by Tony Villiotti
May 15, 02014
Before putting the 2014 draft into the history books, there a few observations and highlights I wanted to share with you. These observations and highlights can be divided into four groups:
• Breakdown by Position
• Split by College Categories
• Team Rankings
• How the Combine All-Stars fared
Each is discussed below.
Breakdown by Position
2014 was a somewhat unusual year when the draft is viewed by playing position. Typically, slightly more defensive players than offensive players are taken in the first three rounds. Rounds four through seven tend to be about an even split, with defense receiving slightly more attention overall.
That was not the case in 2014. The following table compares historical averages with the number of selections by playing position in 2014. (Fullback and special team players are excluded.) The percentages represent the percentage of all players taken for each position. For example in the first three rounds, 5.6% of the players drafted have historically been quarterbacks. In 2014, 5.0% of the players drafted were quarterbacks.
The big difference in comparing the first three rounds of 2014 to historical averages is that in 2014 (1) a higher percentage of offensive linemen were selected, (2) a lower percentage of linebackers were selected and (3) a lower percentage of corners were selected. The corners were interesting as five were selected in the first round, but only four in rounds two and three.
For the entire draft, with only a few exceptions, 2014 was pretty close to historical averages. There were a significantly higher percentage of corners taken than normal, though, with an offsetting decrease at safety.
Most teams’ draft classes had a relatively even split among offense and defense. There were a few exceptions:
• All six of the Bucs’ selections were offensive players
• The Cowboys and Falcons each selected seven defensive players with their nine selections
• The Vikings used seven of their ten selections on the defensive side of the ball
• Both the Patriots and Jaguars emphasized offense, with each taking six offensive players with their nine picks
There were also a few noteworthy items when looking at individual playing positions:
• The Cardinals and Eagles were the only two teams not to select an offensive lineman
• The Bucs, Cardinals, Colts, Ravens, Seahawks and Titans were the only teams not to select a corner
• No team selected more than one running back (fullbacks not counted as running backs)
• The Falcons had the most players selected at any single position, taking four linebackers
Split by College Categories
In earlier articles, I divided colleges into three categories:
• The 37 colleges with players who started at least 100 games during the 2014 season
- These colleges are referred to as the Major Powers
• The 32 colleges in the Automatic BCS Qualifying Conferences who were not included in those 37 schools and
• All other colleges.
The so-called Major Powers accounted for 54% of all draftees in the first three rounds, versus the historical average of 65%. Several of the Major Powers had no players drafted in the first three rounds including Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma. It remains to see if this is a trend or a short-term aberration. The following table shows the breakdown by category.
There is no shortage of draft analysts who are poised to publish draft grades for each NFL team as soon as the draft ends. Grading individual selections is not something I feel qualified to do. I do not study game films and have never been a scout, so why second-guess the professionals?
What I choose to do, though, is to use historical averages to determine what each team should expect from the draft depending on:
• The number of selections a team has
• Where those selections occur (e.g., what selection numbers does a team have)
• The playing position drafted
-As pointed out in an earlier article, some positions are more risky to draft than others
This table ranks the teams by number of expected five-year starters yielded by the draft and includes the number of players a team drafted, the expected number of players who play at least five years and the expected number of players who start at least five years.
The Rams are clearly the leader in expectations from the draft with a group of team led by the Colts having the lowest expectation. In a lot of cases, the differences among teams is very slim and of no consequence. The Jaguars, for example, expect 1.92 five-year starters while the Vikings and Packers select 1.90 five-year starters. The difference between the Rams and the Falcons, though, is significant and worth noting.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago where I identified the 44 players who had done best at the Combine in the drills that mattered most at their position. Some of the players carried consensus first-round grades while others fell into the “who is he” category.
36 players on my Combine All-Star team were drafted. Seven of the remaining eight signed as undrafted free agents. The only unattached player at this point is Colt Lyerla whose off-field issues seem to have chased everyone away.
Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics