|Draft Metrics: Draft 101 - The Basics|
|By: Tony Villiotti|
|September 30, 2010|
In succeeding articles, Draft Metrics will address various subjects regarding the NFL Draft in great detail. In this article some basic questions about the
Draft will be covered, just to give a general sense of the importance of the draft and its results over the period from 1990 through 2009. First, a little background is in order regarding how the draft has changed over the 20-year study period. From 1990 to 1992, there were twelve draft rounds. This was reduced to eight rounds in 1993, and then down to the current level of seven rounds in 1994. Through expansion, the number of teams has also increased. There were 28 teams from 1990-1994. The Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars joined the NFL in 1995; the Cleveland Browns in 1999; and the Houston Texans in 2002.
The number of selections in a draft is also affected by the number of compensatory picks awarded due to free agent signings, the number of picks that have been forfeited for disciplinary reasons, the number of picks used in the supplemental draft, and extra selection awarded to expansion teams. The number of draft selections in the study period ranged from a low of 222 in 1994 to a high of 336 in 1992. Since 2004, however, the number of selections has ranged from 252 to 256.
The best way to address some basic information regarding the Draft is through a series of questions.
Just how important is the NFL Draft?
The obvious answer is that it is very important and has been for the entire study period. Of the games started in the NFL over the last twenty years, 88% have been started by players that entered the league through the NFL draft. With the reduction in the number of rounds over the study period, the percentage of games started by draft choices has slightly decreased, as would be expected:
• From 1990-1994 90% of games were started by drafted players |
• From 1995-1999 88% of games were started by drafted players
• From 2000-2004 86% of games were started by drafted players
• From 2005-2009 87% of games were started by drafted players
Does the importance of the draft vary by playing position? It actually does vary somewhat as the following information for the 20 year study period indicates:
• 91% of Wide Receiver game starts were by drafted players
• 89% of Defensive Line game starts were by drafted players
• 88% of Defense Back, Linebacker, Quarterback and Running Back game starts were by drafted players
• 86% of Tight End game starts were by drafted players
• 85% of Offensive Line game starts were by drafted players
How likely is it that a drafted player will play in the NFL?
This obviously depends greatly on when the player is selected (a subject that will be addressed by Draft Metrics in great detail in a future article). If 1990 through 1992 (when the Draft included 12 rounds and therefore had more players drafted) are excluded, 87% or nearly 9 out of 10 players drafted will play at least one season in the NFL. This means that about 220 players or so out every draft year will get at least one NFL pay check.
How many of the drafted players will make a significant career contribution in the NFL?
It all depends, of course, on how one defines a significant contribution. Any analysis has to ignore the most recent years as careers are still unfolding for the more recently drafted players. So, for purposes of answering this question the analysis includes only players drafted before 2004, or for the years from 1990-2003.
Between 1990 and 2003, 3707 players were drafted. You can choose your own definition of a significant contribution, but here are some possible measures:
• 62% of the players drafted played at least three years in the NFL
• 47% of the players drafted played at least five years in the NFL
• 30% of the players drafted were NFL starters for at least three years
• 21% of the players drafted were NFL starters for at least five years
When discussing NFL starters, the definition used is that a player must have started at least eight games in a season to be considered a starter.
How many drafted players pay immediate dividends?
Since the subject is immediate dividends, the entire 20-year study period can be used in answering this question. Using the starter definition described above (starter defined as a player who starts at least eight games), 14.5%, or one out of seven, of drafted players become starters in their rookie season. 72% of drafted players see action in their first season. (This differs from the 87% figure cited above because not every player makes it in the NFL in first shot whether due to injury or just not being ready to contribute. This means, of course, that 15% of players drafted do not play in their first season after being drafted, but ultimately do make the grade.)
What kind of a "haul" can a team expect from each year's draft?
What is a reasonable expectation for the amount of help that an NFL team can reasonably expect from a draft class? Teams, of course, have good and bad draft years but this analysis will look at it from an "average" perspective, or what should be a measuring stick for any draft year. For purposes of this analysis the draft years from 1993-2003 will be used. Considering 1990-1992 will skew the results due to the greater number of draft rounds and including 2004-2009 would include players whose careers are still evolving.
On average, an NFL team will have eight draft selections each year. The draft is seven rounds, of course, so the extra average selection is typically compensation for lost free agents. Of those eight players, here is what can be expected:
• 7 of the 8 players drafted will ultimately play in the NFL, with 6 of those playing in the year they were drafted
• Just more than 5 of the 8 players will play at least 3 years in the NFL
• 4 of the 8 players will play at least 5 years in the NFL
• 2.5 players will start for at least 3 years
• 1.8 players will start for at least 5 years
• 1.25 players will become starters in their rookie season
In future articles Draft Metrics will examine the Draft in much greater depth, including the comparative value of draft selections, how much difference there is between a "good" draft year and a "bad" draft year, etc. Email Draft Metrics at [email protected] if you have an issue (football-related, not how to break up with your girlfriend) you would like to be explored.
Note: This article was originally published on Tony Villiotti's website, DraftMetrics.com and is being reprinted here with the permission of the author.
Draft Metrics was established in 2010 but its roots were planted long before. Villiotti's obsession with the NFL Draft began in 1969.
Over the years, his interest shifted from predicting draft choices to trying to better understand the draft's importance by examining its eventual outcomes.