On offense, the Patriots have one player on the entire roster who was selected in the first round: tackle Nate Solder. On defense, starters Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Vince Wilfork were chosen by New England in the first round. And let’s not forget Darrelle Revis, a first round pick of the Jets; those are five of the best players on New England’s defense right now. The Patriots defense also features Jerod Mayo and Dominique Easley, two former first round picks now on injured reserve.
But most of New England’s key contributors were not first round picks. Tom Brady, of course, was a 6th round pick. Rob Gronkowski was a 2nd, Julian Edelman was a 7th, Brandon Lafell was a 3rd, Rob Ninkovich was a 5th, and so on. Every year, Pro-Football-Reference generates an Approximate Value rating for each player in the NFL. This year, former first round picks of the Patriots generated just 23% of the team’s Approximate Value.
For Seattle, Marshawn Lynch was a first round pick of the Bills back in 2007, and Kevin Williams was Minnesota’s first round choice in ’03. There are only four other first round picks on the roster: Earl Thomas, Bruce Irvin, James Carpenter, and Russell Okung. All six players are key contributors to Seattle, so they still combined for 22% of the Approximate Value of all Seahawks players in 2014.1 But Russell Wilson (3rd), Richard Sherman (6th), Bobby Wagner (2nd), K.J. Wright (4th), Kam Chancellor (5th), and Michael Bennett (undrafted) are responsible for a lot of the AV going to Seahawks players.
So where does 22-23% stand as a benchmark for other Super Bowl champs? It’s a bit below average, but it’s not as far from the mean as you might think. From 1990 to 2013, the average Super Bowl champion saw 29% of its team AV come from former first round picks. The table below shows the percentage of AV from first round picks for all Super Bowl champions:
- The 1968 Jets were the team least reliant on first round picks, which is ironic given the team’s star player. But Namath and Matt Snell,2 the other star of Super Bowl III, were the only starters on the team that were selected in the first round. Don Maynard was a 9th round pick, George Sauer and John Schmitt were undrafted, Gerry Philbin was a 3rd round pick, John Elliott a 7th, Larry Grantham a 15th, and so on.
- The team most reliant on first round picks was the ’00 Ravens. Of the 12 Baltimore players that recorded at least 10 points of AV that year, eight of them were first round picks: Ray Lewis, Rod Woodson, Sam Adams, Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, Chris McAlister, Duane Starks, and Peter Boulware. The other four players were Jamie Sharper (2nd round), Kim Herring (2nd), Rob Burnett (5th), and Michael McCrary (7th).
- For what it’s worth, the ’13 Seahawks were even less reliant on first round picks. Okung played in just eight games, Williams wasn’t on the team, and even Carpenter and Harvin played in a few more games.