FanPost

Dolphin Drafts - measuring the degree of suckatude.

Part one: The past is prologue:

 

Much has been made in recent weeks of the Dolphin's draft history and the club's lack of success in acquiring talent through the draft.

We have Tim Graham on ESPN referencing Cold Hard Football Facts and their decade long analysis of the results of each team's draft.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afceast/post/_/id/28758/decade-of-drafts-pats-supreme-fins-worst

http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/Articles/11_3749_Decade_in_the_making%3A_the_ultimate_NFL_draft_grades.html

This is an in depth study which takes into account the number of Pro Bowlers, number of players of a certain talent rating (also their research) and the number of players they drafted still in the NFL.

We come out close to the bottom - about 26th in their analysis. They thought our best pick of the decade was Yeremiah Bell (6th round, 2003) and the worst was Pat White. They thought Jake Long was a good pick.

In 2009 Forbes Magazine (we know of them as the people who keep telling us how much money our owner is worth.) did a study of the combined results of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 drafts. They ranked them on the basis of how many players were still with the team that drafted them. The Dolphins came in 5th from the bottom.

http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/08/nfl-draft-teams-lifestyle-sports-nfl-draft.html

Interestingly two teams that scored even worse than Miami were Pittsburgh and New England: two franchises universally regarded as being astute draft teams. Cold Hard Football Stats graded New England as the best drafting team in the last decade, so numbers - like opinions - seem to vary. More on this later.

Most recently Rick Reilly and ESPN came up with what they call a "re-draft" He took the 2006, 2007 and 2008 drafts and produced a first round for each based on how the players have performed since they were drafted. So instead of JaMarcus Russell being the #1 pick Adrian Peterson is as he was judged to be the best player in the 2007 class. Further the Vikings get a grade of +6 as they picked Peterson 7th when he actually should have gone 6 spots higher. The Dolphins get a score of -134 for picking Ted Ginn 9th when he should have, based on his performance, been drafted 143rd.

http://bleacherreport.com/tb/b9xzF

(Forgive the source)

This one is amusing but the numbers are completely dependant on an arbitrary ranking. I'm not going to argue that Ted Ginn wasn't a waste of a first round pick, but if you look at 2008, the Dolphins get -9 for picking Jake Long. That means in Reilly's opinion Long was only the 10th best player taken. OK Matt Ryan probably is worth the #1 pick, but I'm not buying Peyton Hillis, Ryan Clady (???) Jerod Mayo and Pierre Garcon all being better than Long.

Using this system the Dolphins grade out at 28th in the league with a -309 score....that's pretty harsh since it's only based on three players, Long, Jason Allen (-166) and Ginn...and basically you're grading (subjectively) a team's ability to draft solely on their first round picks. That's too small a sample and too arbitrary a method of evaluation to really have any statistical weight, but it does make for some interesting discussion.

Are we who we think we are?

So I decided to investigate the Dolphins recent Draft history. The question I wanted to answer was essentially "Does our draft record really suck?"

In order to be fair I've only looked at the current regime's record as, really they're only responsible for what they've done. Not what they inherited. They did not draft Ted Ginn or Jason Allen or even Eric Kumerow. In fact the current FO is one of the reasons the Dolphins rank so far down the in the decade-long study as they burnt the roster to the ground and started over. You can't blame them as the team had just come off a 1-15 year but doing that essentially negated the first 7 drafts of the decade.

Part Two: That was then, this is now.

For the purpose of this investigation the 66 players on the current roster - including injury reserve and players who are essentially free agents like Ronnie Brown - were acquired six different ways. I also determined that the team has 25 starters - long snapper, punter and kicker being the extra three.

How acquired

Starters

Pro bowl

Inherited

11

7

3 - Williams, Bell, Brown

Drafted

17

9

1 Long

Traded for

7

2

1 Marshall

Undrafted FA

7

3

2 Carpenter, Wake

Free Agents

22

4

1 Starks (not Dansby???)

Waivers

2

-

The first thing that jumps out at you is the house cleaning. There are only 11 players left from 2007 and 7 of them are starters.

The second thing that jumps out at you is how active the FO has been. Half the team are either FA or UDFA...the number of UDFA is in a way tied to our drafting record as these are guys who were scouted, evaluated and scooped up after the draft...i.e. Davone Bess.

Side note: Not one NFL team - including us - was willing to spend a pick on Bess.

WTF??

As a freshman, Bess caught 89 passes for 1,124 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Selected WAC first team and WAC Freshman of the Year.

As a sophomore, caught 96 passes for 1,220 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Named WAC first team.

In his junior year, he finished with 108 catches for 1266 yards with 12 TDs.

Granted Hawaii isn't Penn State and the WAC isn't the SEC but how does this not rate a look? He's too small? Too slow? Pass-happy Offence in a weak conference? And yet he's in the NFL and out-performing all but a couple of WRs who were drafted in 2008

I mention this to underscore the fact that drafting is not an exact science and scouts and GMs are making - at best - educated guesses about how college players will perform at the next level. Bess is just as much an example of how wrong everyone can be as Ginn is an example of our draft failure.

Part Three: Can you feel me now?

The first goal of a draft - I would suggest - is to supply your team with new talent.

The most obvious measure of that is how many of the players you pick make, and stay on your roster. 17 of the 26 players the Dolphins drafted in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Are still on the roster. - that's 65.38 or basically two thirds of the players they drafted.

Good? Bad? Average? Interestingly those are the exact same numbers as the Steelers in the same three drafts.  Further all but one of those players (you know who) is still in the NFL...so at this stage 96% of all the players this front office has drafted are in the NFL...Pat White was a bust - no question but it's too early to call Patrick Turner a bust as he's still with the Jets. Apparently we can't even say John Back was a bust as he's poised to put Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman on the bench in Washington - I took that as a true sign Judgment Day was upon us but apparently not.

So is it just a fluke that we have same success/retention rate as the Steelers? Let's take a look at another team universally regarded as masters of the Draft: the Patriots. In the three drafts we're looking at New England had 31 picks...no surprise there Belichick moves up and down on draft day faster than porn-stars on speed. Of the 31 players they selected 20 of them are still on the roster or 64.5% -basically the same, or slightly less depending on how picky you are - as the Steelers and the Dolphins. So in terms of acquiring talent we're in pretty good company.

The second goal of the draft - I would suggest - is to improve your team.

Obviously that's what you're looking for with your top picks - someone who can step in, start and make you better. The Steelers did that with Maurkice Pouncey, the Pats with Jerod Mayo and we did with Jake Long. All three not just starters but Pro Bowl players.

Teams that find starters in the later rounds tend to be regarded as astute and respected for their diligence and the amount of "homework" they do. Strangely they are almost never regarded as "lucky." One of the things I respect Belichick for is he freely admits they got lucky drafting Tom Brady in the sixth round. It's only logical if they'd known he'd turn out to be one of the best QBs ever they would have taken him a lot sooner.

How has the current FO done in acquiring starters in the last three years?

2008:

Jake Long T Michigan Pro bowl

Phillip Merling DE Clemson Starter

Chad Henne QB Michigan Starter

2009

Vontae Davis CB Illinois Starter

Sean Smith CB Utah Starter

Brian Hartline WR Ohio State Starter

Chris Clemons S Clemson Starter

2010

Kao Misi DE Utah Starter

John Jerry G Mississippi Starter

You could argue Jerod Odrick was also a starter as he did start the opening vs Buffalo before getting hurt for the year. Also I'm not counting Reshard Jones as a starter

So that's 9 starters (or 10) in total. Pat white represents the epic fail for this Front Office but what should be remembered is we had two 2ndround picks in both 2008 and 2009. So out of 8 first and second round picks all but White are starters (including Odrick).

The Steelers, by comparison, have drafted four starters in the same period: Rashard Mendenhall (currently finishing a joint degree in Political Science and Communications), Evander Hood, Mike Wallace and Pouncey.

The Patriots have Mayo, Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Devan McCourty, Brandon Spikes (who I'll admit I desperately wanted us to draft), Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (I'm not sure if they count as one or two starters) and punter Zoltan Mesko (I'm not sure if he counts as 1 or none) for a total of some where between 6 and 8.  Interestingly only Mayo and Jonathan Wilhite remain from the Pats' 2008 draft. Which probably proves that the Pats' FO drafts so well that one "bad" draft doesn't hurt them on the field or tarnish their rep.

In the last three years our FO has drafted more starters than either the Patriots or the Steelers. I'm not saying we're better, but these numbers would suggest we're not worse either. If we're doing as well as those two franchises in terms of acquiring talent and improving our team we're not sucking on draft day.

Bonus round - Undrafted free agents.

Make of this what you will but included in the 7 UDFAs currently on the roster are Bess, Dan Carpenter and Cameron Wake. One of the best possession WRs in the league, a Pro-Bowl kicker and a Pro Bowl LB.

 

An observation:

I think people evaluating drafts can get too hung up on the fate of first round picks.

(Artist's conception)

In the 1988 draft Miami had arguably their biggest draft bust ever - Eric Kumerow.  He was taken with the 16thpick overall and never started a game for the Dolphins....ergo we're a bad drafting team.  

On further review something funny happens. In the second round the Dolphins take Jarvis Williams, who will start at Safety for the next 5 years. In the third round: Ferrell Edmunds who will start at Tight End for the next 7 years and make the Pro Bowl. In the eighth round: Harry Galbreath, who will start at guard for the next five years and make the all rookie team. It gets better. In the ninth round the Dolphins select Jeff Cross who will start at defensive end for the next nine years and make the Pro Bowl in 1990.  How bad was it really?

 

Part Four: Revelations (9:5) 

Congratulations ( and my sympathies) if you are still with me.

At the End of Days I look at this and conclude when it comes to drafting this Front Office does not suck. It has a low degree of Suckiosity, minimal Suckatude, well within acceptable levels on the Suck-o-meter and all statements vis-a-vis the sucking of their drafting ability being a going concern are hereby rendered inoperative!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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