Mocking the NFL draft evaluation process

The college football season is coming to a close.  Soon focus shifts to the players of this class and their trek towards professional football stardom.  This fall NFL scouts have scoured college campuses across the country searching for the best talent to supplement their roster.  After the bowl games conclude, NFL personnel evaluators and coaches will flock to all-star games, pro-days, the NFL Combine, personal workouts and conduct club visits in hopes of securing perhaps a dozen future players.

The NFL draft evaluation is a season in itself and the diehard/hardcore fans follow it with a fervor unparalleled in professional sports.  The draft created a cottage industry of expert pundits, magazines, websites, radio and TV personalities claiming to be the most accurate forecasters of incoming talent.  I was surfing the internet recently for unrelated research and ran across numerous sites claiming;

  • “The most accurate predictions from season to season.”
  • “Nobody beats my ability to predict the draft.”
  • “Rated #1 for NFL Mock Drafts five years in a row.”
  • “Generally thought of as the most accurate forecaster of the NFL draft, bar none!”

“Stacking the board” or predicting the draft (top to bottom) is a sport within the sport.  With the popularity of college football, I understand the excitement and interest that both college and NFL fans have with the annual process.  But I caution you in your exuberance or frustration when your team makes a pick.  There are very few of the frontline “gurus” who’ve ever sat in an actual NFL draft evaluation meeting.  Their expertise and credibility is propped up by the letters in the TV network that employs them.

The intent is not to criticize the people and organizations that make a living off the NFL draft evaluation.  On the contrary, this magnified interest creates what keeps our game going 24/7, 365.  Keep in mind that the process they show, the ability to predict the next pick, is not the process clubs execute when exercising that opportunity.

Mock drafts and predictions are based upon generic needs and evaluations of the college talent available.  They don’t have the normal bias that comes with dealing with position coaches, area and senior level scouts.  They aren’t privy to internal evaluations on the existing roster, nor do they know the financial situations facing some clubs with their selections.  To have the complete picture of what a particular team is thinking is next to impossible unless you’re sitting in the draft room.  It is rare, make that extremely rare, for major decision makers to let the media know what direction they might take.

TFE has addressed the evaluative angles that clubs could and should take when putting together their draft board.  The idea is not to predict who the next pick is, and even if that’s the case you’d only do so to predict who’s left for you.  No, the idea of an NFL draft evaluation is to find the right “fit” for your team.  A mixture of skills and potential to blend into what you’re trying to assemble to achieve your club’s goals.  For most clubs you’d hope that’s a Super Bowl championship.

Yet before, during, and after the draft process there will be extensive analysis made by the same expert pundits, magazines, websites, radio and TV personalities spoke of earlier.  They’ll compare and contrast a club’s picks with their own mock draft and proceed to give grades as to how well a particular selection or group of selections might rate – usually against their own.

The best way to analyze a draft is to look backwards.  What?  Yes, look backwards.

Take a look at a study done by Chad Reuter of NFL Draft Scout.  Reuter defines “success and bust” in the draft as follows;

“What is a bust, anyway? One would expect a top ten selection to begin starting games in his second season after at least contributing in some way as a rookie. By year three, he should be entrenched as the regular starter. To quantify that career path, a top ten player should be expected to make 56 starts in his first five seasons. That gives them a one and a half season cushion due to injuries or a veteran roster presence keeping them off the field.

The following table shows the percentage of 1994-2003 picks, by selected picks grouped by relative historical production, making at least 56 starts during their first five seasons:”

Picks
All Players
CB
DE
DT
LB
OG/C
OT
QB
RB
S
TE
WR
1-10
70%
70%
71.4%
75%
75.%
100%
91.7%
57.1%
45.5%
100%
100%
66.7%
11-20
50%
44.4%
36.8%
58.3%
63.6%
80%
72.7%
25%
30%
100%
100%
30.8%
21-50
35.3%
37.2%
30%
26.7%
48.4%
55.6%
40%
37.5%
6.7%
37%
44.4%
29.3%
51-80
21.3%
17.9%
13.3%
11.1%
30.2%
28.6%
31.3%
0%
6.5%
47.8%
9.5%
23.5%
81-120
8%
8.3%
5.9%
0%
15%
19.4%
10%
0%
0%
10%
9.5%
7.3%
121-160
3.8%
0%
6.1%
0%
11.1%
10.4%
0%
0%
2.8%
2.2%
0%
0%
161-200
2.5%
0%
2.6%
0%
3.4%
7.9%
7.7%
4.5%
2.6%
0%
0%
0%
201+
1.5%
0%
2%
0%
0%
8.2%
4.8%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

Sure, you can predict where they may be selected, but the real key is how will they produce for the club that drafted them.  Ask your favorite TV, radio or internet guru to open his NFL draft evaluation books from five years ago and let’s take a look.  It’s astonishing to see there’s only a little better chance than one in three that a pick after #20 will start 56 games in 5 years.

How many times have you heard clubs criticized for a second or third round selection not panning out?  The heat frequently comes from the very people whose own “mock draft” had the player in question rated in the same round or higher.

Didn’t think so.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta