clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Does draft order really matter?

New, comments

The Miami Dolphins are out of the playoffs, with the NFL Draft starting to become the next important thing on the league's calendar for the club. But, does getting a top five or top ten draft pick really matter?

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Suck for Luck. We all heard it throughout the 2012 season as fans advocated for their teams to "tank" in order to grab the one-in-a-generation quarterback prospect who eventually went to the Indianapolis Colts. Luck turned around the Colts, who were lost in mediocrity before then...wait, they had Peyton Manning until he was injured and lost for the year that season. Well, Luck has led the Colts to a Super Bowl championship and another appearance in the four years since being drafted....wait, that was third round pick Russell Wilson.

Well, Luck will have the best completion percentage of the group of quarterbacks drafted in the first four rounds that year, right? Try seventh: Wilson (64.7%), Kirk Cousins (64.3%), Robert Griffin III (63.9%), Brock Osweiler (62.5%), Ryan Tannehill (61.8%), Nick Foles (60.2%), and then Luck (58.1%). Passer rating? Wilson (101.3), Griffin (90.6), Foles (87.3), Cousins (85.8), and Luck/Osweiler (85.0) (Tannehill is just behind at 84.9, if Dolphins fans were wondering).

This is not to say Luck was the wrong choice at the top of the draft, as he is clearly doing things right in Indianapolis. He leads in passing yards (14,838 to Tannehill's 14,565 and Wilson's 13,239). He leads in touchdown passes (101 to Wilson's 98 and Tannehill's 85). He also has the unfortunate lead in interceptions (55 to Tannehill's 53 and Wilson's 33). Luck is still starting with his original team, unlike Griffin, Weeden, and Foles.

But the point is, if Indianapolis had not had the top overall pick, and selected Tannehill at eight or even waited to grab Wilson in the third round, would the wheels have fallen off their franchise? No, because there is nothing guaranteed about the NFL Draft. It's a crap shoot every single year. For every Luck and Manning, there is a Griffin or Ryan Leaf.

It's a crap shoot.

The number one overall pick over the last 20 years have been: Jameis Winston, Jadeveon Clowney, Eric Fisher, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, Jake Long, JaMarcus Russell, Mario Williams, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick, Courtney Brown, Tim Couch, Peyton Manning, Orlando Pace, and Keyshawn Johnson. Some are new to the league and still making their mark. Some are Hall of Famers. Some are busts who were quickly out of the league.

It's a crap shoot.

The NFL Offensive Rookies of the Year for the last 20 years, with their overall selection, are: Odell Beckham, Jr.(12th), Eddie Lacy (61st), Robert Griffin III (2nd), Cam Newton (1st), Sam Bradford (1st), Percy Harvin (22nd), Matt Ryan (3rd), Adrian Peterson (7th), Vince Young (3rd), Cadillac Williams (5th), Ben Roethlisberger (11th), Anquan Boldin (54th), Clinton Portis (51st), Anthony Thomas (38th), Mike Anderson (189th), Edgerrin James (3rd), Randy Moss (21st), Warrick Dunn (12th), Eddie George (14th), and Curtis Martin (74th). On the defensive side, the list is Aaron Donald (13th), Sheldon Richardson (13th), Luke Kuechly (9th), Von Miller (2nd), Ndamukong Suh (2nd), Brian Cushing (15th), Jerod Mayo (10th), Patrick Willis (11th), DeMarco Ryans (33rd), Shawne Merriman (12th), Jonathan Vilma (12th), Terrell Suggs (10th), Julius Peppers (2nd), Kendrell Bell (39th), Brian Urlacher (9th), Jevon Kearse (16th), Charles Woodson (4th), Peter Boulware (4th), Simeon Rice (3rd), and Hugh Douglas (16th).

It's a crap shoot.

Do not get me wrong, the majority of Hall of Fame players are from the first round, and the first overall pick has the most for an individual selection position. The higher you pick, the better the chances that player is going to be. Maybe the better way to explain the draft position is not on the player you select, but on the flexibility the pick gives you, with more players on the board.

There just seems to be a requirement that a team get into the top five picks if they are going to make any sort of rebound. A team that picks in the 11th through 20th picks are bad enough to not make the playoffs, but not bad enough to ever get any better through the Draft. Yet, if you go back through the last few drafts (skipping the 2015 just because we do not have a full season to evaluate yet), you can pick players like Odell Beckham, Jr. (12th, 2014), C.J. Mosley (17th, 2014), Calvin Pryor (18th, 2014), Sheldon Richardson (13th, 2013), Kenny Vaccaro (15th, 2013), Dontari Poe (11th, 2012), Melvin Ingram (18th, 2012), J.J. Watt (11th, 2011), Mike Pouncey (15th, 2011), Ryan Kerrigan (16th, 2011), Nate Solder (17th, 2011), and Prince Amukamara (19th, 2011).  It is not like there is no talent in the middle of the first round.

It's a crap shoot.

In the NBA, where one player represents 20 percent of the team on the court at the time, picking that top overall player really is critical. In the NFL, getting the 11th player or the 20th player can have just as much impact as the first overall pick, if the pick turns out to be correct. That is where the front office for a team makes their money. If the front office can scout and make the best educated guess out of the players available, they can have success no matter where they pick. A good general manager and scouting staff could be more important than getting the first overall pick.

The NFL Draft is a crap shoot. Getting the earlier pick gives you a better chance at getting a great player, because the pool for the selection is bigger. When a team is eliminated from the Playoffs - as the Dolphins are now - we, as fans, all want to get the best draft pick possible. Some fans say a team should lose out, because it makes their draft position better. But, does draft position actually matter? Maybe not.