Re-Evaluating Draft Success

I read a great article by Kevin Seiert which quantified team ownership/front office success based on how many draft picks were still on a roster.  In a nutshell, it looked at how many original draft picks used by a team were still on that team currently.  You can see the results below.

However, this got me to thinking: shouldn’t we look at this based on total picks still on a team.  What if a team had fewer or more draft picks?  Shouldn’t we factor that in?

I didn’t think it was fair to just arbitrarily select a time frame to study the number of draft picks, so what I did was looked back at the average NFL career.  As it turns out, for each player selected in the NFL draft, his average career length is 5 years.  Some are longer, some are much shorter, but the average is 5 years.

So I went back and grabbed the most recent 5 year span, from 2009 thru 2013, and studied all of the draft picks selected in those 5 years.  Because that is the average career length, so we shouldn’t penalize a team who drafted a player in 2005 (for example) who is no longer on that team.  We only want to look at players MAXIMUM 5 years back and more recently, as that is the career average.

Analyzing all the draft picks in the last 5 years and comparing those numbers to the total number of original draft picks selected by the team who are still on the roster, we find some interesting results:

As you can see, many of the teams with the most picks are still at the top.  Some takeaways:

  • Atlanta’s 86% is simply MASSIVE and far ahead of the rest of the pack.
  • The Chargers, Jets and Saints, despite a smaller number of draft picks still on their roster, are ELEVATED in my analysis because they simply didn’t have many to begin with.
  • Meanwhile, the Bengals, Seahawks and Eagles are all significantly lowered because they each had 46+ picks to work with, which was more than most teams, yet their picks-retained percentage is average to below average.

Also keep in mind the far right column, where its shows the average draft pick each team had over the 5 year sample.  It makes the results for some teams even better and some teams even worse.  Why?

According to the NFL, the average NFL career length for 1st round draft picks is 9 years.  My numbers show its more like 7.8 years.  Whereas my numbers show the average length for a player drafted in the 7th round is just under 3 years.  So teams who have better draft picks should have an easier time keeping them in the league and (thus) on their team.  Whereas teams with bad draft picks should see a greater turnover.

But as the chart above shows:

  • The Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars had a VERY good average pick, but wound up at the bottom of this analysis, keeping 50% or less of their draft picks.
  • Whereas some of the best teams in the league, like Atlanta and Green Bay, had very bad average draft picks yet wound up at #1 and #3 in this analysis, finding a use for most of these lower draft picks.
  • Seattle keeping only 57% (19th in the league) doesn’t look as bad when you consider they had the 2nd worst avg draft pick in the league.

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