Link to data: http://pfref.com/tiny/hJAI2

Using the draft index at pfref.com I pulled up a list of the drafted players (both supplemental and regular drafts) from 1967-2016, sorting the list by games started. We’re not looking so much for star players (though most would be considered stars), but rather we’re looking for long-term starters. Doesn’t matter if he ever made the pro bowl or all-pro lists, just that his team considered him the best option at his position for a long time. The focus here is on the top 300 players according to this criteria (career games started). (Note: there were some ties at the bottom of the list for 160 games started. A number of players with 160 games started were not part of this list, as the secondary sorting method was alphabetical.  Note also, this is only about drafted players and doesn’t take into consideration those gems that can often be found after the draft is over.)

At the top of the list we have Brett Favre, with 298 starts. Top 4 players are all already in the Hall of Fame. In the top 7, 5 are already in the HoF, and the other 2 are Peyton manning and Tony Gonzalez, both of whom are absolute locks.  So, the list is filled with elite players, but there are some who hung around, but not really considered elite, such as Vinny Testaverde.  58 of the 300 never made a single pro bowl.  150 of the 300 never were all pro’s. What we have instead of stars is long time starters, 9 years primary starters for the 3 at the bottom of this list if you sort by that stat, everybody else 10+ years as primary starter at his position for his team.

So, let’s see where they were picked. This time I’ll just give it to you in tabular format.

#1 = 14 / 300 = 4.67% (14/300 taken #1 overall)
#2 = 7 / 300 = 2.33%
#3 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#4 = 12 / 300 = 4%
#5 = 7 / 300 = 2.33%
#6 = 7 / 300 = 2.33%
#7 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#8 = 9 / 300 = 3%
#9 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#10 = 6 / 300 = 2%
#11 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#12 = 7 / 300 = 2.33%
#13 = 8 / 300 = 2.67%
#14 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#15 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#16 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#17 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#18 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#19 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#20 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#21 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#22 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#23 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#24 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#25 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#26 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#27 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#28 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#29 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#30 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#31 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#32 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#33 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#34 = 5 / 300 = 1.67%
#35 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#36 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#37 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#38 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#39 = 4 / 300 = 1.33%
#40 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#41 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#42 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#43 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%
#44 = 3 / 300 = 1%
#45 = 0 / 300 = 0%
#46 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#47 = 0 / 300 = 0%
#48 = 1 / 300 = 0.33%
#49 = 0 / 300 = 0%
#50 = 2 / 300 = 0.67%

Now, I’ll break it down into lots.

#1-#10 = 76 = 7.6 average = 2.533%
#11-#20 = 47 = 4.7 average = 1.567%
#21-#30 = 27 = 2.7 average = 0.9%
#31-#40 = 31 = 3.1 average = 1.033%
#41-#50 = 11 = 1.1 average = 0.367%
#51-#60 = 12 = 1.2 average = 0.4%
#61-#70 = 14 = 1.4 average = 0.467%
#71-#80 = 17 = 1.7 average = 0.567%
#81-#90 = 8 = 0.8 average = 0.267%
#91-#100 = 6 = 0.6 average = 0.2%
#101-#150 = 21 = 0.42 average = 0.14%
#151-#200 = 13 = 0.26 average = 0.0867%
#201-#300 = 14 = 0.14 average = 0.0467%
(3 more players taken at #301-#326)

The % values represent a teams percentage chance of getting a long-term (10+ year starter) at that spot in the draft. Not surprisingly, #1 overall gives you the best chance, but surprisingly #4 is just about as good as #1 and is markedly better than #2 or #3. This is probably reflective of the fact teams tend to reach for quarterbacks at #2 and #3, often trading up to do so. The team picking #1 gets the pick of the litter, so to speak, but at #2 or #3 that team is settling for the next option. Think Luck versus RG3, Peyton Manning versus Ryan Leaf. Sometimes also teams realize the top player in the draft is not a quarterback, so that top player goes #1 and somebody takes at quarterback at #2 or #3.

There appears to be great value with all the top picks until you get to #14. The first pick that falls below 1% is #22, and the sub-1% probabilities become very consistent after that point. The first pick where no players made the list is at #45, after which 0’s come up quite regularly. Interestingly, once you get past the top 40, really there is no statistical difference until you get into the 80’s. #40-#50 is actually the low point when comparing it to picks in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Another intesting thing is picks 31-40 have had more success than picks 21-30, just going by the games started metric. Trading up from the 30’s into the 20’s, probably not going to work out for you, and neither will trading up from the 50-70 position to get into the 40-50 position. I like being at #4 overall almost just as much as being #1 overall. If you’re going to trade up, trade up into the top 4 and go best available player, hopefully getting a player that also fills a need.

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