DRAFTMETRICS - Part II
Analyzing Historical Draft Results: 2022 – Part Two Analysis by Playing Position
This study by Anthony J Villiotti will:
• Put the draft into the proper perspective
• Examine the outcome of drafts from 2012 through 2019
• Evaluate the draft performance of NFL teams and selected colleges
• Review difference among draft years
• Comment on constructing a competitive NFL roster
Our last article laid out the probabilities of success in each round of the NFL Draft. These probabilities are based on the career outcomes of players drafted between 2012 and 2020, or nine years, and includes 2248 players. While not a prediction of future outcomes, history gives a basis for forming expectations and is useful as a barometer for measuring success.
Do the results vary by playing position? The short answer is that they do. Are some positions riskier to draft than others? We will examine both these questions in the remainder of this article.
Several reminders before we get into the numbers:
In this analysis, career longevity is considered in addition to snap counts; a three-year “window” is used. Three years is admittedly arbitrary, but it is viewed as a minimum requirement for a draft choice to be deemed successful. A case could certainly be made for extending that window, but three years seems to be reasonable.
This is a quantitative analysis. It is not qualitative. All snaps count the same, whether it is Patrick Mahomes or Zach Wilson. While this is somewhat of a shortcoming with this approach, time spent on the field is a reasonable measure of the success of a draft selection and it has the advantage of being a measurable outcome.
The reasons for a shortened career do not matter in this analysis. Players are not given a pass for injuries, off-field issues, or early retirements. That is all part of career “mortality”.
Seasons, where a player participated on special teams but not from scrimmage, are counted as a season played.
Based on snap counts and length of career, players are placed into one of six categories.
This analysis will focus on only those players in the Major Contributor and Contributor categories since that is the minimum desired outcome when a player is drafted. Of the 2248 players position players drafted, 712 achieved Major Contributor status and 264 were classified as Contributors. The players in these categories represent about 43% of all players drafted.
Two tables are presented in the remainder of this article. These tables exclude fullbacks as so few are drafted and even fewer reach Major Contributor or Contributor levels. The first table includes only Major Contributors while the second includes both Major Contributors and Contributors. Complete round-by-round results for each playing position are included in the Appendix to this article.
The first table shows the historical probabilities of drafting a Major Contributor for each playing position in each phase of the draft:
The following are observations based on the above two tables plus information in the Appendix. None of these observations are earth-shaking but they do quantify some commonly held beliefs.
There were more defensive backs drafted (453) in the study period than any other position. Defensive and offensive lineman were the next most frequently drafted with 376 each.
Based on the information in this study I rank the positions as follows, from least to most risky
The importance attached to playing positions can be seen in drafting patterns
QBs account for 5% of all drafted players but 29% of top five selections and 10% of all first round selections
Defensive linemen account for 17% of all drafted players but 24% of top five selections and 19% of first round selections
No tight ends were selected with the first five selections. Tight ends account for 6% of all drafted players but only 3% of first round draft choices.
About 20% of all QBs drafted are selected in the first round and those selections account for almost 70% of all Major Contributors at that position.
Running backs have, by far, the lowest percentage of Major Contributors. It is hard to say whether that is because of substitution patterns or injuries. Only 17% of drafted RBs become Major Contributors, about half the average of all positions. When Contributors are considered, RBs are about 75% of the overall average.
Drafting RBs is tricky. Looking only at the combination of Contributors and Major Contributors, RBs selected in the late 2nd, late 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th rounds are well below expectations.
Offensive linemen are the safest selections throughout the draft. The success with Major Contributors is at least equal or exceeds the overall success rate in all draft rounds and phases.
OL and DB offer the best chance of success with late round selections
25 of the 39 6th round selections who became Major Contributors were from the two positions
14 of the 20 7th round selections who became Major Contributors were either DBs or OL
Aside from RBs, linebackers had the lowest success rate. This is largely due to selections in the 6th and 7th rounds. No LB selected in the final round (out of 51 selections) became a Major Contributor and only four out of 44 selections in the sixth round were Major Contributors. LBs selected in the 4th and 5th rounds were more successful than the average.
Reflecting the degree of situational substitutions at the position, defensive linemen were below average when it came to Major Contributors but well above the average for Contributors
First round WRs had the lowest success rate of any positions as measured by both Major Contributors and Contributors.4th round receivers had the lowest success rate of all positions but QB. Overall, WRs were less successful than the average of all positions.
TEs through the first five rounds had solid success rates, but that relative success tailed off in the final two rounds.
And for you a premium content member the full study by Anthony J Villiotti in full PDF format below.
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Anthony J Villiotti, 63 Stancey Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15220
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