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:
The 2000 Draft, however, did not live up to the hype, as anyone who read the names in the opening paragraph could have assumed. In the graph below, I’ve shown the average percentage of NFL receiving yards gained by each draft class (only including drafted players) in their first five years. This is calculated by taking the total number of receiving yards by all players in say, the 2000 Draft, in the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, and dividing that total by all receiving yards gained in those seasons. By this measure, the 2000 class gained just 9.1% of all receiving yards in their first five seasons, which ranks 37th out of 42 draft classes from 1970 to 2011:
Let’s put those two charts together:
If you notice anything, you probably notice that the chart seems like a jumbled mess. But that’s the point: one would think that the classes with the most draft value (like the 2000 or 2004 classes) would produce a lot of value, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, the correlation coefficient between draft value spent on receivers and NFL production has been negative! That means NFL teams know even less than you think! So the fact that this year’s draft class was a terrible one for pass catchers doesn’t mean anything about how they will turn out. The two best draft classes in terms of production were the ’74 and ’76 classes, and both were below average in terms of draft capital spent.
Now, there are some limitations in this study. It’s possible (though I think very unlikely) that teams are better at drafting now, which would invalidate some of these results. And with more receivers on the field, the percentage of yards gained by top players necessarily has been going down. This is not a perfect study by any means, and the amount of draft capital spent on wide receivers has been increasing while the amount of production by receivers has been decreasing. But even after you adjust for era, the correlation coefficient — while now positive — only rises to 0.07, which is essentially zero. Recent years like 2010, when little draft capital was spent but the class was very productive, show that the problem has not been solved.
For those curious, here’s the raw data below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
|Year||Draft Value||Production||DV Rk||Prod Rk|