Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NFL Draft History (Part 2)

This chart shows the success teams have had with their picks by round since 1970:

I had a big old mess of a chart that broke all this down from 1970-2012 with about 20 columns and 40+ rows of data and I realized it would look terrible. This summarizes it much more cleanly.

To explain, there have been 1,249 first round draft picks since 1970. EVERY SINGLE ONE has played at least one game in the NFL, with 272 of them with careers between 1-49 games and 977 with careers of 50 games or more, close to a four-year career. Of course first round picks are expected to produce and have productive careers, but to have every single first round pick play at least one game is simply amazing.

As would be expected, the number of players who don't play increases with the lower rounds. There is a slight bias to the numbers in that players that were drafted from 2010 haven't had the opportunity to play 50 games yet, but the general trend is clear and not unexpected. I'm sure someone has done the analysis, but the primary reason why the draft was reduced to seven rounds was because players drafted lower rarely made rosters. In the 1970-1993 time frame when there were more rounds in the draft, approximately 15% of players drafted in those lower rounds made rosters and had decent careers. I would be very curious if a similar percentage of undrafted free agents are making rosters today.

These next two charts show the strike rates by position. Some quick points:
1. I did some cleaning up of how PFR listed the players. Since these charts only deal with players from 1970 on, it won't matter much, but terms such as middle guard, half back, wing back and the like were changed to reflect their modern names.
2. For some reason, the 2011 draft had a number of players listed as offensive linemen instead of guards or tackles. Since I couldn't make accurate calls, I left those players out. Likewise, there were a number of players listed as defensive linemen instead of defensive tackles or ends in the same draft, so they're left out as well. Upon further review, I see why that happened--none of them made pro rosters, but since we're talking about 25 players on offense and defense, it won't make material differences in the numbers.
3. In this case, I truncated the chart down to players drafted and those who had careers of at least 50 games. As mentioned above, this will skew the numbers slightly since the players drafted from 2010 on haven't been able to play enough games to make the threshold, but the trends are still clear.

Offensive positions first:

Sorry for the typo in the 6th line--it wasn't worth the effort to make new pictures. I beg your forgiveness. Defensive chart:

The best way to look at these charts isn't in the aggregate, because with the knowledge and data available, teams rarely (not never) make mistakes like Mike Mamula, Tony Mandarich or (heaven forbid) Ryan Leaf. What these charts do is allow one to review a team's picks and see how well they did by round. In the modern NFL, teams just can't afford to have second and third round picks not produce, and these numbers suggest that even sixth and seventh round players have significant careers around 25% of the time.

Just for fun, punters and kickers:
Chances are pretty good you'll recognize those first round punters and kickers--they were:
1. Ray Guy, Oakland, 1973
2. Steve Little, St. Louis Cardinals,1978, K--33 games
3. Russell Erxleben, New Orleans, 1979 P--59 games
4.  Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland, 2000

The moral of the story being that if you're either:
1. Al Davis, or
2. Bad
You'll draft a punter or kicker in the first round.  

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