We’ve been doing a lot of work with the 2016 NFL Consensus Board over the week, but there’s still a few things left to do—including grading drafts.
If we’re willing to evaluate players and put round grades on them before the draft, we can at least get a preliminary understanding of how teams did relative to how people graded those players. People always seem to hesitate grading drafts until three years after it’s concluded and it’s fine to argue that we don’t really know: we don’t. But we also don’t have zero information, and we know how good a lot of very smart people thought players are.
So, we’ll take the amount of draft capital spent by teams and measure it against the amount of value gained. In this case, we use the Jimmy Johnson trade chart (or rather, an equation derived to match the chart) to give say the first overall pick costs 3000 points of capital and the highest-ranked player gives a team 3000 points of capital.
Then we’ll divide the points gained by the points lost. This process tends to unfairly hurt those with the 1st overall pick because the best opportunity to gain the best player results in zero net value gained. Still, it’s a good proxy for figuring out if a team picked the best player according to the board, with the capital they have. We can also add any picks gained in future rounds as returns on the day by using a one-round discount and giving them points for trading for future picks.
Given the early returns on predicting actual NFL performance, I’m alright using this board for evaluative purposes—generally speaking, if you get a bad grade, the players you draft have historically not met expectations.
Below are the teams ranked in order of return-on-investment. Also included are the total return, so we can see which teams got the most talent in the draft.
|Green Bay Packers||4754.43||103.7%|
|New Orleans Saints||4253.00||98.3%|
|San Francisco 49ers||6363.91||95.3%|
|New York Jets||4150.96||93.6%|
|New York Giants||4679.70||93.2%|
|San Diego Chargers||5756.78||92.9%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4654.92||86.7%|
|Kansas City Chiefs||4106.64||83.0%|
|Los Angeles Rams||4080.47||81.6%|
|New England Patriots||3015.12||68.0%|
Grabbing Myles Jack in the second round was huge for the Jaguars, as was grabbing Jalen Ramsey in the first. But that alone isn’t enough to win the top spot; they gained value with their picks of Sheldon Day, Brandon Allen and Tyrone Holmes.
Buffalo is the only team to gain value on every single pick. Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland, Adolphus Washington, Cardale Jones, Jonathan Williams, Kolby Listenbee and Kevon Seymour were all ranked higher than the pick the Bills grabbed them at, and though there are very real questions about things like where Williams fits on the depth chart and so on, the board doesn’t know about needs and likes the talent they grabbed.
The Minnesota Vikings had the best grade of the 2014 draft, the second-best grade of the 2015 draft and sit here third in 2016. Overall, they have by far the best grade of the three drafts combined. More on that below.
One thing to note: the quarterbacks picked at the top were ranked lowly. That doesn’t mean it was bad to select them. We can include modifiers for positional value and regrade the draft by using the amount of capital invested in each position over the last decade as a guide. Here’s what that regraded, position-adjusted draft table looks like.
|Green Bay Packers||5243.39||114.4%|
|San Francisco 49ers||6635.91||99.4%|
|New York Jets||4404.50||99.3%|
|New Orleans Saints||4283.58||99.0%|
|San Diego Chargers||5845.82||94.3%|
|Los Angeles Rams||4662.48||93.3%|
|New York Giants||4571.54||91.0%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4844.95||90.2%|
|Kansas City Chiefs||4264.65||86.1%|
|New England Patriots||3060.73||69.1%|
The Eagles and Rams move up because of the value provided by the quarterbacks, but Jacksonville moves down because cornerbacks and off-ball linebackers valued a little less than front four players. The Dolphins move up a little bit, but honestly their only good move was selecting Laremy Tunsil.
They gained valued with their seventh-round picks, but Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant and Jordan Lucas were all graded lower than where they were picked. While I would personally put Carroo higher, I would also put Grant lower. This was probably a bad draft for them (if the board is meaningful), but it was graded well here.
On the other end of it, I’m guessing the Raiders draft was better than the grade if only because of how highly I personally value Karl Joseph.
Conversely, the New England Patriots consistently rank at the bottom, which isn’t surprising—especially because they took a long snapper in the fifth round the year prior and frequently take gambles on injured talent, and they don’t seem too worse for wear. For the last two years, the Seahawks were also graded poorly, but this year escaped that fate. Here are the three-year totals:
|Green Bay Packers||13496.02||93.5%|
|New York Jets||15010.14||93.4%|
|San Diego Chargers||12730.99||90.7%|
|San Francisco 49ers||17177.38||88.7%|
|New Orleans Saints||13007.75||86.5%|
|New York Giants||12363.48||82.5%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||13812.17||81.6%|
|Kansas City Chiefs||11361.29||81.0%|
|New England Patriots||11205.35||78.5%|
I imagine it’s not a coincidence that the three teams at the bottom of the grades are in the playoffs but I can’t tell exactly why. The board does a very good job at predicting performance, and the next several teams on the bottom of the list have drafted poorly overall—though Tampa Bay may get some leniency because it’s hard to gain value at the top and because Jameis Winston and Mike Evans are looking pretty good.
The Minnesota Vikings really do a good job of finding undervalued players and making plays to get them, at least if the board is right. Which, again, we think there’s evidence of.
At the very least, this is a fun exercise in figuring out a different way to follow the draft.