Expected Drafted Player Snaps Over Rookie Years

The other day on Twitter I posted something looking at average snaps per year played by draft picks and UDFAs and I had a few requests for a larger time period so I went back and looked at every draft since 2011 to look at the snaps played by draft picks. Just to get a bit of the calculations out of the way the snaps are just for snaps played for the team that drafted the player (i.e. in 2021 any snaps played by Sam Darnold for Carolina would count as a 0 for the pick). Secondly I calculated the average snaps for each slot by year so I could easily adjust the numbers for players in the middle of their rookie contracts. I then summed up the average for each contract year to come up with the expected 4 year total. Here is what the data looks like.

The results here are pretty much what you would expect with a pretty predictable decline as we travel through the draft. While not all snaps are created equal it is somewhat notable that a good percentage of 2nd round picks track similar to many of the 1st round picks. This pretty much goes right in line with the findings Brad and I had in the Drafting Stage (and many others have had when doing draft research) that the gap traditionally assigned to draft picks makes little sense and that it is more based on the emotion involved that leads to the “we cant miss” attitude that leads to big trade ups. If you hold that false assumption that every trade up is going to land you Patrick Mahomes rather than Mitch Trubisky it makes sense to overpay but in probably about 75% of the cases you land Trubisky.

Using the numbers above I calculated the expected “return” for a draft slot. For the most part this was the average of the four draft slots before the pick and then three after the pick. There are other ways to do it but this was a quick and dirty method for something I wanted to do which was see what teams had gotten the most or least out of their draft picks since 2011. Here is a look at the average snaps above expected per year for each teams draft picks since 2011.

Basically the teams in the top right had a lot of picks and did really well with those picks while those in the top left hit a home run despite a limited quantity of picks. For those on the bottom the results have been poor in the draft. The avg. line isn’t at zero because of the method I used to calculate the projected snaps which wasn’t going to zero out.

Since 2011 the Falcons have been the top drafting team with pretty big contributions from players like DeVondre Campbell, Grady Jarrett, Ricardo Allen, etc… and not really busting out at the top though they did have misses in the second round. The Falcons players averaged about 50 snaps more per year than expected based on where they were selected. That produced around a total of 3,800 excess snaps per contract year for their draft picks.

The worst team was New England. This was in part driven by the use of a 2nd round pick on Jimmy Garoppolo who never had a chance to really play because of Tom Brady but they also had major whiffs with Ras-I Dowling, Dominique Easley, Cyrus Jones, Duke Dawson, etc… which wasn’t enough to overcome the picks of players like Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. The average of 50 snaps per year less than expected per player was worst in the NFL.

Here is how the teams stack up since 2017.

We have the Bills in the top spot over the last few years which is a big reason why the team has made such a turnaround. The Patriots have still struggled and have maintained their spot as the worst return on the draft. I think the performance of the Packers and Seahawks picks should be troubling for their future as clearly their strength was prior to 2017.

Here are the numbers for each team in a table format.

TeamDraft PicksExcess Snaps/YearSnaps/PlayerDraft Picks 17-20Excess Snaps/Year, 17-20Snaps/Player
Football Team89225925.436178449.6

Seahawks to Cut Jarran Reed

One year ago the Seahawks signed defensive tackle to a two year, $23 million contract and now a year later the Seahawks look to be moving on.

The fact that Seattle signed Reed last season was actually a bit of a surprise. They failed to come to terms on an extension the prior year and more often than not the players do not come back to the team. The contract itself wound up a disaster for Seattle due to the structure of the deal.

Seattle clearly treated this contract as a two year contract not a one year and lets see kind of deal. Of the $23 million they committed, $14.5 million was paid out in the first year of the contract, a number that was close to what you would pay a franchise player. Seattle was supposed to get the second year at a low cost- $8.5 million- to justify the up front investment.

Seattle, however, flipped the cap charges in the opposite direction. They paid Reed $9.35 million on the cap last year and would watch his cap number after escalators jump up to nearly $14 million. With their salary cap a bit of a struggle right now it was going to be hard to keep him at this number to finalize their offseason signings and to sign their draft picks this year, unless they want to open up more cap room through older player restructures, which may have to happen anyway. Reed will still count for $5 million on the Seahawks cap this year.

This is a situation that Seattle likely should have been in front of last week before free agency began. Once they realized that they were trading for Gabe Jackson that should have been enough to realize that they needed more space this year than initially planned. They wound up using void years in pretty much all their free agent signings which they may have had to do with or without a Reed release but at least that would have given them more options when picking and choosing the structures of the contracts.

The Seahawks did go to Reed to lower his cap number according to Ian Rapoport which led to a breakdown between the two sides. because Reed only had one year left on his deal any reduction in cap room would have required the sides to negotiate a new contract that included void years. This was something that probably had a better chance of happening prior to free agency than after the initial wave of free agency. When a player watches you sign/trade for players and know that you may need room to sign others to extensions it may not sit well with someone who has zero long term commitment from the team. Seattle has plenty of cap room in 2022 which is likely another reason why he would have looked for an extension versus a conversion.

In the past players usually got something out of contract restructures for “the good of the team” which is why teams use the auto conversion clauses in their contracts. Like I said that type of clause would not apply here since it is his final year but it illustrates why these things happen. If they did threaten him with a release if he didnt accept the offer that is going to be looked at as a dirty move to pull that after a week of free agency is over and teams have made their signings.

Seattle will look to trade him in the next day or two. I am not entirely sure where they are with all their signings but they may need him to be off the roster to process a few moves. We estimated them to be about $6 million over the cap but that includes some signings not yet made official and also a Poona Ford extension that should lower the cap charge we have listed. I think (and I may be off on this) they have yet to make official Chris Carson, Benson Mayowa, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jordan Simmons, and Alex Collins.

The NFL Management Council Makes Corrections To The 2021 Compensatory Picks

Per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal:

These corrections by the NFL Management Council mean that what I thought was my biggest miss in projecting the 2021 compensatory picks ended up being a correct projection on my part. I had thought the value of Damiere Byrd’s contract would not qualify against the Patriots, and that it would thus not cost them an additional comp pick on top of the 3rd and 4th rounders they had been awarded without any controversy for the departures of Tom Brady and Kyle Van Noy (the latter of who’s already back on the Patriots). The initial release of the comp picks by the NFL Management Council said otherwise, but now they have backtracked.

There are two possible reasons for this. One could have been that the qualification cutoff just needed to be nudged a little bit higher to disqualify Byrd’s contract, even at $1.9 million APY. However, I believe that is not the case, as it would cause misalignment in the valuation of other comp picks. Specifically, it is because the Patriots are only getting a 5th rounder for Jamie Collins’s departure, and not a 4th as I had projected. That valuation indicates that one thing that I still got wrong was that I had the wrong number of leaguewide players considered in the formula, regularly the most difficult aspect of projecting compensatory picks.

Instead, I am guessing that the NFL Management Council decided not to count the $300,000 in incentives that Byrd earned on the season. Further evidence of this comes from Michael Signora stating that the correction was “to the calculation of average yearly compensation”. Although Appendix V, Section 2(a) states that incentives “that are earned by the player in the first League Year of the contract” will count, my guess is that this was overridden by Paragraph 11, which allows for teams to designate signed unrestricted free agents as “Excluded UFAs” that automatically disqualify the player from qualifying as a compensatory free agent (CFA). Byrd’s base compensation was for $1.6 million, which fell below the threshold of $1.75 to qualify for Excluded UFA status. However, study into future similar contracts, where the base is below the threshold but adding earned incentives pushes it above, will be needed to verify whether this is the case.

Further evidence that there were miscalculations on the NFL Management Council’s part with regard to APY was an error in where one of the Falcons’ picks were placed. This one is easier to explain. I am guessing that they erroneously counted a $500,000 incentive in De’Vondre Campbell’s contract that would have been awarded had the Cardinals made the playoffs. I had added it in as a way to get Campbell to be placed in the right order, but since the Cardinals did not make the playoffs, clearly that was not earned by Campbell.

The lucky beneficiary of these errors were the Bears. Had the Patriots been properly awarded with a comp pick for Collins’s departure, Chicago’s second 6th rounder would have missed the 32 pick limit. However, the NFLPA was willing to relent on the 32 pick limit, and retain the awarding of that Bears pick.

Changes to my evaluation of the 2021 compensatory picks projection will be made to account for these corrections.

Small Detail on Rams and Lions QB Swap

Yesterday was the first day of the league year in the NFL and we expected a flurry of trades and cuts to happen that day. Pretty much all went as planned with the Eagles designating their two June 1 cuts, all the trades like Trent Brown to the Patriots being made official, etc…except one thing. The Rams and Lions did not make their trade of Jared Goff and Matt Stafford official (while they did make their Michael Brockers trade official).

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal except in this case both players have roster bonuses in their contracts. Stafford’s is due the 5th day of the league year so there is still time before that one, but Goff has a $2.5 million roster bonus due today, the 2nd day of the league year. Since the trade was not executed before today that should remain with the Rams, increasing Goffs dead money with the Rams by $2.5 million and reducing the Lions responsibility for Goff by $2.5 million.

Now it is entirely possible that Goff has agreed to delay the roster bonus but given that the two sides had over a month to work on this one I would guess that this was probably a condition of the trade. Anyway we are adjusting the cap numbers as if it stays with the Rams and if we find out otherwise will swap it back. Stafford we are keeping as is unless this is not finalized for a few more days.

Raiders Trade Rodney Hudson to the Cardinals

After much talk of Rodney Hudson being granted his release from the Raiders it turns out the Raiders got some calls on their star center and were able to pick up a 3rd round pick from the Cardinals for Hudson. The Raiders will take on $12.114 million in dead money with the trade but save some face by not having to release Hudson outright and actually get a pretty good pick in return.

Some people are surprised that Arizona would give up this much for Hudson given his contract status. The fact is if you really want a player there are no guarantees that you can land that player in free agency. It also requires you to negotiate a new contract and with Corey Linsley just signing for over $12 million a season it might not be cheap. By trading away the 3rd round pick the Cardinals get Hudson on the books for just $9.9 million this year and $10.85 million next year. That saves them probably a few million over free agency. Now if Arizona gets talked into redoing the deal and paying him more money then this is too high a price to pay but for access to a reasonable contract I think it is fair value.

Arizona is in a weird spot with their roster which has continued to skew older and older. They remind me a little of the Colts when Andrew Luck was a rookie and they surrounded their younger QB with guys on the wrong side of their careers. That is not to say Hudson is washed up, because he clearly is not, but just to point out the type of team they seem to be working on these last few years in hopes of competing before Murray takes on a huge amount of the teams salary cap. They are basically all in on this roster this year but have failed to really address any long term issues. They need a great draft this year to change that before the team falls apart when Murray gets the big contract in a year or two.

Taysom Hill Restructures His Contract

With The Saints still having to clear a bunch of money for cap purposes on March 17th the Saints went to a bit of an unlikely source for salary cap relief- Taysom Hill

The part of Schefter’s tweet that has everyone up in arms isn’t so much the salary cap savings part but the news of a $140 million extension worth $35 million a year that is voidable. Void years are common but rarely is the word “extension” tacked onto it. While I don’t have the exact details of what they did I’ll just give you my thoughts on what they are trying to accomplish here and how they will wind up doing it.

Hill was set to count on the Saints salary cap this season at a pretty high number of $16.159 million. Since this was the final year of his contract the only way to bring that cap number down is through the use of void years in the contract. Adam mentioned moving his salary cap number down by about $7.5 million so here might be an example of what they did to get around that number in savings.

YearBase SalaryCurrent ProrationRestructure BonusRoster BonusCap ChargeDead

This would be a typical restructure for cap purposes to save around $7.5 million from his current charge. The important thing to consider here though is that the contract will void leaving the Saints with a charge of $7.536 million in 2022 on the cap. The Saints still have salary cap issues and that is a hard pill to swallow for a player who may or may not be on the roster next year. So what if they get creative and make this a big extension?  How might that look?

YearBase SalaryCurrent ProrationRestructure BonusRoster BonusCap ChargeDead

The difference here lies in what could effectively be a voiding mechanism. Let’s say as terms of this “extension” Hill is guaranteed his 2022 base salary and his 2023 roster bonus if he is on the roster on the 2nd day of the 2023 league year. Under this scenario the Saints would be able to wait until the start of the 2022 league year to use the post June 1 designation on Hill to effectively void the contract. This allows the team to carry him during free agency at a charge of around $4.4 million rather than the dead charge of $7.536 million. On June 2nd they would pick up an additional $2.5 million in cap room and thus only account for $1.884 million in dead money in 2022 and kick the can to 2023 where they would stash the other $5.652 million. If he is great they can just opt into the deal basically at Russell Wilson money.

This is something I suggested that the Saints and Eagles might do with their QBs in some manner last year and the Eagles did wind up doing it with Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson. I thought it was an incredibly creative way for them to manipulate the salary cap over a two year period and that’s why whenever I hear this I call it the Eagles June 1 trick. The Saints effectively did the same when they redid Drew Brees contract a few weeks ago in preparation for his retirement.

Anyway this is just my guess as to what they did. It is entirely possible that they are just throwing a bunch of dummy years in there with massive salaries and are getting a kick out of all of us going crazy it is being reported as Taysom Hill signing a $140 million extension, but these are the ways that it would make sense in light of the reports using the extension phrase.

Dolphins and Texans Swap Linebackers

Miami and Houston have agreed to a trade which will see the Dolphins send edge rusher Shaq Lawson to Houston and in return Houston will send linebacker Benardrick McKinney the Dolphins way.

Both contracts were structured with smaller signing bonuses so that the cap pain in a trade would not be terrible. Lawson will count for just $2.67 million while Van Noy will cost the team $4.13 million on the cap. Still in both cases the team spent millions of dollars for just one year of access to the players. Lawson will cost the Texans a guaranteed $8 million this season and $9 million next year, so well under the stated contract value. Lawson also has incentives tied to sacks.

McKinney is a former 2nd round pick of the Texans who signed a $10 million per year contract extension in 2018. He spent most of the year last year on injured reserve and was possibly going to be cut this offseason as the Texans start to remake the roster. McKinney has no more guarantees in his contract and will cost the Texans just $1.5 million on the cap following the trade. Miami will take on $7.75 million in salary this year, $9.5 million in 2022, and $10.25 million in 2023.

For Houston this is a good trade. The salary is essentially a wash (they will lose a small amount of cap room this year) but are getting a player who may play a more impactful role on the defense. Lawson is also younger. For Miami I think it is a little more questionable. Salary cap wise its similar to Houston- the salaries are a wash and they lose a little cap space- but trading younger for a little bit older especially off injury is always risky. I’d guess part of the thought process may be that a potential Pro Bowl linebacker is better than a 2nd tier edge. It is also possible Miami could try to rework the contract to a lower salary.

One thing I will say is that Miami clearly is not chasing the sunk costs in these players which is, over the long term, a good thing. The next step for them is to probably take a bit more of a deliberate approach in the cash structure of the deals because under no circumstance would anyone have paid Lawson or Van Noy the amount of money that the Dolphins did for a one year return. One of the interesting takeaways from our Free Agent guide was the short term success of changing the defensive mix and maybe that is what they are going for here as well.

Miami is about $32 million under the salary cap at this point and could be in a position to be active in free agency again. The team has about the 20th ranked payroll in the NFL but with a big draft group does have more committed than most other teams to draft picks who would not be accounted for in that number. I think they could be an interesting team to watch this week to see if they are in or out of the mix early on.

OTC 2021 Free Agency Guide

  • Welcome to our very first OTC Football Free Agency Guide, a 240 page PDF that not only offers a preview of some of the top free agents in 2021 but an in-depth review of how teams have successfully (and not so successfully) utilized free agency in the past. The book hits on many of the topics that we discuss on OTC or social media outlets when we get into opinions on free agency as well as a unique retroactive look at free agency that is an area not really focused on in the past.

    The book is broken down into three sections and includes the following:

    Free Agent Outcomes From 2015 to 2019

    We look back at how much every team spent on free agents between 2015 and 2019 and how that spending translated into wins in the season of signing. We look at results of offensive and defensive spending based on the team’s prior seasons record to identify some of the biggest spenders in the NFL and what spending levels have brought some success. We further break down spending by position to compare the results based on spending levels and with the control groups who did not spend on a particular position in the offseason.

    Individual Positional Outcomes From 2014 to 2020

    We go back and look at every UFA who switched teams from 2014 to 2020 to identify contract expectations based on the size and length of a contract. Contracts are grouped in different ways to determine the expected years to be completed on a contract and ultimate contract outcome. We grouped every position into different salary tiers and compared the average various statistical performances in the two years leading up to free agency with how those groups performed in the year they switched teams and, where applicable, in future years.

    Free Agent Projections for 2021

    Finally, we have profiles of 77 unrestricted free agents that include thoughts on each player, their OTC valuation metric performance over the last two years, a list of five potential comparable players and how they compare statistically with the free agent and the key metrics of those contract to help frame the market of the player. Finally, we arrive at a projection that includes years, average annual value, and guarantee.

    If you are a premium subscriber you already have access to the OTC 2021 Football Free Agency Guide and you can download it from the link in the premium menu. If you are interested in becoming a premium subscriber you can read here about some of the features that it includes to get you more depth in evaluating contracts, seeing more data on team construction, or preparing for free agency.  If you do subscribe to premium you will be sent a second email with instructions for setting up the account. A few people have had these lost in spam filters and if that happens please let us know via the technical support form and we will get you the necessary link.


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