Positional Value: A Different Way To Measure NFC East Draft Success

Cowboys draft pick Shaun Chapas strikes a pose we'd like to see often from him.

About a week ago, we reviewed the draft grades the draft pundits handed out for the NFC East.

I think it's probably a fair summary to say that the Giants graded out the best in the NFC East, while the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys all graded out similarly in the low B, high C grades. Apart from the fact that grading a draft class before it has played a single snap is questionable at best, I've always felt that draft grades are heavily skewed towards the big name prospects. Draft a couple of guys whose names have dominated the pre-draft airwaves and you're virtually assured a good grade, draft a couple of less hyped prospects and your draft grade is bound to suffer.

So today I decided to take a slightly different look at the NFC East drafts. I'm going to look at the NFC East draft choices not in terms of name recognition or pedigree but in terms of positional value, or where they were taken within their position groups.

Positional Value

So how does it work? I looked at all the draft picks and determined where they were taken relative to their peers in their position groups. For example, Tyron Smith was the first offensive tackle taken while the Eagles took the second offensive guard with their first pick.

Note that I'm not claiming that this is a better way of evaluating the draft, it's just a different way of doing it that may lead to some interesting discussions. Note also that some of the later slots may be off by a spot or two, as in some cases players that are listed as, for example, LB, OLB or DE may project to different positions depending on which teams they join, which may screw a little with the positional rankings. For the most part, these rankings are based on draftsite.com's list and I've manually corrected for some first round picks that I'm more familiar with. Also, an approach as the one outlined should, in principle, favor the team that drafts higher, as they should have access to the higher ranked player within the position groups.

With all these disclaimers out of the way, here's an overview of the NFC East draft based purely on the positional value rank within the position groups.

Round Cowboys Redskins Giants Eagles
1 1st OT 3rd OLB 2nd CB 2nd OG
2 1st ILB 5th DT 6th DT 2nd S
3 6th RB 9th WR 11th WR 12th CB
4 6th OG 9th RB 14th OT 6th ILB
      1st K
5 22nd CB 9th S   17th RB
  20th WR   7th OG
6 22st WR 18th RB 9th ILB 3rd OC
  23nd WR 15th S 14th OLB
    17th OLB  
7 4th FB 30th CB 21st RB 12th ILB
5th OC 13th OG   6th FB
  20th DE    
  22nd DT  

You'll find the rookie names to go along with this table at the bottom of the post.

What immediately stands out in the table above is that the Cowboys got not one but two players who were picked first at their position in Tyron Smith and Bruce Carter. Carter projects as an ILB for the Cowboys and is the highest ILB taken in the draft. Ultimately though, the success of this draft likely rests on how good the Cowboys medical department was at evaluating Carter's knee.

The Cowboys and the Broncos are the only teams to snag two players who were taken first among their position groups. The Broncos took the first OLB in Von Miller and took the first safety in Rahim Moore. 18 teams did not get a single one of the No.1 players in their respective position groups. Here's an overview of which teams got the first pick in which position group:

Position QB OLB DT WR CB OT DE OG RB ILB TE S OC K FB
Team CAR DEN BUF CIN ARI DAL HOU MIA NO DAL MIN DEN OAK PHI CLE
Pick #
1 2 3 4 5 9 11 15 28 40 43 45 48 120 124

 

Positional Top 10

Another way to look at the position ranking table at the top is to see how many players each team got that were within the top ten of their position group. By my count, the Cowboys got six, the Redskins got five, the Giants only three, and the Eagles, despite drafting last among the four teams, got seven.

The Broncos once again appear to have had a good draft, with eight top ten players (out of nine picks). The Eagles are second with their seven picks and the Patriots and Cowboys are tied with six picks each.

This is quite remarkable drafting by the Eagles given their late draft slot and warrants a closer look. The Eagles appear to have picked BPA at positions of need with their first three picks, and focused many of their late round picks on positions like OG, OC, FB, LB and even Kicker (whom they arguably picked too high) that can still have good depth in the later rounds. The Cowboys got good value, at least by this methodology, with their first four picks and added good positional value picks at FB and OC late in the draft.

By this way of counting, the Giants had a bad draft, garnering only 3 players who were drafted within the top ten at their positions. The worst in this category are the Jets (no 2nd round pick) who got only one player, Muhammad Wilkerson, who was picked within the top ten of his position group. Second worst are the Ravens who got two top ten picks with their first tow picks. All their remaining picks were outside the top 10 in the respective position groups.

Position Points

One more way of understanding positional value is to look at the position rank of the first four picks. The Cowboys picked the first OT and ILB, and the sixth RBs and OGs. If we add up those four position values, we get 14 "position points" for the Cowboys. That's the second best value behind the Bills with 12 points (1st DT, 5th CB, 2nd ILB, 4th safety). Behind the Cowboys are a number of teams whose position points look good because of multiple picks in the 1st or 2nd round (16: Denver, 2 second rounders; 16: New England, 2 second rounders; 18: New Orleans, 2 first rounders) as well as Arizona with 18 points without multiple picks.

The Eagles rank 12th with 22 position points, the Redskins 19th with 26 and the Giants 24th with 32.

Round Cowboys Redskins Giants Eagles
1 Tyron Smith, OT Ryan Kerrigan, LB Prince Amukamara, CB Danny Watkins, OG
2 Bruce Carter, LB Jarvis Jenkins, DE Marvin Austin, DT Jaiquawn Jarrett, S
3 DeMarco Murray, RB Leonard Hankerson, WR Jerrel Jernigan Curtis Marsh, CB
4 David Arkin, OG Roy Helu, RB James Brewer, OT Casey Matthews, LB
      Alex Henery, K
5 Josh Thomas, CB DeJon Gomes, S   Dion Lewis, RB
  Niles Paul, WR   J. Vandervelde, OG
6 Dwayne Harris, WR Evan Royster, RB Greg Jones, LB Jason Kelce, OC
  Aldrick Robinson, WR Tyler Sash, S Brian Rolle, LB
    Jacquian Williams, LB  
7 Shaun Chapas, FB B. Thompson, CB Da'Rel Scott, RB Greg Lloyd, LB
Bill Nagy, OC Maurice Hurt, OG   Stanley Havili, FB
  Markus White, LB    
  Chris Neild, NT  

I realize of course that positional value is not the be-all and end-all of evaluating a draft class, far from it. And I'm certainly not advocating filling up your roster with a bunch of late round Fullbacks and Kickers just to improve your positional value. But I think it does provide food for thought.

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