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Archive for the 'NFL Draft' Category

NFL draft database now queriable

Posted by Doug on March 25, 2008

There is some tidying to be done, but our draft data is now searchable.

You can do a quick search via the main draft index page, or you can get a bit more specific with this form.

9 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, P-F-R News

Fifth-round picks

Posted by Doug on March 13, 2008

Yesterday I asked whether you, were you sitting in Bill Parcells' chair (and were such a thing not pure fantasy), would exchange the first overall pick in the draft for all 32 fifth round picks. Some good comments followed. As promised, I'll give a general overview of how often starters and stars emerge from the fifth round.

I looked at all fifth round picks between 1990 and 1999. That keeps the data somewhat recent while also leaving time for all the players being looked at to have finished at least most of their careers. Using some quick ratings based on my almost-finished-but-not-yet-released approximate value formula, here are the best fifth round picks of the 90s. 'St' is the number of seasons he was his team's main starter at his position and PB is the number of pro bowls he made.

9 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, General, NFL Draft

Silly draft question

Posted by Doug on March 12, 2008

This is purely hypothetical, because no team would ever be faced with this choice, but I think it's a fun thought experiment and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

I'll offer a single question, then I'll give it a couple of twists.

The question: If you were the Miami Dolphins, would you trade the first overall pick for the entire fifth round (all 32 picks)?

For me, two things instantly pop into my mind. First, I wonder about the salary cap impact. Second, I'd be concerned about my ability to evaluate 32 marginal talents during the short duration of a single training camp. So here are a couple of follow-ups.

1. If it were mandated from above that the trade would be salary-cap neutral for the first two years, would you trade #1 for the fifth round?

2. If you got a special practice-squad exemption that allowed you to carry all your fifth-rounders for a full year to evaluate them, would you trade #1 for the fifth round?

Tomorrow, I'll look at the historical data to see how many starters and how many stars generally emerge from the fifth round. For now I'm interested in your gut reactions.

14 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm, and the right to choose

Posted by Jason Lisk on March 3, 2008

Matt Ryan is the consensus first quarterback who will be selected in the NFL draft. For example, this site has links to numerous mock drafts on the internet. Ryan is the first quarterback projected in virtually all of the mock drafts linked. However, there is less consensus on where he will go, with some placing him at the first overall, others somewhere in the top five, and the majority having him in the 8th slot to Baltimore. This is similar to what we see from the national draft pundits.

Almost universally, then, Matt Ryan is accepted as the top prospect. The next prospect on most draft boards is Brian Brohm. Chad Henne and Andre Woodson also appear in the majority of top 50 selections in mock drafts. Joe Flacco of Delaware rounds out the top 5 and is placed in the top 50 in about half of the mock drafts. There is almost uniform consensus that those are the top five quarterbacks available, as I did not see any others in anyone's top 50.

So, what is the likelihood that Matt Ryan will actually be better than Brian Brohm, the only other one who is unanimously somewhere in the top 50?

8 Comments | Posted in History, NFL Draft

The History of the Black QB: Part IV

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 22, 2008

You can read Parts I, II and III of this series at those links, but I'm most excited for Part IV today. No background reading is required.

Have black QBs been discriminated in the draft? It's a complicated question that's probably impossible to fully answer. Akili Smith was a bust. Randall Cunningham was a steal. Those are easy, but how do we look at the whole group? Here's one way.

9 Comments | Posted in History, NFL Draft, Statgeekery

Running backs and BMI

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 21, 2008

Most of you have probably heard of the Body Mass Index, a ratio that's pretty simple to calculate and can be a useful tool to gauge someone's health, but with a key caveat. Muscular people have very high BMIs, and high BMIs are usually associated with poor health (because most people that weigh a lot are fat, not muscular). In football, the opposite is true: the better athletes usually have higher BMIs, because that means they've got more muscle on their frame. For the most part, skill position players in the NFL don't have much fat on them, so we can assume the added weight is solid muscle. Using weight is a poor way to measure the type of muscle we're interested in when looking at running backs, since a 5-10, 225 lb RB is more solidly built than a 6-2, 240 lb running back. The former is Ricky Williams or Emmitt Smith; the latter is LenDale White or James Stewart.

The BMI formula is simply:

703 * weight/ (height^2)

Here's a list of the BMIs of the 50 RBs with the most rushing yards, among those that entered the league in 1970 or later. Height is in inches, weight is in pounds.

10 Comments | Posted in College, History, NFL Draft, Statgeekery

P-f-r draft pages upgraded

Posted by Doug on February 5, 2008

The upgrades are subtle but they make a world of difference. The main thing is that the yearly draft pages now contain the pick number, and the names, positions, and colleges of all the drafted players who didn't appear in the NFL. Last year when I reviewed the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, which is the source of most of our new data, I wrote this:

Finally, there is draft information, organized by year and then by team. It’s a bit hard to reconstruct the exact draft order with this format, but it would be hard to reconstruct the teams’ drafts if it were organized the other way.

The sortability of the tables at the newly-redesigned p-f-r allows us to get the best of both worlds. The yearly draft pages by default display the draftees in the order they were drafted, but if you want to see all the Eagles' draft choices, or all the defensive ends, or all the Nittany Lions, you can do so with the click of a button (and maybe a little scrolling).

We also now have a list of all draftees from each college, including the pick numbers and the guys who never played in the NFL.

Click on the draft tab up in the header to get started. (Note that the 2007 draft isn't in there yet. It will be soon.)

Before long --- let's say maybe within a month or six weeks --- I hope to have a querying tool that will let you sift through all this draft data and answer questions like "between 1990 and 2000, what percentage of running backs drafted in the 4th round or later made the pro bowl at least once in their career," or "list all Big Ten defensive ends who were drafted in the first round but never recorded an NFL sack."

4 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, P-F-R News

How teams are built

Posted by Doug on January 11, 2008

Over at the footballguys message board, it was noted that 12 of the Packers' 22 starters this season were drafted in the fifth round or later, or not at all. As I pointed out in the same thread, this is a very high number, but not quite a record. The 1984 Steelers, who went 9-7 but won their division and a playoff game to make it to the conference championship game, had 14 of 22 their starters being 5th-or-later or undrafted. A handful of other teams since 1980 had 13.

This got me thinking about the more general question of how teams are built. So I looked at all 22 starters on every team from 1980 to 2006 and sorted them into categories according to what round they were drafted in. Why 1980? Because that's roughly the point where the guys who were drafted by both the NFL and the AFL had disappeared from the league. If a guy was drafted in the 2nd round in the AFL draft and the 3rd round of the same year's NFL draft, how should we classify him? What about a guy who was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and the 10th round of the AFL draft? Rather than wrestle with that sort of question, I decided to declare that the data from 1980 forward would give us enough to chew on, at least for now.

OK, so here is the the summary data:

14 Comments | Posted in General, NFL Draft

Random trivia: draft class edition

Posted by Doug on December 7, 2007

The Steelers' 1975 1974 draft class is generally regarded as the best in history. It's tough to argue with four hall of famers:

+-----------------+-------+-----------+
| name            | round | pro_bowls |
+-----------------+-------+-----------+
| Lynn Swann      |     1 |         3 |
| Jack Lambert    |     2 |         9 |
| John Stallworth |     4 |         4 |
| Mike Webster    |     5 |         9 |
+-----------------+-------+-----------+

Those 25 pro bowls are the most ever from a single draft class. However, since the merger, there have been five draft classes that produced more than four players who would go on to make a pro bowl at some point in their career. Who were they?

ANSWER UPDATE:

+------+------+------------------+-------+-----------+
| team | year | name             | round | pro_bowls |
+------+------+------------------+-------+-----------+
| dal  | 1989 | Troy Aikman      |     1 |         6 |
| dal  | 1989 | Daryl Johnston   |     2 |         2 |
| dal  | 1989 | Steve Wisniewski |     2 |         8 |
| dal  | 1989 | Mark Stepnoski   |     3 |         5 |
| dal  | 1989 | Tony Tolbert     |     4 |         1 |

| dal  | 1975 | Randy White      |     1 |         9 |
| dal  | 1975 | Thomas Henderson |     1 |         1 |
| dal  | 1975 | Bob Breunig      |     3 |         3 |
| dal  | 1975 | Pat Donovan      |     4 |         4 |
| dal  | 1975 | Herbert Scott    |    13 |         3 |

| pit  | 1971 | Frank Lewis      |     1 |         1 |
| pit  | 1971 | Jack Ham         |     2 |         8 |
| pit  | 1971 | Dwight White     |     4 |         2 |
| pit  | 1971 | Larry Brown      |     5 |         1 |
| pit  | 1971 | Mike Wagner      |    11 |         2 |

| ram  | 1975 | Doug France      |     1 |         2 |
| ram  | 1975 | Dennis Harrah    |     1 |         6 |
| ram  | 1975 | Monte Jackson    |     2 |         2 |
| ram  | 1975 | Rod Perry        |     4 |         2 |
| ram  | 1975 | Pat Haden        |     7 |         1 |

| ram  | 1985 | Jerry Gray       |     1 |         4 |
| ram  | 1985 | Dale Hatcher     |     3 |         1 |
| ram  | 1985 | Kevin Greene     |     5 |         5 |
| ram  | 1985 | Duval Love       |    10 |         1 |
| ram  | 1985 | Doug Flutie      |    11 |         1 |
+------+------+------------------+-------+-----------+

10 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, Trivia

Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew, Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 14, 2007

In Part I, we looked at the rookie seasons and draft values of all RBs drafted between 1978 and 1997. We found out that Reggie Bush, as a result of his significantly higher draft value, still was projected for slightly more remaining career rushing yards than Drew. However, rushing yards doesn't tell the whole story. Jones-Drew averaged 5.7 YPC, which is incredible. Reggie Bush scored 178 fantasy points, which is very high for a RB with just 565 rushing yards.

Let's start with fantasy points. Using the same technique as we did before, we can perform a regression analysis to find career fantasy points scored, using fantasy points scored as a rookie and draft value as our two variables. Here's the formula:

Remaining career FPs = 107.6 + 0.14 * (Draft Value) + 3.58 * (rookie FPs)

What's that mean? If Tony Hunt (Pick 90, Draft Value = 140) scores 31 fantasy points this year, we'd project him to score about 238 fantasy points for the rest of his career. If he breaks out and scores 150 FPs, we'd up that projection to 664 fantasy points. If Titans' rookie Chris Henry (Pick 50, draft value 400) scores 34 fantasy points, we'd project him out at 285 fantasy points for the remainder of his career. If Chris Henry scores 150 FPs, his projection moves up to 701 FPs. But Marshawn Lynch (Pick 12, Draft Value 1200) only needs 119 FPs to be projected for 701 remaining fantasy points.

Once again, I think those numbers don't feel too out of whack with what your intuition would tell you. How do Reggie and Maurice stack up? Bush (DV = 2600) scored 178 fantasy points last year, projecting him out at 1,109 career fantasy points. Jones-Drew (DV = 300) scored a whopping 228 fantasy points last year, which translates to a prediction of "just" 966 career fantasy points. The extra 50 fantasy points aren't enough to counteract the 2300 point difference in pick value. Don't forget that Freeman McNeil and Garrison Hearst both scored under 100 FPs as rookies, but the former number three overall picks would each end up topping 1200 career fantasy points. While it makes sense to put a lot of stock in what players do in the NFL, one rookie season is a pretty small sample compared to three or four years of college and a draft combine.

On the other hand, what about yards per carry? Jones-Drew's sparkling 5.67 YPC is one of the biggest reasons people are so bullish on his future. In fact, since 1970, only two others RBs with a minimum of 100 carries have hit 5.5 YPC as a rookie: Clinton Portis and Franco Harris. That's pretty good company. And just as interesting, Reggie Bush averaged only 3.65 YPC, over two yards per carry fewer than Jones-Drew.

I looked at all rookie RBs from 1978-1997 with a minimum of 100 carries, and ran a regression using yards per carry and draft value to predict fantasy points for the remainder of their careers. Here's the formula:

Remaining fantasy points = -792 + 0.26 * (Draft Value) + 320 * (Rookie Year Yards Per Carry Average)

Jones-Drew (draft value 300, YPC = 5.67) is now projected to score 1110 more fantasy points the rest of his career. This feels about right: he was projected at 966 when looking at just last year's total fantasy points, but deservedly gets a big boost when using yards per carry as a variable. Bush (draft value 2600, YPC = 3.65) is projected for 1,052 fantasy points, which is still pretty good. That's only a small downgrade from before, when we ignored Bush's low YPC average. Why? The sample here is different, because we're only looking at RBs with 100 or more carries as a rookie. The nine RBs drafted in the top three over this 20 year span averaged over 1500 career fantasy points. Only one -- Blair Thomas -- was a bust. So the draft value variable here got a nice boost.

Finally, let's combine rookie fantasy points, rookie yards per carry average and draft value and see what we get:

Rest of career fantasy points = -515 + 0.10 * (Draft Value) + 130 * (YPC) + 4.5 * (FPs)

Jones-Drew's projected soars to 1282 fantasy points for the rest of his career. Reggie Bush is projected for 1024 fantasy points. Bush got a 231 point head start due to his draft position, but loses 263 points to Drew due to the large YPC difference, and another 226 FPs because of the 50 point difference the players scored last year. Interestingly enough, the relatively small 50 point difference in points scored last year is weighed almost as heavily as the enormous YPC differential. Why is a low YPC average for a rookie not so terrifying? Emmitt Smith (3.9 YPC average as a rookie, 3,025 fantasy points scored the rest of his career), Marshall Faulk (4.1, 2,479), Curtis Martin (4.0, 2,078), Tiki Barber (3.8, 1860), Roger Craig (4.1, 1561), Eddie George (4.1, 1532), Charlie Garner (3.7, 1322) and James Wilder (3.5, 1115) all had great careers despite not running very well as rookies. The fact that Barber, Garner and Wilder -- all excellent receivers -- had similar YPC averages to Bush is good news for Bush fans.

For Jones-Drew, the news is even better. The 11 RBs to score 228 or more FPs during their rookie season averaged 1,472 FPs for the remainder of their careers. Don't forget that the NFL's 4th all-time leading rusher -- Curtis Martin -- was a third round pick who had an incredible rookie year and never looked back.

One note: Herschel Walker was drafted in the 5th round due to his involvement with the USFL, and considered a 5th round pick for this study, despite undoubtedly being an elite, top-ten pick talent. To a small extent, that may understate the value of being a high draft pick, because he's not morally one of the low round picks to succeed.

Check out Part III, tomorrow, though. The news doesn't always stay good for our second year stars.

2 Comments | Posted in Fantasy, History, NFL Draft, Statgeekery

Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew, Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 13, 2007

[Note: This can also be seen over at the Footballguys.com blog:]

Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew are two of the most exciting and talented young players in the league. Both have the necessary skills to earn annual trips to Honolulu. Bush, of course, was a Heisman Trophy winner and top three pick in the NFL draft … just like O.J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders. Jones-Drew averaged over 5.5 YPC and rushed for 12+ TDs last year, joining an elite club consisting of only Drew, Jim Brown, O.J Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Clinton Portis. And only Portis did that as a rookie.

It is not controversial to state that Bush was viewed as the better prospect and that MJD had a better rookie season. The key question now, is which one trumps the other? Forgetting the names for a minute, which RB would you expect to have the better career: the highly touted prospect or the rookie stud? Reuben Mayes rushed for 1353 yards at 4.7 yards per carry as a rookie, but had just 2,131 more rushing yards the rest of his career. Additionally, John Stephens, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Greg Bell and Terry Miller all had 1,000 yard rookie seasons, but fizzled out quickly. On the other hand, we know that high draft position doesn’t mean everything, either. Ki-Jana Carter, Brent Fullwood, Blair Thomas, Alonzo Highsmith, and, well, Terry Miller, were top five draft picks that recorded fewer than 2,500 rushing yards in their careers.

I looked at all RBs drafted from 1978 to 1997. That gives us 20 years worth of drafts, with little worry about active players. There are a few guys still remaining, but Tiki Barber and Corey Dillon just retired from that ‘97 draft class, and I doubt we’ll be seeing significant changes to career totals to cause concern. Here’s a pretty intuitive chart:

Draft Pick   #RBs      Career Rush Yards
1 - 3 13 7132
4 - 10 15 4663
11 - 20 29 3642
21 - 40 54 2930
41 - 70 57 2135
71 -100 52 1629
101-150 70 1268
150+ 154 1032

There were 13 RBs drafted among the top three over this 20 year era, and they each averaged 7,132 career rushing yards. There’s a very strong correlation between draft pick and career rushing yards, which isn’t terribly surprising. Based off this, you might have projected last year that Reggie Bush (#2 overall) would outrush Jones-Drew (#60 overall) for his career by about 5,000 yards.

But now it’s this year, and we have some more information at our disposal. Jones-Drew rushed for 941 yards last year, while Reggie Bush rushed for only 565 yards. What does history tell us to think about those data? The table below breaks down all rookie RBs into tiers based on their number of rushing yards during their rookie season. The last column shows the average rest of career rushing yards (AROCRY) for those players:

Rushing Yards	#RBs	AROCRY
1400+ 8 9702
1100-1399 11 5053
900-1099 13 4161
600-899 31 3109
400-599 45 2527
200-399 80 1590
01-199 206 960
0 50 716

Like the draft pick chart, there are no surprises here. The more yards you rush for as a rookie, the more yards you’d expect a player to rush for during the remainder of his career. Based off this table, you might project that MJD will rush for about 1600 more yards than Bush for the rest of their respective careers.

But we DO know something else about Bush and Jones-Drew, namely their draft position. We’re getting closer to answering the question of which RB should be expected to rush for more yards: the highly drafted player or the better rookie. We can use multiple regression analysis to tell us how these two variables play off each other. One of the problems with using regression analysis, however, is that it treats the difference between the 1st pick and the 20th pick the same as it would the difference between the 201st and 220th pick. The solution? The NFL pick value chart. So now the 1st pick is worth 3000 points, the 2nd 2600 points, the 10th 1300 points, the 116th pick 62 points, etc. So if we use rookie rushing yards and NFL draft value as our two variables to solve for remaining career rushing yards, here’s the formula we get:

Remaining Career rushing yards =

439 + 0.88 * (Pick Value) + 4.49 * (rookie rushing yards)

So let’s say Adrian Peterson (the 7th pick, pick value 1500) rushes for 1,000 yards this year. This formula would project him to rush for 6,249 rushing yards for the rest of his career. If he rushed for 1,500 yards, we’d project him at 8,494 remaining career rushing yards. If the first pick in the draft rushed for 1,206 yards as a rookie, we’d project him for the same 8,494 remaining career rushing yards. An undrafted rookie would need to rush for 1794 yards to be projected for the same remaining career rushing yards. Those numbers “feel” about right to me, so I think our formula will work.

How do Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew fare? Bush was the 2nd pick (2600 points) and rushed for 565 yards, so that projects him out at 5,264 rushing yards for the rest of his career. Jones-Drew was the 60th pick (300 points) and rushed for 941 yards, projecting him at 4,928 yards. So at least for now, it looks like Reggie Bush holds a slight edge.

In part II of this series, we’ll compare the two players using different variables than rushing yards. In part III, we’ll take a step back and reign in our optimism just a bit.

9 Comments | Posted in Fantasy, History, NFL Draft, Statgeekery

There are really two charts

Posted by Doug on May 2, 2007

A quick analysis of this weekend's trades indicate that teams do stay pretty close to the pick value chart when exchanging picks in the same draft. For example, take a look at the second Denver/Jacksonville swap in the middle of the first round. Denver gets #17, which is worth 950 points, while Jacksonville gets #21, #86, and #198, worth a total of 972 points. Most of the other trades from day one show a similar pattern of following the chart closely. Here's a list:

High pick is the earliest pick that changed hands in the trade. Up and down represent the teams moving up and down respectively in the deal, and the pick chart value of the picks they received.

high pick      up          down
==================================
   14         NYJ 1115    CAR 1056
   17         DEN  950    JAX  972
   26         DAL  700    PHI  723
   33         ARI  580    OAK  604
   34         BUF  560    DET  690
   41         ATL  490    MIN  512
   47         NYJ  430    GB   436
   53         CLE  383    DAL  363
   58         DET  320    NOR  294
   62         DET  284    BAL  316
   86         BAL  160    JAX  131

I don't know the history of the pick chart, but I assume it was built to match the market that had already been established. In other words, it seems likely that the chart is based on trades that had actually occurred.

But the vast majority of those trades occurred while one of the two teams was on the clock, and therefore both teams know exactly who is available with the pick. My strong suspicion is that Jacksonville would have been happy to make this deal on Saturday morning, while Denver would not have. The Broncos were only willing to make it because they knew for sure that a particular player --- Jarvis Moss in this case --- was available. And this is the case for most of the draft day trades.

Since the team trading up is the one with their sites on a particular guy that they now know is available, they're the team that's more likely to overpay (compared to what they would have paid 24 hours prior). But because the chart is built from historical data, this overpayment has been built right into the chart!

Really, there ought to be two charts: an on-the-clock chart and a pre-draft chart. The one we always see is the on-the-clock chart. I think it's wrong to read it as "this is the standard rate, but I should be willing to pay more to move up if I really like the guy who's available." Rather, it reflects the most that you should be willing to pay to move up. Or at least it reflects what teams have been willing to pay when they know they really like the guy who's available.

7 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

More Quinn thoughts

Posted by Doug on May 1, 2007

Are there really a significant number of people out there who think Cleveland did not get a great deal in trading up to nab Quinn, or are they just loud?

My theory is that people, either consciously or subconsciously, have a tendency to view trades as zero-sum. Most people think that Dallas made out very well on this deal, and I agree that they did. But that doesn't mean Cleveland didn't also achieve a net gain.

If, while Atlanta was on the clock at #8 and everyone thought Miami was going to take Quinn at #9, the Browns had swapped their second and next year's first to Atlanta for #8 and used it to take Quinn, it would have been considered a great move. If they had traded the same package on Saturday morning to Detroit for #2, and then drafted Thomas and Quinn back-to-back, it would have been viewed as outright theft. The result of the trade they did make is the same, but yet the Browns are being criticized for it by many.

The only way this makes sense is if Quinn's slide down the board changes your view of him as a prospect. Quinn is the same guy he was on Saturday morning, right?, the same guy that Cleveland was allegedly close to spending pick #3 on. Or is he? While he is literally the same guy, we now have more information about him. We did not know on Saturday morning, but we do know now, that Detroit, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, and Carolina (among others) didn't think he was worth taking.

So that's the question. Into which group do you fall:

1. I think that the hypothetical trade with Detroit would have been a good one, and I think the actual deal was also a good one.

2. I think that both the hypothetical trade with Detroit, and the actual trade were/would have been bad ones. I just don't think Quinn is any good.

3. Because of the extra information that I now have, I think the Detroit trade would have been good, but the actual trade was bad.

4. Because I am irrational and possibly also a slave to the pick value chart, I think the Detroit trade would have been good, but the actual trade was bad.

10 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

Brady Quinn and the discount rate on future picks

Posted by Doug on April 30, 2007

Awhile back I spent a bunch of posts (start here if you want to read them) discussing an academic paper by economists Cade Massey and Richard Thaler. One of their findings that I didn't talk much about --- largely because I didn't have any explanation for it myself --- is the high discount rate on future draft picks. From their paper:

A third notable feature of these data is the remarkably high discount rate, which we estimate to be 174% per year.

...

We suspect that one reason why the discount rate is high is that picks for the following year have additional uncertainty attached to them since the exact value depends on the performance of the team trading away the pick in the following year. Still, this factor alone cannot explain a discount rate of this magnitude. Clearly teams giving up second-round picks next year for a third-round pick this year are displaying highly impatient behavior, but it is not possible to say whether this behavior reflects the preferences of the owners or the employees (general manger and coach) who make the choices (or both).

In other words, your round N pick this year for my round N-1 pick next year (which is the standard rule of thumb) is not a good deal for me unless I place a massive premium on winning now as opposed to winning later. Or, as Massey and Thaler put it, unless I'm highly impatient. This is indeed puzzling, but I think I may have an explanation, and it came to me while sifting through the discussion of the Brady Quinn trade.

Dallas gave up #22, which is worth 780 points according to the pick value chart, while Cleveland gave #36 (worth 540) plus their first round pick in 2008. You can run the numbers with various assumptions, but for the sake of definiteness let's just assume that the Browns' pick will be #8 overall selection next year. The #8 pick, according to the chart, is worth 1400 points. So according to the chart, Cleveland is willing to give up 1400 points next year for a gain of only 240 points this year. Highly impatient indeed.

But wait. Cleveland wasn't giving up 540 points this year and 1400 points next year for "the #22 pick." They were giving up 540 points this year and 1400 points next year for Brady Quinn, which is a very different thing. Cleveland obviously values Quinn more highly than an average #22 pick, which is why they made the trade. They wouldn't have dreamed of making that deal three hours prior.

If Cleveland thinks Quinn is as good as an average #3 or #4 overall pick (roughly 1800 points), an idea which wouldn't have raised too many eyebrows on Saturday morning, then the Browns are not paying any interest at all. They're earning interest!

Even if they didn't value Quinn quite that highly, say they think he's worth a typical #6 or #7 pick (which again would not have seemed remotely controversial a few days ago), then it looks like this: Cleveland immediately acquires a commodity that they think is worth about 1600 points. To do this, they give up 540 points right now, and somewhere around 1400 points next year. There is a discount rate, as there should be, but it's not 174%.

And this is typical. Teams that give up future-year picks are always the teams that are trading up. And teams generally trade up only when they are targeting a particular player, like Quinn, because they value him more highly than they'd value a generic player in that slot.

Let's look at some other trades from Saturday involving future picks:

  • The Colts traded their #1 pick in 2008 (let's say 600--700 points), along with pick #126 (worth 46 points), to San Francisco for pick #42, which the Colts used to select Tony Ugoh. If the Colts view Ugoh as being as good as a typical late first round pick, again a not-totally-wacky notion, then there is no discount rate at all.
  • Similarly, San Diego moved up to grab Utah safety Eric Weddle at #37, giving up their 2008 third-rounder, among other things, in the process. If you add in the 2008 pick at full value, they gave up 587 points for him, which is about what pick #32 or #33 is worth on the chart. Again, some analysts had Weddle ranked in that general vicinity.

So I think Massey and Thaler were sort of right, or exactly wrong, depending on how you look at it. The apparently-high discount rate comes about not because of uncertainty about next year's pick but because of complete certainty about this year's pick. Cleveland was not overvaluing this year's #22 pick relative to next year's #8 (or whatever) pick. Cleveland, in fact, didn't make a trade for this year's #22 pick. They made a trade for Brady Quinn.

The Browns' front office might indeed be guilty of falling into another of the psychological traps mentioned by Massey and Thaler: overestimating their own ability to judge Brady Quinn as a prospect. But I don't see any reason to believe that they were acting impatiently.

13 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

p-f-r draft contest scoring

Posted by Doug on April 28, 2007

Congrats to JKL. Send me an email to claim your prize.

BillM JKL BenM Wthii Ross Jason JeffP StvH Maur Monk Jdoub Richie Scott MO DanF PFE Pete Sole Sepp DonP
Mult 3 3 3 2.96 2.88 2.88 2.36 1.92 1.76 1.72 1.48 1.44 1.44 1.32 1.08 1.04 1.04 1 1 1
Score 1.50 5.44 2.25 1.67 1.62 3.06 3.69 1.02 0.70 1.11 0.57 0.09 0.99 0.74 0.42 0.75 0.96 3.67 0.38 0.84
1 BQ JR CJ JR JR JR JR CJ JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR CJ JR
2 BQ JT JT JT JT JT JT JT JT BQ CJ JT CJ BQ CJ CJ CJ CJ CJ CJ
3 BQ JT AP AP AP BQ BQ JR AP AP BQ AP AP AB BQ AP AP BQ BQ AP
4 BQ JT JR CJ CJ CJ CJ AP CJ CJ JT CJ BQ CJ GA GA GA GA JT GA
5 BQ AP GA CJ GA AP GA BQ GA JT GA JA JT JT JT JT JT JT JT JT
6 BQ AP BQ CJ JA AB LB LL BQ GA LL DR JA JA AO AO LL LL AP LL
7 AP LB BQ TG TG AP GA LL LL LH GA GA GA LL JA BQ AP AP BQ
8 BQ LT JA BQ LB LH JA LB LL JA AO LL AO AP PW LL DH LB LL JA
9 BQ LT AB BQ BQ GO AB AO AO LB LB BQ AB AO AP BQ LB AO LB LH
10 BQ LT CH BQ LL AO RN LH LB LH CH LB LL LL LB LB LH PW LH LB
11 BQ LT AC BQ AB GA AC PW PW DJ AC TG AC LH AC PW AO TG AO RM
12 BQ TG PW BQ AO LB ML JA PW AO AP GO PW PW LH LH PW DR PW PW
13 BQ TG AO BQ CJ LL AO AB LH AB AB AO DR TG AB AB JA AC JA AO
14 BQ TG GO BQ DB LT GO AC GO GO GO BQ TG LB RN RN RN JA RN LT
15 BQ TG DH BQ JM JA PW ML LH LT PW AC LB DR DR PP LT LT DR JM
16 BQ TG ML BQ ML ML RM GO ML ML TG ML GO QM ML ML ML ML ML ML
17 BQ PW RN BQ SR RN DB PP LH TG RN BQ RN PP BM BM AC LH ML DR
18 BQ AR DR BQ LH MM DR JM RN JB DR AB LH DT JM DR DR JB ML TG
19 BQ PW DJ BQ DJ DJ DJ LT AS AC JM ML ML DJ RM TG TG RM RM QM
20 BQ AR MG BQ LT DB PP TG DR PP JH RN RM LT TG LT JS AR LT JB
21 BQ PW LH BQ AC CJ CJ AR JM JM JA RM JH ML DB AC AB AB AR AB
22 BQ PW BM BQ RN JM CH DB AR RM RM LH DB MG PP CJ AR MG AR AS
23 BQ RM DB BQ AR DR LH JB TG CH JB JS JS DB AR AR JH BG AR BM
24 BQ RM TG BQ DH PW TG DJ TG PW JS JD AS JS MG JB RM BM MG RN
25 BQ RM QM BQ RM SR QM DR TG DR BG CH EW MM GO GO GO GO GO CH
26 BQ RM JH BQ TC AC JB JH BM SS LT TG JB RN JB DT BM EW GO PP
27 BQ DJ PP BQ DR MG BM RK AR AR AR JM CH BD MM TJ BG PP GO AC
28 BQ DJ BD BQ AG QM LL RM TG RN BM DB MG EW LT AR PP DH TU CJ
29 BQ DJ LT BQ AS RM JB MG JS JS DB TU JB JB TE TU CH RK RK GO
30 BQ DJ SR BQ PW AS MG CH MG DB DJ DJ DJ SR AG DB DB AG RK JH
31 BQ DJ BG BQ AS JB TU AS CJ BG JB DJ LT RM JB JB AS JB BG DJ
32 BQ QP BQ JH DH LT BG JB JH SS LT SS FF DH CH JB TC PP BD

9 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

Insane idea: quit scouting

Posted by Doug on April 27, 2007

[First, a final reminder to enter the p-f-r draft contest. Entries must be time stamped before a pick is made.]

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be unique; I wanted it to be a place where you could read something different from what's being printed elsewhere. On the eve of the draft, I have opinions on Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson and Amobi Okoye, but it's not worth my time or yours for me to write them down. They simply don't add anything to the discussion. But the media frenzy surrounding the NFL draft and the absence of anything else football-related to talk about for the past two months leave me in a rough spot. If I want to say something that hasn't yet been said, it's going to have to be a little bit crazy. So I'm opening up a new category: Insane ideas. The ideas posted in this category are not meant to be taken too seriously --- I'm labeling them insane, after all. So I recognize that ultimately most of them will probably not be good ideas, but I am not just blatantly trolling either. I do believe there may be a kernel of a good idea in these posts.

So here goes with insane idea #1. Bear with me while I set it up...

Let's say you're in a football stadium with 80,000 of your closest friends watching a big game. For much of the time, you and your 80,000 friends are content to sit down, because it's more comfortable than standing up. But when something exciting starts to unfold, people start to stand up. Maybe for awhile, you can remain comfortably seated and still see the action. But as soon as some guy in front of you stands up, you have to stand up to have any chance of seeing over him. This, of course, forces the people behind you to stand up, which forces the people behind them to stand up, and so on. Pretty soon, everyone is standing.

But now everyone is worse off than they would have been if they all had simply remained seated. Any particular individual can gain a better view by standing up, which is (one reason) why people do it, but if everyone stands up then no one has a better view. The only difference is that everyone is now less comfortable.

This is not a novel observation. But let's take it a bit further. It's not quite true that everyone has the same view standing up as they do sitting down. The difference between tall people and short people gets magnified when people stand up. To put it another way, sitting is something of an equalizer. If the guy in front of me is taller than I am, then I might be able to see over him when we're sitting, but I can no longer see over him when we're standing. So if I'm short, a logical response might be for me to simply opt out of the standing up game completely. When everyone else stands up, I'll just stay seated. Sure, I'd like to watch the live action, but I'm simply too short to see over the guy in front of me. Standing up doesn't do me any good. Next game, I'll bring a stepstool to stand on. Or maybe I'll bring a little pocket TV. Or maybe I'll just stay home and watch the game on TV. That's not quite as enjoyable as live action, but I wasn't getting all the benefits of the live action anyway, and I was paying a lot of money for the privilege. If I don't buy season tickets, I could afford, for example, a much nicer car.

OK, at this point what we've established nothing more than that I am probably the most annoying and overly analytical football game companion imaginable and that you should not offer me a spare ticket if you happen to have one. But I'm setting up an analogy, and here it is:

Fans = NFL front offices
Standing up = expending money, time, and energy on scouting

If every team did its scouting using Street & Smith's college football preview magazine and watching a few college football games a week (as I understand was essentially the case when the draft was young), things would be easy for everyone and everyone would be basically in the same boat. But then Gil Brandt and his obnoxious Cowboy cronies started to stand up. They beat the bushes looking for small college players. They started conducting interviews and actually try to get to know the players. Now they can see the game pretty clearly, and that puts me and my Street & Smith's at a disadvantage. So I'd better stand up too. Pretty soon everyone is standing up and for the most part everyone is in the same boat again, except that we're all spending an obscene amount of time and money.

But we're not quite in the same boat. Some teams (if you're following along, these are the short people) are spending an obscene amount of money and still not seeing the game. What options do they have? Well, they can either buy a stepstool, or they can stay home and watch the game on TV. In this scenario, buying a stepstool corresponds to pouring a lot more resources into your scouting department: hiring more people and/or better people and giving them a bigger budget. But this kind of stepstool is expensive and it comes with no guarantees. It might collapse the first time you try to hoist your short self up onto it.

I'm more interested in the other option: watching the game on TV. I.e., settling for a slightly less appealing but much less expensive alternative, and then using the excess money to improve my life in some other way. What does this correspond to in the analogy? Is there a slightly less appealing but much less expensive alternative to spending resources scouting prospects?

I'd like to suggest that at this point the amount of freely-available information about the draft is so mountainous that, if you believe there is wisdom in crowds, it's not completely insane to believe that compiling all this public information in an intelligent way could constitute a reasonable substitute for a scouting department. In other words, the internet and a bunch of draft publications (maybe even Street & Smith's!) might be your TV.

I am not saying that teams who utilize this plan would typically have good drafts. But is it so hard to believe that you could, in the long run, have a drafting record that is only slightly below average with this plan? I am certainly not saying that your 19-year-old cousin who set up a draft website in his parents' basement is as good at evaluating talent as professional NFL scouts are. Rather, I am suggesting that, if he's a smart kid, he can learn a whole lot by piggybacking on the enormous body of work that is being done and reported on by professional scouts and others. There are a lot of sharp football minds, including some former professional scouts, who break down gobs of game film, who go to the college all star games and all the other events, who talk to the players, who talk to agents and NFL personnel men, and whose full time job is to provide information about draft-eligible college football players to anyone who wants to pay a small fee for it. There is also probably a lot of information to be inferred from reading factual accounts of which front offices were present at which pro days, which prospects were making visits to which teams, and so on.

If I paid Chase $50,000 per year to spend his every waking hour unearthing every possible nugget of information he could get his hands on, and finally synthesizing it into a draft board, could it pass for the draft board of a real NFL team? Having never seen one of the latter, I can't say. But seriously, how much worse could the result be than the drafts the Detroit Lions have had during the last decade? Or the Browns? In addition, I could employ a Massey-Thaler-like strategy of trading my high picks for multiple middle round picks, thereby minimizing my exposure to a single piece of bad information that Chase might have missed because he's not a real scout.

Now I know what you're thinking: concocting a plan to produce drafts better than the Lions of the late 90s and early 00s isn't exactly going to pave the road to the Super Bowl, which should be my ultimate goal. You're absolutely right. But remember the short guy who decided to watch the games on TV even though he'd have preferred to watch in person. Making that change wasn't necessarily a net loss of overall happiness for our short friend because, if you'll recall, he used his season ticket money to upgrade his next new car purchase from a Kia to a Honda.

And that's the crux of the matter. It's all fine and well to save millions (tens of millions?) on scouting every year, if I can find some other way to spend that money that will help my football team more than my cheap scouting budget will hurt it. With a salary cap in place, I can't spend the extra money on veteran players, but there may be other options. Maybe I could upgrade my next coaching hire from Wade K. Phillips to Bill H. Cowher. Maybe I could hire the absolute best offensive and defensive coordinators in the league and pay them enough so that they wouldn't be tempted to flee for a head coaching job. Maybe I could upgrade my facilities to make my team a more attractive destination for free agents. Maybe a bigger and/or better staff of team doctors and trainers (or groundskeepers) would help me keep my team healthier than average in the long run. We're talking about a lot of money saved here.

Like just about everything in life, winning football games is about the allocation of resources. Every team has a budget and must decide how to divvy it up among the various enterprises that comprise the final product. Most of the time, spending extra resources to improve one aspect of the team means that some other aspect will have to make due with less.

Now that doesn't mean that you can just spend your resources any old way and get the same result. For example, I would not as a general policy recommend saving 6 million dollars per year by always fielding a starting quarterback who is willing to play for the league minimum. Why not? Because the dropoff in production would probably be so steep that you'd be hard pressed to make it up by spending that money elsewhere. The difference here is that I'm (sort of) confident that a huge drop in expenditures in the scouting department might only lead to a small drop in production. If that's the case, then it's likely that the production drop can be more than recouped with a huge expenditure in some other area.

As promised, this idea is insane. But also as promised, I think there is a good idea at the core of it: skimp on scouting. Not because scouting isn't important; it's very important. But why foot the bill, when others (including your competitors!) are willing to do a lot of the work for you? If your scouting department has been doing a below average job, I'm about 95% sure that Chase could do almost as good a job for less than 1% of the salary. What I'm less sure of is whether or not I could find a way to use the savings productively.

24 Comments | Posted in Insane ideas, NFL Draft

Combine prep

Posted by Doug on April 20, 2007

On the NFL Network's draft preview show earlier this week, Mike Mayock expressed frustration that more and more prospects --- all of them, basically --- are spending January through March training specifically for combine drills. This makes it difficult to determine whether those 40 times represent real speed that will translate to the football field, or merely track speed that will disappear as soon as the pads go on and the players are having to think and run at the same time.

As a college professor who occasionally participates in admissions-related activities, I can sympathize. Just as the skills (namely speed, quickness, and strength) that lead to good results in combine drills are closely related to the skills that players need to succeed in the NFL, the skills that cause a student to do well on the SAT are indeed correlated with the skills that cause students to succeed in college. But what a student learns at an SAT prep class serves only to improve the test score itself, not to improve the actual abilities that admissions people hope the test is trying to measure. One test prep center advertises, "Spend a little time getting to know the SAT better and you can find out how to use the structure and format of the test to your advantage." In other words, it's not about making yourself more prepared for college. It's about making yourself appear more prepared for college.

If I had access to an honest account of how many hours of SAT prep each applicant had (and in which program), I think I could make smarter admissions decisions by discounting the scores of those who spent the most effort bolstering their appearance.

I, of course, have no such account. But NFL teams do. They know exactly where all these players have been spending their time since January. So this seems to me like an opportunity for smart teams to gain an advantage. Some of these combine training facilities have been around for a decade now. Figure out how many hundredths each of these camps shaves off the 40 time of a typical player. Then figure out whether those hundredths stayed off when the player reached the NFL. In other words, did they teach him how to run a faster 40, or did they actually teach him some meaningful techniques that he was able to translate to the field? If the former, and then add it back on for the purposes of evaluation.

Suppose a guy "played like a 4.6 guy" in college, but ran a 4.45 at the combine. Go look at his rookie year film and determine whether he played more like a 4.6 guy or a 4.45 guy in the pros. You might find that the guys who worked out at Training Facility A were in general able to maintain their speed gains while those who trained at Facility B were not.

Don't be frustrated by it, use it.

On the flip side, if I were an agent, I might at this point be tempted to hire a team of ex-NFL coaches and publicly advertise that my players are specifically not training for the combine drills. Instead, they're getting actual NFL coaching, doing football work, and learning how to train like NFL players train. Essentially, my guys will have a head start in terms of picking up NFL terminology and schemes because they haven't been wasting their time learning to keep their elbows in while they run, or trying to put on weigh-in pounds that are going to come off after three days of real practice.

12 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

The relative importance of positions

Posted by Doug on April 18, 2007

Last week I posted some summary data on how teams have historically used their first round selections. I decided to expand that to the entire draft while accounting for the fact that the picks at the top of the draft are in general more valuable than those at the end.

So I took the pick value chart value of each draft pick by each team since 1978. Then I computed the percentage of each team's total pick value that it used on each position.

For example, the Texans have drafted five wide receivers in their history: Andre Johnson (#3, value 2200), Jabar Gaffney (#33, value 580), Jerome Mathis (#114, value 66), Sloan Thomas (#211, value 7), and David Anderson (#251, value 0). That's a total of 2853 "value points" spent on the wide receiver position. In their five year history, they have had a total of 15730 points to work with, so they've spent 18.1% of it on wide outs.

Below is a table showing every team's percentage of draft value spent on each position since 1978.

TM     QB RB WR TE OL    OFF    DL LB DB    DEF      ST   TotVal
====+========================+==================+=======+=======
cin |  13 11 11  3 14   51.5 |  21 14 13   48.3 |   0.2 |  79823
crd |   7 12 10  3 16   48.6 |  21 15 13   49.0 |   2.4 |  73604
clt |  16 13  7  4  9   48.0 |  17 22 13   51.2 |   0.8 |  73565
nyj |   4 12 17  6 15   53.8 |  16 18 11   45.5 |   0.7 |  68328
nwe |   8 12 15  4 16   54.9 |  22  8 14   44.5 |   0.6 |  67826
ram |   2 19 11  3 16   50.6 |  19 11 17   48.3 |   1.1 |  67317
det |   8 13 17  3 16   57.2 |  12 14 16   42.2 |   0.6 |  67086
oti |  12 14  9  3 18   54.8 |  19 11 15   44.8 |   0.4 |  63474
atl |   8 11  8  5 15   46.5 |  16 17 20   53.1 |   0.4 |  62944
buf |   6 14 15  4 13   51.3 |  17 14 18   48.4 |   0.2 |  62556
nor |   1 22 12  3 20   57.6 |  18  9 13   40.1 |   2.3 |  61847
chi |   8 12 14  2 13   49.8 |  23 12 15   49.2 |   1.0 |  61835
tam |  10 18 10  2 18   58.8 |  15 17  8   40.7 |   0.5 |  61096
gnb |   5 11 12  3 18   49.0 |  16 16 18   49.8 |   1.2 |  58983
sea |   7 12  9  3 18   49.0 |  18 12 21   50.7 |   0.3 |  58860
dal |   6  7 11  5 15   43.7 |  27 13 16   56.1 |   0.2 |  57969
sdg |  12 11 10  4 14   51.4 |  12 13 23   47.8 |   0.8 |  57164
nyg |   7 14 13  7 15   55.8 |  15 12 17   43.9 |   0.3 |  56545
cle |   7 11 16  5  8   47.1 |  17 18 16   51.6 |   1.3 |  56383
kan |   7 13  9  6 15   50.1 |  27 15  8   49.6 |   0.3 |  55689
phi |   7 11 12  5 22   57.1 |  21  9 12   42.3 |   0.6 |  54351
sfo |   8 12 10  8 11   47.8 |  22 14 15   51.0 |   1.2 |  53813
min |   3 13  9  2 15   41.6 |  33 12 14   58.4 |   0.1 |  53480
rai |   5  9  7  3 20   44.8 |  21  9 23   53.3 |   1.8 |  53404
pit |   5  8 17  6 18   54.3 |  18 10 18   45.2 |   0.5 |  51714
mia |   3 20 10  2 18   53.1 |  19 11 17   46.8 |   0.2 |  46910
was |  10  6 17  2 17   52.2 |  12 12 23   46.5 |   1.3 |  42586
den |   6  9 12  5 16   46.6 |  17 15 20   52.7 |   0.7 |  41894
jax |   7 12 11  3 19   51.2 |  19 16 13   48.5 |   0.3 |  27178
car |   8 14  7  1 16   46.0 |  26  8 20   54.0 |   0.0 |  24225
rav |   5 11 14  3 13   45.8 |  26  7 21   53.9 |   0.4 |  21648
htx |  20  3 18  4  9   54.2 |  31  5  9   45.8 |   0.0 |  15730

Here are the leaguewide averages:

qb    7.4
rb   12.5
wr   11.7
te    3.9
ol   15.5
dl   19.3
lb   13.2
db   15.8
pk    0.5
pn    0.3

How crazy would it be to infer that these represent what the league as a whole believes the relative importance of the positions to be? Probably a little crazy, but maybe only a little. Even if you think the draft value chart is out of whack, it is supposed to be what the teams have developed as a de facto standard of value, right? Each team has a limited number of "value points" to spend each year, and they should in the long run allocate those points in roughly the same proportion as the relative importance of the positions.

Quarterbacks account for 7.4% of the draft expenditures and 4.5% of the players on the field at any given time. Does this mean that a quarterback is on average about 64% more important (whatever that might mean) than an average player?

It gets a little less clear when you try to look at, say, wide receivers. They account for 11.7% of draft expenditures. But if I want to know how important an average wide receiver is, am I supposed to divide that by two, or three, or 2.5, or six, or what?

It is interesting that at almost all times, there are more defensive backs on the field than defensive linemen, yet more draft capital has been spent on linemen. Likewise, more draft capital has been spent on defensive linemen than on offensive linemen, despite the fact that more offensive linemen are on the field at all times.

One final tidbit for discussion. Here is the same table, but only considering 1998--2006:

qb   10.0
rb    9.4
wr   13.3
te    4.0
ol   14.0
dl   19.5
lb   11.1
db   18.1
pk    0.4
pn    0.1

6 Comments | Posted in History, NFL Draft

Rule change proposal: abolish the draft

Posted by Doug on April 13, 2007

Why do we have a draft?

The nominal reason for the draft is to give the worst teams the first shot at the top talent, thereby helping achieve competitive balance in the league. But it obviously doesn't work that way.

If this were the old days, the Raiders could take Calvin Johnson or JaMarcus Russell and pay him nothing, while the Colts would take Ben Grubbs or Brian Leonard and pay him essentially the same nothing. That helps the Raiders.

But this isn't the old days. The Raiders will have to pay whoever they take much more than the Colts will have to pay their pick. Because of the salary cap, that means the Raiders will have less to spend on other players. The recent academic paper by Cade Massey and Richard Thaler (which I've written about here, here, and here) argues that the reality of the situation is that this setup actually hurts the Raiders. I don't think that's quite right, but I agree that it doesn't help the Raiders much if at all.

If the goal of the draft is to help even out the competitive landscape of the league, I don't think it's working. And as long as there is a salary cap, I don't think it's going to work.

That's the nominal reason for the draft. The real reason for the draft, as observed by Jim A in the comments to an old post, is to keep money out of the hands of the rookies and in the hands of the owners and the veterans.

I have no evidence to back this up, but I'm not convinced that's happening. Vince Young signed a deal last year that will be worth between 26 and 58 million dollars. Do you really think he would have gotten much more if he were on the open market? Before you answer yes and cite increased demand, remember that there would be increased supply too: the teams bidding for him would have had the option of bidding on Matt Leinart or Jay Cutler as well.

So the way I see it, the draft isn't doing what it says it's supposed to do. And it's also not doing what it's really supposed to do. It's not working for anyone.

So I say let's get rid of it. Rookies are free agents. They can negotiate with whatever teams they'd like and sign with the one that makes them the most attractive offer. Teams, likewise, can negotiate with and sign as many rookies as they can afford.

This seems like a radical idea, but I claim that the results won't look too much different than they do under the current system. Bad teams often have lots of cap room and would (and should) be willing to roll the dice on a young player or two with superstar potential. The good teams in general won't have as much money to burn and will likely settle for a less expensive rookies who plug specific holes. The teams that would lose out, compared to the draft system, are the ones that are bad but have no cap room. The winners are good teams with lots of cap space. That's OK with me. A bad team with no cap room is one that in my opinion doesn't deserve help.

If the results would be similar to what we see now, why do I favor a switch? Four reasons:

1. It's just a morally better system. This is cliche, but these 22-year-olds should be allowed to negotiate with several potential employers just as 22-year-olds in other careers get to. I don't mean to imply that rookies-to-be are being mistreated under the current system, but if it doesn't do any harm to anyone else (and it wouldn't), I do think it would be nice if they had the chance to explore various options like everyone else does.

2. It would end the ugly holdouts. Players wouldn't have a team to hold out from. No particular city would have a platoon of journalists riling up the fan base about how cheap management is. Players opting not to sign would be forgotten about pretty quickly.

3. It would create more diverse strategies with regard to acquiring young talent. Some teams would go for several big name players. Others would load up on guys that would formerly have been considered second or third round picks. More diverse strategies almost always make for a more interesting game.

4. It'd be fun. Even more fun than draft season already is.

42 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, Rule Change Proposals

Team first round summaries

Posted by Doug on April 11, 2007

Random facts about the NFL draft since 1978:

  • The Rams have taken nine running backs in the first round; no other team has taken more than six. How many of those Ram runners can you name off the top of your head in under 30 seconds?
  • Two teams have drafted three tight ends in the first round: the Jets (Anthony Becht, Kyle Brady, and Johnny Mitchell) and Steelers (Heath Miller, Mark Breuner, and Eric Green). Twelve teams have never (since 1978) drafted a first-round tight end.
  • The Redskins have been allergic to the draft for far longer than Dan Snyder has been calling the shots. They have had the fewest first round picks (18) among all teams that have been in existence for the entire period. Denver (22) has the next fewest. The Bengals (36) have the most.
  • The Colts have drafted four first round quarterbacks. The first three were Art Schlichter, John Elway, and Jeff George. Ryan Leaf would have fit in well with this group.
  • Only two teams have never (since 1978) taken a first round quarterback. They are the Rams and Saints.
  • The team who has spent the greatest percentage of its first rounders on offense has been the Lions. The most historically defense oriented team in the first round has been the Cowboys, who have drafted more defensive linemen in the first round than offensive players combined.
  • It's interesting that the Steelers, a team generally known for good defenses, have spent far more of their first round picks on offense, while the 49ers have spent the majority of their picks on defense.

Here's the data:


       QB RB WR TE OL   OFF    DL LB DB   DEF      TOT
====+=======================+=================+========
cin |   4  3  4  0  6    17 |  10  6  3    19 |     36
nwe |   2  6  3  2  8    21 |   7  2  5    14 |     35
ram |   0  9  3  0  6    18 |   7  3  5    15 |     33
clt |   4  5  4  2  2    17 |   5  7  3    15 |     32
gnb |   2  3  3  1  6    15 |   4  6  7    17 |     32
crd |   2  3  4  0  5    14 |   7  5  4    16 |     31
det |   3  4  6  1  6    20 |   3  4  4    11 |     31
chi |   4  5  4  0  4    17 |   8  3  3    14 |     31
rai |   2  2  2  1  6    13 |   6  2  9    17 |     31
nyj |   2  3  4  3  5    17 |   6  6  2    14 |     31
buf |   2  6  4  1  5    18 |   3  2  8    13 |     31
pit |   2  3  5  3  6    19 |   5  1  5    11 |     30
sfo |   2  4  3  2  2    13 |   7  5  5    17 |     30
sea |   2  3  2  1  7    15 |   7  2  6    15 |     30
atl |   2  4  4  1  4    15 |   5  3  6    14 |     29
kan |   2  5  2  2  6    17 |   6  3  2    11 |     28
nyg |   2  6  3  2  5    18 |   4  2  4    10 |     28
min |   1  5  2  0  4    12 |  12  2  2    16 |     28
phi |   1  2  3  1  7    14 |   9  1  3    13 |     27
nor |   0  6  3  1  6    16 |   7  2  1    10 |     27
dal |   1  1  3  1  2     8 |  11  3  4    18 |     26
sdg |   2  4  2  1  2    11 |   4  3  7    14 |     25
tam |   3  3  2  0  6    14 |   6  4  1    11 |     25
mia |   1  5  3  0  5    14 |   5  1  5    11 |     25
oti |   3  4  2  0  5    14 |   4  3  3    10 |     24
cle |   1  4  3  2  2    12 |   2  6  4    12 |     24
den |   2  2  3  0  3    10 |   4  4  4    12 |     22
was |   3  0  4  0  3    10 |   2  1  5     8 |     18
jax |   1  2  3  1  1     8 |   3  1  2     6 |     14
car |   1  2  1  0  2     6 |   2  1  4     7 |     13
rav |   1  1  2  1  1     6 |   3  1  3     7 |     13
htx |   1  0  1  0  0     2 |   3  0  1     4 |      6

  QB           RB           WR           TE
==========+============+============+=========
clt   4   |  ram   9   |  det   6   |  nyj   3
cin   4   |  nor   6   |  pit   5   |  pit   3
chi   4   |  nyg   6   |  nyj   4   |  sfo   2
oti   3   |  buf   6   |  was   4   |  kan   2
det   3   |  nwe   6   |  crd   4   |  nyg   2
tam   3   |  clt   5   |  cin   4   |  cle   2
was   3   |  chi   5   |  chi   4   |  clt   2
sdg   2   |  mia   5   |  buf   4   |  nwe   2
nyg   2   |  min   5   |  clt   4   |  atl   1
atl   2   |  kan   5   |  atl   4   |  rai   1
crd   2   |  oti   4   |  nwe   3   |  buf   1
nwe   2   |  det   4   |  nor   3   |  phi   1
sea   2   |  cle   4   |  gnb   3   |  sdg   1
sfo   2   |  atl   4   |  dal   3   |  gnb   1
kan   2   |  sdg   4   |  ram   3   |  det   1
gnb   2   |  sfo   4   |  phi   3   |  nor   1
buf   2   |  crd   3   |  cle   3   |  dal   1
den   2   |  tam   3   |  sfo   3   |  jax   1
pit   2   |  nyj   3   |  jax   3   |  sea   1
rai   2   |  sea   3   |  nyg   3   |  rav   1
nyj   2   |  gnb   3   |  mia   3   |  oti   0
htx   1   |  cin   3   |  den   3   |  crd   0
cle   1   |  pit   3   |  sea   2   |  htx   0
dal   1   |  phi   2   |  min   2   |  ram   0
phi   1   |  jax   2   |  sdg   2   |  tam   0
car   1   |  rai   2   |  rai   2   |  chi   0
jax   1   |  car   2   |  tam   2   |  min   0
min   1   |  den   2   |  kan   2   |  mia   0
rav   1   |  rav   1   |  rav   2   |  car   0
mia   1   |  dal   1   |  oti   2   |  den   0
ram   0   |  htx   0   |  htx   1   |  was   0
nor   0   |  was   0   |  car   1   |  cin   0

  OL           DL           LB           DB
==========+============+============+=========
nwe   8   |  min  12   |  clt   7   |  rai   9
phi   7   |  dal  11   |  nyj   6   |  buf   8
sea   7   |  cin  10   |  cin   6   |  sdg   7
nor   6   |  phi   9   |  cle   6   |  gnb   7
tam   6   |  chi   8   |  gnb   6   |  atl   6
cin   6   |  crd   7   |  crd   5   |  sea   6
det   6   |  nwe   7   |  sfo   5   |  was   5
gnb   6   |  ram   7   |  tam   4   |  ram   5
ram   6   |  sea   7   |  det   4   |  pit   5
rai   6   |  nor   7   |  den   4   |  mia   5
kan   6   |  sfo   7   |  sdg   3   |  sfo   5
pit   6   |  kan   6   |  atl   3   |  nwe   5
oti   5   |  tam   6   |  kan   3   |  det   4
nyj   5   |  nyj   6   |  chi   3   |  cle   4
crd   5   |  rai   6   |  ram   3   |  crd   4
buf   5   |  clt   5   |  oti   3   |  dal   4
nyg   5   |  atl   5   |  dal   3   |  nyg   4
mia   5   |  mia   5   |  nyg   2   |  den   4
atl   4   |  pit   5   |  buf   2   |  car   4
chi   4   |  gnb   4   |  sea   2   |  chi   3
min   4   |  oti   4   |  nwe   2   |  rav   3
den   3   |  sdg   4   |  nor   2   |  oti   3
was   3   |  nyg   4   |  min   2   |  cin   3
sdg   2   |  den   4   |  rai   2   |  clt   3
cle   2   |  rav   3   |  jax   1   |  phi   3
car   2   |  jax   3   |  was   1   |  nyj   2
clt   2   |  htx   3   |  car   1   |  min   2
sfo   2   |  det   3   |  mia   1   |  kan   2
dal   2   |  buf   3   |  pit   1   |  jax   2
jax   1   |  cle   2   |  phi   1   |  htx   1
rav   1   |  car   2   |  rav   1   |  nor   1
htx   0   |  was   2   |  htx   0   |  tam   1

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