In late 2007 I had grown interested in what positions were drafted where, and posted some results on a football forum, derived from the draft data on drafthistory.com. It’s 2010 and I recalled that there was a result that didn’t get published on the forum — or maybe it did, it’s been a while –a ranking of teams by the number of total draft picks they had. In this study, we’ll be considering the period from 1994 to 2010, as that 1994 is the beginning of the seven round draft. Data again come from the pages of drafthistory.com.
To note, 1994 to 2010 is a 17 season span, in which 272 regular season games were being played.
We’ll pick four teams out of the 32, and consider their records in that span of time.
New England Patriots: 180-92, 12 seasons 10 wins or more (8 consecutive), 15 seasons 8-8 or more.
Tennessee Titans: 143-129, 6 seasons 10 wins or more, 10 seasons 8-8 or more.
Green Bay Packers: 170-102, 11 seasons 10 wins or more, 15 seasons 8-8 or better.
Philadelphia Eagles: 154-116-2, 10 seasons 10 wins or more, 12 seasons 8 wins or better.
What do these four teams have in common? They accumulate draft choices, and they do so better than almost all teams in football. When I recharted the same data above in terms of teams (as opposed to positions), those four were at the top 5 of the chart, and Pittsburgh wasn’t very far behind.
Now, there are some winning teams down at the bottom. The Vikings and Giants come to mind. But not so many, and if you look at teams that are noted to be consistent winners, they all seem clustered at the top.
What other trends appear in this chart?
- The four teams don’t care much for #1 draft choices.
- The four teams care a fair amount about 2nd and 3rd round draft choices.
- The four teams care a lot about late round draft choices (181 or lower).
What’s the advantage in second and third rounders? Cost, for one, and successful draft picks in these rounds are potential starters. They make the backbone of teams, if not the preponderance of All-Pros.
These kinds of teams pay a lot of attention to the seventh rounders. You can often get a 7th as a throw in in a trade. It’s the “additional value” you want whenever you swap players back and forth. Seventh rounders supply depth, supply bodies for special teams, and occasionally yield a starter or perhaps an All-Pro. Bill Parcells tended, in these kinds of picks, to look for people with raw skills and prototypical size and then give them time to develop. The kid with great measurables and a coaching deficit is a much better risk at 7th than higher rounds. Put simply, sheer numbers count.
Note: Updating this post as I’m getting better info. Please be patient.
A new sheet has been added above, sorted by picks per year. This more accurately reflects the drafting habits of teams that didn’t have a 17 year history during the period in question. 1994 was picked as a start because that’s when the 7 round draft began.
Trends to notice. Teams 1-10 have 6 winning teams, and 4 losing teams. Teams 11-20 have 6 winning teams, and 4 losing teams. So it’s entirely possible to win, and win a lot, in the middle “third” or so. The bottom 12 have a success rate of 4 winners to 8 losers. It’s not the best place to be.
Ranking draft position by total wins, and then adjusting the Ravens for their 15 seasons, results in a top 10 list as so:
- Patriots. 1st in draft.
- Steelers. 8th in draft
- Colts. 18th in draft.
- Packers. 3rd in draft.
- Broncos. 17th in draft
- Eagles. 5th in draft
- Vikings. 28th in draft.
- Cowboys. 16th in draft.
- Ravens. 21st in draft.
- Giants. 27th in draft.
The Giants beat out the Titans for the 10th slot by half a game.
Update: on this blog in this article, we show a statistical correlation between winning and draft picks/year.