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The Value of Things: An AFC South Draft Deep Dive

How did Rick Smith and Brian Gaine compare with the other AFC South teams?

NFL Combine - Day 1

It is popular to kick Rick Smith and Brian Gaine in the backside for their drafts and how they ran the team in general. However, the Texans did win more AFC South titles in the 2010s than any other team in the division. Maybe their drafts had something to do with it. So, I decided to compare the Texans with the Jaguars, Titans, and Colts from 2007 to 2019 to see how Smith and Gaine compared with the counterparts.

Peering into draft histories has been incredibly interesting. It has doused some pre-conceived notions that turned out to be wrong, but it also has demonstrated where the value lies in the draft in general. Suffice it to say, it may not be where you think it might be. At least seeing it play out gives us some idea why certain picks are more coveted than others.

We will be tracking five numbers for each team in each round. We will look at the number of players drafted, average draft placement, average team weighted average value, number of plays with a WAV between 25-49 (called hits), and number of players with a WAV of 50 or higher (called home runs).

First Round

Texans: 12 players, 17.33 AVG Pick, 49.67 WAV, 2 hits, 6 home runs

Colts: 10 players, 20.50 AVG Pick, 36.50 WAV, 2 hits, 4 home runs

Titans: 14 players, 15.14 AVG Pick, 35.86 WAV, 8 hits, 2 home runs

Jaguars: 13 players, 8.85 AVG Pick, 29.69 WAV, 4 hits, 2 home runs

It seems peculiar to say that the Texans have dominated the first round of the draft because none of their six home runs are currently on the roster. In fact, it could credibly be argued that they squandered each of those players and compensation coming back. J.D. Clowney, Deandre Hopkins, and Duane Brown were traded for peanuts while J.J. Watt was outright released. The compensation on Deshaun Watson will obviously bear fruit or not.

Second Round

Texans: 11 players: 50.46 AVG Pick, 25.45 WAV, 5 hits, 1 home run

Jaguars: 12 players: 43.00 AVG Pick, 24.50 WAV, 5 hits, 0 home runs

Titans: 13 players: 46.00 AVG Pick, 21.37 WAV, 7 hits, 0 home runs

Colts: 11 players: 49.75 AVG Pick, 16.00 WAV, 3 hits, 1 home run

Obviously, players picked more recently will see their WAVs change significantly. Jonathan Taylor is a home run waiting to happen and Darius Leonard might be as well. Those two alone will drive the Colts up the charts here. However, it is still interesting to see Houston do more with worse draft positioning. It does point to the long-term prospects of tanking and whether it means anything. As usual, the home run (Connor Barwin) is long gone.

Third Round

Jaguars: 14 Players, 76.07 AVG pick, 18.29 WAV, 4 hits, 0 home runs

Titans: 14 players: 81.07 AVG pick, 17.29 WAV, 2 hits, 1 home run

Colts: 15 players, 86.67 AVG pick, 16.33 WAV, 2 hits, 1 home run

Texans: 18 players, 80.61 AVG pick, 10.47 WAV, 2 hits, 1 home run

I think when people think of the Texans sucking in the middle rounds, this is exactly what they are thinking. There is no sugar coating this. Much of this came consecutively when the likes of Louis Nix, Sam Montgomery, and Brennan Williams failed to even suit up for the team. However, everyone should pay attention to what happens between the third and fourth round. It is really interesting.

Fourth Round

Texans: 16 players, 120.06 AVG pick, 13.50 WAV, 1 hit, 2 home runs

Titans: 17 players, 117.29 AVG Pick, 12.94 WAV, 3 hits, 0 home runs

Colts: 16 players, 125.81 AVG Pick, 11.31 WAV, 0 hits, 0 home runs

Jaguars: 11 players, 110.64 AVG Pick, 9.27 WAV, 0 hits, 0 home runs

The Texans actually did better in the fourth round than they did in the third round. I suspect that has something to do with the way the draft is set up. Teams get to reset between day two and day three, so those picks become more impactful. It could be why Nick Caserio took additional fourths from the Browns in the Watson deal instead more third rounders. It provides more opportunities to get better players that fall or use those picks for more future draft capital.

Fifth Round

Titans: 13 players, 151.00 AVG Pick, 10.08 WAV, 1 hits, 0 home runs

Jaguars: 16 players, 148.31 AVG pick, 10.00 WAV, 3 hits, 0 home runs

Texans: 13 players, 151.00 AVG pick, 7.00 WAV, 1 hits, 0 home runs

Colts: 14 players, 158.42 AVG pick, 4.86 WAV, 0 hits, 0 home runs

Fungible is a term that gets thrown around this time of year. It can be seen when you get to this point in the draft. The appreciable difference between the 10th pick and 15th pick is more than significant. The difference between the 150th pick and 155th pick is almost negligible. This is why teams that use their draft capital to move around on the draft board can maximize their value if they are smart. Sometimes that means acquiring more picks. Sometimes it means packing picks to move up. Nick Caserio is much more willing to do that than Rick Smith and Brian Gaine were and I suspect it is the only significant advantage he has over them as a general manager.

Sixth Round

Texans: 19 players, 194.00 AVG Pick, 6.79 WAV, 0 hits, 0 home runs

Jaguars: 11 players, 186.91 AVG Pick, 6.18 WAV, 0 hits, 0 home runs

Colts: 13 players, 199.23 AVG Pick, 5.31 WAV, 0 hits, 1 home run

Titans: 17 players, 195.12 AVG Pick, 4.47 WAV, 1 hit, 0 home runs

Someone said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Statistics don’t really lie because they don’t really speak. We speak for them and that is when the lies occur. The Texans won the sixth round. Congratulations. I’m not sure what that gets you because they produced no hits and no home runs. They also selected more players than anyone in the sixth round. Again, is this a good thing? I suppose that’s open to interpretation. People are fond of saying that Tom Brady was a sixth rounder. This is true, but at some point that example is going to ring hollow. 60 players between four teams and 13 seasons produced one home run. Those aren’t exactly good odds.

Seventh Round

Colts: 20 players, 236.75 AVG Pick, 7.75 WAV, 1 hit, 0 home runs

Texans: 12 players, 229.25 AVG pick, 6.00 WAV, 1 hit, 0 home runs

Jaguars: 18 players, 239.48 AVG pick, 4.11 WAV, 1 hit, 0 home runs

Titans: 16 players, 233.88 AVG pick, 3.63 WAV, 1 hit, 0 home runs

Like with the sixth round, there are winners and losers, but the significance is questionable. In a piece down the road we will likely compare undrafted free agents and 7th rounders. If I were to guess, I’d guess that UDFA actually score better, but that’s a hypothesis for now. I think it is easy to say that Smith and Gaine performed better than most people thought they would. However, we will see how it all adds up in a minute.

Final Results

There is no easy way to do this. I could add up every player selected and their WAV, but quite frankly I have other things to do. So, we will add up the average WAVs by round for each team, the number of hits, and the number of home runs.

Houston Texans: 118.88 WAV, 12 hits, 10 home runs

Tennessee Titans: 105.54 WAV, 23 hits, 3 home runs

Jacksonville Jaguars: 102.04 WAV, 17 hits, 2 home runs

Indianapolis Colts: 98.06 WAV, 8 hits, 7 home runs

As much as we might want to say the Texans were the best and the Colts were the worst, I’m not sure the answer is quite that simple. This result is one of the main reason why I included the average pick placement. They usually picked later and that had a dramatic impact in the first and second round. Secondly, they have drafted well the past few seasons and those players haven’t had as many opportunities to accumulate high WAV scores. So, if we revisited the same exact list next season we might see a dramatically different answer. In the end, I’m not sure what it all means definitively, but we can chew on it as we watch Nick Caserio try his hand at dominating the draft.