Setting Expectations for the Draft

I posted last week about how we can compare this year’s prospect class to previous years and illustrated the system I will use going forward to do that.  However, it occurred to me that it would be of some value to modify the current system so that we do have a true apples-to-apples comparison with previous years.

I’ve done that and will use those results to illustrate the main idea of today’s post: accurately setting expectations for the draft.

Unfortunately, the draft structure lends itself very well to year-to-year comparisons (i.e. looking at the success of previous #4 picks).  However, in reality it doesn’t work like that.  Each draft class is distinct and wholly unrelated to the previous classes, meaning the quality of player available at #4 will differ greatly depending on the year.  But how greatly, and what does that mean for this year?

To answer that question, I first eliminated the NFP ratings from this year’s data (I don’t have it for previous years).  I then added the 2012 and 2010 prospects to the database and ran all the prospects through the same TPR formula.  Note I did not include 2011 because, for some ridiculous reason I can’t imagine, NFL.com’s draft tracker does not work for that year, meaning I don’t have the prospect ratings for the Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson draft class.

Anyway, now we’ve got this year’s prospects compared side-by-side with the top prospects from 2012 and 2010, graded using the same scouting ratings and formula.  Here are the results, with current prospects highlighted yellow:Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 11.34.59 AM

Notice the ratings and order of this year’s class is different from the current TPR system (due to the absence of NFP’s scouting data).  Also, while I will only be discussing the TPR rankings here, I’ve included a chart at the end of the post that sorts by average rating (so even if you think TPR is bullshit you can still find something interesting here).

As you can see, Luck, Bradford, and Griffin are far and away the best prospects from these three years.  Also fairly obvious is the fact that Luke Joeckel, this year’s #1 ranked player, is just the 9th best prospect here.

That’s what everyone means when they say there are no “elite” players in this year’s draft.

However, after the top subset of prospects, this year’s class takes over the list, meaning that there are a LOT of very good players here.  I know this point has been made repeatedly, but I wanted to show a very clear picture of exactly how this draft compares to previous years.

So what does that mean for the Eagles?

- First and foremost, it means trade back.  Almost regardless of compensation, if the Eagles can move back a few picks (staying in the top 10), the team should and likely will take that opportunity.

- The Eagles should still get a very good player.  Here’s where it will get tricky for fans.  If the Eagles stay at #4, whomever they select will be expected (by fans) to be a star from day one (or soon after).  It’s pretty clear, though, that such expectations would be unfair for just about all of these players.

Please, everyone must understand:

Luke Joeckel is not Joe Thomas

Star Lotulelei is not Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh

Dee Milliner is not Patrick Peterson

It sucks (for the Eagles), but it’s true.  Anyone expecting that level of talent from the Eagles first pick is likely to be sorely disappointed.  However, take a close look at the chart above and it should be clear that the Eagles can still come out of this draft in good shape.  A number of prospects in this class are rated more highly than guys like Eric Berry, Joe Haden, Earl Thomas, Anthony Davis, etc…

Adding a player of that caliber is still a big upgrade and something we should all be excited about.

Other notes:

- By this measure, Brandon Graham was a better prospect than anyone the Eagles will be able to select this year…

- Eagles fans should be a bit higher on Dee Milliner.  Not perfect, but he’s a very good CB prospect.

- Picking Geno Smith at #4 would be crazy…and I think all the rumors are just misinformation.

- It’s possible that the Derrick Morgan, JPP, Brandon Graham DE run is among the best we’ve ever seen at that position.  Obviously depends on Graham’s transition, but all three of those players were steals on draft day.

- Not related to this post, but Tyler Wilson should be getting a lot more respect.

- Don’t sleep on Ziggy…with so much misinformation out there and rumors that the Eagles really like EVERYONE, I’m more intrigued by the LACK of reported interested in Ansah.

Finally, here is a chart of the same prospect set sorted by average scouting rating.  Similar story, though the names have shifted a bit:

Screen Shot 2013-04-15 at 12.04.40 PM

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