Wednesday, 07 May 2014 11:49

2011 NFL Draft Revisited - Part Three: The Experts

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As I mentioned in the first part of the article, one of my frustrations w/draft grades is that the grades have no basis on actual performance. Now that I have revisited the teams and given them performance based grades, let’s see how the experts did w/out the benefit of hindsight...

Team

Conference

Sports Illustrated1

Fox Sports2

Roto World3

Expert Average

Sports Think Tank

Arizona Cardinals

NFC

C+

B+

B-

B-

B+

Atlanta Falcons

NFC

D-

A-

C+

C+

A

Baltimore Ravens

AFC

B+

B

A-

B+

C

Buffalo Bills

AFC

B+

B+

B-

B

C

Carolina Panthers

NFC

C-

B-

C-

C

D

Chicago Bears

NFC

A-

B

B

B

B

Cincinnati Bengals

AFC

C

B

A-

B

B+

Cleveland Browns

AFC

B

B

A

B+

A+

Dallas Cowboys

NFC

D-

C+

B-

C

B+

Denver Broncos

AFC

A

C+

C

B

A+

Detroit Lions

NFC

A

A-

A-

A

C-

Green Bay Packers

NFC

A

A-

A

A

D-

Houston Texans

AFC

C*

A

C+

B

A

Indianapolis Colts

AFC

C

B+

B+

B

F

Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC

F

B

B

C

B-

Kansas City Chiefs

AFC

B+

B+

A-

B+

C-

Miami Dolphins

AFC

B+

B

C+

B

B+

Minnesota Vikings

NFC

C-

C+

B+

C+

C-

New England Patriots

AFC

C-

D

B+

C

D+

New Orleans Saints

NFC

B+

B+

C

B

C-

New York Giants

NFC

B-

B

B

B

C+

New York Jets

AFC

B+

C+

C

B-

A-

Oakland Raiders

AFC

B+

B

C

B

C-

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC

B-

B-

B

B-

C-

Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC

B+

B

B+

B+

C+

San Diego Chargers

AFC

C

B

B-

B-

A

San Francisco 49ers

NFC

B-

C+

B+

B-

B

Seattle Seahawks

NFC

B

D

B+

C+

A-

St. Louis Rams

NFC

B-

B

C-

B-

D

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC

A

C+

B

B

C-

Tennessee Titans

AFC

C

B-

C-

C

C+

Washington Redskins

NFC

B+

B

A-

B+

B-

* Gave them an "A, based upon addressing needs ... and an F, based upon faith that they'll pan out"
1 Sports Illustrated reviewer was Kerry J. Byrne
2 Fox Sports reviewer was Adam Caplan
3 Roto World had two reviewers - Evan Silva for the NFC and Gregg Rosenthal for the AFC

 

Overall, the experts were all off by at least one letter grade from my results. Byrne from Sports Illustrated had the most variance (averaging a difference of at least 1.25 letter grades ) and Caplan from Fox Sports had the least (averaging one letter grade). I’ve highlighted four instances where their opinion was by more than 1.5 letter grades and offer some explanation for their differences below:

Atlanta Falcons (Expert Average: C+ , STT: A)
While Sports Illustrated and Roto World felt like the Falcons gave up way too much to Cleveland for Julio Jones (three picks in 2011 and two picks in 2012), Jones has shown that he’s a unique talent worth the sacrifice. More importantly, Atlanta was still able to fill many of their needs with their remaining picks and the majority of those players are still on the Falcons roster. What’s really interesting is that if Atlanta hadn’t made the trade up, they may have ended up with either or the next two highest rated WR’s - Jonathon Baldwin (KC) or Titus Young (DET) who are both considered huge disappointments for their respective teams.

Green Bay Packers (Expert Average: A, STT: D-)
Everyone (including me) thought the Packers had a great draft in 2011. They went all in on more protection and weapons for Rodgers (2 offensive lineman, 1 WR, 1 RB and 2 TE’s) and also picked some depth pieces for the defense. It looked like a great haul. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. Injuries prevented two of their first three picks from ever really contributing and five of their six later round picks ended up waived after they were determined to be a poor fit for the team. You can’t predict injuries, but it is pretty shocking that so many picks ended up not working out for the Packers, especially since the Packers are known for nurturing talent.  

Indianapolis Colts (Expert Average: B , STT: F)
Peyton Manning, the GM and the head coach all left after 2011, which probably affected how well many of the players fit into the new vision for the team. Graders couldn’t account for so much staff turnover (or the ACL tear of their 2nd pick) or expect that only one of five players would remain on the team after three years.

Kansas City Chiefs(Expert Average: B+, STT: C-)
The potential of Jonathan Baldwin (WR – 1st Rd), Allen Bailey (DE – 3rd Rd) and the later round picks was overrated by many of the writers. Similar to Indianapolis, the coaching regime change in 2013 may have doomed the chances of the later round picks as well.

Assuming that you agree with my grading criteria, being off by one letter grade is not insignificant. I would be pretty upset if I thought I was going to get a B in class and instead received a C (or worse). These draft writers for the various sports outlets do a very good job of identifying what positions of need were enhanced after the draft, especially in the first three rounds. However, there are many things they can’t predict such as coaching changes, injuries and arrests that make their speculation unreliable. Sure, they’re useful if you want to talk trash w/your friends who root for other teams, but I wouldn’t bet money based upon them. So if you’re like me and plan on watching the draft this week, don’t take too much stock into what grades are given out. It may take three years or more to see how well your team really performed.

 

Extra Points

I was planning on ending the article here, but I while I was researching all of the player information I found some trends that I thought everyone might find interesting.

  • 12 of the first top 16 picks had some kind of All Pro or Pro Bowl accolades; 3 of the 4 players who weren’t recognized for excellence were QB’s. This may be why you see less of an emphasis on drafting a QB in the lower half of the first of second round this year
  • 2 of the bottom 16 picks had some kind of All Pro or Pro Bowl accolades and after that, the next six rounds combined only had 6 All Pro or Pro Bowl recognized players. This is why picking in the first round comes at such a premium, 14 of the 20 high impact players came from the first round.

 

One other thing I found that was fascinating is the player retention rate for the players based upon what round they are selected which is outlined in the chart below

 NFL 2011 Draft Player Retention by Round

It’s notable that 100% of the 1st round players are still in the NFL. Is that because the players are so much better or the coaches and GM’s have an impetus to make sure that those players develop? I honestly don’t know. The 2nd-4th round players are pretty similar in retention, but after the 5th round is when things get interesting. It’s a pretty major drop to go from a 3-in-4 chance of making the NFL if you’re in the 6th round to less than 1-in-2 in the 7th. This data set is only for one year (which means most statisticians would reject any major projections from it due to the limited sample size), but this would definitely interest me if I was a player being drafted. More importantly, I’d make Thursday night the focus of your viewing if you have limited time to watch the draft. Clearly the 1st round players are the most likely to be on your team for the long haul and/or be difference makers in the NFL as a whole. As always, thanks for reading. Please write or tweet me if you have any questions or comments about my article.

 

Sources:
www.BleacherReport.com
www.ESPN.com
www.NFL.com
www.rotoworld.com
www.wikipedia.com

 

Read 3328 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 13:09

Stephen Schulist has lived in many places (ten states) and held many jobs over the past 44 years: bookseller, dock worker, stand-up comedian, infantry soldier, software consultant and freelance writer. One thing that has remained constant over all of those years is his love of football and the Green Bay Packers. While the Packers are his favorite NFL team, he has seen games at 13 NFL stadiums and visiting the remaining stadiums is at the top of his bucket of list. He may be reached via email at TheSportsThinkTank@gmail.com or you may follow him on twitter @SoupSandwich97.

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