What can the Jets Expect in the NFL Draft?
With the draft approaching I wanted to take a look at the type of players that the Jets may be able to get in the 2012 NFL draft. This was actually a study I began as a way to revalue the trade charts in the NFL, but I don’t think I have the free time to cover that before the draft so instead I just wanted to use the data to look at the Jets. If any of the Patriots, Dolphins, or Bills readers would like to see one of these for their team just send me an email or leave a comment here and I will see what I can do.
Using the tremendous database from Pro Football Reference I compiled every draft selection from 1997 thru 2007. I wanted to grade the draft picks on 3 criteria. The first is games played. Games played is an indication of how long a player stays in the league and helps see if there is any value to the player. The second is seasons as a starter, which I believe PFR considers 8 or more games in a season. This value indicates the quality of player moreso than games played, which may just be playing a few special teams plays a game. The final rank is based on Pro Bowls. While Pro Bowls can be heavily influenced by popularity for the most part Pro Bowlers are typically excellent players, the type of player every team hopes to find in the draft.
The scoring is based on a percentage above or below the average draft pick performance for that year. Each year is scored individually since taking a player from the 2007 draft and basing it on an overall average would skew the results as they have far less games, pro bowl nods, etc… than a player still in the league since the late 1990’s. To illustrate the way this works let’s look at the 2006 draft where the average games played, average Pro Bowls played, and average starting years are 48.77, 0.165, and 1.68 respectively. The Jets Nick Mangold has played in 94 games, has 6 seasons as a starter, and 3 Pro Bowl nods which translates to 92.7%, 256%, and 1721% for a total score of 2070, the highest in the 2006 draft. To bring everyone up to at least a score of 0 we need to add 300% to the score, giving Mangold a final score of 2370.
Each of these numbers would be in respect to that years particular draft class so a strong player in a strong draft would grade a bit lower than a similarly strong player in a very weak draft. One weakness in looking at individual players is that punters and kickers are also scored far too high since they get the Pro Bowl nods and play forever, but clearly the real value of that position is far less than anyone else selected who is a full time starter but has more competition for the Pro Bowl. That said I think for what this is eventually looking to accomplish, those outliers wont really change the bottom line results. Just for kicks here are the current top 10 from every draft:
As you can see most of the top players come from the first round of the draft (58%) and 85% come from what would now be the first three rounds of the draft. 38% come from the top 15 overall so there is a pretty clear benefit to picking high in the draft. Strangely, though, the number 1 pick has rarely graded, under this criteria, anywhere near the top of the draft. Peyton Manning is the only number 1 that actually ranked number 1. He and Orlando Pace were the only two number 1 picks to even make the top 10, though Mike Vick is about to crack it as is Mario Williams. Eli Manning might make it as well one day. But number 1 doesn’t really mean anything. You’ll actually see more 2s and 3s in the top 10. That said the first pick in the draft gives you the most choices which is why it is more valuable than the 2 or 3. Maybe sometimes the scouts just need to look closer at who they are drafting rather than falling in love so early and picking the player.
Anyway, let’s move on to looking at the Jets picks in this year’s draft. To get an average score I want to look at a range of picks. For example the Jets first pick is at number 16 and I think it’s fair to assume that the likely player selected at that point would be anywhere from the number 14 rated player to the number 18 rated player, so the average score will be the average of picks 14-18. The range gets larger as we move down the draft from a 7 pick range for round 2 all the way down to a 21 pick range for round 7. These are all arbitrary numbers but I think it mimics the way most draft experts rank players.
The average score for the 16th pick is 692, which would indicate a player about 2.3 times as productive as the average draft pick. On average they start 115% more than the average player and play in 64% more games. Who are the highlight players in this range? Darrelle Revis scored a 2780 and that will continue to grow. Troy Polamalu is at 2636 and Jeremy Shockey was a 2620. The lows would be duds like Yatil Green (12), David Pollack (33), Justin Harrell (35), and Michael Haynes (71). The median selection scored a 462, so just by chance the Jets should get an above average player, but the potential is there for greatness.
What are the most popular positions taken in this range? Linebackers account for 20% of the picks but the average score is only 558, most of which is attributed to Julian Peterson. If you take him out of the equation the average falls to a 362. Scouts are missing the boat here and the team should be able to get as good value in round 2. Defensive Ends account for 18.2% of the picks but with an average of just 459. I have to think this poor number is teams having missed out on a top 13 selection fear that they wont get an opportunity to find a pass rusher in round 2 and are overpicking players. Javon Kearse scored a 1685 to lead the group and the next would be Will Smith with a 954. Calvin Pace and his 493 would be the 4th best and if you picked Pace you would most certainly not be happy with the performance. DB’s account for 12.7% of the selections and are scoring 1129, fueled by the Revis and Polamalu super high scores. Deltha O’Neal and Leon Hall were selected in this range as was Phillip Buchanan who the Jets had some interest in last season. The Jets wont be looking for a corner, but if you have a good safety on the board they should strongly consider it based on the track record. The other strong position has been the G/C position. Though it only accounted for 7.2% of the draft (4 players) they average over 1200 points. It includes Steve Hutchinson, Damien Woody, and Shawn Andrews. The dud was Matt Stinchcomb who lasted for 6 or 7 years but never developed into a starter. With Brandon Moore up there in age and both he and Matt Slauson set to be free agents Id say this is a high priority position and a perfect choice if there is a guard who grades that high this year. To pass on a guard for a LB or DE would probably be a mistake based on the history. Only 3 RBs were selected and all flopped while Santana Moss was the only decent receiver selected over the period I looked at.
Quickly glancing over the selections made the past few years I don’t think things changed much. Jason Pierre Paul is a great DE, but nobody else stands out. WRs and RBs continue to stink while those interior linemen are playing well. Only 2 LBs were drafted in this area after 2007 and Brian Cushing has been very good for Houston while Larry English has been a nobody for the Chargers. I think the Jets should focusing on a Guard, DB, DT, DE, and LB in that order, forget anyone else, and use the order if there are any tiebreakers.
The score for the 47th pick drops all the way down to a 464, so now we are already beginning to move closer to average territory for a selection, but with a median of 350 the Jets should still get an above average producer. Games played is about 42% above average with starting seasons 69% above average. Pro Bowls are slightly above average but players struggle here to make it more than in round 1. Who are the best? Lofa Tatupu (2189), Sam Madison (1817), Marcus McNeil (1738), and Matt Light (1428), which is kind of a funny list since Tatupu and McNeil flamed out pretty quickly. The best player actually selected at 47 was David Harris at 589 and rising. Bonus points if you can remember the names Kenny Irons (0), Bruce Nelson (24), Fred Vinson (25), and Dwayne Goodrich (25). Lets hope the Jets don’t go there with this pick.
Worst position to draft is QB, though there were only 2 of them, at an average of 107, and WR, which was a big target with 13 selections, at 227. Sidney Rice was the only significantly above average receiver and he was a 1 season wonder for the most part. Offensive Tackles and Defensive Ends provide the most value at 942 and 744 respectively.
With pick number 77 we move right into the average with a composite score of 310 for the average selection. Still it’s a round where you can potentially find those stud players. Jason Taylor and Joey Porter were both well above 2000 points while Steve Smith, Justin Tuck, and Ahman Green are above 1500. There were only 4 DE’s drafted, with 3 above average and 1 total flop (Mitch Marrow picked by the Panthers). This is probably a round worth taking a chance on a WR with 5 out of 19 producing above average numbers, including former Jet Laveranues Coles (995). Tight End, Linebacker, and Guards could also be in play. Defensive Backs and Defensive Tackles are pretty brutal picks with the best being Denard Walker (459) and Ron Edwards (404). Stay away. Qb’s as well where the highlight pick in the range is Josh McCown.
As we move down to pick 154 things get bad with the average pick only scoring a 158. Here the range is pick 147 thru 161 and the best picks are Aaron Kampman (1499), Michael Turner (1305), and David Diehl (1013), so the high end is clearly not there anymore. Is there a spot to look closely at? Guards have produced a few nice players and average score of 302, but the median is only a 40. There have been a few nice Tight Ends and Defensive Tackles are just slightly below average with a score of 254 and much less variation than some other positions. Developmental QBs? Only if AJ Feely is your idea of a QB you can develop.
I’ll break this up into 2 sections. The first is for the 179th pick with the average score of a paltry 137. I’d consider the highs here better than the round 5 selection we have so maybe some players fall through the cracks into round 6. Matt Birk scored a 2325 while Matt Hasselbeck, Adalius Thomas and Nick Folk are all above 1200 points. With the pick here you are looking at interior linemen, Tight Ends, and Fullbacks unless you are sold that you found your Adalius Thomas or Matt Hasselbeck. DE’s, RB’s, and WR’s are just wastes in this part of the draft and you would be bucking years of bad drafting if you found a good player in there.
The second part of the teams draft is from the two compensatory picks, 202 and 203. These two overlap with the higher pick averaging a 117 and lower one a 114. The star of the grouping was Tom Brady at pick 199 and a score of 2945. DB Antoine Bethea scored a 1745 and there are a few other solid contributors. This is really the part of the draft where you begin to see a significant amount of 0 point players, meaning they never play a game. It’s about 27% of this area of the draft so you are looking at a 1 in 4 chance that the pick never even plays. Best bets to just avoid the never play types is to go for either a special teams guy, a DB or an Offensive Tackle. Over 50% of Defensive Ends and Wide Receivers never really play.
Again the Jets have two picks and the scores continue to drop with a 105 for the 232nd pick and a 90 for the 242nd pick in the draft. The range of talent around 232 has produced a 2000 point player in Jay Ratliff (2217) as well as decent players like Brett Keisel, Matt Cassel, and Jason Ferguson. Like in round 6 about ¼ of the players will never play an NFL game and here you have less than a 1 in 10 chance of finding an average or better player. If you want to play it safe waste the pick on a kicker or punter. Interior linemen provide some value and you might find a decent DE in the draft. DBs play some games because they get used on specials a lot making them a little safer as well.
The final pick sees some overlap in the draft pools but the never plays rate jumps to over 30% and the average players fall to below 9%. Really you just want to make sure you don’t screw your cap up by giving much of a signing bonus to these players. The best picks by position thus far are:
DE Brett Keisel (950), C Todd McClure (800), G Kyle Kosier (612), LB Danny Clark (598), WR Sean Morey (550), S Marlon McCree (465), OT Kevin Shaffer (453), TE Billy Bajema (440), FB Madison Hedgecock (395), QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (341), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (335), P Ryan Plackemeier (266), CB Alan Ball (229), DT Terdell Sands (160), and K Paul Ernster (101).
I don’t think that really gives much indication of anything but I’d probably try for one of those top few positions and keep my fingers crossed. Those positions with a high less than 400 are probably going to lead to more 0 scores without as much upside potential.