The Hidden Reality of Draft Value: Part 2 — Positional Value

The Hidden Reality of Draft Value: Part 2

In the previous report, we took a look at how evaluating draft picks based on the guaranteed money of the second contract versus the first contract (SC Pay Ratio or SCPR) can retrospectively provide insight into which picks were actually successful. We aggregated this data to provide useful knowledge into which rounds provide the best value. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into which positions tend to exceed their rookie contracts with their performance, which ultimately leads to a potential draft strategy for teams.

Read Part 1 of this Series

Read Part 3 of this Series

Overall View of Positions SCPR

Grouping all seven rounds of the draft for the years 2010-2017 by position only yields the following results when viewing the guaranteed money of their second contracts compared to their first:

There are a few interesting insights to note immediately:

  • The Offensive Line provides perhaps the greatest market inefficiency. In this sample, 254 picks were used on positions on the offensive line including Guard, Tackle or players that switch between both positions. These picks tend to secure about ten times more guaranteed money on their second contracts. This is most likely due to successful mid to late round picks at these positions, perhaps showing that they can be available without using premium picks.
  • DB, DT and TE are the next three most successful positions with regards to SCPR. Again, this may be due to the fact that mid to late round picks performance exceeds their draft position, which may be another position to select within the middle rounds.
  • RB is the second-worst performing position with regards to SCPR. This is because running backs rarely secure large second contracts regardless of their draft position. It is very hard to justify a premium pick on a running back when even the best running backs are most likely only playing on that first contract.
  • DE is surprisingly a poor performing positional group. With 159 picks in this category, it is possibly a combination of premium assets being used on these positions and picks being used to take flyers on athletes throughout the draft. The premium picks are hard to exceed SCPR because rookie contracts for first rounders being quite large and because taking flyers throughout the draft on a premium position can often lead to players getting ushered up a draft board higher than what their talent and tape warrant.

So what should I do with my first round pick?

Diving further into the SCPR data for positions to also include rounds tells us the following:

  • WR and CB picks look to be very solid for first round selections. Both are considered to be two of the top five premium positions these days and should be an avenue that teams look at if they want to consider players who are likely to exceed their rookie contracts based on performance. Thirty different first round wide receivers led to a SCPR of just over three, which means their second contracts tend to secure three times more guaranteed money than their first contracts.
  • When the rounds were removed, the average SCPR for guards was just under twelve. When guards are selected in the first round, the SCPR plummets to just under one (however, 14 picks is a small sample size). This lends further weight to the argument that finding guards in later rounds is perhaps where the value really is.
  • Four first round centers received second contracts. Their performance makes them the third-best value position with regards to SCPR. When viewing all of the rounds together, centre became a middling position which suggests that centers picked in later rounds bring down the SCPR score. 

Are these second contracts with the same team?

The last angle we will review for first round players is whether these positions that have high SCPR scores are achieving these scores with the same team or alternative teams. Many picks will be made with regards to the short-term future, but again, an ideal pick will both exceed their rookie contract and re-sign with the same franchise that drafted them. Everyone would prefer a pick that lasts for ten years over four.

Here’s what the findings show:

  • The value of the WR pick is diminishing ever so slightly as the large SCPR is driven by wide receivers signing their second contract with new teams. These picks are still considered solid because the initial team has selected a player that has traits and production that other teams in the league desire. However, the ideal scenario would be to draft someone too talented to let go. There were only four first round wide receivers that stayed with their same team. It’s important to note that picking a WR in round one should be under the assumption that this is most likely to be for one contract as opposed to multiple. They may not necessarily equate to bad picks, but it’s unlikely that the wide receiver becomes a franchise cornerstone for a decade or so.
  • Once again, the offensive line represents the strongest performing collective group with regards to signing a second contract with the same team. Tackles and centers (Same Team) are the sixth and seventh-best performing position groups for SCPR out of twenty-eight. These positions appear to be some of the safest bets when it comes to first round picks.
  • If you are a first round defensive end that has shown at least some promise on film, you’ll likely earn some money somewhere! The biggest cohort of first round picks based on their second contract is defensive ends who are signing with a different team. Their SCPR score of 0.91 shows that they are getting less guaranteed money on their second contracts compared to their first. It also displays the willingness of other teams to take a chance on these players based on their upside or traits. This points to a market inefficiency in favor of the players–the league is over-valuing rookie pass rushers. Based on the guaranteed money these pass rushers get in their second contracts, they are either likely out of the league by the time the second contract comes about or they are earning less than their rookie contract, which implies they didn’t live up to expectations.

Let’s recap

  • Offensive Line represents the best SCPR with guards and tackles leading the way
  • When you focus on first round only, wide receivers, cornerbacks, tackles and centers appear to be the most likely to earn good money by their second contract relative to their first
  • Obviously, good players earn second contracts. However, if long term planning and likelihood of a second contract are a high priority with your first overall draft pick, certain positions have to be prioritized over others and factored into the equation. The SCPR view does this.

What next?

Next up in the series, we will view rounds 2-7 to see if any particular positions should be attacked at specific rounds to maximize contractual value.

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