Month: May 2015

NBA Royalty: Changing of the Guard

Every decade, the NBA seems to have a proverbial changing of the guard. Unlike the daily ceremony at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, the revolving door of NBA royalty doesn’t obey a specific schedule. That being said, NBA dynasties historically have fit a recurring time frame such that the team or player’s first title comes towards the beginning and final title comes towards the end of each decade. Supporting this claim, the range of titles for the game’s most dominant players from the last three full decades include: Magic Johnson [1980-1988]; Larry Bird [1981-1986]; Michael Jordan [1991-1998]; Shaquille O’Neal [2000-2006]; and Kobe Bryant [2000-2010]. Assuming LeBron James wins at least one more title this decade, the trend should continue. The one notable exception is Tim Duncan who won his first title in 1999 and most recent title in 2014. Then again, as someone who is often overlooked as one of the game’s most dominant players, “King Duncan” seems to the get the short end of the stick just like his fictional namesake from Macbeth.

Deflategate: Wells Report

Last month, attorney Ted Wells issued a 243-page investigative report (a.k.a. “The Wells Report”) regarding Deflategate. After three months and millions of dollars, he concluded, “It is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of [Locker Room Attendant Jim] McNally and [Assistant Equipment Manager John] Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.” Depending on your feelings towards the Patriots, you will interpret that sentence either as an indictment of Brady’s involvement or as insufficient evidence for a guilty verdict. Regardless, the NFL suspended Brady for four games based on the report’s conclusion and a lack of cooperation in the investigation. Furthermore, the league confiscated two draft picks and fined the team $1 million based on a lack of cooperation and a history of cheating (i.e. Spygate). Lest you believe the punished would accept the verdict without question, the Patriots have created a website to refute the report while Brady has filed an appeal of his suspension through the NFL Players Association. By the time the scandal is resolved, we’ll all be wishing we were talking about Favre’s re-retirements instead.

Projected 2015 NFL Draft Busts

Throughout the opening night coverage of the 2015 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper continually stated that teams should avoid running backs such as Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon in the first round even though they were top prospects. Kiper is well known for making bold speculative predictions, but it seemed like this one could be analyzed. In response, I reviewed drafts from 1977-2007 to evaluate top ten draft picks by position. I’ve already written two posts (one focused on offense and the other on defense) discussing the upside and downside associated with those draft picks. In this post, I’ll use that analysis to evaluate the first ten overall picks in the 2015 Draft to try to identify the most likely future Top 10 Busts.

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.

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.

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