The urgency index

Almost all NFL teams head into the draft hoping to fill multiple positional needs. In deciding which need to fill in a particular round, a team will generally have one player at a position of need rated higher than a player at a second position of need. But what should a team do when there is no difference between or among the players being considered?

As a solution to this problem, several years ago I first wrote about a concept called the Urgency Index (the “Index”). The purpose of the Index is to provide guidance in situations when a team has multiple positional needs and is trying to develop a strategy regarding the timing of addressing each need.

The concept embodied by the Index is that, when in doubt, a team should first draft the position for which there is the largest disparity between the chances of success from drafting now versus drafting later. The Index is the mechanism by which the differences are measured.

This year’s Index is based on historical information from the 1994 through 2008 drafts and compares the probability of drafting a five-year starter in a Draft Choice Range with the probability of drafting a five-year starter in all later Draft Choice Ranges. The formula for the Index is as follows:

• The historic probability of drafting a five-year starter at a particular playing position in a Draft Choice Range, divided by
• The historic probability of drafting a five-year starter at that same playing position in all later Draft Choice Ranges, times
• 100.

For example, 61.5% of wide receivers drafted in the first 13 selections have gone on to become five-year starters while 13.5% of wide receivers drafted after that have achieved that status. So the Urgency Index for Wide Receivers during the first 13 selections is 457, calculated as 61.5%/13.5%, or 4.57, multiplied by 100.

The following table shows the Index for each playing position in the first six Draft Choice Ranges. There is no Index for the last Draft Choice Range (picks 188 and later) because there are no later draft selections to consider.

A higher Index means that history suggests there is more urgency to draft a player at that playing position in that Draft Choice Range. Players with an index of 100 means that players drafted later have had the exact same level of success as those drafted in the current Draft Choice Range. An index of less than 100 indicates that players drafted later have actually had more success than those in the current Draft Choice Range.

The Index is only used within a Draft Choice Range. That is, it is meaningless to compare the Index for selections 1-13 to the Index for selections 14-24 because the chances of success are not comparable. The sole purpose of the Index is to allow comparisons WITHIN a Draft Choice Range.

As an example of how the Index would be used, consider a team that needs help at both corner and wide receiver and is drafting in the top 13 selections. In this example there are equally rated players available at both positions. With no other considerations in play, the wide receiver would be selected first because wide receiver has an Index of 457 versus 346 for corner. This means there is a greater chance of drafting a five-year start at corner later in the draft than there is for a wide receiver. According, the Index would suggest that a wide receiver should be selected.

The more data points there are, the more meaningful the Index. Quarterback has relatively few data points, so the Index approach may be less meaningful there. Plus, a team should never wait to draft a game changer at quarterback and a team would be unlikely to resort to the Index in that situation anyway.

I recognize that many factors affect the playing position a team drafts and that the Urgency Index is only one of those. A team’s needs and the availability of talent at the position of needs (your basic supply and demand scenario) weigh most heavily in the equation. I believe, though, that there is a role for the Urgency Index in planning a team’s draft strategy, especially as a tie breaker when deciding between equally talented players at different positions.

Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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