Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 10 Draft Peek

2 weeks have passed since the last draft peek. Miami is the big mover, playing themselves out of the likely running for Andrew Luck. Was it worth it? Let's see how the remaining games project to records, and what picks are present.

1. Indianapolis (1.8 wins) - Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford.
Speculation is rampant over whether Peyton Manning will return this season and spring Indy for a few wins and deny them the first pick, or if he'll try to talk his management out of drafting his heir. Luck simply has too much value compared to anyone else on the board, whether as the Colts' next franchise quarterback, or as tantalizing trade bait.

2. Carolina (4.0 wins) - Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
The previous mock calls for DT Brandon Thompson, but the value probably isn't there at #2. Carolina's pass rush is fairly weak as well, so a complement to Charles Johnson would have a significant impact.

3. Miami (4.3 wins) - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Miami needs a franchise quarterback and will get one this draft.

4. Minnesota (4.3 wins) - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma St
Christian Ponder is progressing well, but Minnesota lacks consistent playmakers in the passing game. Morris Claiborne is a possibility as well since the Vikings have one of the worst pass defenses in the league (and their pass rush is certainly not to blame).

5. St Louis (4.3 wins) - Matt Kalil, OT, USC
The Rams sport the worst run defense in the league, so Thompson is an option here. The pick is a bit complicated since the Rams are fine with Rodger Saffold's play on the left side. The new regime admits that Jason Smith is not meeting expectation and they bring in a highly touted replacement and will let training camp work out the details of who starts where. Kalil's value is simply too high here.

6. Cleveland (5.0 wins) - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Cleveland will likely cut ties with Peyton Hillis this off-season, leaving them no credible running threat. Richardson's upside is too high to pass on. Cleveland does have some options here. DT Thompson is a possibility to shore up their horrid run defense, but an impact offensive player is the most likely choice. WR Alshon Jeffrey is a possibility as well.

7. Arizona (5.3 wins) - Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
The Cardinals would love to swap places with the Rams, but they get the 2nd best tackle on the board. They would also consider an elite pass rusher but the one top-10 quality player is off the board already.

8. Washington (5.6 wins) - Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The Redskins inch up the draft board just enough to snag the 3rd top-rated quarterback. This season has shown that neither Beck or Grossman are convincing as starters and the Redskins are lucky to be in a position to draft a player with great growth and upside.

9. Jacksonville (5.6 wins) - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
The Jaguars stick to the script and pick up a big-time weapon for Blaine Gabbert. They might consider an elite pass rusher if another one demonstrates his value by the end of the college season.

10. Seattle (5.9 wins) - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Seattle's big win over the Ravens probably pushes them out of the running for a franchise quarterback. Their defense continues to play well every game, but their offense needs help. They are not running the ball effectively and they're giving up sacks in bunches. They've given it a fair bit of attention, but their offensive line is struggling. It needs help.

I'll continue to update the projected wins and mock draft every few weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Building Through the Draft

General wisdom tells us that filling too many positions with free agents and trades is expensive and unsustainable; teams need to build rosters through the draft. So, which teams have done a good job of that? The answers may surprise you!

For this study, I've charted all 1st and 2nd round picks between 2006 and 2010, whether they made a Pro Bowl, start, play as backups and if they're still on their original team. A successful pick is one that starts for his original team, and teams get bonus accolades for Pro Bowl picks. I've chosen to focus on the top 2 rounds because a quick survey of 3rd round picks reveals a pretty consistent stream of backups and misses. And, anecdotes tell us a team needs to make its first pair of picks count.

I'll start by throwing out some general numbers to show what the average level of success (and failure) is across the 319 qualifying picks:
1. 51% (162) of the picks start on their original team
2. 13% (41) picks are Pro Bowlers on their original team
3. 33% (106) of the picks are no longer with their team
4. 16% (52) of the the picks are no longer playing in the NFL
5. Teams keep over 83% starters they drafted

Keeping those trends in mind, let's see who has fared well in drafting starters. Here is the list, sorted by current drafted starters. Pro Bowl selections are in parentheses.

TeamStarters (PB)PicksSuccess Rate
Kansas City8 (3)1173
New York Jets7 (3)1070
San Francisco7 (2)1070
Cincinnati7 (0)1070
New York Giants7 (0)1164
Detroit7 (2)1354
Carolina6 (3)1060
Atlanta6 (1)1060
Cleveland6 (1)1250
New England6 (2)1346
Washington5 (1)771
San Diego5 (1)771
Houston5 (3)863
New Orleans5 (1)863
Baltimore5 (2)956
Jacksonville5 (1)956
Oakland5 (0)956
Arizona5 (0)1050
St Louis5 (0)1050
Minnesota5 (1)1145
Tampa Bay5 (1)1145
Green Bay5 (2)1242
Miami5 (1)1242
Dallas4 (2)850
Pittsburgh4 (2)850
Tennessee4 (2)944
Chicago3 (1)650
Indianapolis3 (0)933
Philadelphia3 (1)1030
Seattle3 (0)1030
Buffalo3 (1)1225
Denver3 (1)1421

There's a pretty amazing spread of success. Some teams are hitting on 70 percent or more of their picks, while others miss that often. Some of the numbers fly in the face of convention. Some explain team and divisional trends. Let's call a few out!

San Francisco is the only NFC West team to start a Pro Bowler they have drafted in the last 5 years. In fact, they have 2. They also have at least 2 more drafted starters than their division rivals. The 49ers are actually the best impact drafting team in the NFC. How many people have you heard say that before?

The 2 best teams in the NFL are the Jets and Chiefs. This may not surprise some people, but a few teams that are regularly praised don't quite play out how we'd expect. Baltimore, Green Bay and New England all hover around an average success rate, though they all get credit for hitting on multiple Pro Bowlers. Turns out New England doesn't spend draft capital particularly efficiently, they are just masters at having more to spend than almost anyone else. Only Detroit and Denver have had as many picks. The Lions spent them wisely, but the Broncos splurged for all the wrong stuff. They edge out the Bills as the worst drafting team over the last 5 years. You'll notice both teams have eroded and have more questions than answers.

Draft gurus regularly beat up Washington for trading away future picks, but the Redskins are the most efficient drafting team in the NFL. They've brought in a league-average number of starters with the fewest picks, and hit on a Pro Bowler as well. 2011 pick Ryan Kerrigan is off to a good start too. San Diego and Houston achieved similar results with relatively few picks, and the Texans join the Chiefs, Jets and Panthers as the only teams to have drafted 3 Pro Bowlers.

Despite the average being 1.3 Pro Bowlers per team, 7 teams (Cincinnati, New York Giants, Arizona, St Louis, Oakland, Indianapolis, Seattle) aren't starting a single Pro Bowl player they've drafted. Bill Polian has a good reputation for evaluating personnel, but his leadership has achieved a bottom-5 effort, and perhaps it's not surprising that Peyton Manning's absence is proving just how porous the Colts' talent base is.

I've wanted this list for a while so I could see how teams really are doing in the draft. I'm a firm believer that picks made in rounds 3 and on yield impact players so rarely that it's effectively just luck. Rounds 1 and 2 are where teams have be smart, scout well and take advantage of available impact talent.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kolb's Progress

Many in Arizona are questioning the trade to get Kevin Kolb. After all, he's struggling.... right?

There are some comparisons to go against. There have been a few quarterback trades similar to the Kolb one in recent years: Matt Cassell, Jay Cutler and Brett Favre. Let's take a look at each of these and how they fared their first year in a new system.

Matt Cassell (and Mike Vrabel were traded for the Chiefs' 34th pick) was traded by the Patriots after he led them to an 11-5 record when Brady's knee was injured. Cassell completed 63% of his passes, threw for almost 3700 yards (7.16ypa) and 21 TD with only 11 interceptions and finished the season with a passer rating of 89.4. In his first year under center in Kansas City, those numbers fell to just over 2900 yards on 55% passing, 16 TD and 16 INT and a passer rating of 69.9. His yards per attempt also fell dramatically to 5.93. The Chiefs stuck with him and the next year his numbers improved to 3100 yards on 63% passing (6.92 ypa), 27 TD and a mere 7 INT and a passer rating of 93.0.

Jay Cutler (and the Broncos' 140th pick traded for Kyle Orton and the Bears' 18th and their following year's 84th pick) was jettisoned from Denver after it was clear he couldn't mesh with the team. The Bears paid a hefty price and their first year was rewarded over 3600 yards on 60% passing (6.61 ypa), 27 TD, but also 21 INT and a passer rating of 76.8. Cutler had never been very careful with the ball, but his first year completion percentage was 3 points lower than his previous 2 full seasons in Denver, his interception rate went higher (as compared to 45 vs 32), his ypa fell significantly from 7.4 and his passer rating was down about 10 points as well. The following year, he rebounded right back in line with his numbers as full-time Bronco.

Brett Favre (traded to the Jets for a 3rd round pick) was coming off one of his best seasons in Green Bay, but his indecision on retiring (or not) drove the Packers to cut ties with him and let Aaron Rodgers take over. Favre had thrown for over 4100 yards on 67% passing (7.8 ypa), 28 TD, 15 INT and a passer rating of 95.7, along with getting Green Bay to the brink of another Super Bowl appearance. In his year as a Jet, his numbers dropped significantly: under 3500 yards on 66% passing but only 6.7 ypa, 22 TD and 22 INT for a passer rating of 81.0. The verdict was that he was done, worn down, an old man ... but going to Minnesota (back to a west coast passing scheme) proved this false. He had the best statistical season of his career: 4200 yards on 68% passing, 7.9 ypa, 33 TD with only 7 INT and a passer rating of 107.2. All but the yardage and TDs were personal bests.

Kevin Kolb (traded to the Cardinals for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick) was never a starter for a season, and we don't yet know what next season will bring. His stats through 7 games are 1706 yards on 57% passing, 7.5 ypa, 8 TD and 8INT for a passer rating of 77.8. Projecting those numbers to a full season gives 3900 yards, 18 TD and 18 INT (ypa and rating remain 7.5 and 77.8, respectively). He'd have the highest yardage and yards per attempt by a wide margin of this group, and his rating would be 2nd to only Favre. Cutler is the only player in the group who threw more scores than picks, and an even ratio is par for that course. Oh, and Kolb contends for the worst pass protection and weakest running game too.

I think it's time to not panic and let history calm our nerves.