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2013 NFL Draft Grades


You won't find me evaluating NFL draft prospects because I assure from the outset: I know nothing. I watch almost zero college football, and the publicly available stats probably mean less in evaluating potential professional football players than they do in any other sport.

But, I can still generate draft grades based on what the experts at ESPN say. Over on the ESPN website, their team of football sages evaluate nearly every draftable prospect and assign him a numerical score from 0-100 -- 100 being an elite prospect, below 10 being players the ESPN scouts think aren't even worth a look as a training camp body.

The immediate problem: how to generate the grades. I have numerical scores for every player (and I filled in a score of 25 for the one or two players without grades from the ESPN scouts -- I think the only drafted player this year was a punter), but there are important variables that need to be considered such as the number of draft picks and where a team is picking.

Getting a highly-rated player with the top pick in the draft doesn't take much skill -- that's what should happen. Ending up with a high total value shouldn't be much of a challenge if a team uses 11 picks (as three did this year); but might be tougher with just five selections. So, I'm going to post some scores using a few different ways of looking at the draft, and then combine them all into a Unified Draft Grade.

First look: total value. This is simple stuff -- add up the draft scores for each player a team selected and...voila...a total value score. To make comparisons easier, I've set the top score to 100 and scaled the other scores below.

Total Value

  1. Ravens -- 100
  2. Cardinals -- 99
  3. 49ers -- 99
  4. Packers -- 98
  5. Bengals -- 94
  6. Seahawks -- 91
  7. Vikings -- 90
  8. Raiders -- 90
  9. Steelers -- 88
  10. Dolphins -- 88
  11. Eagles -- 87
  12. Texans -- 87
  13. Titans -- 86
  14. Bills -- 80
  15. Cowboys -- 80
  16. Broncos -- 77
  17. Lions -- 76
  18. Rams -- 76
  19. Jaguars -- 76
  20. Jets -- 75
  21. Chiefs -- 75
  22. Falcons -- 74
  23. Patriots -- 72
  24. Giants -- 68
  25. Redskins -- 68
  26. Bears -- 65
  27. Chargers -- 64
  28. Colts -- 63
  29. Buccaneers -- 58
  30. Saints -- 55
  31. Panthers -- 52
  32. Browns -- 46

You see the potential pitfall right away -- total value is heavily dependent on the total number of picks. The correlation between draft picks used and total value is a high 0.92. Every team in the top 10 used at least nine draft picks. The 49ers, Packers and Seahawks each used 11. If they didn't get more total value than the Saints, Panthers and Browns (each of whom used five picks), it'd be a catastrophic scouting failure.

So, here's another look, this time looking at average value per draft pick used. Once again, the top score is set to 100 and the others are scaled beneath.

Average Value Per Pick Used

  1. Cowboys -- 100
  2. Cardinals -- 97
  3. Broncos -- 97
  4. Saints -- 96
  5. Bears -- 96
  6. Eagles -- 96
  7. Rams -- 95
  8. Titans -- 95
  9. Jets -- 94
  10. Chargers -- 94
  11. Panthers -- 91
  12. Patriots -- 90
  13. Bills -- 89
  14. Ravens -- 88
  15. Vikings -- 88
  16. Steelers -- 86
  17. Giants -- 86
  18. Dolphins -- 86
  19. Texans -- 85
  20. Redskins -- 85
  21. Buccaneers -- 85
  22. Jaguars -- 84
  23. Bengals -- 83
  24. Chiefs -- 82
  25. Browns -- 82
  26. Falcons -- 81
  27. Colts -- 79
  28. 49ers -- 79
  29. Raiders -- 79
  30. Packers -- 78
  31. Lions -- 74
  32. Seahawks -- 73
The rankings have changed significantly. Seattle was sixth in total value, but 32nd in value per pick. Dallas was 15th in total value, but first in value per pick. And so on.

Something else to note is how much tighter the scores are. When looking at total value, the average "standardized" score was 78. In average value per pick used, the 31st ranked team had a 78 -- average was 87.

But, we're only part way home because we still haven't accounted for draft position. Teams that pick first should get better players. If we're evaluating a team's drafting skill, draft position needs to be considered. So, here are two looks -- the first is Weighted Total Value and the second is Weighted Value Per Pick Used. In these "weighted" rankings, teams are rewarded for selecting a highly-rated player later in the draft.

Weighted Total Value

  1. Seahawks -- 100
  2. Ravens -- 98
  3. Packers -- 90
  4. Bengals -- 78
  5. 49ers -- 78
  6. Cardinals -- 77
  7. Raiders -- 73
  8. Vikings -- 72
  9. Falcons -- 71
  10. Texans -- 71
  11. Steelers -- 70
  12. Eagles -- 67
  13. Broncos -- 66
  14. Redskins -- 66
  15. Patriots -- 62
  16. Dolphins -- 61
  17. Titans -- 59
  18. Colts -- 59
  19. Lions -- 57
  20. Chiefs -- 57
  21. Bears -- 55
  22. Bills -- 55
  23. Cowboys -- 55
  24. Jaguars -- 51
  25. Giants -- 49
  26. Rams -- 44
  27. Buccaneers -- 42
  28. Chargers -- 41
  29. Browns -- 39
  30. Jets -- 39
  31. Saints -- 33
  32. Panthers -- 32
Lots more variability in this measure, but...it's still heavily dependent on the total number of picks. Weighting by where a team picks reduces that correlation I mentioned earlier in the raw total value section from 0.92 to 0.87. Not much of a change.

So, final "test" before we get to the unified grades:

Weighted Value Per Pick Used

  1. Ravens -- 100
  2. Broncos -- 97
  3. Redskins -- 96
  4. Bears -- 94
  5. Seahawks -- 93
  6. Falcons -- 90
  7. Patriots -- 90
  8. Cardinals -- 87
  9. Colts -- 86
  10. Eagles -- 85
  11. Packers -- 84
  12. Vikings -- 82
  13. Browns -- 80
  14. Texans -- 80
  15. Bengals -- 80
  16. Steelers -- 80
  17. Cowboys -- 80
  18. Titans -- 86
  19. Raiders -- 74
  20. Chiefs -- 73
  21. 49ers -- 72
  22. Giants -- 71
  23. Buccaneers -- 71
  24. Bills -- 70
  25. Chargers -- 69
  26. Dolphins -- 69
  27. Saints -- 68
  28. Lions -- 65
  29. Panthers -- 65
  30. Rams -- 65
  31. Jaguars -- 64
  32. Jets -- 57
The rankings shuffle again, this time with the Ravens back in the top spot. Check out the Redskins in third, suggesting Washington may have gotten good value out of its relatively later draft picks.

In formulating final grades for the teams, keep in mind that different measures can be valued differently depending on what a franchise needs. For a team with numerous roster holes or in need of overall depth, a high total value may be desirable, even if it takes a lot of picks to get there.

For a deep team looking for a few guys to put it over the top or to plug a hole here or there, perhaps a high average would be better.

The weighted measures get at a front office's drafting skill -- to the extent that the ESPN grades are accurate. That's an issue beyond the scope of this blog post. Assessing their accuracy would take some time, but wouldn't be a particularly challenging study to do. I'm a bit lacking in the time part of the equation, however.

Last list -- the Unified Draft Grade, which is the average score from each of the four categories listed above.

Unified Draft Grade

  1. Ravens -- 97
  2. Cardinals -- 90
  3. Seahawks -- 89
  4. Packers -- 87
  5. Broncos -- 84
  6. Bengals -- 84
  7. Eagles -- 84
  8. Vikings -- 83
  9. 49ers -- 82
  10. Steelers -- 81
  11. Texans -- 81
  12. Falcons -- 79
  13. Raiders -- 79
  14. Titans -- 79
  15. Redskins -- 79
  16. Patriots -- 79
  17. Cowboys -- 78
  18. Bears -- 78
  19. Dolphins -- 76
  20. Bills -- 74
  21. Colts -- 72
  22. Chiefs -- 72
  23. Rams -- 70
  24. Jaguars -- 69
  25. Giants -- 69
  26. Lions -- 68
  27. Chargers -- 67
  28. Jets -- 66
  29. Buccaneers -- 64
  30. Saints -- 63
  31. Browns -- 62
  32. Panthers -- 60
These numbers suggest the Redskins had a pretty average draft. They did better in the average per pick used and the weighted average per pick used categories, but a bit worse in total value and weighted total value. This is should be expected since they had fewer picks than average (the team used six picks, the average team used 7.9, including compensatory selections), and they didn't have a first round pick because of the Robert Griffin III trade.

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