Article from The Athletic
So let’s project for 2020. Here, we calculated the expected value each team earned on the pick and subtracted the capital of the pick, using an equation that weighs the value of the team’s selections (capital) against the draftees’ rankings in the Consensus Big Board (value). We also take into account positional needs — if a team, for example, drafts a running back because he’s the highest-ranked player on the board but then never plays that running back because there are five better ones on the roster, that wasn’t a good pick. (For more information on how we arrived at the capital and value numbers, check out last year’s article.) Most teams ended up over 100 percent in the return on investment column because the positional need calculation gave them boosts, which means that some teams that graded poorly in other draft class rankings still ended up net positive in value here — just not as positive as the other teams around them.
Here’s how teams did:
2020 Consensus Big Board Draft Rankings
That mostly aligns with grades around the media landscape, though there are significant differences for Indianapolis, Minnesota and Jacksonville on the negative end and more favorable scores here for Philadelphia, Buffalo and Houston.
While most of the positive grades for the Colts surround the stylistic fit that wide receiver Michael Pittman provides with quarterback Philip Rivers, there’s a bit of revisionist history with some of the analysis — Pittman is considered worthy of the 34th pick in post-draft analysis, but he was the 47th-ranked player on the board. The board even agrees that Pittman isn’t a negative pick after accounting for positional value and need, but it doesn’t give the Colts high marks for it either. The board would have preferred Denzel Mims, ranked 33rd overall, in that slot. Beyond that, the Colts gained significant value with Jacob Eason and some value with Jonathan Taylor but lost quite a bit with Julian Blackmon and a little more with Danny Pinter.
Minnesota benefits both from having a high number of picks in the first two rounds and didn’t really deviate from the general draft community’s consensus in those rounds. But the back end cost them in terms of total value, grabbing players outside of the top 300 on a fairly regular basis. Every step they took forward in terms of the board was met with another step backwards. Altogether a good draft — they rank ninth — but not one the board sees as the best.
Jacksonville also had four picks in the top 100, and that tends to result in high draft grades as analysts don’t always discount the fact that it’s easier to acquire talent with more picks. Jacksonville ended up with one of the highest total value returns in the class, but also spent more than any team besides Miami. Jacksonville gained value with CJ Henderson and earned even more with K’Lavon Chaisson and Ben Bartch, but also lost value with Shaquille Quarterman, Daniel Thomas and Jake Luton, despite the bonus assigned to quarterbacks. Like Indianapolis and Minnesota, it’s not a bad draft, just not an outstandingly great one by this measure.
Philadelphia gets knocked for selecting Jalen Hurts in the second round by analysts, but the board thinks that it’s appropriate value. Obviously the reality of the situation with the Eagles is different, but the Eagles did need a quarterback — just not to start. It’s difficult to find good backups, so the calculation the board makes is slightly favorable, even though Hurts was ranked 20 spots lower than where he went. It didn’t like the Jalen Reagor pick because he was valued a round later, but they more than made up for it by selecting Prince Tega Wanogho, adding more value with John Hightwoer, Jack Driscoll and K’Von Wallace.
As for Buffalo, San Francisco and Houston, there are three different stories. Analysts were high on Buffalo’s draft but not nearly high enough — Buffalo gained value with every single pick except kicker Tyler Bass. A first-round talent in the second, a third-round talent in the fifth and a pair of fifth-round talents in the seventh highlight their draft.
Houston suffers in part for not having many picks — like New Orleans — but given the capital they had to work with, they did alright with their picks. Almost all of them gained value except Charlie Heck, who was selected 60 spots from his overall value. It’s not a spectacular draft, but it wasn’t catastrophic either — yet they were ranked 31st in the aggregate of draft grades. The board doesn’t know what the Texans should have prioritized, so it doesn’t have a take on that, but it does think that the players they selected were solid.
Who were the biggest steals of the draft?
Prince Tega Wanogho
If some of the first-round steals surprise you, just think about what it would take to trade up from No. 15 to No. 8, as in the case of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. Generating that type of value without having to make a single phone call is pretty good. Getting the seventh-ranked player at No. 10 (as in the case of Jedrick Wills) or the 10th-ranked player at No. 13 (Tristan Wirfs) is roughly equivalent from a draft value perspective of a late first-round player going in the middle of the second, a player ranked in the 40s going in the 60s, a player in the 60s going in the 90s, etc.
And the biggest reaches:
While those teams — or fans of those teams — may disagree about these being reaches, just remember that in order for someone to win the draft, someone else has to lose. Philadelphia’s emphasis on speed makes sense, but perhaps it was better to trade down a few spots than grab a player worth a second-round pick. The Packers see a system fit for Josiah Deguara, but H-backs aren’t valued much by the NFL. Jordyn Brooks is likely the best run-stopping linebacker in the class, but his ability in coverage is pure projection.
If your team did well, congratulations! If not, I’m sure the model will be wrong in some spots — it missed on Tyreek Hill, after all. We’ll find out soon enough.