What constitutes a good draft? - My Opinion...

Hey All - its been a long while since I did a fan post. I was going to respond on a post about the players that came in for a pre-draft workout, and what it means. But instead, I dug up some research I read a short bit ago and pulled together the following. Would enjoy your feedback:


What is the ultimate goal of the NFL draft? Do we ever really stop to think about this question. This question has an obvious answer, but one that I dont think we really focus on. Some people think its to get a franchise player or a superstar. Others might argue to add depth, or to fill gaps before the season. Others might argue to bring in youth to replace aging vets. Some think of the draft picks as "things to trade to get veteran players from other teams".

In my view, and oversimplifying it a bit here, the NFL draft is about adding as starter caliber players to your roster, plain and simple. It can be boiled down to "how many good starters can we find in 7 rounds".

For most teams, round 1 and round 2 picks should project to start or at least be a situational starter. You would hope that teams wouldnt take projects in the first 2 rounds (cough cough, Ducasse, cough cough, Hill).

Then, beyond that, rounds 3-7 you are looking for guys that can come in and compete and hopefully start sometime soon. There is no point drafting simply to add depth if the player is projected to never be good enough to start. There are some roles that are strictly situational like a FB or 3DRB, K, P, but setting those aside, IMO the key to the draft is finding guys that can start. THIS IS WHAT MARKS SUCCESS FROM FAILURE.

When you hear teams drafting BPA (Best Player Available) that is basically saying "even in the 7th round, we want the player we think is the most likely to make the roster and contribute on game day".

The biggest risk during the first two rounds is that you draft a bust. Why? Because most other teams are getting starters in the first 2 rounds and if you get a dud, you've wasted one of your "sure thing" picks (which is obviously not a guaranteed sure thing.) It used to be even more critical when rookie contracts used to cost 5-10% of your salary cap! Based on some math I'll present in a few minutes, an average team drafting one player in each of the first 2 rounds has less than an 8% chance that BOTH players will turn out to be career backups (basically busts). And if you are drafting busts, you're making it very difficult to compete with teams in your division or in the league that are good at finding talent in all rounds.

In 2010 the Jets took Kyle Wilson and Vlad Ducasse with their #1 and #2 picks. Wilson is a serviceable nickel, but I'd call that draft a double bust - that sets a team back because most other teams got at least 1, if not 2 starters out of the 2010 draft (our other 2 picks were McKnight and Connor, so a total mess if you ask me).

How/why do you get a bust during the "sure thing" rounds? Well, every team wants to hit the lotto in rounds 1 and 2 (or any round, incidentally) and not only get a starter, but a star or superstar (pro-bowler or franchise player). And we know that stars are few and far between.

The pursuit of a star encourages a team to gamble a bit with their "sure thing" 1-2 round picks because the upside of getting a Peyton Manning vs getting a Ryan Leaf can make or break a franchise (incidentally, the Ryan Leaf example is so absurd, I tried to find a more plausible scenario, but this works just fine). That is why some teams draft OL in the first round (relatively safe pick) and others chase QBs, WRs, and other skill positions (higher risk/reward). If you can limit your downside to "an average starter" (Kyle Wilson) but strive for a star, you probably have more upside reward than downside risk. But for many, the allure of a star can often waste a greater opportunity to lock down a different player/position for years to come (case in point, 2008 - Vernon Gholston)

Incidentally, 18 future pro bowlers were selected in the draft AFTER Gholston was selected by the Jets. Of the 20 future pro bowlers in the 2008 draft, none were a DE or DT. We took CB Dwight Lowery in the 4th round, but if we went CB in the 1st instead of DE Gholston to find a guy to play alongside Revis, we could have had any of the following pro bowlers: DRC, Aqib Talib, Mike Jenkins, or Brandon Flowers. Because we missed out on pro bowl CB in the 1st in 2008, we would try to find one in the first round of both 2010, and 2013, and I already gave my thoughts on 2010's Kyle Wilson.

Rounds 3-7 is another story. The odds of drafting successfully during these rounds is pretty awful. You use scouting, tape, your coaches, and whatever info you can get to help you figure out which of these guys is "damaged" the least (damaged in the sense that they are not immediately ready to start due to something that can be taught, corrected, healed, etc.). Then if you think your team and coaches can fix that problem, you draft them.

Part of evaluating what needs correcting is the pre-draft workouts. Also, you might find out that a player is much better than their tape (could have been battling injuries, or maturity issues, or whatever) and that they have starter or even star potential. So if you are to gamble day 3 is the right time to do so because missing out is of lower consequence. Your expectation of success should go down each round, so that by the 7th round maybe only 5% ever become a good starter in the NFL, but hey, we all want the Jets to grab one of those two successful 7th round draft picks year in and year out.

The Jets are brining in up to 30 players for pre-draft workouts, 14 so far are projected to be taken round 3 or lower by some team. We can expect that the Jets will draft many of those 14 players, as these are the ones that we've narrowed down to "this guy can be a starter if...." My guess is we may see as many as 7 or 8 of those players joining the team in a weeks time.

For these players, a lot depends on the team's schemes, coaches, etc. as some guys that are a fit one offense scheme more-so than another and would require less "fixing" if drafted by team X than team Y. You're more likely to get those players because there really isnt a shortage of somewhat "damaged" players that need a little bit of fixing. What makes one player a good fit for the Jets vs. other teams, again, is the scheme and the coaching ability, and cast of other players already on the team to some degree. Again, I am oversimplifying, but I hope you are still following.

I like this chart from this browns fan that I've read many times before (you have to assume that his data is reliable). This shows, by round, how many of those draft picks went onto being a superstar, a star, a top tier starter, a good starter, an average starter (Depth), a career backup (JAG), and someone that perhaps is more of a special teams player (>8 games played).

From the pic above, the "Good Starter" line is what we are striving for, but ultimately "Depth" are average starters are acceptable (remember back to my Kyle Wilson example). Only 50% of the guys chosen in round 1 become a good starter or better, but 75% are average starters or better ("Depth"). Not perfect, but pretty good odds you'll find a starter of some caliber in Round 1.

As you get to round 3, those numbers are more like 11% and 25% respectively - not so good. So you are 3 times more likely to draft a starter in round 1 than round 3, but hey, 25% of the teams get a starter in round 3, so the key is to be one of those lucky few. By round 7, those numbers fall to 5% and 10% respectively. I still want to be one of the 10% that gets even an average starter in round 7.

Extrapolating from the chart, if you had 7 picks, one in each round, and your GM was average, you could expect to find 2.32 average or better players with your 7 picks. Of the 2.32, 1.04 would be above average or better, so probably think of it as 1 average and 1 above average starter per draft.

Think back to 2009 when we drafted Sanchez, Greene and Slauson. All 3 wound up starting, so we beat the odds that year with 3 starters when viewing it 3 years later. But just barely. The average team drafting 7 rounds found 2.3 starters. And some argue Greene split his carries and really wasnt a featured back, so you might further discount his value in this equation. Looking at it today, Sanchez is a backup, Greene is now the featured back in tennessee (but for how long?), and Slauson is starting for the Bears, so maybe 1 or 2 starters...

So, again, to me the ultimate goal is to draft superstars and stars, but also to make sure that you are finding at least 3 or 4 starters per draft. If the Jets find 4 or 5 starters in 7 picks, they are going to be building better and cheaper and faster than other teams, especially if one or more of those are the elusive "Superstar" or "Star".

Given our 12 picks this year, if Idzik performed per the chart above, we might expect 3.21 average or better starters. So all those extra picks basically should result in finding just 1 more guy than any other GM can do with 7 picks. BUT if your scouting is good and you get the right player, you obviously can outperform the chart above and land as many as 12 starters, although highly unlikely.

So to judge this draft, you might look a few years from now of how many of those 12 players became a serviceable starter. 4+ would be a good draft, even though that means we had as many as 8 picks that resulted in nothing. But if this was baseball, you'd be thrilled with a .333 batting record.

In summary:

- Dont screw up your 1st and 2nd round picks (ala Gholston, Ducasse, Hill - all non starters). If you gamble, make sure the downside risk is at a minimum a reliable starter so you dont wind up with a career backup.

- Find at least 1 more starter in rounds 3-7 to move ahead of the average.

- Do not overvalue trading down and accumulating more picks if your GM performs "average" or worse. You are giving up higher odds of success for more picks in rounds that generally arent very fruitful.

- If you have great scouting and great GM, trading down and adding picks is a solid strategy because you get more chances to find that 1 decent player out of 32 player in the lower rounds that will someday be an above average starter for your team.

How did we do? We can grade the 2011 draft class, now 3 years old.

2011 draft class:

Our #1 pick is certainly an upper tier starter or a star IMO. Our #4 and #5 picks are all average or better starters. (Ellis is a bit of a head scratcher - getting supplanted by an UDFA). Our two 7th round picks are out of football just a few years later. So there you have it. 3 starters, one of which is a star, so not a bad draft. Given the rounds of our picks (1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7), we would have expected 1.65 (or so) starters from this class.

Round 1 - Muhammad Wilkerson (75% odds of being an average starter or better) = Upper Tier or Star (starting DE 2013)

Round 3 - Kenrick Ellis (25% odds of being an average starter or better) = JAG (backup DT 2013)

Round 4 - Bilal Powell (28% odds of being an average starter or better) = Average Starter (#1 RB 2013)

Round 5 - Jeremy Kerley (15% odds of being an average starter or better) = Average Starter (#2 WR 2013)

Round 7 - Greg McElroy (10% odds of being an average starter or better) = n/a

Round 7 - Scotty McKnight (10% odds of being an average starter or better) = n/a

Hope you enjoyed this. It is pretty simple and straightforward, but I hope it helps provide some benchmarks for a "successful draft" by comparison to historical draft success, and also helps set expectations that 12 draft picks in 2014 is worth 1 more starter than the 7 draft picks most other teams will be receiving if we perform to the historical average - not nearly as impactful UNLESS Idzik can find good talent on day 3 and avoid any mistakes day 1 and 2.

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