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Super Bowl Champions and First Round Contributors

The only skill position player in Super Bowl XLIX drafted in the first round

The only skill position player in Super Bowl XLIX drafted in the first round

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:

YearTeamPerc
1966GNB15%
1967GNB21.2%
1968NYJ10.8%
1969KAN32.5%
1970BAL24.8%
1971DAL32.8%
1972MIA21.7%
1973MIA21.1%
1974PIT19.8%
1975PIT22.4%
1976OAK14.3%
1977DAL19.6%
1978PIT25%
1979PIT24.2%
1980OAK23.2%
1981SFO21.9%
1982WAS16.3%
1983RAI20.4%
1984SFO18.6%
1985CHI38.1%
1986NYG19.3%
1987WAS17.7%
1988SFO16%
1989SFO18.3%
1990NYG31.9%
1991WAS27.9%
1992DAL36.5%
1993DAL36%
1994SFO32.4%
1995DAL28.9%
1996GNB22.7%
1997DEN34.4%
1998DEN21.1%
1999STL37.8%
2000BAL43.8%
2001NWE21.3%
2002TAM32.8%
2003NWE31.9%
2004NWE16.1%
2005PIT35.2%
2006IND41.5%
2007NYG17.6%
2008PIT28.9%
2009NOR21.3%
2010GNB32.3%
2011NYG29.8%
2012BAL23.8%
2013SEA16.7%
  • 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.
  • The ’03 Patriots saw 32% of their team AV come from 1st round picks, while the ’04 team was at just 16%. How did that happen? Ty Law was a first-team All-Pro in ’03, but missed over half the season in ’04. Willie McGinest made the Pro Bowl in ’03 but not ’04, while Tyrone Poole went from 16 to 4 starts. Meanwhile, Damien Woody, Ted Washington, and Antowain Smith were all gone. On the other side, Corey Dillon (a 2nd round pick) was a big part of the ’04 team but was still with the Bengals in ’03, and the Patriots became more of an offensive team, with players like Brady, David Patten, and David Givens picking up more AV in 2004.
    1. Percy Harvin also accounted for two points of the 2014 Seahawks AV, but he finished the season with the Jets. []
    2. And other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play? []
    • john smith

      Unless I’m misreading the chart, it was the ’06 Colts with the most reliance on first rounders, not the ’00 Ravens. Anyway, great article.

      • Chase Stuart

        Thanks John. Early version of the table had a bug in it, which you caught before I could fix!