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April 28, 2007

The trick in drafting NFL players

nfldraft042707.jpgToday is the beginning of the annual two-day media feeding frenzy known as the National Football League Draft, which I'm beginning to think is becoming more popular than the NFL games themselves. Channeling research about the draft that was addressed in this earlier post, the WSJ's ($) Allen St. John notes that football fans should not be as concerned with what star players take in the first couple of rounds, but rather should focus on the hidden gems that their team takes in the later rounds:

So, in general, how well does the NFL draft do in finding future stars? A look at the All-Pro teams of the past five years reveals some surprises. Of the 80 position players who made the All-Pro teams since 2002, 35, or 44%, were not drafted in the first round. That means that practically every NFL team passed on them at least once. And 21 All-Pros weren't picked until the third round -- or later.

How many No. 1 draft picks were All-Pros over that period? One: Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts. Five players who went totally undrafted -- running back Priest Holmes, tight end Antonio Gates, fullback Mack Strong, center Jeff Saturday and offensive lineman Brian Waters -- earned that honor. [. . .]

Even more important than spending first-round picks wisely is being able to tab superstars in the later rounds. To measure that we'll use APDA, or All-Pro Draft Average, which averages the overall draft slot for a team's All-Pros. (Undrafted players are ranked as if they were taken after the last player drafted that year.)

Which team found the most diamonds in the rough? The San Diego Chargers -- with an 80.3 ranking. They selected four All-Pros after round two, including Mr. Gates, a three-time All-Pro. The Ravens were next at 70.9, thanks largely to drafting linebacker Adalius Thomas in the sixth round and signing undrafted running back Priest Holmes (who would achieve fame with the Kansas City Chiefs). The NFC leader: the Panthers (40.8), followed by the New York Giants (36.5). [. . .]

So if your favorite team doesn't have a top pick, don't sweat it. APDA reveals that in today's NFL, potential superstars are available in the second round -- or second day of the draft. The trick, as the league's most successful teams know, is to find them.

Although the Texans drafts are routinely trashed in the mainstream media, the Texans drafted All-Pros in WR Andre Johnson, KR Jerome Mathis, and LB DeMeco Ryans, a potentially All-Pro caliber CB in Dunta Robinson, and have had a reasonable degree of success in picking decent players in the later rounds. On the other hand, the Texans' non-draft acquisitions (think Tony Boselli and Philip Buchanan) have been unproductive, which has a lot more to do with the team's relative lack of success than the team's draft picks.

Finally, if you still think that the Texans' first round draft picks have been bad, take a look at this hilarious video of the announcements over the years pertaining to the New York Jets draft picks:

Posted by Tom at April 28, 2007 12:15 PM |

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