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Analysis: The Impact of First-Round Picks

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by drpatriot, Jun 3, 2006.

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  1. drpatriot

    drpatriot Rookie

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    During this dull period between the draft and training camp, I continue to see strong pressure to produce on first-round picks from both fans and the media. This caused me to begin to wonder about how the production of first-round picks actually affected the course of a team’s season. This train of thought spurred an analysis of the first rounds of the draft during recent years to see how well teams have done based on the production of their first-round picks during those years.

    After analyzing each team’s first-round picks during this period, I grouped each team’s drafts into five groups. These groups were labeled “Consistently Strong,” “Mediocre,” “Somewhat Inconsistent,” “Very Inconsistent/Poor Decision Making,” and “Consistently Weak.” Teams in each group would have first-round picks from 2000 to 2005 that, overall, played in the way described by the category.

    (The Patriots are conveniently highlighted in blue for ease of sight.)

    Consistently Strong:
    Teams in this group have had solid or better production from all or most of their players. Teams may have had difficulty drafting at a single position but have had excellent production from the rest of their players.

    Baltimore (54-42, .563, Super Bowl Championship): Though there have been a few errors by the Ravens front office (Travis Taylor, Kyle Boller), the first round picks for the Ravens have been incredibly strong, producing excellent players like Jamal Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Todd Heap.

    Dallas (45-51, .469): Roy Williams is an All-Pro with 3 Pro Bowl appearances and both Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears have a lot of potential. Newman was a decent draft pick who still plays in the NFL.

    Indianapolis (64-32, .667): Though the first round for Indianapolis has not produced Pro Bowler after Pro Bowl, every recent first round pick has been an important contributor on their team. Dwight Freeney has 3 Pro Bowls under his belt.

    Jacksonville (45-51, .469): With the exception of wide receivers which the Jaguars are somehow unable to draft, their drafts have been very strong. Stroud and Henderson are the best DT tandem in the league and Leftwich is a good starting QB.

    New England (63-33, .656, 3 Super Bowl Championships): Richard Seymour is the best defensive player in the league. Players like Ben Watson, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins and Ty Warren have been good contributers to three Super Bowl teams. Above all, the fact that no busts have been drafted puts the Patriots in the “strong” category.

    Pittsburgh (64-32, .667, Super Bowl Championship): The Steelers have had great success in the 1st round, selecting excellent players like Ben Roethlisberger, Casey Hampton and Troy Polamalu at good value spots. Plaxico Burress and Heath Miller have also contributed to the team’s success.

    Seattle (54-42, .562, NFC Championship): Though not all of their 1st-rounders have amounted to anything in Seattle, Steve Hutchinson and Shaun Alexander have both played excellently. Jerramy Stevens, Marcus Trufant and Marcus Tubbs are good contributors and starters.

    Tampa Bay (54-42, .562, Super Bowl Championship): Though there are only three 1st-round draft picks in their recent history, both Cadillac Williams and Michael Clayton appear to be future stars for the Buccaneers. Kenyatta Walker was okay.

    Mediocre:
    Teams in this category have had good production from most of their draft picks, with some players more or less outstanding than others.

    Carolina (44-52, .458, NFC Championship): Carolina’s drafts have had star Julius Peppers and bust Rashard Anderson. The rest are just roster members; some of them are starters, some of them aren’t.

    Houston (18-30, .375): Andre Johnson, Dunta Robinson and David Carr could all thrive in the right environment; Jason Babin will play a different position this year. No one really knows about Travis Johnson yet.

    Kansas City (51-45, .531): Larry Johnson was outstanding this year; Ryan Sims and Derrick Johnson are both starting, but only because the Chiefs’ defense is bad.

    Minnesota (48-48, .500): Though none of the first-rounders in recent history been “busts,” none of them have really become anything special either.
    New Orleans (45-51, .469): The Saints are really in the same boat as Minnesota, with a bunch of players that never really lived up to the hype but can still contribute.

    Philadelphia (65-31, .677, NFC Championship): The Eagles have had mostly OK players come out of the first round, with the exception of Lito Sheppard. Corey Simon and Freddie Mitchell no longer play for the team.

    Tennessee (52-44, .542): The Titans drafted Pro Bowler Keith Bulluck in 2000 with their first pick, but no 1st-rounder since then has stood out for the Titans.

    Somewhat Inconsistant:
    Teams in this group have had varied success in the first round, sometimes drafting Pro Bowlers but drafting busts often as well.

    Atlanta (44-52, .458): Though some may say that the Falcons are similar to the Jaguars in that they have drafted good players other than wideouts, the inconsistency of Michael Vick and T.J. Duckett has affected the team in a negative way.

    Buffalo (39-57, .406): Nate Clements, Lee Evans and Willis McGahee have played well at times, but the rest of their 1st-rounders have been terrible.

    Denver (61-35, .635): The Broncos have not done well recently in the 1st round, with Willie Middlebrooks, Ashley Lelie and George Foster being mediocre at best. D.J. Williams was a good pick but Deltha O’Neal was inconsistent while with the Broncos.

    Green Bay (57-39, .594): The Packers have made both good and bad decisions in the first round. Taking Nick Barnett was a good move, but selecting Ahmad Carroll over Chris Gamble and taking Jamal Reynolds over Marcus Stroud and Kyle Vandenbosch were crucial errors. The jury is still out on Aaron Rodgers.

    New York Giants (50-46, .521, NFC Championship): The Giants have been all over the place, with Eli Manning and Jeremy Shockey as good draft picks. However, Ron Dayne and William Joseph have not played well so far.

    San Diego (39-57, .406): LT, Castillo and Merriman have played very well, but Philip Rivers is an unknown and the Chargers cannot improve their secondary.

    Very Inconsistant/Poor Decision Making:
    Teams in this group have generally drafted more busts than star players or have otherwise made poor decisions on their draft choices.

    Chicago (45-51, .469): Brian Urlacher and Tommie Harris are both excellent, but David Terrell and Marc Colombo were both terrible. The jury is still out on the injury-prone Grossman and Benson.

    Cincinnati (39-57, .406): Carson Palmer is the best #1 pick of the new millennium, but many other 1st-rounders have not been very good.

    New York Jets (48-48, .500): You would think that five seasons after having four picks in the 1st round, at least half of these picks would still be starting for the team that drafted them. Instead, only Shaun Ellis remains while Noodle-Arm and Anthony Becht have failed and Abraham was traded away. Since then, only one draft pick (Vilma) has been able to produce with the Jets.

    St. Louis (57-39, .594, NFC Championship): Adam Archuleta and Steven Jackson are good players, but no one even knows who Jimmy Kennedy, Trung Canidate and Ryan Pickett are anymore.

    Washington (44-52, .458): The Redskins are the banner team for bad decisions in the draft. The only 1st-rounders drafted by the Redskins that have amounted to anything have either had problems with management (LaVar Arrington) or the law (Sean Taylor). Rod Gardner and Patrick Ramsey are no longer with the team. So for the sake of the Redskins, I hope Jason Campbell is really, really good.

    Consistently Weak:
    Teams in this category have had little production from most or all of their 1st-round draft picks during the six-year time period.

    Arizona (30-66, .313): Out of seven players drafted in the 1st round between 2001 and 2006, only Larry Fitzgerald has performed to expectations. Antrell Rolle could become good, but he was injured for almost all of last year.

    Cleveland (34-62, .354): Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, William Green and Jeff Faine have all been horrible with the Browns. Kellen Winslow has been injured for two seasons straight and Braylon Edwards looks to be out for a while longer. Good luck, Kamerion Wimbley.

    Detroit (30-66, .313): Why would any team ever draft three wide receivers in a row in the first round? And how could only one of these receivers be good enough to start? Joey Harrington was awful and Kevin Jones has not been able to produce for a team that cannot pass. McDougle and Backus have had two good careers so far, but it’s not really helping the Lions that much.

    Miami (54-42, .563): The Dolphins have had 3 first-round picks in the past six years, and only Ronnie Brown appears to have any potential.

    Oakland (46-50, .479, AFC Championship): Though there are many teams with bad drafting histories, Oakland is by far the worst team in the first round in recent history. Janikowski was selected in the first round and is worse than Neil Rackers, selected in the sixth round of the same draft. Derrick Gibson, Philip Buchanon, Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington have not given the secondary any considerable help, as they have been very inconsistent in their passing defense over the past 6 years. Finally, Tyler Brayton and Robert Gallery have not lived up to the hype. No wonder Oakland has not had a record of over 5-11 in the past 3 years.

    San Francisco (41-55, .427): Some might make a case for the 49ers having one of the worst first-round drafts ever, but the play of Julian Peterson convinces otherwise. Since Peterson, however, there has been bust after bust, most recently involving Alex Smith. (Keep in mind, however, that Aikman’s first offense also ranked last, and Aikman threw 18 interceptions his first year.)
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2006
  2. drpatriot

    drpatriot Rookie

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    Average Records By Grouping:

    After calculating the percentage of wins for each team in each group, I found the average records of each group. These averages will help explain if having good production from 1st-round picks will help a team win each year.

    Consistently Strong: .579 (9.2 wins/year)
    Mediocre: .507 (8.1 wins/year)
    Somewhat Inconsistent: .503 (8.05 wins/year)
    Very Inconsistent/Poor Decision Making: .485 (7.75 wins/year)
    Consistently Weak: .408 (6.5 wins/year)

    The two major outlier groups are the teams with consistently strong or weak first rounds. Teams with consistently strong first rounds win one more game per year on average than teams that have mediocre or inconsistent drafts. In the same way, teams that have consistently weak drafts lose one and half games per year on average than teams hat have mediocre or inconsistent draft. In other words, teams that consistently draft good players in the first round win significantly more than teams that consistently draft weak players in the first round. Teams that have mediocre or inconsistent first rounds appear almost equally likely to win or lose during the regular season.

    Interestingly, the teams with good draft picks in the first round have an average that is often high enough to make the playoffs, especially in the NFC. After looking further, the teams that had “consistently strong” first round picks made the playoffs a total of 25 times, or about three times per team, and every team made the playoffs at least once. On the other hand, the other teams made the playoffs 47 times but only about two times per team. Using basic math, it was calculated that teams that draft well in the first round were 1.6 times more likely to make the playoffs than teams that didn’t

    In addition, it appears that teams with consistently good first round drafts are the teams that are most likely to go to the Super Bowl. All six of the Super Bowl winners during the time period listed were in the “consistently strong” category. In addition, one of recent conference champions was also in that category. (Two conference champions had mediocre first rounds, one had somewhat inconsistent first rounds, one had very inconsistent first rounds and one had consistently weak first rounds.) This puts 7 out of 12 recent Super Bowl competitors in the “consistently strong” category. In addition, there are only eight teams out of the NFL’s 32 in this category, about one out of every four teams. If seven out of twelve teams in the Super Bowl recently drafted well in the first round, and only eight out thirty-two teams during those years drafted well in the first round, then math dictates that teams that drafted well in the first round were nearly 4.75 times more likely to be in the Super Bowl than teams that didn’t.

    Conclusion: Teams that go to the playoffs usually rely on their first-round picks. Teams that go to the Super Bowl rely on them even more.

    Finally, let’s look at our own team’s success. The Patriots have won half of the Super Bowls during the time of this study. Though we relied on production from more than just our first-round picks, we wouldn’t be nearly as successful as we were without the production in the trenches. Our defensive line, arguably the best defensive line in the league, is made solely from first-round picks. In addition, last year’s offense would have broken down if not for the blocking production of Logan Mankins and Daniel Graham, both of whom are first-round picks. Ben Watson, our other first-round pick during this period, was one of Brady’s favorite targets during the regular season, receiving 54 passes for 441 yards receiving and hauling in 54% of passes thrown to him, a higher percentage than both Jeremy Shockey and Desmond Clark and the same as Alge Crumpler. Their production has been extremely important for our recent success, and without these crucial first-round players, we would not have been able to go as far as we have.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2006
  3. dalero

    dalero PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Nice job! Thanks for taking the time and sharing.
  4. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Brayton is actually still around (started at OLB last year), and will probably give Bobby Hamilton a run for his money at DE this year.

    Excellent article overall, dr!

    Don't forget Deltha O'Neal was banished to the Bengals, where he started in the Pro Bowl last February.

    Middlebrooks just returned, but won't crack the top 3 group of Bailey, Darrent Williams, and Foxworth.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2006
  5. drpatriot

    drpatriot Rookie

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    Of course, corrections made. O'Neal was inconsistent with the Broncos, then performed excellently last year with the Bengals, tying for first in the league for interceptions with 10 if I recall correctly.
  6. pats1

    pats1 Moderator PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Remember when they tried to convert him to WR?
  7. Jacky Roberts

    Jacky Roberts Rookie

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    I think to be a perennial contender, you cannot have a single first rounder who turns into a bust. The Pats futility in the late 90s was due to Grier screwing up those drafts. For that reason, this current Patriots organization should be SB contenders for the next 3-5 years and beyond.
  8. drpatriot

    drpatriot Rookie

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    Though not having any busts certainly helps, the 49ers of the 80s and 90s were able to deal with Terrence Flagler, Keith Delong and Dexter Carter, none of whom lived up to expectations.

    Obviously, fewer bust means more success. I don't really think it's accurate to say you can't have ANY to remain successful.
  9. rookBoston

    rookBoston Rookie

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    Nice work, but I question some of your rankings.

    For example, you list Tennessee ahead of San Diego... WTF?

    The team that drafted Pacman Jones, Andre Woolfork and Albert Haynesworth ahead of the team that drafted Ladanian Tomlinson, Castillo and turned Eli Manning into Rivers PLUS Merriman. Personally, I think San Diego has one of the finest draft records over the last 6 years in the NFL.
  10. drpatriot

    drpatriot Rookie

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    At the time, when I placed San Diego under "inconsistent," I was thinking that they had good success with positions other than the secondary, where they had failed miserably (Quentin Jammer/Sammy Davis). Looking back, I put Jacksonville in the "consistently strong" section despite their failings at WR, so you're right. Damn.

    And though Jones, Woolfolk and Haynesworth haven't been spectacular, they aren't worthy of the "bust" label quite yet, therefore I put Tennessee in the "mediocre" section. Their draft picks are consistently okay. So there it is.
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