Most NFL followers know, without requiring an analysis, that a first round draft choice provide more
help to team than a second round choice, second round choices provide more help than third round
choices and so on. In this article, DRAFTMETRICS examines the matter of degree. In other words, how
much more help does a first round choice provide than a second round pick.
DRAFTMETRICS gathered data on the number of games started by draft round for four time periods:
• The 2012 season
• The most recent three seasons (2010-2012)
• The most recent five seasons (2008-2012)
• The most recent ten seasons. (2003-2012)
Using this data permitted facilitated an analysis not only the degree of difference by round, but also any
trends during the study periods.
The following table shows the percentage of all games started during the selected time periods by round
and also for undrafted free agents and players selected in the supplemental draft.
This data in this table shows that:
• The percentage of starts by players drafted in the first three rounds for each of the study periods has been relatively constant at between 57.4% and 58.1%
• There has been a slight but consistent increase in the percentage of starts by undrafted free agents
• The largest single change has been a decrease in the percentage of starts by second-round draft selections
There are more significant variations when individual playing positions are reviewed. At the end of this
article DRAFTMETRICS has included four tables, one for each study period, that show the percentage of
starts and ranking of each playing position by round. Fullbacks and players selected in the supplemental
draft were excluded because of the small number of starts for each. The following discussion is based on
data contained in those charts.
Some highlights regarding playing positions:
• Positions with the highest percentage of starts by draft choices in the first three rounds
-Highest: QB, CB, RB, WR, DE
-Lowest: OL, S, TE
• Positions with the highest percentage of starts by draft choices in the middle rounds (4th and 5th)
-Highest: TE, DE
-Lowest: QB, RB, WR
• Positions with the highest percentage of starts by draft choices in the late rounds (6th and 7th)
-Highest: QB, S, OL
-High QB % due to Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck
-Lowest: RB, CB, DE
• Positions with the highest percentage of starts by undrafted free agents
-Highest: S, OL, RB, LB
-Lowest: CB, DE, QB, WR
DRAFTMETRICS also noted several trends in reviewing activity by playing position. These included:
• More 1st round QBs are starting right away
-68% of QB starts in 2012 were from 1st round QBs versus 10-year average of 52%
-3-year average is 58%
• An increasing number of undrafted free agents are starting at LB
-20% in 2012 versus 10-year average of 15%
-18% 3-year average and 17% 5-year average
• Safety is becoming a higher value position with more starts from 1st round choices
-20% of 2012 starts were by 1st round choices versus 10-year average of 14%
• Wide receiver is becoming a lower value position with fewer starts from early round picks
-59% of 2012 starts were from selections in the first three rounds versus 65% for 10-year average
-14% of 2012 starts were by undrafted free agents versus 10-year average of 11%
• There has to be a trend regarding the devaluation of the RB position, doesn’t there?
-Not sure numbers completely support the devaluation argument
-Number of starts from RBs selected in the first three rounds was almost exactly the same in 2012 as the 10-year average
-3-year average has declined versus 10-year average, though
-Biggest difference is a decline in the percentage of starts from players selected in rounds 4 and 5
-Offset by higher percentage from rounds 6 and 7
What is missing from this trends discussion is an analysis of what caused the changes. DRAFTMETRICS
will address that in a future article when drafting trends are also brought into the picture.
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