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Building Through The Draft: An unofficial case study, part one

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One of the most heated debates of this offseason amongst Dolphin fans has been this front office's unwillingness to deal away high draft picks for proven players. Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall come to mind immediately. Meanwhile other teams have had no problem giving up draft picks in exchange for proven commodities.

Bill Parcells has long been a believer in building through the draft. In theory, if you make the right pick you can end up with potential stars - or at least long-term starters - for four to six seasons before contract extensions are even a thought. But that's just it - these "cost-controlled" players could become players who help you achieve sustained success. There's always that chance, of course, that you end up taking a player in the draft who is not part of the solution.

So what are the odds you land, at the very least, long-term starters in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft? There's no real way to answer that. But history can at least provide you with some sort of idea as to how successful players selected in the first two rounds eventually become.

So here's the deal. I've decided to do a series of posts that will act as an amateur case study into estimating what the odds are that a team will be successful with their draft picks in the first two rounds. But note - this is not scientific in any way. And I'm sure statisticians will be insulted at my unofficial case study. To those people, I say this - get over it.

This is meant for nothing more than generating some discussion.

And here's how I'm going to do it. For each post in the series, I'll begin by defining the five categories that I'll be grouping players into. And then I'll share the results. From there, I'll leave it up to you to interpret and debate.

The first two drafts I have broken down are the 2000 and 2001 drafts. For these two, the groups are defined below:

Superstar - Player named as 1st team All-Pro more than once and who has multiple Pro Bowl appearances.
Star - Named 1st team All-Pro one time or has more than one Pro Bowl appearance.
Starter - At least five years as a primary starter and has not appeared in more than one Pro Bowl.
Disappointment - Not at least a five year starter but has appeared in at least 80 games (equivalent to five 16 game seasons).
Bust - Played in fewer than 80 career games.

If you'd like to see the players selected in each draft, you can click here for the 2000 draft or here for the 2001 draft.

The 2000 NFL Draft 1st and 2nd Round Results:

Category # of Players % of Draft Picks
Superstar 1 1.6%
Star 9 14.5%
Starter 26 41.9%
Disappointment 7 11.3%
Bust 19 30.6%

 

Note how nearly 42% of the players selected in the first two rounds of the 2000 NFL Draft were not primary starters for an NFL team for five seasons. Some examples of "disappointments" from this class include Ron Dayne (11th overall), Stockar McDougle (20th overall), and Rob Morris (28th overall). Some busts include Peter Warrick (4th overall) and Sylvester Morris (21st overall). The lone "superstar" was Brian Urlacher, the ninth overall selection.

Of the first round alone, 12 of the 31 picks were either "disappointments" or "busts" while only 9 were "stars" or "superstars."

The 2001 NFL Draft 1st and 2nd Round Results:

Category # of Players % of Draft Picks
Superstar 5 8.1%
Star 10 16.1%
Starter 20 32.3%
Disappointment 12 19.3%
Bust 15 24.2%

 

As you can see, the '01 draft had more "superstars" but also more combined "disappointments" and "busts." Some of the "superstars" include LaDainian Tomlinson (5th overall), Richard Seymour (6th overall), and Chad Ochocinco (36th overall). But on the flip side, some "busts" were David Terrell (8th overall), Jamal Reynolds (10th overall), and Willie Middlebrooks (24th overall).

The first round alone saw 11 players chosen who ended up in the bottom two categories while 9 were in the top.

Just some food for thought as this case study continues. Some early thoughts?