This post is based on information obtained at the following link to pfref.com.

In this study I looked at the top 300 players drafted between 1967 and 2016, based on pro-football-reference.com approximate value (weighted) statistic. I wanted to see where the most top players were drafted in terms of overall number, e.g. 1st overall or 10th overall.

But first let’s explore a little bit about what the approximate value (weighted) statistic is. According to PFR, the Approximate Value (AV) is an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position. The higher the number, the better. It’s not intended to be a be-all end-all stat, just something to go by. It’s a way to compare players of different eras and at different positions. Each player is given a number for each year. The weighted part uses 100% for his best year, 95% of his 2nd best year, 90% of his 3rd best year, and so on as a way of balancing peak years versus raw performance over the course of a longer career. It helps players with shorter careers compete against players who maybe weren’t as good in their peak, but who played more years and thus racked up lots of stats. In a nutshell, higher this rating the better career the player had.

Just glancing down the list of players that did very well in this stat, the top 30 are all either in the Hall of Fame or soon to be in the Hall of Fame. Top 5 include Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Jerry Rice, and Brett Favre. Drew Brees is next, ’nuff said.

Now, the data. Of these 300 elite players, 18 were selected #1 overall in the draft. 10 were selected 2nd overall, 12 were selected 3rd overall, 13 were selected 4th overall, 6 were selected 5th overall, 8 were selected 6th overall, 5 were selected 7th overall, 6 were selected 8th overall, 5 were selected 9th overall, 8 were selected 10th overall, 10 were selected 11th overall, 7 were selected 12th, 5 at 13, 5 at 14, 2 at 15, 3 at 16, 4 at 17, 2 at 18, 4 at 19, 2 at 20, 2 at 21, 2 at 22, 2 at 23, 3 at 24, 2 at 25, 4 at 26, 2 at 27, 3 at 28, 1 at 29, 2 at 30, 1 at 31, and 4 at 32.  That’s a lot to digest, but I’ll present it in tabular form below.

The first number that failed to make the list at all was #35 overall. 18 players were selected at or after #200+. A few notable late picks on the list were Tom Brady at 199, Richard Dent at 203, Seth Joyner at 208, Shannon Sharpe at 192, and La’Roi Glover at 166.

Here is some of the data in tabular form:

#1 = 18 / 300 = 6%
#2 = 10 / 300 = 3.33%
#3 = 12 / 300 = 4%
#4 = 13 / 300 = 4.33%
#5 = 6 / 300 = 2%
#6 = 8 / 300 = 2.67%
#7 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#8 = 6 / 300 = 2%
#9 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#10 = 8 / 300 = 2.67%
#11 = 10 / 300 = 3.33%
#12 = 7 / 300 = 2.33%
#13 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#14 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#15 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#16 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#17 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#18 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#19 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#20 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#21 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#22 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#23 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#24 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#25 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#26 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#27 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#28 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#29 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#30 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#31 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#32 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#33 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#34 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#35 = 0 / 300 = 0%
#36 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#37 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#38 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#39 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#40 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#41 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#42 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#43 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#44 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#45 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#46 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#47 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#48 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#49 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#50 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#51 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#52 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#53 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#54 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#55 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#56 = 0 / 300 = 0%
#57 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#58 = 0 / 300 = 0%
#59 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#60 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#61-#70 = 9 / 300 = 3%
#71-#80 = 14 / 300 = 4.67%
#81-#90 = 7 / 300 = 2.33%
#91-#100 = 8 / 300 = 2.67%
#101-#150 = 15 / 300 = 5%
#151-#300 = 30/300 = 10%

A few observations now about this data follows. #1 overall is a GREAT place to pick, but after that #2, #3, and #4 are about the same.   (This suggests trading up from #3 to #2 was not a great move by the Bears, especially considering what they gave up to make that small move.)  #5 through #14 are about the same. Next dropoff is at #15, and then another at #29. So, your dropoffs are at #2, #5, #15, and #29, statistically speaking. After #29, I’m going to say the next dropoff comes at around #56. #10, #11, and #12 have been surprisingly good places to pick.  Trading up into the top 5, let’s say from #14 to #5 is not a great move, but going from #14 to #4 is a good move.  Doesn’t seem to be a big difference between #61 and #100.

90 of the 300 (30%) came in the top 10 picks. 44 of the 90 (14.67%) came in picks #11 through #20. 23 of the 30 (7.67%) came in picks #21 though #30. 27 came in picks #31 through #40. 21 of the 30 (7%) came in picks #41 through #50. And 11 of the 300 (3.67%) came in picks #51 through #60. Adding these up, we get 216 out of 300 (72%) of the top players coming in picks #1 through #60. Interestingly, #21-#30 was less productive than picks #31-#40 and only slightly more productive than picks #41-#50. It just doesn’t really pay to move up from #31-#50 to get into the #21-#30 range.

#1-#10 = 90 = 30%
#11-#20 = 44 = 14.67%
#21-#30 = 23 = 7.67%
#31-#40 = 27 = 9%
#41-#50 = 21 = 7%
#50-#60 = 11 = 3.67%

72% of the top 300 players were drafted in the top 60, so it’s definitely somewhere you want to be in the draft.  You particularly want to be in the top 50 because that’s where 68.33% of the top 300 players were drafted.  But #41-#50 is just about as good as being between #21-#30, so trading up from #50 to #21 might not make as much sense as you would think.

Okay, so I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you with this post, but I think it’s good stuff to know and to think about when it comes to trading up or down in the draft.  A couple things to keep in mind: these numbers are based on drafted players only (both regular draft and supplemental draft) from 1967-2016 *and* undrafted players are *not* counted in this.  There are some great players that went undrafted, such as Terrell Davis and Arian Foster, just to name a couple.

 

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