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Learning from history - Super Bowl winners' draft strategies

Almost all of the recent discussion on MHR has focused on the draft. One big point of debate has become where the Broncos should spend their high draft picks - on the defensive side of the ball or on the offensive side of the ball. I decided to look back at the last decade of superbowl winning teams to answer 2 questions:

1. How did they rank offensively and defensively (in terms of points scored/allowed)

2. How did they spend their picks in the first 3 rounds during this past decade? I focus on the first three rounds because these are the rounds in which the majority of the starters in the NFL are selected.

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Make the jump with me and lets learn from the winners...

I'm going to state my assumption at the beginning of this - Peyton Manning alone, even if we add no further pieces on offense, will get the offense into the top 10 in points scored in 2012 (the Broncos were 24th last year). You can argue with this if you like, but the Colts were not in the top 10 in scoring only 3 times during PFM's 13 years in Central Indiana - one of those was his rookie year.

Here are the rankings of the super bowl winning teams from the past decade


Year Team Points scored Points allowed
2011 Giants 9th 25th
2010 Packers 10th 2nd
2009 Saints (Bounty Hunters) 1st 20th
2008 Steelers 20th 1st
2007 Giants 14th 17th
2006 Colts 2nd 23rd
2005 Steelers 9th 3rd
2004 Patriots 4th 2nd
2003 Patriots 12th 1st
2002 Tampa Bay 18th 1st

No team has won the super bowl with an offense ranked lower than 20th, but three teams have won the super bowl with defenses ranked 20th or worse (Saints, Colts and '11 Giants). The average defensive ranking for a super bowl winning team is 9th over the past decade. The average offensive ranking is 10th. Only twice in the past decade have we had a team that was mediocre in both offense and defense win it all - in 2007 and in 2011 (you could argue that the Giants were above average offensively and bad defensively). So the general rule is you either have to be really great offensively OR really great defensively if the other side of the ball is poor or mediocre. The 2011 Giants are strange because their defense was relatively poor for most of the season, but it improved dramatically when they get some starters back from injury. The improvement was dramatic enough that they were able to hold the vaunted Pats O to 17 points in the Super Bowl, that tied the season low output for the Pats O in 2011.

So we have three teams that won multiple Super Bowls during the past decade - Pats, Steelers and Giants. The four one-time winners are the Colts, Saints, Packers and Bucs. The Bucs are the anomaly here given that the rest of the teams have been successful over this whole time period; they have not been. So we will start by looking at how they drafted in 2001-2011 in the first three rounds more as a cautionary tale of what not to do. Then we will move on to the other Super bowl winners are see where their focuses have been. The inherent problem with this analysis is that it does not take into account what talent was already on the roster and what holes each team needed to fill.


Bucs

2001 Kenyatta Walker T
Dwight Smith DB
2002 Marquis Walker WR
2003 Dewayne White DE
Chris Simms QB
2004 Michael Clayton WR
Marquis Cooper LB
2005 Cadillac Williams RB
Barrett Ruud LB
Alex Smith TE
Chris Colmer T
2006 Davin Joseph G
Jeremy Trueblood T
Maurice Stovall WR
2007 Gaines Adams DE
Arron Sears T
Sabby Piscitelli DB
Quincy Black LB
2008 Aqib Talib DB
Dexter Jackson WR
Jeremy Zuttah G
2009 Josh Freeman QB
Roy Miller DT
2010 Gerald McCoy DT
Brian Price DT
Arrelious Benn WR
Myron Lewis DB
2011 Adrian Clayborn DE
Da'Quan Bowers DE
Mason Foster LB

Total number of picks in the first 3 rounds = 30 Total on O = 15 Total on D = 15

The Bucs were evenly split between O and D. Of their 30 picks, 13 went on to start for more than one season. Only one of these players ever made the pro bowl, though. Six of those draft picks were never starters for any team (although Bowers and Lewis could develop into starters still). I would say that the Bucs are definitely not who the Broncos should learn from for draft strategy.

Colts

2001 Reggie Wayne WR
Idrees Bashir DB
Cory Bird DB
2002 Dwight Freeney DE
Larry Tripplett DT
Joseph Jefferson DB
2003 Dallas Clark TE
Mike Doss DB
Donald Strickland DB
2004 Bob Sanders DB
Ben Hartsock TE
Gilbert Gardner LB
2005 Marlin Jackson DB
Kelvin Hayden DB
Vincent Burns DE
2006 Joseph Addai RB
Tim Jennings DB
Freddie Keiaho LB
2007 Anthony Gonzalez WR
Tony Ugoh G
Daymeion Hughes DB
Quinn Pitcock DT
2008 Mike Pollak C
Philip Wheeler LB
2009 Donald Brown RB
Fili Moala DT
Jerraud Powers DB
2010 Jerry Hughes LB
Patrick Angerer LB
Kevin Thomas DB
2011 Anthony Castonzo T
Benjamin Ijalana T
Drake Nevis DT

Total number of pick rounds 1-3 = 33 Total # of picks on O = 10 Total # of picks on D = 23

Indy was without a first round pick twice during this time frame, but they still managed to get an average of 3 picks in the first three rounds over this time period. The picks were heavily weighted to the defensive side of the ball, yet the D was inconsistent being ranked as highly as 1st in points allowed (2007) and as low as 23rd (two seasons). I am excluded last season for the Colts where they were 28th in points allowed. Of these picks, 17 players went on to start for more than one season. 5 have gone to a pro bowl, but none of the picks in the last five years have. 7 have not ever been an NFL starter (although 4 of those were taken in the past two years and still could develop into starters). One the whole it appears that the Colts were much more successful in their drafting in rounds 1-3 than the Bucs.

Saints

2001 Deuce McAllister RB
Sedrick Hodge LB
Kenny Smith DT
2002 Donte' Stallworth WR
Charles Grant DE
LeCharles Bentley C
James Allen LB
2003 Johnathan Sullivan DT
Jonathan Stinchcomb T
Willie Grant LB
2004 Will Smith DE
Devery Henderson WR
Courtney Watson LB
2005 Jammal Brown T
Josh Bullocks DB
Alfred Fincher LB
2006 Reggie Bush RB
Roman Harper DB
2007 Robert Meachem WR
Usama Young DB
Andy Alleman G
2008 Sedrick Ellis DT
Tracy Porter DB
2009 Malcolm Jenkins DB
2010 Patrick Robinson DB
Charles Brown T
Jimmy Graham TE
2011 Cameron Jordan DE
Mark Ingram RB
Martez Wilson LB
Johnny Patrick DB

Total number of picks in the first 3 rounds = 31 Total on O = 11 Total on D = 20

The Saints have had 31 picks in rounds 1-3 over the past decade. They have been fairly active trading draft picks and have been without a 2nd or a 3rd round picks in multiple years. They have also had two 1st round picks twice. They have used 20 of them on D and 11 on O. So they have been focused on the D much like the Colts. Of their picks, 13 have gone on to become multi-year starters (with Jordan and Graham as locks to do so next year). 7 of these guys have been to a pro bowl. So 15 out of 31 picks in round 1-3 went on to be regular starters. This success rate is about the same as the Colts and the Bucs. 7 of their picks have never been starters although - Meacham has been a great contributor and Wilson, Ingram and Robinson could develop into starters. One of their picks, Charles Brown (2nd round), failed to make the team.

Packers

2001 Jamal Reynolds DE
Robert Ferguson WR
Bhawoh Jue DB
Torrance Marshall LB
2002 Javon Walker WR
Marques Anderson DB
2003 Nick Barnett LB
Kenny Peterson DE
2004 Ahmad Carroll DB
Joey Thomas DB
Donnell Washington DT
2005 Aaron Rodgers QB
Nick Collins DB
Terrence Murphy WR
2006 A.J. Hawk LB
Daryn Colledge T
Greg Jennings WR
Abdul Hodge LB
Jason Spitz C
2007 Justin Harrell DT
Brandon Jackson RB
James Jones WR
Aaron Rouse DB
2008 Jordy Nelson WR
Brian Brohm QB
Patrick Lee DB
Jermichael Finley TE
2009 B.J. Raji DT
Clay Matthews LB
Brad Jones LB
2010 Bryan Bulaga T
Michael Neal DT
Morgan Burnett DB
2011 Derek Sherrod T
Randall Cobb WR
Alex Green RB

Total number of picks in the first 3 rounds = 36 Total on O = 14 Total on D = 22

The Packers were able to actually add three picks in the first three rounds over the course of the decade. The picks were slightly weighted towards the D. They also drafted two QBs in the first three rounds during this time frame. 16 of these picks went on to be multi-year starters, so their success rate is similar to the Bucs. 13 have never been NFL starters - although Cobb and Neal could develop into starters. 6 of these guys made the pro bowl. One of these guys, Donnell Washington, didn't make the team.

Steelers

2001 Casey Hampton DT
Kendrell Bell LB
2002 Kendall Simmons G
Antwaan Randle El WR
Chris Hope DB
2003 Troy Polamalu DB
Alonzo Jackson DE
2004 Ben Roethlisberger QB
Ricardo Colclough DB
Max Starks T
2005 Heath Miller TE
Bryant McFadden DB
Trai Essex T
2006 Santonio Holmes WR
Anthony Smith DB
Willie Reid WR
2007 Lawrence Timmons LB
LaMarr Woodley DE
Matt Spaeth TE
2008 Rashard Mendenhall RB
Limas Sweed WR
Bruce Davis LB
2009 Ziggy Hood DT
Kraig Urbik T
Mike Wallace WR
2010 Maurkice Pouncey C
Jason Worilds LB
Emmanuel Sanders WR
2011 Cameron Hayward DE
Marcus Gilbert T
Curtis Brown DB

Total number of picks in the first 3 rounds = 31 Total on O = 16 Total on D = 15

Like the Bucs and the Pack, the Steelers were balanced with their top picks. 17 of their picks have become multi-year starters and Gilbert is a lock to make that 18. 18/31 is a good success rate. 9 of their picks have gone to the Pro-bowl - this is the best number of any team in the study. Two of their picks never made an NFL roster - although Cam Heyward, their first pick last year, should make the team this year.

Patriots

2001 Richard Seymour DT
Matt Light T
Brock Williams DB
2002 Dan Graham TE
Deion Branch WR
2003 Ty Warren DT
Eugene Wilson DB
Bethel Johnson WR
2004 Vince Wilfork DT
Ben Watson TE
Marquise Hill DE
Guss Scott DB
2005 Logan Mankins G
Ellis Hobbs DB
Nick Kaczur G
2006 Laurence Maroney RB
Chad Jackson WR
Dave Thomas TE
2007 Brandon Meriweather DB
2008 Jerod Mayo LB
Terrence Wheatley DB
Shawn Crable LB
Kevin O'Connell QB
2009 Patrick Chung DB
Ron Brace DT
Darius Butler DB
Sebastian Vollmer T
Brandon Tate WR
Tyrone McKenzie LB
2010 Devin McCourty DB
Rob Gronkowski TE
Jermaine Cunningham LB
Brandon Spikes LB
Taylor Price WR
2011 Nate Solder T
Ras-I Dowling DB
Shane Vereen RB

Stevan Ridley

Ryan Mallett

RB

QB

Total number of picks in the first 3 rounds = 39 Total on O = 19 Total on D = 20

The Pats have been amazing at stockpiling high draft picks. In 2009 they had 4 second round picks and two 3rd round picks. In 2010 they had one 1st, three 2nd and one 3rd round pick. They have also been balanced with their picks. 18 of their picks have become multi0year starters with Solder and Spikes poised to join that list next year. While their % is not the greatest because fo the high number of picks, the absolute number of starters that they have found in the first 3 rounds is the best in this study. 8 of their picks have made the pro bowl. Despite all this success, two of their picks never made an NFL roster - Taylor Price and Tyrone McKenzie.

Giants

2001 Will Allen DB
William Peterson DB
2002 Jeremy Shockey TE
Tim Carter WR
Jeff Hatch T
2003 William Joseph DT
Osi Umenyiora DE
Vishante Shiancoe TE
2004 Philip Rivers QB
Chris Snee G
2005 Corey Webster DB
Justin Tuck DE
2006 Mathias Kiwanuka DE
Sinorice Moss WR
Gerris Wilkinson LB
2007 Aaron Ross DB
Steve Smith WR
Jay Alford DT
2008 Kenny Phillips DB
Terrell Thomas DB
Mario Manningham WR
2009 Hakeem Nicks WR
Clint Sintim LB
William Beatty T
Ramses Barden WR
Travis Beckum TE
2010 Jason Pierre-Paul DE
Linval Joseph DT
Chad Jones DB
2011 Prince Amukamara DB
Marvin Austin DT
Jerrel Jernigan WR

Total number of picks in the first 3 rounds = 32 Total on O = 14 Total on D = 18

17 of the Giants picks went on to become multi-year starters. 7 have gone to the pro bowl. Only one has failed to make the roster, Chad Jones (2010). It's interesting to note that Giants have spent 8 of their 32 picks on the DL. 7 of those 8 defensive lineman man are still in the NFL.

So what have we learned from the early draft strategy of the recent Super Bowl Winners?

They either were balanced in their early picks (Steelers, Bucs and Pats) or they were heavily weighted toward the defensive side of the ball (Colts, Saints, Giants and Packers). The two teams with worst defenses of this group (historically the Colts and Saints) have spent the most amount of draft capital on the defensive side of the ball. For reference, the Broncos have had 37 picks in the first 3 rounds over this time period - 19 on O, 18 on D. 6 of those 37 picks were on the defensive line (Ayers, Moss, Crowder, Davis, Toviessi and Heyward). 17 of the Broncos picks went on to be multi-year starters. Only 4 of the 37 ever made it to the Pro Bowl.

Knowing how the past winners have drafted in the first 3 rounds, what do you think the Broncos should do with their first three picks this year?

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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