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The Value of Things: Measured Expectations

Is there a science to maneuvering around the draft?

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you’ve been a regular reader of this series you probably have figured out that I like numbers. I don’t know that it is so much the numbers themselves as what they represent. In the absence of them we can find ourselves going with our guts and our guts are rarely exactly on the mark. They are never too far off, but it is often similar to the inexperienced pilot that doesn’t trust his or her instruments. They make a little adjustment here and a little adjustment there. Suddenly, they are flying upside down.

I’ve been hitting draft history pretty hard and with the 2022 draft now in the books, this will be my last piece on draft history. The whole idea is to take a look at the draft class and determine what is actually reasonable as an industry standard. These numbers won’t predict exactly what will happen, but they will hopefully provide for a reasonable baseline of expectation so that we aren’t overly lauding or crushing Nick Caserio two or three years from now.

The methodology was simple. I simply went back to 2002 (the reason should be obvious) and went through 2016 and analyzed every pick. We put players into four separate boxes with only three of them counting. If a player made it to five or more Pro Bowls, they would be placed into one category. I thought about doing Hall of Famers, but decided on Pro Bowls because it’s more empirical. The second group are the guys that have been from anywhere from one Pro Bowl to four Pro Bowls. The last group are the guys that were starters for five or more seasons. So, the basic question is how likely it was for any particular player in any particular round to fit into any of those categories.

The Results

First Round: 56 players in five or more Pro Bowls, 149 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 92 players started five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Second Round: Nine players in five or more Pro Bowls, 81 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 97 players started five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Third Round: Nine players in five or more Pro Bowls, 47 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 82 players started in five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Fourth Round: Five players in five or more Pro Bowls, 36 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 50 players started in five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Fifth Round: Five players in five or more Pro Bowls, 30 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 39 players started in five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Sixth Round: Two players in five or more Pro Bowls, 22 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 24 players started in five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Seventh Round: Zero players in five or more Pro Bowls, 12 players in one to four Pro Bowls, 19 players started in five or more seasons but didn’t attend any Pro Bowls.

Obviously, we are somewhat at the mercy of what Pro-Football Reference considers a starter. Some guys are rotational players, so they may get a lot of snaps without technically being a member of the base offense or base defense when the game starts. Others may be important special teams performers. So, players that didn’t start five or more seasons weren’t busts necessarily. We just have to do the cutoffs.

The base draft is 32 players per round, but after the second round teams can get compensatory picks. So, I had to go back and simply add the number of selections season by season. 32 times 15 equals 480 which is the base of the first and second round. The Patriots were docked a first rounder one season, but to keep the math simple we can use 480 for those rounds. The next five rounds ranged between 516 in third round and 682 in the seventh round. Most hovered around 550 picks.

First Round: 11.7% 5+ Pro Bowls, 42.3% at least one Pro Bowl, 62.0% five year starter or better.

Second Round: 1.9% 5+ Pro Bowls, 18.8% at least one Pro Bowl, 39.0% five year starter or better.

Third Round: 1.7% 5+ Pro Bowls, 10.9% at least one Pro Bowl, 26.7% five year starter or better.

Fourth Round: 0.9% 5+ Pro Bowls, 7.4% at least one Pro Bowl, 16.5% five year starter or better.

Fifth Round: 0.9% 5+ Pro Bowls, 6.5% at least one Pro Bowl, 13.7% five year starter or better.

Sixth Round: 0.3% 5+ Pro Bowls, 4.3% at least one Pro Bowl, 8.7% five year starter or better.

Seventh Round: 0.0% 5+ Pro Bowls, 1.8% at least one Pro Bowl, 4.5% five year starter or better.

The simplest way to look at it is as a logical statement we used to get on the SAT. The last category includes players who just started, players that made one to four Pro Bowls, and players that made five or more Pro Bowls. The second category includes both those with one to four Pro Bowls and those with five or more. The last category is just five or more. It basically works like an if...then statement.

Analysis

To put this in the simplest of possible terms, the odds of you getting a Hall of Famer or potential Hall of Famer go way down after the first round. There were 30 players with five or more Pro Bowls selected after the first round. That is in roughly 3000 selections. That’s roughly in the neighborhood of one percent. That number almost doubles in the first round and that’s just in 479 picks.

You will see a ton of analysts look at this draft for the Texans and every other team. They will provide their grades and we will do the same here. I provided my own grades earlier this week. All of that has to be taken with a grain of salt and held up against this piece for illumination. Over a long enough timeline the survival rate drops to zero. Water find its level and the lower someone is selected the less likely they are to make an impact. These are the facts and they are undisputed.