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With the 2nd pick in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft, the Cowboys drafted Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith at 34th overall.  Smith tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl, but Dallas was willing to take the risk with by giving Smith a redshirt season.

With the 41st pick, Buffalo traded up for linebacker Reggie Ragland, who wound up missing his entire rookie season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in training camp. With the 50th pick, Houston drafted offensive lineman Nick Martin, who also was injured in training camp and wound up missing his entire rookie year.

Those three players, and Bengals first round pick William Jackson (who tore his pec in August), were four of the five players selected in the first two rounds of the 2016 Draft who failed to see the field. Jets second round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, was the fifth.

That makes Hackenberg the 17th quarterback since the common draft (1967) to fail to make the field as a rookie despite being drafted in the first or second round. For the most part, that’s because those quarterbacks were behind entrenched starters. [click to continue…]


Today at 538: A look at draft value by team, based on the number of snaps taken by each player:

Based on the draft value calculator I created to measure the approximate average production level provided by each draft pick, we can convert each draft slot into a draft value (undrafted players receive a draft value of zero). Then, with the help of Pro-Football-Reference.com, I was able to calculate the snap-weighted draft value of each team’s offense and defense. For example, Palmer, as the first overall pick in the draft, has a draft value of 34.6. And since Palmer has taken 77 percent of all snaps for the Cardinals this season and he is one of 11 players on the offense, that means that 7 percent (i.e., 77 percent divided by 11) of Arizona’s snap-weighted offensive draft value is driven by Palmer’s 34.6 rating. This isn’t a perfect proxy for the production we can expect from a top pick — Palmer is on the back end of his career, when we expect even the best quarterbacks to be in decline — but it’s a fun way to look at the rosters.

Perform this calculation for each player on each team through the first six weeks of the 2016 NFL season and we can calculate the average draft value of each offense and defense, with all snap data coming from Pro-Football-Reference.com. Arizona has the best-pedigreed offense in the NFL; the Seahawks’ offense, on the other hand, has the lowest average draft value.

You can read the full article here.


The 2010 Draft Class was not very good when it came to quarterbacks.  Take a look:

Rnd Pick Tm Player Pos Age To AP1 PB St CarAV DrAV G Cmp Att
Yds TD Int
1 1 STL Sam Bradford QB 22 2016 0 0 4 33 25 66 1444 2387 15509 82 52
3 85 CLE Colt McCoy QB 24 2015 0 0 2 12 10 34 508 842 5586 26 23
5 155 ARI John Skelton QB 22 2012 0 0 0 4 4 20 320 602 3707 15 25
2 48 CAR Jimmy Clausen QB 23 2015 0 0 1 3 0 22 255 472 2520 7 14
1 25 DEN Tim Tebow QB 23 2012 0 0 1 12 11 35 173 361 2422 17 9
6 176 TEN Rusty Smith QB 23 2012 0 0 0 1 1 3 23 45 234 0 4
4 122 PHI Mike Kafka QB 23 2011 0 0 0 0 0 4 11 16 107 0 2
6 204 CAR Tony Pike QB 24 2010 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 12 47 0 0
7 209 BUF Levi Brown QB 23 2010 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 3 24 0 1
5 168 SDG Jonathan Crompton QB 23 0 0 0
6 181 CHI Dan LeFevour QB 23 0 0 0
7 239 NOR Sean Canfield QB 24 0 0 0
7 250 NWE Zac Robinson QB 24 2012 0 0 0 0

So far this year, Bradford is the only quarterback from the 2010 Draft Class to throw a pass, tho McCoy is currently Washington’s backup.  The graph below shows the amount of passes so far this year in 2016 thrown by quarterbacks from each draft class: [click to continue…]


Bryson Albright was a defensive end for Miami (Ohio) who went undrafted in 2016, but has made the Buffalo Bills roster. Albright is a relatively unknown, so when he made the final cut, the Bills media asked Rex Ryan about him:

Q: How much do you like those stories? You know the odds for undrafted guys. To have a guy like that’s got to feel pretty good, right?

A: Well it does and I think that’s where you really saw our scouting department and our coaching department get together and focus on a couple of these guys and we hit on one. So we’ll see how it is, the kind of career he has, but yeah, you’re right. And I mention it every year to these guys that there’s more guys that went undrafted that have a 10 year or more career than there are first round picks. So I think every now and then you hit a guy that—and I’m not saying he’s going to be that, that would be great if he is—but as much effort and everything else that goes into the drafting of players, there’s some exceptions. And we’ll see if this young man will be one of those exceptions.

Mike Schopp, who works for WGR in Buffalo, tweeted me after hearing this claim, and wondered if it was true. And, well, I was pretty curious, too.

If we want to measure 10+ year careers, we need to look at players who entered the NFL in 2006 or earlier. To have a large enough sample, I picked 20 years, which means we’ll be looking at all players who entered the NFL from 1987 to 2006. There were 1,062 players who entered the league during that time frame and played for 10+ years, or roughly 53 per year.

255 of those players, or 24%, were first round picks. Undrafted players? Well, that’s limited to just 182 players. [click to continue…]


2015 Team AV and Draft Value

Did you know Wilson was a 3rd round pick?

Did you know Wilson was a 3rd round pick?

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks both had very good seasons in 2015, with each team ultimately losing in the division round of the playoffs. But they got there with very different rosters when it comes to the NFL Draft.

The Chiefs have Alex Smith at quarterback, and while he wasn’t drafted by Kansas City, he was the first overall pick in 2005. Eight years later, offensive tackle Eric Fisher went first overall, while safety Eric Berry gives the team a third top-five pick, tied with five other teams for most in the league. Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, Marcus Peters, Jeremy Maclin, and Tamba Hali were all top-20 picks, too. Thought of another way, all of the top 5 Chiefs in Approximate Value were drafted in the top 20; the team’s next three leaders in AV are Hali and two high third round picks (Travis Kelce and Justin Houston).

Smith had 16 points of AV last year, or 7% of the Chiefs total AV. Since he was the first pick, and the first pick is worth 34.6 points, that means 7% of the Chiefs weighted “average draft value” is 34.6 points. Kelce had 8 points of AV, or 4% of KC’s AV; as a result, 4% of the Chiefs weighted “average draft value” is equal to 8.2, the value of the 63rd pick in the draft. Do this for every player on the team, and Kansas City’s average draft value is equal to 11.5 points, or in between the 37th and 38th picks in the draft.  That maybe doesn’t mean much in the abstract, but it’s the most average draft value of any team in the NFL.

Now, let’s look at Seattle. Eight Seahawks had at least 10 points of AV last year: those players were Russell Wilson (3rd round), Bobby Wagner (2nd), Richard Sherman (5th), Michael Bennett (undrafted), Doug Baldwin (undrafted), Garry Gilliam (undrafted), K.J. Wright (4th round), and Earl Thomas (14th overall). It’s easy to forget, given how talented Seattle is, but only Russell Okung, Bruce Irvin, Marshawn Lynch, and Thomas were first round picks (and only Thomas returns for 2016). And only two of the team’s regular contributors — Wagner and Justin Britt — were second round picks. In fact, Seattle’s averaged draft value using the weighting formula described above was 5.15 points, equivalent to the 101st pick in the Draft. That’s two full rounds lower than Kansas City’s average. [click to continue…]


The 2000 NFL Draft was supposed to bring an incredible infusion of wide receiver talent. Peter Warrick, Plaxico Burress, and Travis Taylor were top-10 picks, making it one of only four classes since 1970 were three wide receivers drafted in the top ten. In addition, Sylvester Morris, R. Jay Soward, Dennis Northcutt, and Todd Pinkston all went in the top 36 picks, one of only seven classes since the merger with seven wide receivers in the top 36. Avion Black was the 20th wide receiver taken with the 121st pick: add it all up, and the 2000 draft had unmatched levels of quality and quantity. The graph below shows the amount of draft value spent on wide receivers (you can click here for value spent on wide receivers and tight ends) in each draft from 1970 to 2011: [click to continue…]


In the 2016 Draft, the Jets selected Christian Hackenberg with the 51st pick. It was a curious move, given Hackenberg’s underwhelming college career; the book on him, though, is that he needs some time to be “rehabilitated” as a quarterback, whatever that means.1

But how much time will he get? On average, how many games until a 2nd round quarterback starts his first game? There were no quarterbacks drafted in the second round in 2015, while in 2014, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo were selected. Carr started his first game as a rookie, while Garoppolo will get his first start in the 33rd team game of his career, thanks only to a Tom Brady suspension.

In 2013, only one quarterback was drafted in the 2nd round…. and it was Geno Smith. The Jets didn’t exactly hand Smith the job, but he won a quarterback competition with Mark Sanchez by default when Sanchez suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of the team’s third preseason game against the Giants.

The Jets don’t plan on starting Hackenberg in 2016, but they didn’t plan on starting Geno Smith as a rookie, and they didn’t plan on starting Ryan Fitzpatrick last year, either, until Smith was on the receiving end of a, um, training camp injury. Smith or Fitzpatrick is the likely week 1 starter for the 2016 Jets, and even Bryce Petty probably has better odds than Hackenberg of starting the opener. But with New York, strange things tend to happen.

The table below shows how many team games it took until a player started. For non-16 game seasons, I pro-rated them for 16 seasons, to make that applicable to modern times. So, for example, a 53 (like next to Ken Stabler) means a player started in the 5th game of his 4th year (i.e., after 48 games had passed), regardless of the actual facts. [click to continue…]

  1. This anecdote about him making easy conversation about the Masters doesn’t exactly settle my fears about his inability to read defenses or throw accurately under pressure. []

You remember the 1987 Draft, right? It was a terrible draft for pass catchers.  The first TE drafted was Robert Awalt in the third round; only two more, Ron Hall and Jim Riggs, went before the sixth round, and Ron Embree was the final TE selected before the seventh round. At wide receiver, Haywood Jeffires was the first off the board at #20; the only other first rounders were Ricky Nattiel and Mark Ingram. The only other receiver in the top 50 was Lonzel Hill.  Mark Carrier, Kelvin Martin,Curtis Duncan, and Bruce Hill went in the later rounds,  but it was a terrible draft for pass catchers.

Using the Draft Value Chart, there were 177.4 points of draft value used on wide receivers and tight ends in the 1987 Draft.  That was the second year in a row when the league moved away from pass catchers.  Well, in this past draft, less draft capital was spent on wide receivers and tight ends than on any year since 1987. Take a look: [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, I looked at the number of players drafted at each position in the 2016 Draft, the draft capital spent at each position, and also the draft capital spent at each position on a per-snap basis.

Those numbers are fun, but are more meaningful with some context. So let’s look at the chart I find most useful — the per-snap data — and compare it to the drafts from 2013 to 2015. In the chart below, you can see that in the 2016 Draft (in green), there was 118 points of draft value spent on QBs (of course, only 1 QB per snap), compared to an average of 78 from 2013-2015 (in orange). This means the 2016 Draft was heavy on quarterbacks, which makes sense: after all, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were the first two picks, and Paxton Lynch also went in the first round. In the three prior years, there was an average of just one QB in the top 3 (Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota) and one later in the first round (EJ Manuel, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater). [click to continue…]


In the 2016 NFL Draft, 32 cornerbacks and 31 wide receivers were selected, making those the two most commonly-drafted positions this year. That’s not too surprising, of course, as cornerbacks and wide receivers litter the field on Sundays. But the graph below shows the number of plays drafted at each position:

players position 2016 draft

A little more interesting would be the Draft Value used on each player: after all, spending a high pick on a player means a lot more than spending a low pick on one. Here, we see that cornerback stands out: teams are more likely to use high picks on cornerbacks and late-round picks on wide receivers, at least in 2016:

value position 2016 draft [click to continue…]


Today at 538, you can read my thoughts on Ohio State’s insane 2016 draft.  It is, by a large measure, the best in modern history.  And while some have noted that the Buckeyes dominated the draft, I don’t think people have realized exactly how impressive it truly was:

Incredibly, Ohio State had five players drafted in the top 20 and another five in the top 100. As a result, a total of 151.2 points of draft value was used on Buckeyes players. That’s the most — by a very large margin — in 70 years. The table below shows the top 25 draft classes as measured by points of draft value used to select players:

You can read the full article here.


Longtime commenter Jason Winter has chimed in with today’s guest post. Jason is a part-time video game journalist and full-time sports fan. You can read more of him at his blog: https://jasonwinter.wordpress.com/, and follow him on twitter at @winterinformal.

As always, we thank Jason for contributing.

The 2016 NFL Draft is over, and that means just one thing: It’s time to start talking about the 2017 NFL Draft! Or at least, it’s time to start publishing 2017 mock drafts, for all those sweet, sweet clicks.

A lot can happen in a year, of course. Draft status can go up or down based on a number of factors, from a player’s performance during his final college season to injuries to combine performance to… well, whatever happened to Laremy Tunsil. The draft order – whether set by a team’s record or trades – also plays a significant part. Is it really possible to accurately predict how the draft will go a year in advance? Or is it just a cheap ploy to get people to look at your website?

In the two weeks following last year’s draft, I copied first-round mock drafts from 10 different sources around the web, to see how they would stack up with the real results a year later. Sample size warnings are obvious; this is just one year, just 10 people’s mock drafts, and maybe the draft class was especially predictable or unpredictable. Still, it was a fun project, and I plan to do the same thing with mock drafts this year and see how they stack up in 2017.

All the mock drafts from a year ago were published before Deflategate penalties were handed out, so they have 32 picks, including one from New England. As such, for this article, when I refer to “first round,” I’ll be including the first 32 picks of the 2016 draft, including Emmanuel Ogbah, selected by Cleveland with the first pick of the second round.

I applied two different scoring systems to each mock draft. The first, which I call the “Strict” method, better rewards exact or very close hits: 10 points for getting a pick’s position exactly right; 8 points for being 1 pick off; 6 for being 2 off; 4 for being 3-4 off; 3 for being 5-8 off; 2 for being 9-16 off; and 1 for being 17-32 off. [click to continue…]


At 538 on Friday, I looked at the trades in round 1 of the NFL Draft. Today, let’s look at the trades that happened on Day 2.


Jacksonville receives: second-round pick (No. 36 overall) (UCLA LB Myles Jack)
Baltimore receives: second-round pick (No. 38 overall) (Traded to Miami), fifth-round pick (No. 146 overall) (Grand Valley St. DE Matt Judon)

Football Perspective Draft Value Chart: Baltimore received 121 cents on the dollar
Jimmy Johnson Draft Value Chart: Baltimore received 102 cents on the dollar

Jack was an outstanding college player who many thought would go in the top five of the first round if he had a clean bill of health.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and Jack’s injured right knee caused him to slide to the second day of the draft. It’s tempting to call this a steal for Jacksonville, but remember that many teams that could use a player like Jack — including Baltimore — felt he wasn’t worth the risk.  The Jaguars paid a decent price to get him, but this trade will be a home run for the Jaguars if Jack stays healthy. As for Baltimore, the team traded down just two picks later, and did even better….


Miami receives: second-round pick (No. 38 overall) (Baylor CB Xavien Howard)
Baltimore receives: second-round pick (No. 42 overall) (Boise St. DE Kamalei Correa), fourth-round pick (No. 107 overall) (Cincinnati WR Chris Moore)

Football Perspective Draft Value Chart: Baltimore received 137 cents on the dollar
Jimmy Johnson Draft Value Chart: Baltimore received 108 cents on the dollar

The Ravens wound up dropping from 36 to 42 and collected a fourth and a fifth to drop six slots; that’s a great haul, as it landed the team three players rather than one. The Dolphins gave up a lot to move up four slots, which is emblematic of an organization that puts little emphasis on depth relative to star power. [click to continue…]


Over at 538, I provided my thoughts on the trades in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. For example:

Cleveland gives up: eighth pick overall, sixth-round pick (No. 176 overall)
Tennessee gives up:
15th pick overall, third-round pick (No. 76 overall), second-round pick in 2017

The Browns traded down and eventually selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman; if he was Cleveland’s target all along, this was an excellent move — Coleman was at little risk of going before the 15th overall pick. Tennessee moved up to take offensive tackle Jack Conklin after the Baltimore Ravens began the run on offensive linemen at No. 6, with Ronnie Stanley. Cleveland extracted significant value in this move, perhaps because of a mental accounting effect, as the Titans may have viewed the picks involved as found money after the Rams trade.

Based on my marginal value chart, the Browns win the trade … even without considering the second-round pick in 2017! The 76th pick is a valuable one — more valuable than the difference between the eighth and 15th picks. If we value the 2017 second-round pick as equivalent to the 48th pick in this year’s draft, the Browns received a whopping 148 cents on the dollar for this trade. (The 48th pick is likely a worse pick than Tennessee’s 2017 second-rounder will be, but we’re eyeballing a markdown for having to wait a year.)

You can read the full article here.

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2016 NFL Draft – Post Your Reactions Here

Let’s use this page as an all-encompassing draft night reaction page. I’ll likely update this post a few times during the draft, but the main reason is to provide a page for the FP community to share any in-the-moment thoughts you have.  Enjoy!

Jared Goff, unsurprisingly, goes #1. First player from the Pac-12 to go #1 since Andrew Luck. He’s the 13th player drafted #1 from the Pac-12 (or predecessor league).

Carson Wentz, of course, goes #2 to the Eagles. 17 years after Philadelphia selected Donovan McNabb at #2.

3) Joey Bosa is a bit of a surprise pick at 3 to the Chargers. Was the consensus #1 pick for awhile before the QB crazy occurred this spring.

4) The Cowboys go with Ezekiel Elliot, which is a surprise to me. The benefit of investing so much in the OL, and at QB and WR, is that RB should be plug and play. Using a premium pick on a RB is tough to justify in many instances, but really tough given the holes the Cowboys have on defense.

5) Jalen Ramsey was an obvious and great (to the extent any draft pick can be great) pick for the Jaguars. As Chris Brown noted on twitter, Ramsey is already an insane NFL athlete. Also, the college guys love him.

6) First offensive tackle off the board…. Baltimore needed an offensive tackle, and Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) makes a lot of sense. Going ahead of Laremy Tunsil, is a bit of a surprise. Will the Titans move up for him?

The Ravens have done pretty well with top ten picks:

Rk Year ▾ Rnd Pick Pos DrAge From To AP1 PB St CarAV G GS College/Univ
1 2003 1 10 Terrell Suggs LB 20 2003 2015 1 6 11 96 182 166 Arizona St. College Stats
2 2000 1 5 Jamal Lewis RB 21 2000 2009 1 1 9 71 131 126 Tennessee College Stats
3 2000 1 10 Travis Taylor WR 21 2000 2007 0 0 7 32 101 90 Florida College Stats
4 1999 1 10 Chris McAlister DB 22 1999 2009 1 3 9 71 137 127 Arizona College Stats
5 1998 1 10 Duane Starks DB 24 1998 2006 0 0 5 35 97 67 Miami (FL)
6 1997 1 4 Peter Boulware LB 22 1997 2005 0 4 7 60 126 102 Florida St. College Stats
7 1996 1 4 Jonathan Ogden HOF T 22 1996 2007 4 11 12 94 177 176 UCLA College Stats
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/28/2016.

7) San Francisco takes defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who is an ideal fit for the 49ers 3-4 defense. Buckner was rumored to go as high as 3, so seems like a value pick.

8) We have a trade! Tennessee trades up with Cleveland. According to NFL Network, the trade was:

Cleveland gives up: 8th overall, 6th rounder (176 overall)
Tennessee gives up: 15th overall, 3rd round pick (76 overall), and 2017 2nd

The surprise? The move was for OT Jack Conklin.

9) The Bears trade up, and pay a hefty price for outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who did have the 2nd best vertical at the combine.

10) A head-scratcher for the Giants: After paying big money to Janoris Jenkins and with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the team, New York drafts… cornerback Eli Apple, who had a late first-round grade.

11) The Bucs then take a cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves III, which makes a little more sense. Most mock drafts had im going in the top 11, with almost all having him go in the top 15.

12) The Saints then took defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, which was a heavily-mocked pick. No surprise there and it fits a need.

13) Miami ends the Laremy Tunsil free-fall; this looks like a great value pick for the Dolphins, assuming the marijuana issues are behind him.

14) Oakland takes safety Karl Joseph: the defense needed help, although this may be a reach based on mocks.

15) As I wrote yesterday, I expected one of the wide receivers to go earlier than was being mocked. The Browns triple down on Baylor, adding Corey Coleman to a passing attack that (maybe) has RG3 and (maybe) has Josh Gordon.


In 2003, Larry Fitzgerald caught 16 touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s first 8 games, making him one of only three players to reach those marks since 2000. The second was Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, who had 17 as a freshman in ’07 through eight games. That was eclipsed — by three whole touchdowns — last year, when Baylor’s Corey Coleman caught 20 touchdowns through 8 games. At the time, Coleman had 58 receptions for 1,178 yards and 20 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his numbers tanked after that, thanks (i) to injuries to first starting quarterback Seth Russell and then backup Jarrett Stidham and (ii) the schedule getting significantly harder.

As good as Coleman’s numbers were, though, he didn’t even lead the country in receiving yards at that time. TCU’s Josh Doctson had 71 receptions for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns through eight games. In game 9, Doctson had six catches for 64 yards against Oklahoma State before suffering a wrist injury in the second quarter that effectively ended his season.

Now, neither player is being projected to go in the top half of the first round. That maybe isn’t too weird, given the inflated offensive numbers for Big 12 offenses. In a mock draft on November 2nd (which is right before the seasons went downhill for Coleman and Doctson), Matt Miller had Doctson going to Dallas at 12 while Coleman wasn’t even in Miller’s mock (I don’t know if it was because Coleman was a junior or if Miller had him going in another round). A November 16th mock by Dane Brugler had Coleman getting drafted at 29, with Doctson not being selected in the first round. A November 19th draft at the San Diego Union Tribune had the duo going in the back third (23/31) of the first round, although the same author had them going 15th and 23rd a week earlier. [click to continue…]


Jalen Ramsey, and Defensive Backs In The Draft

Florida State cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey is going to be the first defensive back selected in the 2016 Draft. Ramsey may go as high as #3 overall to San Diego, as the first non-quarterback off the board. On a recent Bill Barnwell podcast — and by the way, he has a new podcast that you should subscribe to — Bill wondered when we will see the day when a cornerback goes first overall.

Technically, that already happened, when Colorado State’s Gary Glick was the first pick off the board in ’56 (Glick played safety, running back, and even kicked for the Steelers). But in the common era draft beginning in 1967, the highest a defensive back has been drafted is second overall, when the late great Eric Turner was drafted by the Browns. The trio responsible for that pick? GM Ernie Accorsi, head coach Bill Belichick, and
defensive coordinator Nick Saban. Those guys knew a thing or two about defensive back play, and were comfortable taking a safety with the second pick.

But in general, the first defensive back goes off the board at around the 10th pick, although it is happening a bit earlier in recent years (the median spot for the top DB has been 6 over the last 15 drafts). The graph below shows the slot where the top defensive back was taken in every draft, and no, that 1974 Draft is not a bug: [click to continue…]


Quarterbacks Going 1-2 in the NFL Draft, Part II

A year ago, I wrote that quarterbacks going with the first two picks in the NFL Draft was a pretty unusual thing. From 1967, the start of the common draft, through 2011, it happened just four times. Since then, it has happened two more times, and now will apparently happen in 2016, too, after the Eagles sent way too many draft picks to the Browns for the right to pick second overall. We can save for another day how this was a shrewd move by Cleveland — if nothing else, the Browns do have a history of getting a boatload to move down, including in trades for Sammy Watkins and Julio Jones — and a head-scratcher for the Eagles.

This move also opens up San Diego as the team “in control” of the draft, non-QB edition. The Chargers will now take the first non-QB off the board. Unfortunately, that’s a lot less exciting than it sounds, although it may come with it the ability to extract some trade value, potentially from the Cowboys at #4. Let’s take a look at the six times since 1967 that quarterbacks went 1-2, and who was the first non-QB taken. [click to continue…]


Perhaps giving Fisher more picks isn't the answer

Perhaps giving Fisher more picks isn’t the answer

In 2012, St. Louis took advantage of one of the most inefficient aspects of the NFL: the top of the draft is a seller’s market, with teams desperately willing to overpay in a variance-seeking endeavor that usually disappoints. That year, the Rams moved down four spots, by trading the 2nd overall pick to Washington for the 6th overall pick…. and also picking up the 39th pick, a first round pick the following year (#22 overall), and a first round pick the year after that (#2 overall, incredibly). That trade was a steal for St. Louis the second it was made, but it became a home run when Washington tanked in 2013 (of course, one could argue that the home run was called back when the 2nd overall pick in 2014 was used on Greg Robinson, who has been one of the worst tackles in football since being drafted).

Today, the Rams — now in Los Angeles, of course — were on the buy side of things. And, as usual, to move up in the draft is quite expensive. THe Rams moved up from #15 to #1, and also gained a 4th (#113) and a 6th (#177) back in this year’s draft. But the price was exorbitant: Los Angeles had to give up both 2nd round picks it has this year (#43, courtesy of the Sam Bradford/Nick Foles swap last season, and #45, the team’s original selection), its third round pick (#76), and next year’s 1st and 3rd rounders. And while that doesn’t have quite the screaming headline of “Washington sends 3 first round picks for RG3,” make no mistake: the Rams gave up a massive amount to move up to #1, presumably to draft either Carson Wentz or California’s Jared Goff.

To simplify things, let’s try to cancel some things out. The 4th and 6th round picks received by the Rams this year is roughly equivalent to the 3rd giving up by Los Angeles next year; given the time value of the draft pick, a 6th round pick, it can be argued, makes up for getting to use that pick a year earlier, even if it’s a round later. I am sure both teams would have done this deal even if you take those three picks out of the mix, and it was probably included just to give Los Angeles a bit more in draft picks (instead of giving up 4 draft picks for 1 this year, now it’s 4 for 3). My hunch is the Rams were the one asking to throw in that last piece of the puzzle, even if it’s probably a better deal for Tennessee (since the time value of the draft pick is usually overstated). [click to continue…]


The Dallas Cowboys are rumored to be drafting a replacement for Tony Romo with the fourth pick in the first round. In general, teams with bad offenses are the ones that draft quarterbacks, and technically, the Cowboys would fit that mold given the team’s struggles last year. But, of course, the Cowboys expect to have a good offense in 2016 with a healthy Romo, so I was curious how unusual it would be for a good team to spend a first round pick on a quarterback.

The table below shows the offensive SRS grade and the number of wins1 for each team that has drafted a quarterback since 1971 in the year preceding such draft. For example, the 2014 Bucs and Titans had very bad offenses and went 2-14 before drafting quarterbacks with the first two picks. That’s how things typically go, but not always. [click to continue…]

  1. Pro-rated to 16 games for non-16 game seasons. []

Johnny Manziel And First Round Quarterback Busts

Worse than Tim Couch

Worse than Tim Couch

Johnny Manziel was drafted by Cleveland with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That wasn’t a very long time ago, but Manziel was released yesterday after two tumultuous seasons. He went 2-6 as a starter with more off-the-field headlines than wins (or, probably, starts). There were 50 quarterbacks who threw 200 passes since 2014, and Manziel ranks 47th among those players in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt.

Let’s ignore Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, who were traded for each other the day both players were drafted. And Kelly Stouffer, Jim Everett, and John Elway, who couldn’t work out contracts with the teams that drafted them (Cardinals, Oilers, Colts) and instead began their playing careers with other teams (Seahawks, Rams, and Broncos). That leaves 95 quarterbacks drafted in the first round since the common draft began in 1967.1

Manziel became the 9th of those 95 quarterbacks to finish with zero, one, or two wins with the team that drafted him. [click to continue…]

  1. Excluding quarterbacks drafted in the Supplemental Draft. []

Carson Wentz and Non-Division 1/FBS Top Ten Picks

North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz may be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft this year, although a number of mocks also have him falling outside of the top ten, too. It’s early in draft season, but I thought it would be fun to look at just how weird it would be to have someone from NDSU be selected in the top ten.

The table below shows all players drafted in the top ten since 1967 (the first year of the common draft) from non-Division 1 or FBS schools. The last? Steve McNair, who played at Alcorn State, back in 1995. [click to continue…]


2014 Offensive Lineman and NFL Draft Value

You probably don’t think of the St. Louis Rams as a team that’s built along the offensive line. And for good reason: according to Pro Football Focus, St. Louis ranked 30th in pass blocking and 29th in run blocking in 2014. Football Outsiders also ranked the Rams offensive line in the bottom five in both power rushing and stuffed rates. But the Rams struggles on the offensive line are not for a lack of acquiring highly-drafted linemen.

Let’s put aside the selection of Jason Smith with the second overall pick of 2009, who would presumably be in the prime of his career right now had he not been a bust. Because even without him, no offensive line had as strong a pedigree in 2014 as the Rams.

  • At left tackle, Jake Long started 7 games; Long was the first overall pick in the ’08 Draft, albeit by the Dolphins. The other nine games were started by Greg Robinson, taken by St. Louis with the second overall pick in the 2014 Draft.
  • The left guard spot generally belonged to Rodger Saffold (who started 16 games), taken by St. Louis with the 33rd overall pick in 2010.
  • Center was manned by Scott Wells, the 251st pick by the Packers way back in 2004.
  • At right guard was Davin Joseph for 13 games, the 23rd pick in 2006 by the Bucs. The other three games were started by Saffold, and during those games, Robinson moved into the left guard spot during (with Long sticking at left tackle).
  • At right tackle was Joe Barksdale for all 16 games. Barksdale was the 92nd pick in the draft in 2011 by the Raiders.

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Analyzing Position Values In the 2015 Draft

The 2015 NFL Draft is in the books. The three-day event gives us a unique peek behind the NFL curtain; teams can and do say all sorts of ridiculous things, but the way the draft unfolds is the ultimate in what economists refer to as a revealed preference. Regular readers may recall that after last year’s draft, I analyzed the positions each draft pick was spent on and what that meant about the NFL’s value of each position.

As you probably know, I’ve created a draft value chart based on the expected marginal Approximate Value produced by each draftee in his first five seasons to the team that drafted him. By assigning each draft pick a number of expected points, we can then calculate how much draft capital was spent on each position. I went through the 2015 draft (using the position designations from Pro-Football-Reference) and calculated how much value was used on each position; the results are displayed in the table below.1 [click to continue…]

  1. I’m excluding fullbacks and specialists from this definition. For purposes of this study, the four fullbacks drafted, Alabama’s Jalston Fowler Jr. (Titans), Rutgers’ Michael Burton (Lions), Oklahoma’s Aaron Ripkowski (Packers), and Hawaii’s Joey Iosefa (Buccaneers), were counted as running backs. In addition, one punter (Bradley Pinion, Clemson, 49ers) and one long snapper (Joe Cardona, Navy, Patriots).  Pinion and Cardona were back-to-back picks in the 5th round []

What Will The Jets Do With Leonard Williams?

Teams should not draft for need in the first round, particularly in the top half of the first round.  So when perhaps the best player in the 2015 draft — Southern Cal’s Leonard Williams — the Jets were faced with an interesting decision.  Williams profiled as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 or a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3, although he’s lauded for his versatility in playing along the line.  For New York, the team’s best position in terms of talent and age is 3-4 defensive end, where Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson ply their trade.

Last year, Pro Football Focus charted 47 3-4 defensive ends that played at least 25% of their team’s snaps.  The top three were J.J Watt, Richardson, and Wilkerson.  For a team that went 4-12, adding a third dominant (if Williams pans out) 3-4 defensive end seems like a luxury.  But is it?  What are the Jets thinking?

Can’t the Jets Just Switch To A 4-3 Defense?

Not really. Sure, Todd Bowles is famous for his versatile defensive fronts, as Rex Ryan was before him. In a 4-3, the Jets could get everyone on the field, but they’d lack a true pass-rushing 4-3 defensive end. More importantly, the Jets don’t have the personnel to play linebacker in a 4-3.

The Jets two inside linebackers, David Harris and Demario Davis, led the team in snaps last year.  Switching to a 4-3 obviously means either benching one of them or switching one to outside linebacker.  Harris, limited in his speed and agility even by 3-4 ILB standards, would appear to be a terrible fit for a 4-3, and benching him is unlikely given that he has more guaranteed money per year on his contract than any other inside linebacker.  Davis could, perhaps, switch to outside linebacker, but who would be the other option? Calvin Pace or Quinton Coples would be far too slow to cover enough ground at that position.  Frankly, in a 4-3, the Jets would have one of the worst linebacker groups in the NFL.

The Jets would be fine in nickel (4-2-5), but again, where would the pass rush come from?  The farther you put two of Wilkerson, Williams, or Richardson from the center/quarterback, the less you get to take advantage of their true talents.  None of them are true 4-3 pass rushing ends; all could play it, but you move away from their strengths. Williams, Wilkerson, and Richardson are all about 6-4 and 300 pounds.  Last year, there were 19 players who recorded double digit sacks in the NFL.  Twelve of those players weighed 260 pounds or fewer, while another three were between 260 and 280 pounds.  The remaining four: two huge outside linebackers (Paul Kruger and Mario Williams), a defensive tackle (Marcell Dareus), and Watt.  If the Jets switch to a 4-3, the team would probably be worse off when it comes to rushing the passer, and it’s hard to imagine the team being any better against the run.

Okay, what about a 3-4 with those three on the line?

That could work… if the Jets didn’t happen to have one of the best nose tackles in the NFL.  Among 3-4 teams, Damon Harrison rated as the top nose tackle against the run by Pro-Football-Focus last year, which is where he ranked in 2013, too.

Harrison recorded a “stop” on 12.5% of his snaps last year when the opposing team ran the ball.  That was the best of any defensive lineman, regardless of position or alignment, in the NFL in 2014. In 2013, Richardson ranked 2nd to Watt in this metric.  Taking Harrison off the field on running downs makes no sense at all, especially when he’s about 50 pounds heavier than each of Wilkerson, Williams, and Richardson.

Okay, So Now What? Do They Trade Wilkerson?

Richardson is not going to get traded, while Wilkerson is playing out his fifth year option this year.  It makes no sense for New York to trade him right now, though, given that he’s only due to count for seven million against the cap.  And since the Jets could still franchise him, there’s no rush to trade him, either, at least until Williams shows that he’s as good as everyone thinks.  Oh, and by the way, teams aren’t in the habit of just letting All-Pro caliber defensive ends just leave in the primes of their careers.

Okay, so Harrison has to be on the field on run plays, and the Jets probably can’t play a 4-3. So what do they do with Williams?

This was the conundrum faced by the Jets once Williams slid to the sixth pick.  Do you bypass an elite talent because he’s not a need pick? Of course not!  Do you remember Tony Jones and Orlando Brown? Both were above-average tackles, the position of strength for a bad Cleveland Browns team in 1995.  The team was hoping to take Simeon Rice with the 4th overall pick in the ’96 draft, but the Cardinals took Rice with the 3rd pick.  With the 4th pick, the franchise — now in Baltimore — selected Jonathan Ogden.

As a rookie, Ogden … played left guard for the Ravens.  After the season, Baltimore traded Jones to Denver for the 58th pick in the ’97 draft.  The Jets could be in a similar situation, and it wouldn’t shock me to see the team try to trade Wilkerson for a 2016 1st round pick (if not more). That’s what you call a good problem.

But What About 2015?

Again, teams shouldn’t make their draft decisions based on what will happen in the immediate future.  If the Jets took Kevin White or Vic Beasley — the 7th and 8th picks and players at clearer positions of need — both would just be rotational players as rookies.1  And that’s what the team will do with Williams this year.

Richardson and Wilkerson generally play about 80% of the team’s defensive snaps.  Perhaps that number drops to 70-75% this year: and while you don’t want to take either of them off the field, you may be able to extract even better play on a per-play basis if you give them a breather every once in a awhile. That would leave Williams around to play about 55% of snaps as a rookie, which is a pretty reasonable number. And, of course, the team could wind up having all three on the field every once in awhile, so Williams could still feature in about 2/3 of all plays.

Last year, rookie Aaron Donald played in 67% of the defensive snaps for the St. Louis Rams, despite being arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL.  And who knows what the team will do this year, with Donald, Michael Brockers, and Nick Fairley all on the defensive tackle depth chart.  But that’s the point: teams need to rotate their defensive linemen, particularly the interior linemen.

So the Jets have three great five technique defensive ends.  Would the team be better off with an elite edge rushing 3-4 OLB than Williams? Probably, but presumably the team’s scouting department didn’t see a player that was on the same talent level as Williams.  And not reaching is the right move in that case.

When the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013, the team rotated its top seven defensive linemen.  In Seattle’s 4-3 defense, all seven played between 480 and 600 snaps, and that seemed to work out just fine for the team.  Rotating three defensive stars (and occasionally having all three on the field) may not be the sexiest solution, but it’s the most reasonable. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  1. White would  not start over Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall, and Jeremy Kerley would still get his snaps.  The Jets desperately need an edge rusher like Beasley, but the Jets would still have rotated him with Pace during his rookie year. []

You may be surprised to learn this, but Jameis Winston is just the fourth black quarterback selected with the first overall pick. In 1968, Oakland drafted Eldridge Dickey in the first round, the first NFL team to select a black quarterback in the first round. But the Raiders switched Dickey to wide receiver, and he never played quarterback in an NFL game.

Then, no black quarterback went in the first round until… 1978! That’s when Tampa Bay selected Doug Williams, a groundbreaking pick for that time. Of course, it didn’t do much to stem the tide: no black QBs entered the league over the next five years. In fact, in 1983, Vince Evans was the only black quarterback in the NFL (Williams was in the USFL at the time).

The third black quarterback selected in the first round since the merger came in 1990, when the Lions took Andre Ware.

Eleven years later, Michael Vick became the first black quarterback to go first overall. He’s since been joined by JaMarcus Russell (2007), Cam Newton (2011), and now Winston.

There was a clear tipping point, and that was 1999. That year, five quarterbacks went in the first round, with three of them (Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, and Daunte Culpepper) being players who would have had no chance of being first round picks 25 years earlier.

In the graph below, the X-Axis represents each draft year from 1970 to 2015, while the Y-Axis shows overall draft pick. In the graph, I’ve plotted the first round of each draft since the merger, with black quarterbacks represented by red dots and all other quarterbacks in blue dots.1 As you can see, the chart is pretty homogenous prior to 1999:

black qb first round

There’s no clearer way to show the institutional prejudice the NFL had in the ’70s and ’80s than this chart. This isn’t breaking news, of course, but it’s interesting to see just how highly-drafted black quarterbacks have been recently after being completely shut out of the first round for many years.

And Winston himself is something of a different player. He rushed for 65 yards his last year in college; compare that to guys like Newton (1473) or Vick (617, and more runs than completed passes). Winston going first overall is hardly a triumphant moment signaling the end of racism, but perhaps the most positive development is how little you heard about his race during this pre-draft process.2 That was most certainly not the case with Vick, Russell, or Newton. Then again, Winston had enough other issues to keep us occupied.

  1. To avoid any such questions in the comments, yes, I’ve got 2015 on there, and no, Marcus Mariota is not black. He’s Samoan. []
  2. Why yes, I have now ruined everything. []

Yesterday, I was a guest on the Wharton Moneyball show on SiriusXM Channel 111 (@BizRadio111), discussing the NFL draft. As always, it was a lot of fun, but the hosts threw me a curveball in the final seconds:

Which will produce the best quarterback from the 2015 Draft — the Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota group, or the field?

Now I am quite familiar with the value of taking the field in these sort of bets. We are prone to being overconfident in our ability to predict things, especially when it comes to the NFL Draft. But I still said I’d take Winston/Mariota and leave you with everyone else, and be reasonably confident that I would end up with the draft’s best quarterback.

But am I right? How far down the quarterback slots do you have to go in the average draft to find the best QB? Would taking the top two generally be enough?

This is, of course, a question without a clear answer because there is no objective answer to the question “who was the best quarterback in the [__] Draft?” It’s much too early to grade the 2013 or 2014 drafts, and you will get no shortage of debate as to whether Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson is the best quarterback from the 2012 draft. In 2011, Cam Newton was the first overall pick, but Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were the 5th and 6th quarterbacks taken.

In 2010, Sam Bradford does appear to have been the best quarterback from that draft, and should be remembered that way absent Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, or Jimmy Clausen having a magical career turnaround.

In 2009, getting the top two quarterbacks would give you Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, while the field would give you…. Josh Freeman and Curtis Painter.

In 2008, the top two quarterbacks were Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. The book is not yet written on which one of them will be remembered as the best, but we can say that both will wind up being better than the field of Chad Henne, Matt Flynn, and Josh Johnson.

In 2007, the quarterback class was… ugly. The top guy will probably go down as one of Trent Edwards (most starts, most wins, most yards), Kevin Kolb (a positive TD/INT ratio!), or Drew Stanton (highest ANY/A but only 12 starts). Although for our purposes, we don’t need to finely split hairs. That’s because it’s clear the top quarterback was not JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn, the top two quarterbacks in that draft. Score one for the field.

Say what you want about Jay Cutler, but he was the clear top quarterback of 2006. In fact, he has thrown for more touchdowns than the rest of the class combined! As the 11th overall pick, he doesn’t quite meet the spirit of today’s question, but he is part of the field technically. That’s because Vince Young and Matt Leinart were the 3rd and 10th selections.

We need not spend much time on 2005. It was Aaron Rodgers, the second quarterback selected. Although Rodgers was much closer to the field (Jason Campbell was taken 25th overall, one pick after Rodgers) than being the first pick (Alex Smith).

For 2004, we can at least ignore the pretend Eli Manning/Philip Rivers debate, but that doesn’t help us when Ben Roethlisberger is in the mix, too. Call this one a push between top 2 and the field.

In 2003, it’s easy: it was Carson Palmer, the first overall pick. Nobody else comes close. Well, I guess that depends how you define class: Tony Romo went undrafted that year. Does the field include undrafted quarterbacks?

In 2002, not only is the answer David Garrard, but I think it’s Garrard by a wide margin. Garrard had a winning record, the most yards, the most TDs, and the best ANY/A out of the group with him, Patrick Ramsey, Josh McCown, and the first and third overall picks: David Carr and Joey Harrington. Score another one for the field.

In 2001, it’s Drew Brees, who was the second quarterback selected, albeit 31 picks after Michael Vick.

For 2000, let’s put that one down for the field.

1999 isn’t particularly close: Donovan McNabb made six Pro Bowls and started for 11 years; Daunte Culpepper is the runner up with three and five, respectively. And we know about 1998. So that’s two more for the top two. [click to continue…]


We all know the story of the 1991 Washington Redskins, one of the best football teams in NFL history. The team had an SRS of 16.6, the second highest since 1990 (to the ’07 Patriots), and that’s with the team losing a meaningless week 17 game.

So it always takes me a second when I look at the 1992 draft and see that Washington had the #4 pick in the draft. How did that happen?? Well, on Draft Day 1991, Washington was sitting with the 47th overall pick, the 20th selection of the second round, when the team found a taker. San Diego, desperate for … a guard … wanted to trade up to Michigan State’s Eric Moten. The Chargers had already picked George Thornton with the 36th pick and Eric Bieniemy with the 39th, but I guess the team was really, really in love with all three players. That’s because San Diego was willing to trade its 1992 first round pick in exchange for the 47th in the ’91 draft and a fifth rounder in the ’92 draft.

That trade, as it turned out, was really bad. San Diego, 6-10 in 1990, slipped to 4-12 in 1991. Four teams finished with fewer than four wins that year, and the tiebreakers landed San Diego in the middle of the three teams that finished 4-12. That meant the 6th overall selection was headed to D.C.

But Washington really coveted Howard, the Heisman Trophy winner. And, ironically enough given what Howard is mostly remembered for during his pro career, the biggest threat to dressing Howard in burgundy and gold was Green Bay, holders of the fifth pick. So Washington traded its 6th and 28th picks to Cincinnati to move up to 4th overall, while also getting to jump from 84 to 58 in the third round. Not a great trade according to my calculator (Washington was getting about 80 cents on the dollar for its picks), and the team only received about 87 cents on the dollar according to the traditional draft chart. But hey, how often can a defending Super Bowl champion add a top-five draft pick with a Heisman Trophy on his bookshelf?

That anecdote made me wonder: what other cases are there of really good teams holding high picks in the draft? Some would be by trade on draft day, of course, which probably doesn’t mean all that much. But many, presumably, would be a result of strategic planning earlier that worked out beautifully after a trading partner had a down year. And where does “Washington getting Howard” rank on this list? [click to continue…]


Teams that select quarterbacks in the first round of the draft generally struggled in the passing department prior year, although not as much as you might think. On average, these teams1 had a Relative ANY/A of -0.71, meaning those teams were 0.71 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt below average. For reference, that’s right about where the 2014 Bears finished, and Chicago ranked 27th in the NFL in ANY/A last year.

There have been 91 teams that have selected a quarterback in the first round of the regular NFL Draft since 1970; the Tampa Bay Bucs are almost certainly going to be the 92nd.2 Every once in awhile, a good passing team will dip its toes into the quarterback waters and select a passer in the first round. Over this time period, there have been eight teams that had a RANY/A of at least +1.0 and then selected a quarterback in the draft.

The 2005 Packers are not that team. In ’04, Green Bay behind Brett Favre had a RANY/A of +1.42, which didn’t stop the franchise from drafting Aaron Rodgers in the first round in the following draft. But there are four other teams that had an even better RANY/A the year before selecting a quarterback in the first round during this period. Can you name the team with the best RANY/A? [click to continue…]

  1. Since 1970, excluding quarterbacks taken in the supplemental draft, and including the 2015 Bucs. []
  2. Note: Kerry Collins, Tim Couch, and David Carr all were drafted by expansion teams in the first round. These examples are being deliberately excluded in this analysis. []
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Read one profile of an offensive lineman projected to go in the top ten of the draft and you’ve read them all. You’ll hear that the player is “one of the safest picks in the draft,” a future Pro Bowler, and someone “you can pencil into your starting lineup for the next decade and forget about.”

We know that quarterbacks are tough to project coming out of college: it’s the most challenging position to evaluate, so we’re told, and quarterback production is so dependent on things like system and teammates. Wide receivers are notoriously risky, too, while running backs have become devalued in recent years.

So the default safe offensive pick high in the draft is at tackle. But that hasn’t been working out so well in recent years. Not only have there been a number of underachievers, but top picks have produced some of the league’s worst starting linemen.

  • In 2014, Greg Robinson was the second pick in the draft. The Rams tackle rated as one of the worst offensive tackles last season according to Pro Football Focus.
  • Taylor Lewan was the 11th pick to the Titans. He began the season on the bench, first starting in week 6 against the Jaguars. Lewan started for six games, but missed the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.
  • In 2013, offensive tackles went in three of the first four picks! Eric Fisher was the first overall pick in the draft but has been a disastrous pick. Fisher was terrible at right tackle as a rookie, and no better as a left tackle last season. The Chiefs have been successful over this time period, limiting the media blowback, but the pick has been horrendous by first overall selection standards.

[click to continue…]

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