Yesterday I looked at where the average top 15 player comes from in the draft and I wanted to expand on that today a little bit. The first thing I looked at this time was just expanding the numbers out to the 2nd round of the draft. The numbers in the chart represent the percentage of top 15 valued contracts that were selected in that range.
|Position||% Drafted Top 10||% Drafted 11-32||% Drafted 33-48||% Drafted 49-64||% Drafted Round 1||% Drafted Round 2||% Drafted Round 3 to 8|
The interesting numbers here is that final column. Cornerback and left tackle basically leave you no opportunity to find a star outside of round 2. The odds are also against you for linebacker, interior d-line, quarterback and edge. The linebacker number surprised me as I usually consider that a position you can draft lower but I guess while you can find good players late the stars are mainly coming in round 2. As you move down the charts you can see how certain positions are still seeing over 50% of the stars come later in the draft.
When looking at some of the draft numbers in round 2 I started to wonder if teams at the end of round 1 don’t approach the draft from an optimal point of view. This was something we noticed in our Draft book where the long term hit rates at the top of round 2 were actually a bit better than the end of round 1 even if the end of round 1 did give slightly better overall results due to less flops.
My thought was that the teams at the end of round 1 are often playoff teams and they sometimes approach the draft different having more of a short term focus where they look for an immediate need compared to the bad teams at the top of round 2 just aiming for talent. So I wanted to break down the hit rates between picks 21 and 32 and compare that with 33 through 44. In addition I looked at the percentage of draft picks at each position between 21 and 32 between 2016 and 2020.
|Position||% of Picks Used, 21 to 32||Top 15 Contracts, 21 to 32||Top 15 Contracts, 33 to 44|
In looking at the numbers I would say it is pretty clear that receivers are over-drafted at the end of the first round. Teams are investing heavy in the position and the results have been pretty poor both at the end of round 1 and start of round 2. Whatever teams are identifying in these players there are more falling through the cracks than seem to be selected in these ranges. Whether teams might want to adjust their criteria for ranking or simply wait on the position it should be open for change.
Corner and Edge are both right in their approach. They hit rates at the end of round 1 are massive and for Edge in particular the round 2 players are not there so it is a “now or never” kind of position. Running back, right tackle, and center are probably also the correct allocations.
Linebacker has two takeaways for me. One is that like receiver maybe teams need to reconsider what they are looking for with more hits coming in the front end of round two. The other is that with valuable talent seeming available in those next 11 picks that is a position that might be under drafted if teams change their approach. While the impact of the position isn’t great I could see the logic in not picking a receiver, running back, etc… and instead “reaching” for a linebacker.
Safety clearly is a position like that as well. A ton of the top deals come between 21 and 44 yet only 7% of picks are spent on safety. This is another one where if you have a safety on your board and you are contemplating between a safety and receiver or how teams currently rank a linebacker opt for the safety if the goal is finding a star.
Finally 20% of our top tight ends come from the front end of round 2. Now there are tons of tight ends available late in the draft so while I would rarely advocate for a tight end this high maybe it should be more of a consideration over a wide receiver if you must take a shot at upgrading the passing game.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.