Today let’s take another look at our draft strategy chart, this time using it to talk about a few prospects. Some of you have seen this, newer readers have not. I apologize if its tough to see without zooming in, but I like to get a comprehensive look with this chart. Note that the 6th and 7th round columns were included in yesterday’s post. The sample is all players drafted from 1999-2011.
The different color backgrounds reflect my quick attempts to eliminate sub-optimal round/position choices (in black).
Between now and the draft, I am hoping to mine this in a little more detail and ultimately combine it with the PVM system. However, for today, let’s talk about specific players.
First, a note on value. Obviously applying this chart to individual players is a misuse of the data. There is no guarantee that the sample is representative, and there are potentially a lot of other factors at work. In general, I believe the value of this type of data is to give us a sense of which positions are easier/harder to evaluate. For example, LBs seem to have a much larger margin of evaluative error than OTs. Therefore, a LB with similar ratings to an OT will carry more inherent risk by virtue of the fact that, historically, LB projections are less accurate.
Hopefully that made sense. We’ll be revisiting this a lot in the next few weeks. Now let’s get to the players.
Dion Jordan – He immediately pops out because A) he’s been frequently “mocked” to the Eagles, and B) plays a position that carries the worst 1st round hit rate. This doesn’t mean Jordan won’t be a good player, only that LBs are very hard to project coming out of college. This is a major reason why I do not like him for the #4 pick. Added risk, no additional reward. With a lot of similarly rated prospects, no reason to take on any additional risk. Also, notice that the odds of finding a starting LB in the second round are almost as good as in the first round.
Star Lotulelei – I’ve been a big proponent of Star for as long as this blog has been up (I may have actually been the first one to peg him to the Eagles). I still believe he is among the best potential picks for the Eagles. He’s a run stopper and a natural pivot on the d-line, able to hold his ground against a double-team, allowing the LBs to fly to the ball. Heart condition notwithstanding, Star would immediately become the Eagles 5-tech and could play NT as well if Spooky doesn’t perform. However, the chart above is a bit of a red flag. DTs carry some of the lowest “elite player” odds (all-pro, pro bowl) as well as relatively low starter odds. Additionally, the odds of finding a starting DT in the second round are good.
Once I figure out how to factor this in to the PVM model, I expect to see Star move down the board a couple of spots. For now though, he remains a personal favorite. In a perfect world, the Eagles would trade down to #7 or #8 and pick him up there.
Joeckel/Fisher – The Eric Fisher train has picked up a bit of speed recently, especially with the Eagles sitting out the OT FA market (for the moment). I’m not a huge Fisher fan, but the odds clearly submit him as a “low-risk” pick. It is common knowledge at this point that OTs are safer picks in the 1st round than any other position, and the data definitely bears this out (im not counting Cs due to sample size). HOWEVER, that is an overly simplistic way of looking at it. You also have to account for the fact that OT is one of the EASIEST positions in which to find contributors later in the draft. You won’t get an elite OT after the first round, but notice you still have 25% chance to get one as late as the 4th round (and 13% in the 7th).
Let’s play a quick probability game. Assume that this data was perfectly representative of the upcoming draft. The Eagles have four 7th round picks. If the team were to use all 4 of them on OTs, what would the odds of finding a starter be?
Well the chances of missing, according to our table, are 87%. The chances of missing with all 4 picks are .87^4, or 57%. Therefore, the odds of NOT MISSING all of them would be 43%.
A 43% chance isn’t great, but it’s pretty significant, and remember this is in the 7th round.
In the second round, 70% of OTs in our sample ended up as “starters”.
This is a long way of saying that the Eagles resources, according to the current prospect rankings and team needs, are probably better spent elsewhere than on an OT in the 1st round.
Dee Milliner – Another guy who has picked up steam (the 40 time helped a lot). He could go as high as #1, though I think that’s unlikely. I like him because he is ranked #1 by PVM, though we’ll have to wait and see if he holds onto that position as ratings are updated. The major pushback on him is that he doesn’t rate as a “shutdown” corner. Obviously, if you are using the #4 pick on a CB, you want him to be an “island” sort of player. However, this is a pretty ridiculous read of the situation. Essentially, draftniks are comparing Milliner to CBs in OTHER drafts. Obviously there have been better CB prospects. The fact remains, though, that in THIS draft, Milliner is by far the best CB prospect, and is also one of the best prospects PERIOD.
You can chalk this up to bad timing for the Eagles, in that they got a high pick in a relatively weak draft (projected), but at the end of the day you have to play the cards you’re dealt. The table above says DBs are pretty safe in the first round. For those asking, CBs and Ss are not separated because the often switch positions coming out of college or in their first few years (or last). I’m doing some work to fix this, but keep in mind that this is also a potential advantage. If a CB fails in the NFL, he may be able to switch to Safety and become a productive player. If a WR or QB fails (or most other positions), there is no outlet to salvage that prospect. Consequently, DBs are lower risk.
In case you didn’t realize it, this is a big thumbs UP for Milliner.
Geno Smith – This chart definitely throws the brakes on the Geno hype. QBs have a very low success rate, even in the first round (relatively). That would make me wary of drafting a QB with more than a couple small flaws in his game. I still think Geno goes high (top 5), but I wouldn’t want to be the team that takes him.
The chart illustrates just how hard it is to draft quarterbacks. Remember that it isn’t a “reach” just because a QB went higher than his rating suggests. Hitting on a QB offers a MUCH greater reward than hitting on any other position (hence the PVM adjustment). HOWEVER, with that reward obviously comes greater risk. For a team like the Eagles, which has a bunch of holes and some existing talent at QB, a high-risk/high-reward play like Geno Smith doesn’t make much sense.