Wrapping Up the 2015 Draft

The 2015 draft is now behind us and the 2016 mock drafts have already begun to trickle out. Before we begin hibernatation until the football season starts, let’s take a final look at the draft from a few different perspectives. Who Won the Draft? We stay away from handing out draft grades because it is at least a couple of years too soon to do so. That doesn’t mean I do not read those articles, though, because I am always interested to learn what others have to say and it is interesting reading. I have stayed away from doing a mock draft myself because I simply do not watch anywhere near enough video on the players, especially in comparison to many in the field. What we do instead is to put together data regarding which teams should be helped most from the draft. This considered the draft position of each team and the playing positions they drafted. The following table ranks the NFL teams by the number of five-year starters that history says should come from their draft crop. This table also shows other relevant measures such as number of two-year starters, etc. All numbers indicate the number of players that should achieve the relevant milestone. In all cases, the measures represent historical averages. The Saints, for example, should receive 2.86 starters from this draft class. The three most relevant factors in the calculation used to construct the table are 1) number of draft choices, 2) location of draft choices and 3) the playing position selected. The playing position selected matters because some positions are more risky to draft than others. This was discussed in an earlier article entitled “Draft Probabilities by Playing Position”. What is not considered in this table is the depth of the team doing the drafting. This is somewhat offset because all expectations are for a player’s entire playing career, which includes both the team that drafted them and any subsequent team. The theory is that eventually a player drafted by a deep team should get an opportunity with somebody. Balance or Load Up? Most NFL teams split their selections in the first three rounds between offense and defense. Nine teams, though, went all in on one side of the ball or the other. Teams opting to go for offense were the Bears, Bengals, Bucs, Rams, Ravens and Titans. Meanwhile, the 49ers, Eagles and Patriots went for defense. Data by Conference The 2015 draft had a higher percentage of players drafted by the Power 5 conferences than has been the norm. Almost 80% of draftees were from the five conferences compared to about 70% in the four preceding years. There is no apparent reason for this increase. The following table shows data by conference for the past five years. The Pac 12 got off to a great start in this year’s draft with 25 selections in the first three rounds to lead all conferences. They trailed off on day three of the draft, though, and finished third overall among the Power 5 conferences. They added only 14 selections in the final four rounds, last among the five power conferences. Data By Playing Position As usual, the distribution between offense and defense was pretty equal in the draft. This was the first draft, though, in the last five where more offensive players were selected. The following shows the distribution by playing positions over the past five years. While this was generally considered to be a down year for quarter backs I do not think anyone predicted that only seven would be taken in the draft. Many in the media are saying that is is the fewest drafted since 1955 but there have been several years with seven draftees, with the most recent being 1998. While most positions were in the range of normalcy, a few positions were outside of normal bounds:
  • 18 was the fewest number of running backs drafted in the past five years
  • More tight ends (20) were drafted than any time in the past five years
  • Fewer defensive backs (total of 46 corners and safeties) were drafted than any other time in the last five years
  • A couple more offensive linemen were taken than normal
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