Some teams and GMs have built reputations as good drafting teams, while others have earned the stigma of, well, as Mel Kiper says of the Jets, "not understanding what the draft is all about." What about your team? How have they fared in recent years?
I crunched some numbers for picks from the 1996 through 2008 drafts. To be honest, I chose 1996 because that was the first year of the "Baltimore NFL Franchise," the team yet to become the Ravens later that year. But '96 also makes sense because it's soon after the salary cap system was put into place, and players from that draft are still enjoying success in the NFL today. For the purposes of this article, I'm defining draft success as player years as a team's primary starter, and total number of Pro Bowl selections. Neither measure is perfect, but together they'll give us a pretty good idea of which teams have recently enjoyed the most successful drafts.
The first table lists the average number of years as a starter for each team's picks, broken out by round. For example, Indianapolis's first round picks have averaged 6.5 years as a starter. The average column is the average starting years for all a team's draft picks.
(Click on the table headers to sort.)
The next table lists the total number of Pro Bowl selections for each team, broken out by round. Baltimore has had a total of 39 Pro Bowl selections by players they have drafted in the first round. (Note that some of the total numbers for the Browns and Texans will be low simply due their entry into the league in '99 and '02 respectively. The Lions are still worse, despite being in the league for the full time span.)
But the tables above don't really tell us how well teams draft as much as it tells how high in the draft each team has picked. A team that consistently picks in the top third of each round will tend to end up with players with more potential, and therefore have better individual careers. So we need to account for each team's draft positions over the time period studied.
To do this, I calculated the expected number of starting years and expected number of Pro Bowls for each slot in the draft. After smoothing the data, I compared each team's expected draft success to their actual draft success. For example, the Detroit Lions' 1st round picks averaged 3.7 years starting, but they should have averaged a lot more given their typically high pick in each round. If we sum up the differences between expected and average for all the players, we'll see how well teams really drafted.
This table lists the 'Starting Years Above Expected' and 'Pro Bowl Selections Above Expected' for each team, given the picks they had during each draft.
|Rank||Team||St Yrs Abv Exp||PBs Abv Exp|
It's important to note that none of this necessarily means certain teams or GMs are really any better than the others at identifying the best players. If the draft were completely luck, there would still be teams that look like geniuses and teams that get more than their share of busts.
In fact, that's one reason I'm building these tables. I'd like to find out how much variance there would be in draft outcomes due to luck alone, and then compare it to how much actual variance there is. The difference would the true drafting "skill" of teams, executives, and scouts. Is Ozzie really that good, or is he just lucky?