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Football Perspective’s Thoughts on the Jets Draft

Yesterday, I discussed some of my general reactions to the NFL Draft. Today, my thoughts on the Jets draft in particular.

Milliner Island

Milliner Island.

Round 1, Pick 9: CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)

Some mocks had Milliner, the consensus best cornerback in the draft, going as high as third overall.  The Jets had a need at cornerback following the Darrelle Revis trade, and perhaps the same scouts who fell in love with Revis (and not the ones scouting Kyle Wilson) saw similar traits in Milliner. So from that standpoint, the pick makes sense.

But I’m not sure if the selection fits in with the team’s overall philosophy.  By trading Revis, the implication was that the Jets don’t think any individual cornerback is all that valuable in both Rex Ryan’s scheme and in a division that features a two (tight end)-headed bohemoth. That’s a reasonable position to take, and trading Revis — instead of paying him $16M/year — is consistent with an organizational philosophy that values depth rather than a singular talent at cornerback.

But then why spend a top-ten pick on a corner?  Perhaps the Jets just think Revis wasn’t ever going to be Revis again, and the two moves had nothing to do with each other.  Maybe New York just likes young corners.  New general manager John Idzik restructured Antonio Cromartie‘s contract to provide immediate cap savings, but he’ll count for $15M against the salary cap in 2014.  And while Cromartie was excellent in 2012, he’ll be 30 years old this time next year; the Jets may want to move on from him at that point.  Add in the fact that 2014 is Wilson’s final year, and Milliner may be the only cornerback on the roster in both 2013 and 2015.
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My Thoughts on the 2013 Draft

Over the last three days, I analyzed the trades from the first round, rounds 2 and 3, and the final four rounds. Today, I wanted to discuss the things that stood out to me during the draft. In the comments, let me know what got your attention.

Are the Bills building the fastest offense in the NFL?

Are the Bills building the fastest offense in the NFL?

What was that blur? Chances are it came from Buffalo

Buffalo wasn’t necessarily a slow team, with C.J. Spiller, Steve Johnson, and T.J. Graham, the track star from North Carolina State drafted in the third round last season. But in the 2013 draft, the Bills clearly placed an emphasis on improving the team speed. In the first round, GM Buddy Nix traded down and then selected Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel, perhaps the quarterback with the highest ceiling in the draft. The 6’5, 237 pound quarterback ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at the combine and it seems likely that the Bills plan on running some read option plays this year. Buffalo also addressed the receiving group in a big way. First, Nix drafted USC wideout Robert Woods in the second round; then, he used the third rounder received from the Rams in the Tavon Austin trade to draft Texas wide receiver and Olympic athlete Marquise Goodwin (who ran a 4.25 40 in February). After the draft, Buffalo signed former Tennessee (and then Tennessee Tech) wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, another high upside receiver (who went undrafted due to non-football reasons). The Bills also drafted Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg, who ran a 4.50 40, had a 37.5 inch vertical leap, and a 125 inch broad jump; all three marks were easily the best among tight ends at the combine. With Spiller, Goodwin, Gragg, and Manuel, Buffalo will have one of the fastest players in the NFL at each skill position.

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On Friday, I examined the trades from Round 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft; yesterday, I looked at the trades from rounds two and three. Let’s take a look at what happened on Saturday:

Chip Kelly saw enough out of Barkley to trade for him.

Chip Kelly saw enough out of Barkley to trade for him.

1) Jacksonville traded #98 to Philadelphia for the 101st and 210th picks

With Kansas City reportedly interested in drafting USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Philadelphia jumped the Chiefs to give Chip Kelly another quarterback.  The Jaguars then selected Ace Sanders, the South Carolina slot receiver that they presumably wanted at 98, anyway.  If nothing else, he can do this.

Jacksonville team received 107 cents on the dollar according to the Football Perspective chart and 96 cents on the dollar according to the Jimmy Johnson chart.

Winner: Win-Win.  Kelly now has Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Matt Barkley: we’ll see who emerges from that competition.  Meanwhile, I really like the idea of having Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts on the outside and Sanders in the slot.  If Maurice Jones-Drew is healthy, Blaine Gabbert will be out of excuses in 2013. Jacksonville also added Denard Robinson — who looks to be playing running back in the NFL — later in the draft, giving them one of the more interesting drafts of the weekend.

Chart Used: Combination of the two charts. As you’ll soon see, teams didn’t strictly adhere to the Jimmy Johnson chart often in the later rounds.
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Yesterday, I examined the trades from Round 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at what happened on Friday:

1) San Francisco traded #34 to Tennessee for the 40th and 216th picks plus a 2014 3rd rounder

The Titans traded up to draft Justin Hunter, the wide receiver from the University of Tennessee. It’s always difficult to value future draft picks, as every team has their own discount rate. So in addition having to figure out the value to be able to pick right now, we also don’t know whether that future pick will be in the beginning, middle, or end of the round. In this particular instance, it doesn’t matter, as the 49ers made out like bandits. For purposes of the calculator, I made the 2014 3rd rounder equal to the 97th pick in this draft. In that case…

The 49ers received 140 cents on the dollar according to the Football Perspective chart and 110 cents on the dollar according to the Jimmy Johnson chart.

On the bright side, with Hunter, Kenny Britt, and now Kendall Wright in the slot, Jake Locker has a lot of weapons this year. Throw in the additions of Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, and the Titans have done everything they can to make the offense a strength in 2013. Still, it’s hard not to love what the 49ers did.

Winner: San Francisco, significantly. Not only did they get fantastic value, they then selected Tank Carradine, a top-20 talent at defensive end, with the 40th pick. Unreal. A day after the Vikings overpaid to draft one Volunteer receiver, the Titans do the same for the other.

Chart Used: The Jimmy Johnson chart with a dash of coach/GM on the hot seat

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Analyzing the Trades in Day 1 of the 2013 Draft

There were five trades in the first round of the NFL Draft.  Who were the winners and losers?  Which draft chart was used — the traditional Jimmy Johnson chart or something closer to my chart?  I’ve never argued that teams use my chart when making trades (rather, I’ve argued simply that they should), but it’s worthwhile to see the trade market has shifted under the new CBA.

1) Oakland traded the #3 pick for Miami’s #12 and #42 picks

At the time, most thought the Dolphins were trading to select the last of the three left tackles, Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson.  Instead, Miami drafted Dion Jordan, the DE/OLB out of Oregon.  Jordan will team with Cameron Wake to give Miami an incredible set of pass rushers, although the left tackle situation remains unresolved.

My draft pick value calculator says the Raiders received 107% of the value they gave up, making it slightly in their favor.  On the other hand, the Jimmy Johnson chart says the Raiders only received 76% of the value of the third pick back.

Winner: Oakland.  The Raiders were able to select the player they really wanted (D.J. Hayden), so they essentially received the #42 pick for free.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins gave up a high second round pick, a risky move in a draft that is flat on talent.  Miami fans will be happy with Jordan now, and the team could still send their other second round pick to Kansas City for Branden Albert, but strictly on trade value, the Raiders won this one.
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A recap of every #1 pick in NFL and AFL Draft History, along with their conference affiliations:

YearDraftPlayerTeamPosSchoolConf (Then)Conf (Now)
2013NFLEric FisherKANTCentral MichiganMACMAC
2012NFLAndrew LuckINDQBStanfordPac-12Pac-12
2011NFLCam NewtonCARQBAuburnSECSEC
2010NFLSam BradfordSTLQBOklahomaBig 12Big 12
2009NFLMatthew StaffordDETQBGeorgiaSECSEC
2008NFLJake LongMIATMichiganBig TenBig Ten
2007NFLJaMarcus RussellOAKQBLSUSECSEC
2006NFLMario WilliamsHOUDENorth Carolina St.ACCACC
2005NFLAlex SmithSFOQBUtahMWCPac-12
2004NFLEli ManningSDGQBMississippiSECSEC
2003NFLCarson PalmerCINQBUSCPac-10Pac-12
2002NFLDavid CarrHOUQBFresno St.WACWAC
2001NFLMichael VickATLQBVirginia TechBig EastACC
2000NFLCourtney BrownCLEDEPenn St.Big TenBig Ten
1999NFLTim CouchCLEQBKentuckySECSEC
1998NFLPeyton ManningINDQBTennesseeSECSEC
1997NFLOrlando PaceSTLTOhio St.Big TenBig Ten
1996NFLKeyshawn JohnsonNYJWRUSCPac-10Pac-12
1995NFLKi-Jana CarterCINRBPenn St.Big TenBig Ten
1994NFLDan WilkinsonCINDTOhio St.Big TenBig Ten
1993NFLDrew BledsoeNWEQBWashington St.Pac-10Pac-12
1992NFLSteve EmtmanINDDEWashingtonPac-10Pac-12
1991NFLRussell MarylandDALDTMiami (FL)IndependentACC
1990NFLJeff GeorgeINDQBIllinoisBig TenBig Ten
1989NFLTroy AikmanDALQBUCLAPac-10Pac-12
1988NFLAundray BruceATLLBAuburnSECSEC
1987NFLVinny TestaverdeTAMQBMiami (FL)IndependentACC
1986NFLBo JacksonTAMRBAuburnSECSEC
1985NFLBruce SmithBUFDEVirginia TechIndependentACC
1984NFLIrving FryarNWEWRNebraskaBig 8Big Ten
1983NFLJohn ElwayBALQBStanfordPac-10Pac-12
1982NFLKenneth SimsNWEDETexasSWCBig 12
1981NFLGeorge RogersNORRBSouth CarolinaIndependentSEC
1980NFLBilly SimsDETRBOklahomaBig 8Big 12
1979NFLTom CousineauBUFLBOhio St.Big TenBig Ten
1978NFLEarl CampbellHOURBTexasSWCBig 12
1977NFLRicky BellTAMRBUSCPac-8Pac-12
1976NFLLee Roy SelmonTAMDEOklahomaBig 8Big 12
1975NFLSteve BartkowskiATLQBCaliforniaPac-8Pac-12
1974NFLToo Tall JonesDALDETennessee St.----
1973NFLJohn MatuszakHOUDETampaIndependent--
1972NFLWalt PatulskiBUFDENotre DameIndependentIndependent
1971NFLJim PlunkettNWEQBStanfordPac-8Pac-12
1970NFLTerry BradshawPITQBLouisiana Tech--WAC
1969NFLO.J. SimpsonBUFRBUSCPac-8Pac-12
1968NFLRon YaryMINTUSCAAWUPac-12
1967NFLBubba SmithBALDEMichigan St.Big TenBig Ten
1966NFLTommy NobisATLLBTexasSWCBig 12
1966AFLJim GrabowskiMIARBIllinoisBig TenBig Ten
1965NFLTucker FredericksonNYGRBAuburnSECSEC
1965AFLJoe NamathNYJQBAlabamaSECSEC
1964AFLJack ConcannonBOSQBBoston Col.IndependentACC
1964NFLDave ParksSFOWRTexas TechSWCBig 12
1963AFLBuck BuchananKANDTGrambling St.----
1963NFLTerry BakerRAMQBOregon St.IndependentPac-12
1962AFLRoman GabrielOAKQBNorth Carolina St.ACCACC
1962NFLErnie DavisWASRBSyracuseIndependentBig East
1961NFLTommy MasonMINRBTulaneSECCUSA
1961AFLBob GaitersDENRBNew Mexico St.BorderWAC
1960NFLBilly CannonRAMTELSUSECSEC
1959NFLRandy DuncanGNBQBIowaBig TenBig Ten
1958NFLKing HillCRDQBRiceSWCCUSA
1957NFLPaul HornungGNBRBNotre DameIndependentIndependent
1956NFLGary GlickPITDBColorado St.SkylineMWC
1955NFLGeorge ShawBALQBOregonPCCPac-12
1954NFLBobby GarrettCLEQBStanfordPCCPac-12
1953NFLHarry BabcockSFOWRGeorgiaSECSEC
1952NFLBilly WadeRAMQBVanderbiltSECSEC
1951NFLKyle RoteNYGWRSMUSWCCUSA
1950NFLLeon HartDETWRNotre DameIndependentIndependent
1949NFLChuck BednarikPHILBPennsylvaniaIndependent--
1948NFLHarry GilmerWASQBAlabamaSECSEC
1947NFLBob FenimoreCHIRBOklahoma St.MVCBig 12
1946NFLBoley DancewiczBOSQBNotre DameIndependentIndependent
1945NFLCharlie TrippiCRDRBGeorgiaSECSEC
1944NFLAngelo BertelliBOSQBNotre DameIndependentIndependent
1943NFLFrankie SinkwichDETRBGeorgiaSECSEC
1942NFLBill DudleyPITRBVirginiaIndependentACC
1941NFLTom HarmonCHIRBMichiganWesternBig Ten
1940NFLGeorge CafegoCRDFBTennesseeSECSEC
1939NFLKi AldrichCRDCTCUSWCBig 12
1938NFLCorby DavisRAMRBIndianaWesternBig Ten
1937NFLSam FrancisPHIFBNebraskaBig 6Big Ten
1936NFLJay BerwangerPHIRBChicagoWestern--
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Football Perspective Mock Draft

Before we get to my mock draft, here’s a recap of some of my previous articles on the NFL draft:

Draft Pick Value Calculators – Don’t Watch the Draft Without Them

I’ve created Draft Pick Value Calculators based on both my Draft Value Chart and the Jimmy Johnson Draft Value Chart.  As trades unfold tonight, you can use both calculators to see who won the trade.  I’ll be providing draft commentary on twitter, and you can follow me @fbgchase.

The 2013 Football Perspective Mock Draft

1. Chiefs – LT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher has more upside than Luke Joeckel and is a more physical player, which is why we’re now seeing more people mock Fisher to the Chiefs. The Chiefs aren’t in need of a left tackle, but Fisher is the top prospect in the draft at an elite position. Kansas City will try to trade the pick (and/or Branden Albert), but will ultimately end up selecting Fisher.

2. Dolphins (From Jaguars in Draft Night Trade) – LT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Miami didn’t go all-in on Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace to leave a hole at left tackle. Jeff Ireland is on the hot seat, and is happy to send his 2014 1st rounder to Jacksonville for a premier left tackle, especially one who has played with Tannehill and under OC Mike Sherman. New GM Dave Caldwell wants more for the #2 pick, but knows having an additional first rounder in 2014 could help in finding a franchise quarterback.

3. Raiders – DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
Oakland wants to trade down, but can’t find a willing suitor. The Raiders are desperate for bodies on the defensive line, and Floyd is a penetrating one-gap tackle who will instantly make the Raiders defense better.

4. Eagles – DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
Chip Kelly can’t resist taking the most exciting defensive prospect in the draft. Jordan is capable of playing in both the 3-4 and 4-3, making him a good fit for Kelly’s hybrid defense. An elite pass rusher who can help his new Eagles teammates get used to life under Kelly is a dream scenario Philadelphia fans, who will still boo the pick.

5. Chargers (From Lions in Draft Night Trade) – LT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Mike McCoy needs to resurrect Philip Rivers’ career, and the addition of King Dunlap (Philadelphia) and now Johnson will help shore up the edges of the San Diego line. Johnson is already one of the most athletic tackles in NFL history with off-the-chart measurables, making him the type of player a team is willing to move up to take. The Lions are willing to take any of the top corners, so Detroit accepts San Diego’s offer of the 11th, 76th, and 111th picks for the 5th pick.

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We already know what the average draft pick is worth, thanks to the Football Perspective Draft Value Chart. If we assign the draft value associated with each pick to the college of that player, then we can determine which school had the most draft value in any given year. As it turns out, the best single draft since 1967 came courtesy of USC in 1968. Look at this pretty incredible draft for the Trojans, with five players in the top 24:

Pk   Team  Player               Pos  School
1    MIN   Ron  Yary             T    USC
10   PIT   Mike  Taylor          T    USC
14   PHI   Tim  Rossovich        LB   USC
16   CHI   Mike  Hull            RB   USC
24   DET   Earl  McCullouch      WR   USC
68   PHI   Adrian  Young         LB   USC
94   WAS   Dennis  Crane         DT   USC
101  NYJ   Gary Magner          DT   USC
298  OAK   Chip  Oliver          LB   USC
438  DEN   Steve Grady          RB   USC
439  NOR   James  Ferguson       C    USC

In modern times, the best draft class (in terms of draft pick value) by a single school came in 2004, when the Miami Hurricanes sent this impressive haul to the NFL:

Rk   Team  Player               Pos  School
5    WAS   Sean  Taylor	        DB   Miami (FL)
6    CLE   Kellen  Winslow  Jr.	TE   Miami (FL)
12   NYJ   Jonathan  Vilma	LB   Miami (FL)
17   DEN   D.J.  Williams	LB   Miami (FL)
19   MIA   Vernon  Carey        T    Miami (FL)
21   NWE   Vince  Wilfork	NT   Miami (FL)
213  NYJ   Darrell  McClover	LB   Miami (FL)
215  CHI   Alfonso  Marshall	DB   Miami (FL)
254  SDG   Carlos  Joseph	T    Miami (FL)

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Are some positions safer than others in the draft? Conventional wisdom tells us that quarterbacks are risky, while offensive linemen are safe. But is that true? Jason Lisk wrote a great article on bust rates three years ago at the old PFR Blog, and I’ve decided to update that article based on more recent data.

I looked at the first rounds of all drafts from 1990 to 2009. Over that time period, 46 quarterbacks were selected in the first round, and those quarterbacks were selected, on average, with the 9th or 10th pick. The table below breaks down each position, the number of players selected in the twenty-year period, and their average draft slot:

PosCountAvg Pk
QB469.6
DE7414.1
OLB5114.6
T7014.9
DT5615
WR7315.9
RB6415.9
ILB1917.7
S2917.9
CB7418
TE2420.5
G1620.8
C922.4

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Are certain teams better at drafting than others?

A.J. Smith knows a perfect throwing motion when he sees one.

A.J. Smith knows a perfect throwing motion when he sees one.

On the surface, this seems like an obvious question. Yes, certain teams are good at drafting and certain teams are bad at drafting. It’s easy to think of the Matt Millen Lions or the Raiders at the end of the Al Davis era as terrible drafting teams. With the benefit of hindsight, they were terrible at making draft selections. But is it easy to identify going forward which teams will be good or bad in the draft?

Think back to April 2007. A.J. Smith and Bill Polian were widely considered the two best draft minds in the NFL. At the time, Smith’s last three draft classes had been outstanding. He added Philip Rivers (via the Eli Manning trade), Igor Olshansky, Nick Hardwick, Shaun Phillips, Michael Turner, and Nate Kaeding in 2004, and followed that up with Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Vincent Jackson, and Darren Sproles in 2005 and another strong class (Antonio Cromartie, Marcus McNeill, and Jeromey Clary) in 2006.

The defending Super Bowl champions were the Indianapolis Colts, a team that Polian had built from scratch. From 1996 to 2003, Polian’s eight first round picks were spent on Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Rob Morris, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Dallas Clark. His most recent first round pick was Joseph Addai, who had 1400 yards from scrimmage as a rookie and 143 yards in the Super Bowl victory over Chicago.

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We would like to start the bidding at Fort Knox.

We would like to start the bidding at Fort Knox.

This trade was a Win-Win-Win for all three sides. The Buccaneers received the best cornerback in the NFL when healthy, the perfect elixir for a team that ranked 1st against the run and 32nd against the pass in 2012. I’m a big fan of Josh Freeman, who should continue to improve as he matures. The Bucs were the 3rd youngest team in the NFL last year, making them a team on the rise. Adding Revis and Dashon Goldson to the secondary makes Tampa Bay an immediate playoff contender and a darkhorse Super Bowl contender.

Meanwhile, this is a big win for Revis, who received an incredible $96 million dollar contract and no longer has to worry about playing this season on a three million dollar base contract. Instead, he has a $13M base for each of the next six seasons, as well as a $1.5M workout bonus and $1.5M roster bonus in each season. By making $16M per season, he’s making just a hair below what Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are making, and he’s trumped the averages per year going to Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. He’s making not just quarterback money, but elite quarterback money. The trade-off for that insanely high annual figure is that he has little protection. Technically, he has no guaranteed money, but absent a season-ending injury — and maybe not even that — he’s going to make at least $32M over the next two years. And unless he falls apart, he’ll pocket $48M from 2013 to 2015, an incredible three-year haul. It’s also a few million dollars more than what DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs, and Clay Matthews received on their monster deals. Unless Tampa Bay cuts Revis after two years — in which case they would have paid $32M and lost a first round draft pick and obviously received very little — a deal with no guaranteed money isn’t particularly risky for Revis. In reality, zero guaranteed dollars is a red herring, and Revis will receive $40+M over the next three years even if Tampa Bay cuts him after year two or $48M if he stays on the team.
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[In case you missed it, earlier this week, I created an NFL Draft Pick Value Calculator and provided wallet-sized and iPhone-style copies of the 2013 NFL Schedule.]

I find old newspaper articles very entertaining, so I decided to see how the Boston Globe documented the selection of Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 Draft.

On April 17th, the day after the draft concluded, the Globe provided a full summary of each player. Here’s how they described the 199th pick:

6, 199 – Tom Brady, QB, Michigan

A pocket passer who will compete for a practice squad spot with the Patriots . . . Drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos in 1995 out of Serra (San Mateo, Calif.) HS . . . Completed 62.8 percent of his passes with 20 TDs and six interceptions. Only Elvis Grbac had more TD tosses in a season for the Wolverines . . . Throws a great slant . . . At almost 6-4, 214 pounds, has some mobility . . . Platooned with sophomore Drew Henson . . . Was projected to go in the third round, but dropped quickly.

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I’ve received a couple of questions asking about what the discount rate should be when trading future draft picks. For example, two years ago, Atlanta traded the 27th, 59th, and 124th picks in the 2011 draft, along with their first and fourth round picks in the 2012 draft, to the Browns to acquire the 6th pick and select Julio Jones. In making that trade, the Falcons were implying that the future picks were worth less than current selections. Can we quantify exactly what discount rate they used?

The Falcons went 13-3 in 2010, so they probably expected that they’d be picking pretty late in the first round of the 2012 draft, especially after adding Jones. No doubt part of the reason we see teams trading future picks is because teams expect those to be late future picks. Atlanta went 10-6 in 2011 (and lost their first playoff game), earning the 22nd pick in the 2012 draft. But let’s give Atlanta the biggest benefit of the doubt possible and say that we should assume that they were going to win the Super Bowl.

If you place picks 27, 59, and 124 into the Draft Pick Value Calculator, you see that they are worth 26.1 points. Unfortunately for Atlanta, that haul alone — without adding the future picks — is worth more than the value of the 6 pick (23.3 points). The Football Perspective chart is based on actual NFL production of drafted players, but I don’t argue that teams use my chart: just that they should. In reality, we know what chart they do use (at least as a starting point).
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Wallet-Sized Copy of the 2013 NFL Schedule

I have created a wallet-sized color copy of the 2013 NFL Schedule, which you can download here:

2013 NFL SCHEDULE

That Excel file also contains a full page color copy of the schedule, along with black and white wallet-sized and full page size schedules. On the wallet-sized photos, the line between weeks 8 and 9 has been enlarged — that is where you want to fold the paper in half.

If you don’t like downloading Excel files, you can just bookmark this page. If you have an iPhone, point your web browser to that page, and then hit your power and home button at the same time to take a photo. It’s been formatted to fit that screen will enable you have always carry the schedule on your phone.

2013 nfl schedule 2

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Will Geno Smith fall in the draft?

Would you risk your job on this man?

Would you risk your job on this man?

I have no inside information and I’m not a draftnik, but that won’t stop me from trying to read the tea leaves. I’m of the opinion that Geno Smith will fall to the late first round of the draft next week. I’m not a huge Smith fan — a passer-friendly system boosted his admittedly impressive numbers — but I wouldn’t label myself a Smith hater, either. So why do I think he’ll slide? Part of the reason is that Smith simply isn’t a slam dunk pick, much to the chagrin of several teams in the top five. Another factor is that following the delusional quarterback carousel last month, no team has a pressing need for a quarterback to start in week 1, a stark contrast to where the Redskins and Colts were this time last year. Finally, while Smith may be the top quarterback prospect on most boards, I’m sure some teams think selecting Matt Barkley, E.J. Manuel, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray, or Landry Jones in rounds two, three, or four, is preferable to spending a high first round pick on Smith. If those picks miss, the cost is lower, and team won’t feel the immediate need to thrust them into the lineup like they would with Smith.

Looking at the teams drafting in the top ten, and I don’t see any landing spot that is particularly likely for Smith. Consider:
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Introducing the NFL Draft Pick Value Calculator

I first created a draft value chart five years ago. While the famous Jimmy Johnson chart was designed to facilitate trades, my chart was designed to measure the actual expected value from each draft pick. I fine-tuned my chart last November, and the graph below shows how much marginal Approximate Value you can expect from each draft pick over the course of the first five years of his career:

draft value chart 2

You can see all the values for each draft pick here, but today, I’m introducing the Draft Pick Value Calculator. It’s pretty simple to use: just type in the draft picks that Team A is trading and the draft picks that Team B is trading, and the calculator will let you know which team is winning the deal.
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Oklahoma tries, fails to stop Tavon Austin

Oklahoma tries, fails to stop Tavon Austin.

It’s become trendy in recent weeks to discuss how players like Tavon Austin are “changing the game,” after the success of multi-dimensional athletes like Percy Harvin, Darren Sproles, Randall Cobb, and Aaron Hernandez. Many football analysts have described these players as the next phase in the evolution of the game; for example, here’s what Greg Cosell wrote earlier this week:

I wrote about the Seattle Seahawks a number of weeks ago, specifically relating to the trade for Percy Harvin. I made the point that Seattle did not acquire Harvin solely to line him up at wide receiver. He will be so much more than that. He will align everywhere in the formation, the ultimate chess piece that can attack from anywhere on the board. Just like Cobb in Green Bay and Hernandez in New England. This is the light bulb moment. That’s exactly what Austin should be in the NFL. Those who see him solely as a slot receiver are stuck in conventional thinking, and missing the larger, more expansive point. Austin is not a static, inert player. He’s a movement player, a peripatetic ball of energy that creates all kinds of matchup issues for defenses.

I believe Austin, Hernandez, Cobb and Harvin are representative of where NFL teams would like to go with their personnel, and their passing concepts. The objective is to have five receivers, and certainly four, who can align all over the formation. Traditionally, they can be wide receivers, tight ends or running backs. It can be the Patriots with their “12” personnel. Or the Packers, with their four-wide receiver personnel. From a schematic perspective, it doesn’t matter how you define them by position. The overriding, and superseding point is that they are all movable chess pieces, all “Jokers”, to use the term that I’ve used before and I think is aptly descriptive. That’s the “Cosell Doctrine”, and that’s the direction I see the NFL game trending. It’s about passing, and how you can create, and ultimately dictate favorable matchups. You do that with players that are amorphous and fluid in their ability to be utilized in ways both multiple and expansive, yet somewhat unstructured based on conventional definitions.

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A poor man's Matt Stafford?

Tyler Bray is this year's youngest quarterback prospect.

For the most part, age is rarely discussed when talking about college quarterbacks. Outside of the Brandon Weedens and Chris Weinkes of the world, you generally don’t hear much from the draft community about the age of a prospect. But we do know that age matters, and that all other things being equal, being younger is better (or a sign that the player has a higher ceiling).

In this year’s draft, Tyler Bray is the neophyte, as he’ll be 21 years and 8 months old at the start of the season. He’s just weeks older than Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman were this time four years ago. It also means he’s 10 months younger than Geno Smith, the second youngest of the top prospects. On the other hand, Tyler Wilson will be 24 when the season starters, Landry Jones just turned 24, and Jordan “did you know Aaron is my brother” Rodgers will be 25 on August 30th. Do NFL teams generally ignore age — i.e., fail to measure younger quarterbacks against a lower bar? Or perhaps do they overemphasize age, thinking a young player has such high upside and can be taught anything that they ignore red flags? That’s what this post seeks to answer.
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In Part I, I derived a formula to translate the number of marginal wins a veteran player was worth into marginal salary cap dollars (my answer was $14.6M, but the Salary Cap Calculator lets you answer that question on your own terms). We can also translate Approximate Value into wins using a similar method.

Each NFL team generates about 201 points of Approximate Value per season, or 6,440 points of AV per season in the 32-team era. I ran a linear regression using team AV as the input and wins as the output, which produced a formula of

Team Wins = -9.63 + 0.0876*AV

This means that adding one point of AV to a team is expected to result in 0.0876 additional wins. In other words, for a 201-AV team to jump from 8 to 9 wins, they need to produce 11.4 additional points of AV.

A player who can deliver 11.4 marginal points of AV is therefore worth one win to a team, or 14.6 million marginal salary cap dollars (or whatever number you choose). Alternatively, you can think of it like this: a player who is worth $1.277M marginal dollars should be expected to produce 1 additional point of AV and 0.0876 additional wins. In case the math made you lose the forest for the trees, this is all a reflection of the amount of wins we decide the replacement team is worth, as the formula is circular: if a team spends all of its $72.877M marginal dollars, they should get 57.07 marginal points of AV, or 5 extra wins, the amount needed to make a replacement team equal to an average team.

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On Friday, I looked at the career leaders in 4th quarter (and overtime) game-winning touchdowns from scrimmage. Yesterday I presented the all-time leaders in passing touchdowns. Today we give field goal kickers some love using the same criteria.
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Still the king

Still the king.

Yesterday, I looked at the career leaders in 4th quarter (and overtime) game-winning touchdowns from scrimmage. Today I will do the same thing for passing touchdowns.

As a reminder: tracking things like game-winning touchdowns is only interesting in a trivial sort way. I looked at all games, regular and postseason, in all leagues, from 1940 to 2012, and counted all touchdowns scored that put the player’s team ahead for good (with one exception: I did not count touchdowns scored when down by 7 and the team successfully went for two afterwards). The table below shows all players with at least 4 such game-winning touchdown passes. It won’t do much to settle the Brady/Manning debate.
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Five years ago, Doug wrote an interesting post about game-winning touchdowns. Let’s be clear: tracking things like game-winning touchdowns is only interesting in a trivial sort way, but hey, it’s April.

Football doesn’t have a statistic like “game-winning RBIs” the way baseball does, although my friend Scott Kacsmar has been doing a great job tracking 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives for quarterbacks. I was wondering which players have scored the most game-winning touchdowns in the 4th quarter or overtime, and fortunately I have the data to answer that pretty easily. I looked at all games, regular and postseason, in all leagues, from 1940 to 2012, and counted all touchdowns scored that put the player’s team ahead for good (with one exception: I did not count touchdowns scored when down by 7 and the team successfully went for two afterwards).

The table below lists all players with at least five such touchdowns and the teams for which they scored those touchdowns.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve updated things on my team in the RSP Writers Project, so this post will explain what I was thinking on the six players I selected in rounds six through eleven.

Rounds 6/7

Already on team: QB Josh Freeman, WR Julio Jones, WR Brandon Marshall, LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE Paul Kruger
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D’Brickashaw Ferguson and how tackles age

A few weeks ago, I discussed why I selected D’Brickashaw Ferguson as my left tackle in the RSP Writer’s Project. In the comments to that post, mrh argued that tackles generally don’t age that well, a proposition I never really considered before. I have previously discussed quarterback age curves and examined running back aging patterns last summer, so I’ve decided to take a closer look at offensive tackles.

First, I grouped together all tackles who entered the league since 1970 and recorded at least four seasons with an Approximate Value of at least 8 points (Ferguson has three seasons with an AV of 8 and two more with an AV of 9). That gave me a group of 78 tackles who were above-average players in their prime. As it turns out, they didn’t age very well as a group, and the results probably underestimate the true effects of age.

As I’ve discussed before, there are two ways to measure group production over a number of a seasons. In the graph below, the red line shows the aging patterns of top tackles when you divide their total AV accumulated by tackles at that age by 78; the blue line shows the age curves when you divide the total AV accumulated only by those tackles active in the NFL at that age.
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Here’s the introduction to an old fantasy football article by my fellow Footballguys staffer Maurile Tremblay:

In most fantasy football leagues, eligible players are divided into 6 different positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, placekicker, and special teams/defense. Imagine a league that includes a seventh position, team captain, which earns points each week based solely on the initial coin toss. For example, if you’ve got the Raiders as your starting TC and the Raiders win their coin toss, you get 30 points; if the Raiders lose their coin toss, you get nothing.

Under the current laws of probability, we can expect any particular team captain to win about 8 out of its 16 coin tosses over the course of the season, winding up with about 240 total fantasy points — so let’s use that as our VBD baseline. There will probably be one or two team captains, however, that win around 12 tosses, making them about 120 points better than average. That makes the top team captain pretty valuable!

So how long should we wait before drafting our TC1? Is the first round too early? The second?

Of course, anything before the final round is too early! Coin flips are random, so while some TCs will end up scoring many more points than others over the course of the season, there’s no way to know which ones. We should therefore be totally indifferent to which TC we end up with.

That’s not the case with, say, running backs. We may be fairly confident that Eddie George will score more points than Tim Biakabutuka. So while we have no good reason to prefer the Raiders’ team captain to the Chiefs’, we should quite rationally prefer George to Biak. And as it makes sense to spend our early draft choices filling positions where our preferences are strongest — indeed, that is the essence of VBD — we ought to generally draft our RBs before we draft our TCs.
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Forgotten Stars: Hugh Taylor

Bones stretches for a touchdown

Bones stretches for a touchdown.

Only three players in NFL history have been responsible for half of their team’s receiving touchdowns over a six-year period: Don Hutson, Jerry Rice, and Hugh Taylor. You probably don’t know much about Taylor, the Washington Redskins star receiver who played from 1947 to 1954. In his first game in the NFL, he caught 8 passes for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns, giving him the record for receiving yards in a player’s first game that stood until 2003.  In his last game, he caught five passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns.  In between those games, he was a star receiver on one of the worst teams in the NFL.  Despite the short career, Taylor came in at #63 on my list of the best receivers of all time. His most impressive season came in 1952, when he was responsible for 45% of the Redskins’ receiving yards and produced the 52nd-best season ever by a wide receiver.

At 6’4, Taylor was one of the tallest receivers of his era, but at only 194 pounds, he was also very deserving of his nickname: Bones. Taylor made up for his skinny physique with a long stride that enabled him to get behind defenders.  I spoke with T.J. Troup, an NFL historian who has coached wide receivers at the college and high school levels, for his thoughts on Taylor. Troup owns a significant amount of NFL film from the late ’40s and ’50s, making him the perfect source for this subject.  He described Taylor to me as one of the best home-run threats of his day, with a playing style similar to other long-striders like Harlon Hill, Don Maynard, and Lance Alworth. The numbers certainly back that up.

The table below shows all receivers who were responsible for at least 39% of a team’s receiving touchdowns over a six-year period.  Note that several receivers would show up multiple times on this list, so for players like Hutson, I’ve limited them to their single best six-year stretch. Taylor’s stretch from ’49 to ’54 ranks second on the list:

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From the gut: My thoughts on AFC teams

Yesterday, I talked about how optimistic I was about nearly every team in the NFC. On the other hand, most of the teams in the AFC are rebuilding, whether they know it or not. In fact, figuring out which team is the 3rd best team in the conference is much more challenging than it should be. Let’s break the AFC into tiers.

The “Going to Meet in the AFC Championship Game” Tier

Denver Broncos
New England Patriots

This picture will never get old

This picture will never get old.

The big story last offseason was Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos. This year, stealing Wes Welker from the Patriots may prove just as important. For New England, the key to their success is keeping Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Amendola healthy, although the Patriots will be fine as long as two of them are on the field. We’re months away from the season, but for now, New England’s depth chart at wide receiver is downright scary. Meanwhile, the Broncos boast perhaps the best trio in the league with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Welker; even if you say Manning and Tom Brady cancel each other out, Denver should still have the better passing game (and Jacob Tamme did a fine Dallas Clark impression last year). On defense, the Patriots continue to cross their fingers and pray, instead of signing players like Nnamdi Asomugha and John Abraham. Von Miller and the Broncos defense were strong last year, and another easy schedule (NFC East, AFC South) should help the team win 12 or 13 games. As usual, the Patriots won’t be far behind, and if they can beat Denver in the regular season matchup in Foxboro, they can steal the 1 seed.
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From the gut: My thoughts on NFC teams

It’s April, so most of these points will probably look silly in 9 months, but the NFC should be the class of the NFL in 2013. I think you can make a convincing case for practically every team in the NFC as a possible playoff contender, which means a lot of coaches in that conference are going to be wondering what went wrong by December. Here’s my quick thoughts on each team:

San Francisco 49ers – returning NFC Champions lost Dashon Goldson, Isaac Sopoaga, and Delanie Walker, but added Anquan Boldin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Glenn Dorsey, and Phil Dawson. With Colin Kaepernick entering his second season as starter and a roster full of first round talent, it’s hard to imagine anything shy of another double-digit win season and a Super Bowl run for the 49ers. And they have 13 picks in April’s draft. I still see them as having a chance to become this generation’s version of the Lombardi Packers.

Wilson's arms are too short to stiff-arm opponents.

Wilson's arms are too short to stiff-arm opponents.

Seattle Seahawks – maybe the best team in the NFL by the end of last year, the Seahawks solved their two biggest problems in the first week of free agency. The Percy Harvin trade adds another dimension to one of the toughest offenses in the NFL to stop, while signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett significantly improves the pass rush. Seattle could challenge for the league lead in sacks. Having Bruce Irvin, Avril, and Bennett on the field on third downs — especially at CenturyLink Field — will be a nightmare for opposing offenses.

St. Louis Rams – the Rams went 4-1-1 in the division last year and Jeff Fisher did a fantastic job turning the culture around. There were some significant losses in the offseason — Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Gibson — but the two biggest moves were paying for Jake Long and Jared Cook. St. Louis has the 16th, 22nd, and 46th picks in the draft, so they should be better in a month. They have a brutal division, but it’s clear that they’re moving in the right direction. You could argue that three of the five best coaches in the NFL are in the NFC West, and that doesn’t include the reigning Coach of the Year.
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More division wins than non-division wins

The Rams finished with the best division record in the NFC West last year at 4-1-1, but St. Louis went only 3-7 in games against non-NFC West opponents. The Jaguars were 0-10 in non-division games last season, but beat both the Colts and Titans to finish 2-4 against the AFC South. Since the merger, three teams have won six more games against division rivals than against non-division opponents. Two of those teams did so in 1998, when the Cowboys went 10-6 thanks to a 8-0 record against the NFC East and a 2-6 mark against the rest of the league (in the playoffs that year, Dallas lost to an NFC East team, a choke that was presumably not Tony Romo’s fault). Over in the AFC, the Titans finished 7-1 against the AFC Central and 1-7 against the rest of the NFL. Technically, the ’82 Dolphins went 7-1 against the AFC East and 0-1 against Tampa Bay during the strike-shortened season, so they fit the criteria, too.

In the new eight-division, four-teams-per-division format, each team plays six games against division opponents and 10 games against non-division opponents. The table below shows all teams since 2002 that won more at least 1.5 more games against division rivals than non-division opponents:
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Yet another draft value chart

Last November, I provided an updated version of my own draft value chart where I measured the value provided by each draft pick to his Approximate Value over the course of his first five years. A week later I decided another change was needed. While AV measures the value provided by a player, the marginal value provided by a player is a better measure of the value of a draft pick. As a result, I re-did the chart and only gave players credit for their AV above 2 points of AV.

You can view the values for both of those charts and the Jimmy Johnson chart here. This week, I spoke with Peter Keating of ESPN the Magazine, who is working on an article regarding how teams should value draft picks. Keating asked if I could make two changes to the chart, and I was happy to do so (and thought you guys might be interested). First, I increased the measure of replacement-level AV from 2 to 3 points. Theoretically, this change would reward the best players, as the higher the value used for replacement level, the fewer players that will meet that threshold. The other change was to reduce the number of years measured from five to four, since that matches the length of the typical rookie contract under the new CBA. The chart below shows the raw data and a smoothed curve depicting the marginal AV (over 3) produced by draft picks in the first four years of their career over a 28-year period.
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