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Boom or bust: A look at draft probabilities

What are your picks' chances for success? Tony Villiotti

Print This March 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

In my last article, I laid out the case for splitting the NFL draft into seven draft choice ranges that do not correspond to present rounds. I further postulated that all draft choices within each range have about equal value in terms of future success. To refresh your memory, the seven draft choice ranges were:

1. Selections 1-13
2. Selections 14-24
3. Selections 25-46
4. Selections 47-73
5. Selections 74-114
6. Selections 115-187
7. Selections 188 and later

In this article I review the probability of achieving various milestones for each draft choice range. Ten milestones were selected for review and are listed below, along with the draft years considered in the probability calculations.

Regarding the draft years included in each analysis, the general policy was to establish a measurement period that allows one extra year to achieve a milestone For example, in determining whether a player started for five seasons or more, he was allowed six years to achieve those five years as a starter. This meant cutting off the five-year starter analysis with the 2008 draft year so as to allow draftees from 2008 six seasons to achieve both five years in the league and five years as a starter.

I acknowledge that a full analysis cannot be done until after a player’s career is over. The methodology employed in this article, for instance, does not count the player who takes longer than the one-year grace period to achieve a milestone. Take Jordy Nelson of the Packers as an example. He was drafted in 2008 but did not achieve starter status until the 2011 season, his fourth year. While he has only three years as a starter right now, it is highly likely that Nelson will ultimately achieve five-year starter status but he is not counted as a five-year starter yet.

The following table shows the probability of achieving each of the milestones for each of the draft choice ranges. For example, 91.3% of the players selected in the 1-13 draft positions have historically played five years or more and 71.3% of them were starters for at least five years.

This table also demonstrates that the biggest change in going from one draft choice range to another is in drafting players who subsequently earn post-season honors. For example, the probability of drafting a five-year starter declines modestly (10% or so) going from the 1-13 group to the 14-24 group. The decline in players winning post-season honors, though, is about 40%.

Some may prefer data by draft round instead for draft choice range. This next table reports the same information by draft round.
 

Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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