STILL 12 PICKS (AND 3 HOURS) AWAY.
AT LEAST HE’LL LIKE THE TEAM THAT TAKES HIM. PYSCH!
Synopsis: NFL teams naturally have higher expectations for their higher draft picks. In reverse, they understand that lower picks offer less value. Based on this reasoning, a player can be drafted too low to be considered a bust because the expectations of him aren’t high enough to warrant that distinction. For purposes of this site, I contend that a player taken outside of the first 10 overall picks cannot qualify as an all-time bust. Consequently, players like 2007 #22 pick Brady Quinn are exempt from consideration as Top 10 Busts.
When determining potential Top 10 Busts, I developed five criteria as a way to discriminate against less deserving candidates. To be clear, the players highlighted below qualify as busts. However, they just don’t make the grade as all-time busts.
- The player needs to be a top 10 overall draft pick (a.k.a. The Brady Quinn Exemption).
- The player needs to be a bona fide superstar coming out of college (a.k.a. The Troy Williamson Exemption).
- The player’s on-field performance needs to be historically bad (a.k.a. The Tony Mandarich Exemption).
- The player’s unproductive career cannot be the result of an injury (a.k.a. The Steve Emtman Exemption).
- The player needs to receive a fair chance to compete on the field (a.k.a. The Rich Campbell Exemption)
This post details the rationale for the first criterion.
Obviously, expectations grow as players go earlier in the draft. Teams minimally expect late round picks to make the team. On rare occasions, those players may even make a few Pro Bowls. In turn, teams expect top picks to start immediately and make numerous Pro Bowls throughout their careers. The best of the best may make multiple All-Pro teams.
VALUE BY DRAFT ROUND / GROUPING
|Draft Pick||Pro Bowl||Avg # of Pro Bowls||All-Pro||Avg # of All-Pro Teams||WAV||Career (Yrs)|
|1st Rd: 1-10||50%||5.25||30.0%||2.50||55||7|
|1st Rd: 11-20||35%||3.75||15.0%||2.50||40||6|
|1st Rd: 21+||25%||3.50||10.0%||2.00||35||5|
Note: The red numbers emphasize the biggest drop-off from one group to another. The orange numbers reflect a leveling off of performance between groups.
The following statements about the first row should clarify the information in the table.
- 1/2 will make at least one Pro Bowl.
- Out this group, the average player will make at least 5 Pro Bowls.
- Almost 1/3 will make at least one All-Pro Team.
- Out of this group, the average player will make 2-3 All-Pro teams.
- The average pick will have a WAV of 55.
To the extent you’re unfamiliar with WAV, the following digression should help. As an amuse-bouche, think of it as football’s version of WAR. If you crave more after you’re done reading, the following link should sate your appetite.
WEIGHTED AVERAGE VALUE (WAV)
In addition to Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections, Weighted Average Value (WAV) can be used to support the contention that teams should expect more from higher picks. Developed by pro-football-reference.com, WAV encapsulates the value of a player’s career in a single statistic.
The previous table showed that a typical first round pick has a WAV ranging from 35 to 55. In contrast, a typical 4-7th round pick has a WAV of 10. As a frame of reference, a WAV of 100 tends to be indicative of a Hall of Famer. Therefore, it’s fair to say that a player with a career WAV of 50 needed to be twice as productive to become a legitimate HOF candidate.
The following table breaks WAV down further to provide a different perspective. Specifically, it offers a qualitative description for different numerical ranges.
QUALITATIVE DESCRIPTION FOR WAV
|Description||WAV / SEASON|
|Excellent (Pro Bowl)||12-15|
|Outstanding (All Pro)||16-20|
Note: Technically, the statistic above reflects a player’s average value (AV) for any given season. This number gets converted into WAV after arranging the player’s annual AV totals from highest to lowest and multiplying by a predetermined weighting.
As further clarification, the following table provides an example of a WAV calculation for a Pro-Bowl caliber player taken with one of the first 10 overall picks.
WAV – HYPOTHETICAL CALCULATION FOR A TOP 10 PICK
|1||Excellent (Pro Bowl)||12.0||85%||10.2|
|1||Excellent (Pro Bowl)||11.0||80%||8.8|
Note: An All-Pro selection presupposes a Pro Bowl selection as well. Therefore, the table shows five Pro Bowl caliber seasons.
The typical top 10 overall pick has a WAV of 55 based on a 7-year career. In comparison, a top quartile pick from this group achieves a WAV of 80 over a 10-year career. Additionally, he has 5 Pro Bowl and 2-3 All-Pro seasons. The previous table shows how these distinctions can be reflected by one number.
NUMERICAL CUT-OFF FOR TOP 10 BUST
Before crunching any numbers, I anticipated that the drop-off in performance would be steep at the top of the draft before leveling off at the bottom. However, I had no idea how quickly it would fall at the top and how soon it would plateau.
Thanks to Pro-Football-Reference.com, I accessed the career statistics from thousands of draft picks. In order to make sense of more than 100,000 data points, I needed to group the players. Initially, I separated them by rounds. Before long, I realized that the numbers for first rounders fall-off too greatly to consider them as one statistical group. Of note, the difference between the first and last pick from the 1st round is greater than the difference between the first pick in the 2nd round and the last pick in the 7th round.
Despite my last comment, the value of a pick doesn’t truly level out until Day 3 of the draft. Of note, there’s a negligible difference between the career stats of a 4th round and 7th round pick. Obviously, a 4th round pick has more value. However, teams don’t seem to use one more productively than they do in later rounds. Given the stable and low expected value of late rounds picks, it’s hard to argue that anyone taken below the 3rd round should be considered a bust.
While the separation might seem arbitrary, there’s a noticeable difference between the 10th and 11th picks in the draft. I can’t explain it beyond saying that the numbers speak for themselves. As indicated in the table at the beginning of this post, the fall-off at this point of the draft is more significant than at any other point. For this reason, it seems to be an appropriate threshold to distinguish a garden-variety bust with an all-time bust.
JIMMY CLAUSEN – CONFIRMATION OF THE RULE
Despite any packaging of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. as a “draft expert,” he’s not better than your local “meteorologist” (a.k.a. weatherperson). We just have to look back to the 2010 draft when Kiper made the following declaration.
If Jimmy Clausen is not a successful quarterback in the NFL, I’m done. That’s it. I’m out.
As shown by the following image, Kiper thought Clausen should be a Top 5 pick in that draft.
2010 NFL MOCK DRAFT
As the following table shows, Kiper’s opinion of Clausen could be supported by the numbers.
JIMMY CLAUSEN’S COLLEGE STATS – NOTRE DAME
|Year||Comp||Att||Comp %||Yards||TD||INT||Efficiency Rating|
During the 2009 NCAA season, Clausen ranked in the top 10 for passing efficiency, yards and completion percentage. With a similar number of attempts, he threw for more yards and touchdowns, and decreased his interceptions by over 75%. He certainly performed well enough to attract interest from teams. However, his decision to leave school a year early seems to have been ill-advised.
As a rookie with the Carolina Panthers, Clausen had a 1-9 record with three touchdowns, nine interceptions. Furthermore, he had a Blutarsky-esque WAV of ZERO POINT ZERO.
JOHN “BLUTARSKY” BELUSHI – CERTAINLY NOT A BUST
If you don’t get the reference, absolutely click on the link to see what you’ve been missing.
Clausen threw a pass in a game this weekend for the first time since 2010. I guess Mel just got a stay of execution.
[Since I originally wrote this article over three years ago, Clausen started four more games and lost them all. He hasn’t been on an NFL roster for two years, so it’s fair to assume that Clausen’s done. He’s out. Mel, we’re still waiting.]
MEL KIPER JR. – CERTAINLY NOT . . . NOT A BUST
Despite his bouffant and grating voice, Kiper entertains. In addition, he has an impressive ability to regurgitate information about hundreds of college players.
Fortunately for Kiper, Dean Wormer doesn’t produce ESPN’s draft. If you’re confused, here’s one last chance to click the link.
Hey Todd (as if you’ll every read this post), your day should be near. You’ll be mocked no more. Of course, Mel needs to follow through on his promise to leave once his prediction about Clausen has been refuted.
[Sorry Todd. As of December 2017, Mel’s apparently lied. I can understand that you’re upset. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.]
BRADY QUINN – UNWORTHY ALL-TIME BUST
For those of you who waited to read about Brady Quinn, consider yourself duly rewarded. He had to wait over six hours on draft night. Be grateful because you had to wait considerable less. Of course, I’m assuming you made it this far.
Just like his fellow alum, Brady Quinn drew the affection of Dr. Kiper. Before the 2007 draft, Kiper thought Quinn had Top 5 talent. To be fair, the Doctor thought the Irishman would fall to the Miami Dolphins as the 9th overall pick.
Instead, Quinn fell much lower. Eventually, the Cleveland Browns selected him with the 22nd pick. Even Notre Dame haters had to feel bad for Quinn. Specifically, he suffered a drawn-out humiliation in the players’ lounge as The Commish announced 21 other names.
Arguably, the humiliation exceeded the pancake sack he suffered at the hands of A.J. Hawk during Notre Dame’s 34-20 loss to THE Ohio State University in THE 2006 Fiesta Bowl.
AJ HAWK – THE BROTHER-IN-LAW
In retrospect, Quinn’s fall in the draft could be justified. His pathetic 4-16 record as a starter arguably says it all. For those of you who blame his failure on the equally pathetic Browns’ organization, Quinn went 3-9 with Cleveland and 1-7 with Kansas City. As of now, Quinn seems to be running out of options in the NFL. If so, he’ll retire with totals of 3,000 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. Furthermore, he’ll have a WAV of two.
In comparison, well-recognized bust Ryan Leaf had a career 4-17 record. The 1998 #2 overall pick threw for 3,700 yards with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. He also had a career WAV of one. On the surface, the careers totals of these players seem comparable. Importantly, Leaf went 2nd overall while Quinn went 22nd. Given the difference in the expected value of a #2 and #22 pick, that distinction matters.
BLAME THE BROWNS
Coincidentally (but not ironically), the Cleveland Browns selected three quarterbacks with the 22nd overall pick in the last eight years. The Colts took three different QBs with the first overall pick within a 30-year period. For any Jeopardy fans, those players include John Elway in 1983, Peyton Manning in 1998, and Andrew Luck in 2012. I digress because I doubt that any other team has drafted three players at the same position with the same exact pick in a shorter time frame. Perhaps someone at the Elias Sports Bureau can prove me wrong.
Drafted in 2012, Brandon Weeden represents the second recent Browns QB taken with the #22 pick. With a 5-15 record as a starter, Weeden lost his job and got released in March 2014. Fortunately, he still has time to develop even though he’s gotten off to a rough start. Somehow, I don’t think that will matter.
Drafted as the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Johnny Manziel qualifies as the third member of this unique fraternity. At this point, it’s certainly too early to make a call on Manziel given that’s he’s still only a back-up.
Depending on the future careers of Quinn, Weeden, and Manziel, it’s possible that all three players find themselves included as a package deal of all-time busts. For me, however, they earned the Brady Quinn Exemption. Specifically, they all went too low to qualify as Top 10 Busts.
In case you’re wondering what Kiper thought about Weeden and Manziel, he liked both players. In particular, Kiper wrote:
I think Weeden projects as a start-early QB who can help a franchise for 7-8 years, easy. And who in this league has a nine-year plan?
Given that the Browns released Weeden after two unsuccessful seasons, he apparently couldn’t even fit into the team’s three-year plan.
In addition, the following image shows that Kiper initially projected Manziel as the #1 overall pick in the 2014 Draft.
2014 #1 OVERALL PICK: JOHNNY MANZIEL
Kiper had projected Manziel as the 11th best available player. Furthermore, he said:
When you talk to people in the (NFL), he’s pretty much the consensus No. 1 quarterback. There’s some that don’t have Manziel that high, but the ones I’ve talked to have him as the No. 1 quarterback. So I see him going 1 or 3.
Clearly, Kiper had some misinformation going into the draft. Go figure, NFL executives fed inaccurate information to Kiper hoping that he would spread it. And, he did.
Some readers might regard limiting the pool of potential Top 10 Busts to the first ten overall picks as being arbitrary. Then again, so is asking someone to join you to eat a bunch of caramels. Regardless, a review of WAV and Pro Bowl selections based on draft order makes the distinction justifiable.
Each player mentioned in this post can’t be a Top 10 Bust because they qualify for the Brady Quinn Exemption. Still, each one deserves recognition as an Honorable Mention. Given their promising futures and horrendous professional careers, Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen appear to be legitimate busts. Drafted outside of the top 10, they seem limited to the Honorable Mention list. However, if I ever compile a list of Top 10 Mel Kiper Busts, I’m sure they’ll be shoo-ins.