Trade Back Often To Acquire More Chances To Pick
Everyone is bad at the draft. In 2015, Hogs Haven analyzed the performance of NFL teams in the draft and found that on average teams are more likely to draft a player who never contributes (23.9%) than one who becomes a regular starter (22.3%). In this data set, the best general manager had a starter hit rate of 30.4%. With such long odds of hitting on a productive player, having more picks increases your chances to leave the draft with a productive player (10 * 22.3%) > (7 * 30.4%).
Check out the full article here.
Stop Drafting Running Backs (early) In Round One
RBs are situational players (read this). RB performance is volatile from year to year in large part because RBs have a higher injury risk than other positions and miss more time per injury (click here). First round RBs have a high bust rate (more links).
Draft Offensive Tackles Early and Offensive Guards Late(r)
When correlating Pro Football Focus grades with points scored or to team winning percentage, offensive tackles are only ranked behind quarterback, wide receivers, and tight ends. Offensive tackles also have a high comparative hit rate in rounds one and two and should be targeted early and often until the position is solidified.
Players drafted exclusively as offensive guards have lower positional value and a lower comparative hit rate. These players should be avoided early. Teams in need of improved guard play would be best served to wait until the second round or to take a page out of Green Bay’s draft manual by targeting athletic tackles later in the draft as outlined by Justis Mosqueda here.
Beware The Post-Combine, Late-Rising, Uber-Athletic Wide Receiver
Speed kills and overvaluing speed and athleticism is a prime factor in many early round WR busts. At the WR position, college production profile (market share/dominator rating) is far more important than raw athleticism. The folks at Rotoviz go into great detail outlining this here.
Look for Wide Receiver Values in Rounds Two and Three
Zach Whitman wrote a great piece for Rotoworld in which he explored positional draft values. Here’s what he had to say about WRs:
“It’s apparent that wide receivers are a particularly terrible value pick in the 4th-6th rounds, but tend to produce surplus value in the 2nd, 3rd, and 7th rounds.”
Of course exceptions like Stefon Diggs exists, but for every one Diggs, you get three Aundrae Allisons with a side of Jaymar Johnson. New Orleans WR Micheal Thomas is the prime example of this principle in action.
Target Force Players In Rounds Three Through Five
In the Whitman article referenced above, he highlights round three as the start of a “value” tier for EDGE rushers. Taking things a step further, Justis Mosqueda’s Force Players methodology should be used to maximize hit rate in this tier.
Read more about Force Players here.
Draft Defensive Backs Early And Often
Coverage is the most valuable skill on defense in the NFL today and coverage skill is one of the more difficult things to predict from year to year. For this reason the adage that one can never have enough good defensive backs is absolutely true. Cornerback and safety Pro Football Focus grades have the strongest correlation with minimizing points against and defensive backs have high comparative hit rates in rounds one and two.
Eric Eager and George Chahrouri discuss the value and instability of coverage on episode 14 of the PFF Forecast which you can find here.
Draft (or add) A Young Quarterback At Least Every Other Year
In the Contenders article published last year, I highlighted that four of the six contenders drafted their current starters while an established veteran or high priced, free agent acquisition was already on the roster. Lions General Manager Bob Quinn (who was groomed in NE) said the following to the Detroit Free Press in an interview last year:
“I think it’s really good football business to acquire a young quarterback every year or every other year.”
Quarterback is the most important position in football and is also one of the most difficult to find. To increase the odds of acquiring a good one, teams should be taking more shots with premium draft capital.
Stop Drafting Kickers and Punters
BJ says all that needs to be said in this article.
Draft A Tight End Early
Tight end is the most overlooked position in the early rounds of the NFL. From 1994-2013, only 59 tight ends were drafted in rounds one or two. 86 interior offensive linemen were drafted during this same period despite having a lower hit rate and lower positional value. The tight end position ranked third when correlating Pro Football Focus grades with points scored and team winning percentage.
Eric Eager and George Chahrouri use Expected Points Added to illustrate the value of throws to various position groups in this article.
Throwing to the tight end position (with an average of 0.255 EPA) or to the slot (0.243) not only have been worth more EPA to their respective offenses than throwing to outside receivers (0.228) or running backs (0.079), but had the higher medians as well. As we dug deeper into the distribution of EPA with respect to targeted positions, we found that targeting the slot had a similar “upside” as targeting outside receivers, but came with a far higher completion rate (65.8 percent versus 59.0). There were fewer big EPA plays when targeting tight ends and (especially) running backs, but throws to the positions were completed 68.7 percent and 80.2 percent of the time, respectively.
For the 2nd consecutive season, throws to tight ends were the most successful plays in football and only a handful of teams have made the tight end position a priority.
If your team doesn’t have a dynamic passing game weapon at the tight end position, they should look to add one post haste.