The draft is guesswork: Players drafted No. 13-15 perform better than No. 8-10

Our mission here at Trade Down Island as outlined in TDI’s Glorious Constitution is to remind NFL teams that drafting is largely educated guesswork so unless you’re drafting a stud, smartly trade down! But how, you may ask, do teams know with certainty if they’re drafting a stud or not? That’s the point! They don’t know!

Because of the uncertainties associated with every draft pick, teams maximize their chances of landing solid players by smartly trading down. By smartly trading down I’m referring to moving back a few spots in the first round, for example, and picking up additional picks in the early rounds. Here’s why:

Between 2007 and 2014, players drafted between Nos. 13-15 have outperformed players drafted between Nos. 8-10.

With data taken from Football Reference, here are the names of the 24 players drafted between Nos. 8-10 and those drafted between Nos. 13-15 over that eight year span. In total, only eight of the players drafted between Nos. 8-10 have made the Pro Bowl compared to 15 selected between Nos. 13-15

When teams make a Top 15 selection they are ultimately aiming for players who will make multiple Pro Bowls, and once again those drafted later have performed better than those selected earlier. Only five players drafted between No. 8-10 have made multiple Pro Bowl appearances:

Multipe Pro Bowls, Drafted No. 8-10 from 2007-2014
6 Pro Bowls – Luke Kuechly (No. 9), Tyron Smith (No. 9)
4 Pro Bowls – Anthony Barr (No. 9)
2 Pro Bowls – Stephon Gilmore (No. 10), Jerod Mayo (No. 10)

While only five of the earlier picks have been selected to multiple Pro Bowls, a total of 10 players drafted between No. 13 and No. 15 from 2007-2014 have received this honor:

Multipe Pro Bowls, Drafted No. 13-15 from 2007-2014
7 Pro Bowls – Darrell Revis (No. 14)
6 Pro Bowls – Earl Thomas (No. 14)
5 Pro Bowls – Aaron Donald (No. 13), Brian Orakpo (No. 13)
4 Pro Bowls – Mike Pouncey (No. 15)
3 Pro Bowls – Malcolm Jenkins (No. 14)
2 Pro Bowls – Branden Albert (No. 15), Jason Pierre-Paul (No. 15), Ryan Shazier (No. 15), Robert Quinn (No. 14)

But the number of Pro Bowlers isn’t the only way to measure success. Using Football Reference data we can also look at the total number of starts each of the players have made along with their Career Approximate Value. Once again, players drafted between Nos. 13-15 have outperformed those drafted between Nos. 8-10.

Career Starts and Career Approximate Value
Nos. 8-10: 1,564 career starts, 803 career AV
Nos. 13-15: 2,170 career starts, 1,112 career AV

The 24 players drafted between Nos. 13-15 between 20017 and 2014 have clearly outperformed their peers who were drafted between Nos. 8-10, both in terms of quality and quantity of play.

As we preach in Article 5 of TDI’s Glorious Constitution, if you trust your scouts and GM to nail the No. 10 pick, you should also trust them to nail No. 15! By smartly trading down in the mid-first round, teams can still draft a stud while compiling additional valuable picks. For example, in 2018 the Buccaneers traded down from No. 7 to No. 12 with the Bills and pulled off the following TDI special:

Bills received: No. 7 (1st), No. 255 (7th)
Bucs recieved: No. 12 (1st), No 53 (2nd), No. 56 (2nd)

The Bucs ended up trading down again with the No. 56 pick for No. 63 (2nd) and No. 117 (4th) and ultimately turned their original No. 7 pick into four promising players on rookie contracts. This is what we preach here at Trade Down Island. The draft is largely educated guesswork. Teams that can nail Top 10 picks should do the same in the mid-first rounds, so unless you’re drafting a stud, trade down!

–Benevolent Dictator

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