Thursday, April 28, 2011

BDT -- And You Thought the Lions Were Dumb! (Apr 28)

One of the greatest moments in my life...
Here we are, about six hours from the start of the 2011 NFL Draft! No matter what anyone says, including myself, I won't be dissuaded from expressing my exuberant joy! I'm excited to see the surprises, the bad suits, the awkward hand shakes with Roger Goodell, the unnecessary and completely non-insightful interviews, the trades, the new and inventive way my Cowboys will waste our pick, the tears flowing from Prince's face when the Vikings do something dumb, and of course, the sad and agonized look on the face of the last guy waiting in the green room. Honestly, it was such a joy to see Brady Quinn nearly break down and hang can only hope to witness such an event twice!

As I was considering all these things and talking it over with Prince, something suddenly came to me; a thought so wondrous that I couldn't even fully process it at first. You all know how much I despise Cam Newton. Goodness knows I've written and talked about it to the point where Newton might actually want to consider some kind of restraining order against me (and Prince too). Well, I've been pretty bummed about Newton potentially going #1 overall for some reason. I guess it doesn't make a lot of sense since I hate Carolina and since being the top overall selection would only magnify Newton's impending failure. After all, think of all the posts/podcasts I could milk out of that! It could be a potential gold mine! Regardless, I just can't seem to come to grips with it and I've been hoping he would fall. No longer my friends! This amazing thought I had has changed my entire world view and I now hope the Carolina Panthers select Cam Newton number one overall! Why, you ask? Consider this highly plausible scenario:

2010: Carolina invests their 2nd round selection (#48 overall) on QB Jimmy Clausen with the expectation he will be their QB of the future. Clausen, of course, struggles mightily his rookie season and leaves major questions about his ability to play QB in the NFL.

2011: Carolina invests the #1 overall pick (and boatloads of cash) on QB Cam Newton with the expectation he will be their QB of the future. Clausen begins the season as the starter, but once again struggles for a variety of reasons. Carolina was forced to move Steve Smith in the offseason, leaving neither Clausen nor Newton with any legitimate targets. As the losses mount, Newton is inserted as the starter and quickly proves himself as the worst QB alive. His superior athleticism allows him to make the occasional jaw-dropping play, but his lack of poise, smarts, and accuracy cause him to make far too many mistakes. The Panthers finish the season winless and without direction.

2012: After their dismal 0-16 finish, Carolina once again earns the #1 overall pick in the draft. At this point, the Panthers face a major dilemna. They have just invested a 2nd round pick and the #1 overall pick on QB' consecutive years! Now, they sit at the top of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes; the very same QB they badly wanted the year before...OVER CAM NEWTON! Given Clausen's and Newton's performances, they are uncertain as to whether they have their QB of the future and they find themselves, once again, enamored with Luck. What do they do? Can they really take a third consecutive QB of the future? Can they really use two straight #1 overall picks on a QB? Can they really make the decision to call Newton and Clausen sunk costs...after only one season and two seasons respectively?

As I thought of this potential scenario, I wondered if there was any historical comparisons. I looked through the last 30 years of draft history and found a few interesting similarities.

Miami Dolphins

2007 QB John Beck #40 Overall (2nd Round)
2008 QB Chad Henne #57 Overall (2nd Round)
2009 QB Pat White #44 Overall (2nd Round)

This isn't quite as bad since there are no really high picks here, but three straight second round selections is pretty bad...especially when you consider Henne is the only one still on the team...and that will likely not be the case after the offseason; so...

Seattle Seahawks

1991 Dan McGwire #16 Overall
1993 Rick Mirer #2 Overall

These aren't consecutive first round picks, but it might as well be. By the way, in case you were wondering; yes, Dan McGwire is Mark's brother. Like the Dolphins "Terrible Trio," neither of these guys worked out.

Baltimore Colts

1982 Art Schlichter #1 Overall
1983 John Elway #1 Overall

Here we go; two straight #1 overall picks on QB's. This disaster dwarfs even Carolina's potential situation! Schlichter had serious gambling issues that were somewhat known even while he was still playing at Ohio State. Baltimore selected him nonetheless, and the gambling only got worse. He blew his entire signing bonus by midseason and was soon suspended by the league. Bye bye Schlichter. If that wasn't bad enough, the Colts big opportunity to correct their mistake ended up in disaster as well. Elway was viewed as one of the best QB prospects of all time, but the refused to play for Baltimore and demanded a trade. Unable to persuade him, the Colts eventually traded him to Denver for Mark Herrmann, Chris Hinton, and a future 1st round pick (Ron Solt). Good luck topping that Carolina!

So, maybe it won't be the worst disaster of all time, but it would rank right up there. Believe me, if Newton goes #1 tonight, I'll be cheering hard for Carolina to lose every game. They'll have to take Luck right? How could they not? This is going to be amazing!


One other scenario I've heard mentioned is the Panthers taking WR A.J. Green at the top spot. Obviously, this is a better idea than taking Cam Newton, but the idea Green is a "can't miss" prospect just didn't sound right to me. We've all heard draftniks talk about how unpredictable WR prospects can be, but when I sat down and looked at the actual draft history, it blew my mind away. I put together a spreadsheet of all the first round WR's from 1991 until now (excluding 2010). To evaluate players, I used the "approximate value" stat from Pro Football Reference's website. Nate, from used this stat for his big draft project and it really helped me understand the stat better. It's imperfect, as most statistics are, but overall it seemed to be a pretty accurate way of determing how productive a player was in a given season or over their entire career. (Note: I have a spreadsheet with all my info on it if you are interested in seeing it)

Here are the ranges I've approximated using both career AV (approximate value) and yearly average AV.

Career AV (like the stat itself, these are approximate)
  • Below 60 = Marginal NFL player. Basically a bust.
  • 60-74 = Average to slightly above average player
  • 75-89 = Slightly above average to borderline star
  • 90+ = Borderline star to superstar
Average Yearly AV (again, it's approximate)
  • Below 6.0 = Marginal NFL player. Basically a bust.
  • 6.0-7.4 = Average to slightly above average player
  • 7.5-8.6 = Slightly above average to borderline star
  • 8.7+ = Borderline star to superstar

These ranges in mind, here are some examples AV from the 1991-2009 time frame.

Marvin Harrison, an awesome receiver, has a career AV of 161 (highest) and a yearly average AV of 12.4.
Terry Glenn, a slightly above average player, has a career AV of 81 and a yearly average AV of 6.8
Derrick Alexander, an average player, has a career AV of 65 and a yearly average AV of 7.2
Charles Rogers, a huge bust, has a career AV of 4 and a yearly average AV of 1.3.

Using these stats, the unpredictability in drafting a receiver comes into full view. You honestly can't believe how bad it is! Don't let anyone tell you a Top 10 receiver is sure fire because it's far from it!

From 1991-2009, 28 receivers have gone in the Top 10. Check this list out!
  • 2009 - #7 Darrius Heyward-Bey (2.5 avg AV); #10 Michael Crabtree (6.0 avg AV)
  • 2007 - #2 Calvin Johnson (8.3 avg AV); #9 Ted Ginn (5.0 avg AV)
  • 2005 - #3 Braylon Edwards (7.2 avg AV); #7 Troy Williamson (1.6 avg AV); #10 Mike Williams (2.8 avg AV)
  • 2004 - #3 Larry Fitzgerald (9.4 avg AV); #7 Roy Williams (6.4 avg AV); #9 Reggie Williams (5.0 avg AV)
  • 2003 - #2 Charles Rogers (1.3 avg AV); #3 Andre Johnson (10.6 avg AV)
  • 2001 - #8 David Terrell (2.4 avg AV); #9 Koren Robinson (4.9 avg AV)
  • 2000 - #4 Peter Warrick (5.0 avg AV/30 career AV); #8 Plaxico Burress (8.7 avg AV); #10 Travis Taylor (4.5 avg AV/36 career AV)
  • 1999 - #6 Torry Holt (11.2 avg AV/123 career AV); #8 David Boston (6.7 avg AV/40 career AV)
  • 1997 - #7 Ike Hilliard (4.4 avg AV/53 career AV)
  • 1996 - #1 Keyshawn Johnson (9.0 avg AV); #7 Terry Glenn (6.8 avg AV/81 career AV)
  • 1995 - #4 Michael Westbrook (5.4 avg AV/43 career AV); #8 Joey Galloway (6.3 avg AV/101 career AV); #10 J.J. Stokes (5.2 avg AV/47 career AV)
  • 1993 - #7 Curtis Conway (6.3 avg AV/75 career AV)
  • 1992 - #4 Desmond Howard (1.8 avg AV/20 career AV)
  • 1991 - #10 Herman Moore (8.0 avg AV/96 career AV)
It's a lot to digest, but it tells a great story about taking receivers early in the draft. Of those 28 players, 15 could be easily categorized as busts. That doesn't include Michael Crabtree, who we don't know a lot about yet, and Roy Williams, who is borderline. 15 of 28! Over 50% end up sucking! Another way of looking at it is that only 7 out of the 28 could be categorized as borderline star or superstar. That's not a great conversion rate on such a high pick.

I won't list them all, but I did a similar analysis on the non-Top 10 first round picks from that time period, and the numbers were similarly bad. 45 receivers were drafted in the #11-end of the first round range. 29 have ended up being busts or borderline busts while only 5 have ended up as stars. However, that number could rise since the careers of Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, and Kenny Britt are too new to make that determination. Regardless, the numbers show over 60% of first round receivers from 1991-2009 have busted...that's an enormous number!

I'm not really trying to make a point with this, I'm just pointing out an interesting stat. A.J. Green may very well end up being the next Jerry Rice, but he actually has a better chance of turning out to be the next Charles Rogers. That has to be a terrifying thing if you're an NFL GM! The same holds true for Cleveland or any other team looking at Julio Jones. What are you going to end up with? While at lunch, I heard a local sports guy talking about how "sure fire" and "can't miss" A.J. Green was. The truth is, nothing is sure fire in the NFL Draft. Guys bust all the time and it's almost impossible to figure out who will make it and who won't. That's why some people hate draftniks! What do we really know? Charles Rogers was DEFINITELY going to be great! So was David Terrell! Right...that worked out well. That having been said, I'd still feel more comfortable with a 40% conversion rate at WR then I would taking Cam Newton, who has a 0% conversion rate. This, I know.


  1. Not that it really matters, because the numbers still show that he sucks, but I'd contend that Mike Williams should be 11 AV over 6 years, not 4. Makes it a 1.8 instead of 2.8. If you're out of the league for two years because you suck so bad, you should get that counted against you. But again, it doesn't really matter at all. I just think Mike Williams sucks.

  2. I'm in favor of any scenario that makes Mike Williams look worse.

  3. You didnt mention the 2005 2nd rounder Miami traded for AJ Feeley or the 2006 2nd rounder for Dante Culpepper.....5 straight 2nd round picks on QBs and didnt land a good one

  4. Regarding Miami, you didnt even mention the 2005 2nd round they traded for AJ Feeley or the 2006 2nd round they traded for Dante Culpepper.....5 consecutive 2nd round picks on QBs, 4 of them no longer a Dolphin, and they still are looking for a true starter

  5. Wow I can't believe I forgot that! What an unbelievable run for the Dolphins! Dan Marino started crying when you brought it back up.