What to expect from a draft pick

Each year, The Huddle Report (THR) scores the Top 100 boards of the most reputable and widely-published draft resources. These scores have become the most widely recognized and is the standard by which draft publications, websites and media personnel are measured. This is not an open top 100 board contest and not everyone can enter. To ensure the integrity of the ratings, we will only score top 100 from established draft websites posting a top 100 leading up to draft day, publications and media outlets. …Boards are scored by the number of top 100 prospects actually picked in the first 100 picks of the draft.

One should look at the Huddle Report to note that the BEST analysts get less than 90% of the picks in the top 100. The numbers go down dramatically where the 66th best only gets two thirds right.


Needless to say there are a number of draft websites. Most give their best estimate of what round a player will be drafted and a ranking of players. The rankings matched up with talent, but other factors can come into play for a specific draft pick. Rankings are fine, but have limits to their value.

I have discussed several times the Kentucky Derby and several horses. Secretariat won all three of the races that constitute the Triple Crown of horse racing – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

My favorite horse of all time is Sham. Few have heard of him but he was one of three horses to ever run the Kentucky Derby in less than 2 minutes. Unfortunately he finished in second place 2.5 lengths behind Secretariat when he did that

Sportswriter Mike Sullivan said, in admiration:

I was at Secretariat's Derby, in '73. . . That was...just beauty, you know? He started in last place, which he tended to do. I was covering the second-place horse, which wound up being Sham. It looked like Sham's race going into the last turn, I think. The thing you have to understand is that Sham was fast, a beautiful horse. He would have had the Triple Crown in another year.

At the Preakness, Secretariat again won by 2.5 lengths over Sham. At Belmont, Secretariat won by 31 lengths over the second place finisher. BTW, Sham came in out of the money in fourth place.

The key takeaways are

1. Second place can be close – 2.5 lengths behind or a distant second 31 lengths behind.

2. Second place does not tell you how another race would come out with different players/horses in another year

Talent is not normally distributed, but follows a power curve. There are a few no brainers that everyone wants, then more and more of players with slightly decreased talent. The draft charts, of all kinds, try to mimic this by assigning more draft points to the earliest picks. Notice the follow-on picks do not lose points at a steady rate, but go along a curve. One can argue about the exact nature of the curve, but it still changes its slope.

Absolute value

However one guy provided additional information. Wes Bunting, formerly of National Football Post, also posted an absolute score for each player. Based on that information, one could compare players across years.

Wes Bunting assigned various draft grades as follows:

9.0 start first game instant star – rare and not given every year

8.5 start first game - premier player

8.0 starts first game

7.5 starts first year - featured player

7.0 starts first year - solid

6.5-6.9 some sort of flaw probably eventually starts

6.0-6.4 some sort of flaw/needs time to develop

The number of athletes who get the absolute value varies each year, but follows a distribution curve. Here was Bunting’s grades.

Grade…number….comments and about what round

9.0…..000 – not even given every year

8.5…..002 – the no brainers that everyone wants

8.0…..003 – the top of the first round

7.5…..009 – the middle of the first round

7.0…..013 – about where we should be drafting in the first round

6.5…..044 – bottom of the first round and the second round

6.0…..061 – we have reached the top one hundred: the 3rd and 4th round

5.5…..234 – late picks

5.0…..240 – UDFA

Unfortunately Bunting has left NFP to work for NFL team. NFP now uses the more traditional ranking as their grading guides. Villotti has a good article on success by round that is similar

In its analysis of drafts from 1993 through 2012, DRAFTMETRICS has concluded that there are indeed seven "rounds" of the draft, just not the same seven as the NFL. The seven Value Groups designated by DRAFTMETRICS are:

group…selection……………play……start…1 pro….3 pro….1 all…..3 all ............................................3 yrs…3 yrs….bowl…bowls…pro….pro

1. Selections 1-13………………89.6…..73.8…..44.2…..20.8…..23.5…..9.0

2. Selections 14-40…………….83.9…..60.9…..18.9…..08.5…..10.9……2.2

3. Selections 41-66…………….78.1……44.4…..12.5……03.5…..06.3…..2.0

4. Selections 67-86……………74.3…..29.8…..05.8…..02.5…..03.0…..0.5

5. Selections 87-149…………..61.4…..18.9……04.0…..01.1……02.3…..0.3

6. Selections 150-189…………47.1……11.6……03.3…..00.8…..01.9…..0.3

7. Selections 190 and later..38.6….08.2…..02.0…..00.7…..01.0…..0.1

These do not quite match up with rounds, per se, but the success changes radically as the selections go on. Of course, what one determines success also varies.

Who starts for a team is based on a number of factors, some of which are not related to the draft pick. These other factors are based on the team who selects them. This may be the quality of depth, particularly injuries on the drafting team.

If a team has a Witten, the odds for any TE being named a starter are nil. That says nothing about the drafted TE as much as having a player of Witten’s caliber is hard to unseat.

Another major factor is how new the Head Coach is as HC are brought in to evaluate the existing talent with fresh eyes. Normally the new HC is brought in specifically to cause change.

New HC often bring in new schemes where the existing players do not quite fit. Rookies have a better chance in those circumstances.

On the other hand, the success of some positions take longer as the development curve is longer. We have been quite lucky that Smith and Frederick have been so successful so early. Yet they are the rarity as even first rounders are not necessarily successful their rookie year and often take several years to develop.

OCC has a similar article that discusses the number of starters in rounds 1-3.


To keep this short, I will note some earlier articles

The rookie salary schedule is based on slotting. So, all other things being equal, it makes sense to draft high cost positions and use FA to get lower cost positions. After all if the salary is fixed then to draft a high cost position gives a better ratio than for a low cost position. I call this the Von Miller effect.

High cost position/slot > Low cost position/slot Means that high cost positions are better than low cost positions for the same draft pick. One should draft a tackle and sign a FA guard.

This works for multiple positions too. For example if a team has two needs – a tackle and a guard. If a tackle commands a higher salary than a guard, [and they do] then to draft a tackle and sign a FA guard will be a better deal than to draft a guard and signing a FA tackle. The really good players will get their money in their second contract regardless of position.

Yet for several years the team with high cost position players on rookie contracts will get a bigger advantage over teams that get really good players at lower cost positions. Those really good players at lower cost positions will also get a good second contract and the team will still save money but not as much.

Yet all things are not equal. Other factors include

How long it takes to learn and succeed at a position. Even the best CB will make mistakes; rookies make mistakes but rookie CBs definitely make mistakes. OCC showed that even first round OL guys take several years to do well.

The success rate at each position. The draft charts are based on the premise that every pick is a risk, but the probability of success goes up the earlier one picks. Birddog has noted that there are different success rates by position. Yet this must be looked at with more detail. Guards have a higher rate of success because only the very best are drafted in the first round. Yet there will be many more DE taken each year. The real question is will the 3rd or 4th DE be worth the first guard.

Need and depth at the position on your team. The greater the depth at a position means that a team can afford to wait for a player to develop.

Risk propensity of a team. Teams may choose a player with the highest ceiling [highest potential] or the highest floor [ready to play now]. High ceiling guys have a greater risk of failure than those with high floors, who are by definition ready to play. Yet those high floor guys may never get any better.

Supply and demand of FA for specific skills not just position. For example, do you want a press versus zone cover CB or the speed versus possession type of WR?

These are broad categories. We know that tackles are more expensive than guards or centers, and halfbacks are more expensive than fullbacks. There are several approaches to how to draft covered elsewhere


The probability of success for a draft pick is correlated with when they are selected with the earlier the pick, the higher the success rate. There are about 100 NFL ready players each year and they are generally clustered in rounds 1-3. After that, the probability of success goes down significantly.

Yet the cost of those players also follows a curve. The NFL is a star system and the best get paid far beyond even the better than average. The NFL has tried to minimize this effect with the rookie salary schedule.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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