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Packers Draft Special: When are the Good Players Drafted?

Packers Draft Special: When are the Good Players Drafted?

When are the good players drafted.  Common sense would tell you that the earlier in the draft, the better the player.  That isn't always the case, though.  

Draft "haters" will often point to the fact that sure-fire hall of famer Tom Brady was selected in the 6th round.  So was Antonio Brown.  The Packers own David Bakhtiari has claim to being the best left tackle in football.  He was a fourth round pick by Ted Thompson.  A list of the outliers could certainly go on and on.

The draft does matter.  People will point to Brady and Brown and even some undrafted guys, but by and large players selected eariler are better.  Brown's a bit of a unicorn and there are a lot of quarterbacks that would've succeded with the Belichek / Kraft infrastructure.

So how do we figure it out?  What does it all mean?  When should GMs target which players in order to maximize their draft haul.

I'm going begin by saying there is no way to figure this out without having to be a little subjective.  There aren't a set of statistics that everyone agrees upon to properly evalute each of the positions on the field.  

So here's what I've done.  I've gone through each of PFF's player grades by position and selected the top 20% of players at each position.  Of those top 20%, I've gone back and noted when each of these playesr was taken.  The undrated guys were given an "8th round" score.  I couldn't come up with a better way to do it.

I understand that Pro Football Focus is controversial and not everyone agrees with their methods.  The reality of the situation is, though, that they are a bunch of people paid to watch football games over and over and over again without bias towards or against any teams and they evalute every single position.  I don't know of a better equalizer to use at this time.  

The numbers I came up with were given an Average Round Score, or ARS.  I've included in parenthesis how many players were considered at each position.

If you'd like to check out my work, follow this link here!

Position Average Round Score
Quarterbacks (6 players) 2.00
Running Backs (14 players) 2.63
Wide Receivers (23 players) 2.17
Tight Ends (14 players) 3.93
Tackles (16 players) 3.93
Interior Offensive Linemen (15 OG and 7C) 3.36
Cornerback (24 players) 3.67
Safety (17 players) 3.53
Off Ball Linebacker (19 players, tie at 18) 3.28
Defensive Interior (24 players) 3.08
Edge Rusher (21 players) 1.67

So for those of you keeping score at home, here are the rankings:

EDGE
QB
WR
RB
DI
LB
IOL
S
CB
TE (tie)
OT (tie)

What this tells you, more than anything, is what NFL evaluators do well with identifying, and what they struggle with.  It's clear to me that NFL evaluators have identified pass rusher and passers as two very important positions and have developed ways to identify the excellent ones.

I wonder where we've heard that before?

 

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Ross Uglem is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @RossUglem 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (70) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Thanks, Ross! This is very Interesting!

To me, that states once again how TT neglected the pass rush in the draft post 2012. And lo and behold, look at what we have at OLB: Overpaid, old, frequently injured, with a lot of unproven/replacement level players behind the starters.

I would also like to point out how poorly our investment in pass coverage has been utilized. Or, perhaps, how poor the pieces selected in the first place were. (I have a feeling that Randall is going to be a very good FS for CLE).

I've been leaning towards EDGE on defense for months. This cements it. I would love Harold Landry or Chubb (pipe dream, I know) in round 1. Although James is enticing too.....

Finwiz's picture

Edge rush is the most important need at this time, hands down.
It alleviates so man other problems.
They should trade up if there's a player they think is special, a difference maker. Not sure which of the candidates that might be, that's Gutey's big task. Major pressure - they can't afford to make a mistake.

fthisJack's picture

DO NOT draft for need...take the best player on your board regardless of position! if James OR Smith are at 14 take them! i believe either one of them will make this defense much better and are as close to sure fire starters as you can get. Smith a 3 down instinctive guy with sideline to sideline speed that can tackle and cover TE and backs out the backfield. James. big , fast, a leader... can play CB or S or LB. better guy than Burnett and much better than HHCD!

chris davis's picture

I agree with best player! Does not make a difference which position. If a QB (like Allen or Mayfield) comes down to 14. Take it! You can always trade it after the draft!

Bearmeat's picture

That's foolish just as much as reaching for a singular need is foolish. How has that type of roster building worked our for us in the past? I mean, how many quality interior DL do we now have? It's great and all, but I'd kill for a starting caliber OLB instead of one of those guys.

croatpackfan's picture

Without high quality DL your pass rushers will looks like busts...

Football is ultimate team sport. If you have glaring weaknesses at one position all positions are hurt...

worztik's picture

NOT MANZEIL ER MAYFIELD...

fthisJack's picture

the only edge guy that i see as sure fire is Bradley Chubb. the cost of moving up to get him would be substantial.

worztik's picture

Substantially undoable... oh, gotta run! Stormy Spaniel just came over to visit me...

flackcatcher's picture

With the league rules biasing toward the passing game, TT picks were correct. No one could see the wave of injuries that wiped out that position group coming in waves like that. This past season was the final straw. Both Capers and Thompson had their flaws, but this was well beyond their control. (I on the other hand, blame Jerry Jones.....0:)

chris davis's picture

We could have TJ as our Edge Guy last year! Now we are at 14 and looking to use that for a edge! TT blew the Draft. Instead our first pick was a CB that was hurt and probably will be again this year. Glad that he got Vince and we see how another injured player worked out for us. Thank-God we have a GM!

Spud Rapids's picture

The jury is still out on King and Watt for that matter and you can't predict injuries... I don't care what someone will argue it's completely unpredictable.

What this article neglects on the edge rusher draft stat is what is the average draft position within the round. Elite pass rushers are gone in the first 10-20 picks or less. Sadly, this year's draft is weak at edge rusher so Gute won't benefit from the best draft position in a decade.

I like what Gute did getting Wilkerson. It'll make the entire front 7 better because you can't double Wilkerson and Daniels. Throw in Kenny Clark and it's a recipe for disruption. That'll improve the pass rush, just look at the Seattle game last year. I know Seattle O-line sucked but it's representative of what pressure up the middle can do.

dobber's picture

"What this article neglects on the edge rusher draft stat is what is the average draft position within the round. Elite pass rushers are gone in the first 10-20 picks or less."

Could always re-do the assessment based on the JJ draft value chart. Maybe in the end it wouldn't really change the outcomes--so it's likely not worth the work--but it might re-emphasize based on those high picks.

Thanks for your effort, Ross.

GBPDAN1's picture

Good post, Bearmeat's Phan. I agree, I want the Packers to concentrate on edge rusher with our first and maybe even one with our 2nd pick. That's why I'm disappointed we didn't pick up a No#1 CB in FA. I don't want to use a high pick on one. We need pass rush. We didn't have one sack in the red zone last year... pathetic.

Thank you, Ross, for this information and time to produce it. . Very informative.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Excellent article.

What amazes me is how, even factoring in 8 rounds, quality pass rushers and offensive skill positions all average in the top 50 picks.

I knew high draft position was important, but I had no idea it was THAT important. Wow!

Savage57's picture

Would seem to point to passing on TJ Watt (1st, OLB) for Kevin King (1st, CB) and hoping Vince Biegel (4th, OLB) will be just as good might have been a mistake.

Still chaps me.

RCPackerFan's picture

In reality what this does to me is confirms that the Packers would be more wise to stay where they are at, keep their 2nd-4th round picks and take the best players.

Now, there are special circumstances. If they get who they think is a true play maker then trade up for them. But honestly, I think they are better keeping extra picks and trying to get more better players.

Bearmeat's picture

Agreed. I also wouldn't mind trading back 4-5 picks if they think they guy(s) they want is still going to be there. Gathering an extra 3rd rounder would be nice.

fthisJack's picture

yup...and then maybe jump back up into the bottom of the first to get another guy they covet.

croatpackfan's picture

Don't be greedy!

fthisJack's picture

yup...and then maybe jump back up into the bottom of the first to get another guy they covet.

fthisJack's picture

i gave myself a dislike for the double!

dobber's picture

I gave you a like because it happens to everyone at some point and I'd hate to have you beat yourself up too much.

RCPackerFan's picture

Honestly depending on who is available I would be for it.

I think at 14 there is a really good chance they could land a really good player. I think right now there will be 4 possibly 5 QB's going in the first 15 picks or so. Which if they do, that means that a good player drops farther then they should.

Right now it would seem that the Browns, Jets, Bills all will take a QB. Giants (should IMO), Broncos, Dolphins, Cardinals all maybe looking to take a QB.

That's 7 teams possibly vying for 6 QB's. (Rosen, Allen, Darnold, Mayfield, Jackson, Rudolph).
I am not saying all 6 will go before the 14th pick but if they did, that would be great for the Packers.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Totally agree RC and Bearmeat PHAN. Actually agree most with what is stated above.

THANK YOU, ROSS!! It's one thing to put yourself "out-there" another to thoroughly explain and defend. This both supports and debunks previous thoughts I had regarding positional value. Only time will tell, but this supports beliefs by some that we may have screwed-up last year passing on TJ Watt (though as stated above, way too early to objectively define at this point). Again, my appreciation.

Cubbygold's picture

Great work, this type of analytical approach is interesting.

We can improve this analysis though.

First the flaw. The 'average round score' is going to be influenced by the number of players taken in each round. As an example, we should expect edge players to have a lower average round score than tight ends because there's a lot more of them taken in the first round. The average round score by itself doesn't tell us anything. The easy way to verify what I'm trying to say here is to run these numbers for punters and kickers, they're all going to have high 'average round scores' because teams aren't wasting top picks on that position. So their high scores aren't a function of GM's being unable to identify talent, it's solely based on the valuation of that position relative to others.

*said another way, this analysis assumes that an equal number of players are being taken at each position. If this was true, then the average round score would tell us which positions the GMs did well on, and which they did poorly on. But since we know that's not true, we know these conclusions are biased.

The way to negate this bias would be to have an 'average draft position' stat to divide 'average round score' by. This would, admittedly, be a lot of work. However, if you could say "The average round score for QBs in the top 20% is 2.00, and the average starting quarterback last year had an average draft position of 2.50" you could then compare that to other positions to gauge effectiveness. If top safteys have a score of 3.53, and an average draft position of 3.00, then we can say that GMs are more skilled at drafting QBs than Safteys. We could also then say that spending high draft picks on QBs is more justifiable than spending it on safteys.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I don't think this analysis assumes that at all. I think the clear point is that GM's place high value on, and are very skilled in evaluating, edge rushers and offensive skill positions.

So if you want these players, better grab them early because the good ones are largely snatched up in the first 50 picks.

Cubbygold's picture

It absolutely does. Again, take kickers for example. It would be impossible for kickers as a position to have an average round score of say, 3.00, because kickers aren't drafted that high.

Just as examples... Crosby (6th), Gostkowski (4th), Tucker (undrafted), Bailey (undrafted). We could go through the whole list of kickers and the top 20% by PFF metrics is going to show an 'average round score' of something like 6.50.

We can't say that GMs are less skilled at drafting kickers than quarterbacks based on this metric. QBs will have a lower average round score because they're taken in earlier rounds. Kickers will have a higher average round score because they're taken in later rounds. You can't compare position to position for this reason.

Ross Uglem's picture

you do it by not including by fullbacks, kickers, long snappers and punters. I'm sure there are ways to improve what I did but your method doesn't help. I'm trying to find out where the best players come from. Cornerback and offensive tackle are two of the positions most often taken in round one, yet they're at the bottom of the rankings. I understand the thinking you're using but it doesn't bear out.

Cubbygold's picture

"Where teams seem to struggle is on the end of the line with tackles and tight ends, and with cornerbacks."

We'll have to agree to disagree. Your statement here from the article is inaccurate, as it assumes that tight ends are taken as frequently in the first round as edge players. They are not.

Cubbygold's picture

So this analysis tells us the average round in which 'top' players were drafted. We see that good edge players were taken in earlier rounds than top TEs. Absolutely true, accurate, great.

All I'm pointing out is that you can't then conclude that GMs are better at identifying edge talent than TE talent based on that data. The example of kickers explained previously is a microcosm of what is occurring at TE. If we looked at how many players were drafted historically by round, we would find that theres significantly more edge players taken in the first 3 rounds than TEs. Therefore we should expect top edge players to cumulatively have average draft scores that are lower than TEs.

To revise the analysis like I've suggested would take alot of work, simply because, like you're mentioning, the definition of edge is fluid. I would have to subjectively review the past 10-15 drafts and record every edge player drafted. If a site like the link below had edge as a position that would be a lot less work. In addition, while somewhat interesting, I don't know that any of this is meaningful. The small amount of data were dealing with here makes the conclusions spurrious and the evolving nature of the game likely changes what will occur in future drafts.

dobber's picture

"All I'm pointing out is that you can't then conclude that GMs are better at identifying edge talent than TE talent based on that data. "

I think maybe it says that GMs are more willing to make that investment on an edge player than a TE. Your assertion that there will be a natural correlation between the number of high picks at a given position and average round value for high end players seems valid.

Johnblood27's picture

trade all of their 4th and 5th round pix for a couple of 3rds

This also points out how damaging it is to draft at 25+ each year. You effectively fall outside of that 50 mpick radius and have only half the statistical liklihood of getting 2 servicable picks and get only 1. Better not miss on that one.

Packers have missed on that one waaaaaay to often.

especially on edge/rush like worthy, DJones, Harrell, JReynolds

CheesyTex's picture

Right on, and a fascinating insight into the draft.

Picking 11 or more spots earlier every round this year would seem to improve odds for success.

IMO (and hoping) for best player available in each and every round to upgrade overall quality of roster (and recognizing this draft is deep in quality dbs).

Spud Rapids's picture

Not to get nerdy on everyone but this is looking at the mean of the round that positions are drafted in. I'd be curious to see what the mode of the round that positions are drafted in and look at the mean of the actual draft position.

For example, it would be interesting to see tackles were most often (mode) drafted in the 4th round.

It would be interesting to see the average draft position was #72 (high round 3)

worztik's picture

You did get nerdy... but, that’s OK!

dobber's picture

I think some kind of normalization might be helpful, but I'm not sure how that would happen.

dobber's picture

Sadly, dealing all 5 of those 4th/5th round picks really only get them two end-of-3rd picks. Given that they've got the first pick in round 4 (which wouldn't be tremendously different than an end of 3 pick), I think using those 5 picks might be the stronger of the two alternatives.

https://www.drafttek.com/NFL-Trade-Value-Chart.asp

(interactive draft value chart...love this one. It's great for dreaming up trade scenarios)

RobinsonDavis's picture

Love this too! And again, I agree, Dobber. I like where we sit with our top 5 picks and have looked at scenarios to move-up earlier IN the rounds, specifically 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds. Regardless, It's a tall order for the GM staff this year. But if they can hit on 4 or more guys in the draft, and get significant contributions from a few of last year's picks other than RBs, well? ....It is the silly season after all.

Since '61's picture

Ross - nice job. This tells me that the best players are drafted in rounds 1-4. QBs and Pass Rushers are most highly valued and as a result are most highly paid, followed by WRs.

To sum up, Rounds 1-4, especially rounds 1&2, provide better odds during the crap shoot than rounds 5-7.

A flair for the obvious. Thanks, Since '61

stockholder's picture

TT would not agree with this article. He stated more draft mistakes are at WR than any other position. He never drafted a WR Rd. 1. He opted for the 2nd round.

RobinsonDavis's picture

If a player meets their criteria, I would not be surprised if the Pack grabs a WR early, especially in the 2nd round.

Lare's picture

Another way to look at it is from the business side. According to one source, the position cost ranking according to the franchise tag amounts for 2018 are:

Quarterback: $23.189 million
Defensive end: $17.143 million
Wide receiver: $15.982 million
Cornerback: $14.976 million
Linebacker: $14.961 million
Offensive line: $14.077 million
Defensive tackle: $13.939 million
Running back: $11.866 million
Safety: $11.287 million
Tight end: $9.846 million
Kicker/punter: $4.939 million

So from a business sense, it makes more sense to draft the higher positions early as you can save money while those players are under their rookie contract. GM's don't ever say this, but you know they take it into account for their salary cap.

worztik's picture

Doesn’t seem like any are gonna have a problem making their next car payment...

HankScorpio's picture

Interesting analytics. I'm surprised RB is so high. I'm surprised OT is slightly higher than interior OL. I'm surprised CB & WR have such a disparity.

worztik's picture

Ok OK... I know that you’ve all been waiting for me to get on the QB train again so here goes... HAHA!!! We need to make whatever move(s) is/are necessary to draft Josh Allen! Even though I never saw him play in a game besides the Senior Bowl, I believe that his size, arm strength, athleticism and apparent football IQ are what we need for the post ARod era. I do not think Mayfield is a QB that will succeed in GB and I do not like his demeanor... AKA Johnny Manziel. The only other QB I would consider is Mason Rudolph from Okie State for the same reasons! (Actually, the top 2 QBs will be long gone so I’m not even bringing them up!) Kizer has the size and measurables, so I’m not counting him out but, ARod, Kizer and Allen would make for a fine stable of stud QBs! One could be traded down the line for a nice pick or player or if one doesn’t appear to end up as a starter, we’ve got our starter and his backup. I love a QB sack... an interception with a return... but, I really, really like the long ball from a strong armed QB... just sayin’...

Lare's picture

Ok, so do you think the Packers should trade Rodgers and whatever else it takes to draft Josh Allen? Would save around $20 million from the cap and allow that money to be used elsewhere to improve the team.

Personally, I think Dorsey & the Browns would make that trade in a heartbeat.

Minniman's picture

I think Not - but your comment isn't as left field as it sounds - the time isn't right yet.

In 1-3 years time GB will have had enough time to evaluate Kizer's ability to fill the void, and if another candidate is available then, then certainly consider it.

whatever pans out, the plan shouldn't be to throw a rookie into the starting role.

It will also triple check (not discount double-check) MM's claim as a QB whisperer

Minniman's picture

Frankly, my insignificant opinion is that Arod's actions throughout this negotiation should dictate GB's direction. If he wants the $$$ then the above point would be a possible path. If he takes a more pragmatic Brady-like approach, then GB get to keep a competitive roster and he gets to ride off into the sunset on his terms (football gods permitting with another Lombardi (or 2) under his arm). I know this comment to be idealistic and unrealistic, but I can dream!

flackcatcher's picture

As Min says, your comment is not crazy. Not at all. Much depends on the upcoming CBA negotiations. In today's NFL it is next to impossible to trade any player, let alone the best QB in the league. Remember, the Packers would demand a huge number of draft choices, and that would not even be close to Rodgers true value. No more 1 and a 2 and a 123 deals. League banned them. But in the future, who knows?

flackcatcher's picture

Cute, Johnathan. Very cute. Trades in today's NFL are about cap space, not player value on the field. Player for player trades are very rare for on the field value. That was the primary reason for Ron Wolfs early retirement as GM. If A GM gets a player (like Randall) as a starter then that is a bonus. Most trades in the league are about future value, players (usually the older ones) are use to balance out the cap and are easily dumped. Look at the FA is used, players are being signed for mostly 1 year deals. That is the way today's NFL is. On the field player for player trades is rare.

Minniman's picture

Thanks for the effort on this Ross, an interesting read that provides a great starting point for a deeper dive.

I'd like to get hold of the pre-combine scouting grades for each of these players now and see how these compare--> as draft pick position gets highly influenced by team needs (despite best intentions to get BPA ) ....... so I'd like to see how the "big boards" pan out on draft day.

stockholder's picture

Ok so you want Landry! Now tell me where your going to play him? 3-4-4. ? Pet may not want him! He may not fit. Is your motive to make this team better, or cut Mathews and Perry? And what about Biegel? How can you just rush him all the time? He can't cover. If I'm detroit,Minn. and chicago I'll just have my RB block him. Sorry your choice of Landry would be a BUST IN GREEN BAY>

4thand10's picture

I would pick DaRon Payne. And I would run it old school. Payne, Wilkerson ,Daniels Clark for a front 4 with Lowry seasoning and Adams giving breathers. Then Clay in the middle next to Martinez. Reggie Gilbert on either outside . In a 3-5 step drop my money is on ANY of the front four getting home do disrupt that release. I also think it would be pretty hard to run on this front. I'm so anxious to see what Pettine has planned....

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I've thrown out a similar idea, but with Vita Vea instead of Payne.

HankScorpio's picture

I think the Packers switched to a 4-man DL centered approach the minute they signed Wilkinson. Fueling that belief somewhat is my opinion that Nick Perry is a more natural DL than OLB

dobber's picture

Perhaps. The preceding post made no mention of Perry. Some would argue he's miscast as an OLB in an odd front. I think everyone would argue he'd be miscast as an OLB in an even front.

dobber's picture

Who said anything about Landry? Seriously?

Cubbygold's picture

Shhh let him be

stockholder's picture

edited

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I have exactly the same issue with Landry; I'm not convinced he would fit on the Packers defense unless they switched to a dedicated 4-3, which isn't Perrine's style. I'm concerned about that with Davenport as well.
As for Biegl, last year while watching his tape, he struck me as a much better prospect as an INSIDE LB who could blitz ala Clay.

My preference would be to get D James as a dynamic play-making leader, or T Edmunds as a flexible, highly-athletic, young kid, but I predict both will be gone before 14. That's why I prefer VanderEsche as a "best-choice-given-who's-left" selection. I actually think a 4-2-5, with Biegl and VanderEsche as the 2, and a "big" DL (Wilkerson/Clark/Daniels/Lowery-Adams? With Matthews/Perry as passing-down edges) would make a very dynamic defense.

4zone's picture

Take the best on the board. We have a lot of needs so most positions should fit who is available. With all our picks, we should have a good chance to upgrade at least 4-5 players. And better is bett

David Aures's picture

For our 14th pick yes, the best player on the board. Please, what ever position you draft, leave him play that position. Dont draft a safety and try to make him a corner, or quaterbacks to receivers, or receiver to play running back, none of that crap. You get an edge rusher thats what he is. You get a corner, that what he is.

Now D. James is more of the multi gifted athlete. With him you can mix safety, slot corner, hybrid- linebacker. But I would definitely use as a safety first.

Imo. First round picks should be players that are best at their position. Why mess that up. We all no the saying, "If it aint broke don't try to fix it".

zeke's picture

I would like to live in the multiverse timeline where Quenton Nelson is available at 14.

zeke's picture

It's probably the same one.

croatpackfan's picture

Ross you have always well supported articles. That is why I enjoy reading them...

Jersey Al's picture

Nice work here, Ross.

Ross Uglem's picture

Thanks, Al!

Finwiz's picture

This is a very interesting analysis.

I believe a significant part of the difference in identifying players based on round taken, is predicated upon importance to the team, and the EFFORT expended to analyze and identify said players.

I'd say it has less to do with ability to identify talent. If TE and tackles were deemed to be the most important positions to IMPACT the game, they would rank much higher in analytical effort, and therefore get a higher (lower number) score. The modern game is all about the pass, and scoring points, as well as the most EFFECTIVE way of stopping the opposition.

It isn't really surprising that EDGE, QB, WR and RB are at the top of the analysis chart. I'll bet the majority of effort in ANY organization goes into evaluating and finding those skill sets.

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