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Value of a Top 10 NFL Draft Pick (Defense)

As detailed in my last post, I was intrigued by Mel Kiper’s pre-draft comment that running backs such as Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon should be avoided in the first round even though they were top prospects. In response, I reviewed previous drafts from 1977-2007 to evaluate top ten draft picks by position. In this post, I evaluate draft picks on the defensive side of the ball to determine which positions are the most worthwhile. As a quick summary:

Defensive Linemen: 5% are complete busts / 45% make at least one Pro Bowl / 20% are truly game changers;

Defensive Backs: 10% are complete busts / 60% make at least one Pro Bowl / 15% are truly game changers; and

Linebackers: 5% are complete busts / 50% make at least one Pro Bowl / 15% are truly game changers.

Based on these numbers, it appears that defensive linemen offer the best risk/return profile with the lowest percentage of busts and highest percentage of game changers. With respect to defensive backs vs. linebackers, the decision is less clear with DBs having more upside and more downside.

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Value of a Top 10 NFL Draft Pick (Offense)

The most interesting debate from the first night of the 2015 NFL Draft involved the exchange between Chris Berman and Mel Kiper regarding the sensibility of taking a running back in the first round. As Berman pushed for teams to select highly rated running backs Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon, Kiper argued that teams shouldn’t waste a first round pick on either player. Specifically, the long-time NFL draft expert claimed productive running backs could be found in later rounds. In response, I researched early first round picks to determine which positions provide the most value.

Quarterbacks: 25% were complete busts / 50% became Pro Bowl players / 20% won at least one Super Bowl;

Running Backs: 20% were complete busts / 55% became Pro Bowl players / 25% are Hall-of-Fame caliber;

Receivers: 10% were complete busts / 50% became Pro Bowl players / 30% could be considered game changers; and

Offensive Linemen: 5% were complete busts / 60% became Pro Bowl players /25% made at least five Pro Bowls.

So, which position offers the best risk/return profile? You’ll just have to read on.

Introduction Top 10 NFL Draft Busts

Ricky Williams: Bad Pick or Bad Trade?

As you might expect, higher draft picks have more productive careers than lower draft picks. Still, have you ever wondered by how much? Pro-football-reference.com has developed a proprietary statistic which can answer that exact question. Called Weighted Career Approximate Value (WCAV), it can be used to compare the overall production of different players. In this post, I use WCAV to evaluate the career of 1999 #5 overall pick Ricky Williams.