our bottom five, Green Bay remains. Diving deeper, Green Bay has some solid late first round selections like Bryan Bulaga, but has some spectacular first round busts such as OT Derek Sherrod, DE Nick Perry, DE Datone Jones. Finally, Cleveland has moved from our top five to our bottom five despite its high number of selections and low average position of those picks. Perhaps this is unsurprising given Cleveland’s history of draft busts such as QB Brandon Weeden, QB Johnny Manziel, RB Trent Richardson, CB Justin Gilbert, and WR Corey Coleman.

What teams have accumulated the best players (by Career AV per game) in rounds 2, 3, and 4? An examination by average value of the selections:

Minnesota tops our mid-round draft leaderboard with a solid draft history in rounds 2 through 4. The Vikings have drafted five players in our time frame during rounds 2 through 4 that have made a pro bowl in their career: RB Dalvin Cook, DE Everson Griffin, DE Danielle Hunter, TE, Kyle Rudolph and LB Eric Kendricks. We at the 33rd Team would wager that most teams would sign up for around a 50% chance of drafting a Pro Bowler in rounds 2 through 4. There is a stark contrast comparing Minnesota to the bottom of our mid-round leaderboard. While Minnesota has drafted some diamonds in the mid-rounds, the New York Jets has struggled mightily to find value. The Jets have not drafted a single Pro Bowler in rounds 2 through 4, but did draft one eventual All-Pro player, LB Demario Davis. While Davis, a 2012 3rd round selection, oddly did not make the pro bowl in his All-Pro season, the Jets did not receive the benefit of his production as he was with New Orleans in 2019.

Individual Over and Underperformers of Draft Position:

What players have most overperformed their draft position? Revisiting the heart of last week’s article, the chart below examines the 10 players who have most overperformed their implied draft rank by position (of note this list only includes players who now rank first in Total Career AV for their position group in their draft):

Jason Kelce tops the leaderboard, outperforming his drafted position rank by a 100%! Selected in the 6th round, Kelce has overperformed his position rank of 4th to become the best center of the 2011 class. While only overperforming by a mere 3 spots, Kelce was the 4th and final center selected in the 2011 draft. Thus, the three-time All-Pro has moved from an implied 0th percentile center of his draft to the 100th percentile as the best center in his class! The list is littered with NFL stars and famous mid-round picks like QBs Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. Its also notable to see two WRs, Antonio Brown and Stefon Diggs, who have overperformed their position rank by about 20 spots. Since more WRs are drafted than any other position, they have not overperformed their percentile rank as much as a Center like Kelce.

Conversely, which players drafted first at their position have most underperformed?

Former Seattle DT Malik McDowell finishes as the biggest draft bust for a player selected first at his position during our time horizon. McDowell, selected as the first DT in the 2017 draft, never played a snap in the NFL. McDowell who has underperformed by 19 spots and 90%, has faced a laundry list of issues in his non-existent career: an ATV Accident, a DUI, and multiple other arrests. It’s unsurprising to see two famous CB busts, Dee Milner and Justin Gilbert. Each were top 10 selections who barely played in the NFL and rank among the worst cornerbacks of their respective drafts. Of note, the two centers on our list, Wisniewski and Pocic, are somewhat unfairly represented. Each has only underperformed their top draft spot by 2, but appear on our list because of so few centers selected in their respective drafts. Finally, its perhaps to unreasonable to label Cincinnati OT Jonah Williams a top-10 bust thus far in his career. Williams has struggled with injuries as he has played only 12 games in two seasons.

Reviewing the last two weeks of analysis, it’s clear how hard it is to successfully navigate the NFL draft. Even with a high selection, no team can truly predict every player’s value. Perhaps its smart to operate like Baltimore’s General Manager, Eric DeCosta, who told the media last week “I look at the [as] a luck-driven process … We’ve had some success, we’ve also had some big misses. We’ve had a lot of picks, and I think that’s the No. 1 indicator to see teams who have success in the draft, is how many chances they have to draft good players.” No wonder Baltimore appeared in our top 5 teams in first round draft value.


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