6th Round Success and the Broncos

LONDON ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Kyle McCarthy and Spencer Larsen of Denver Broncos keep their eye on the ball during the NFL International Series match between the Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium on October 31 2010. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Last week, I told the story of the Denver Broncos success rate with 5th round draft picks. The results were mixed and the chart that I used as a reference tool didn’t really factor in a reasonable rate of success for a late round pick. I believe that chart would be only be useful to determine an early round draft pick. Late rounders who turn into Pro Bowlers occur each draft, but no one has ever determined the measuring stick that says "success." It’s easier to say a player was a bust, if only because they stick out like a sore thumb. So what standard should be maintained to call, say, a 6th round pick successful?

In the 2012 NFL Draft, the sixth round encompassed picks 171 through 207. This varies of course year by year due to the Compensatory picks handed out. According to the chart I referred to in the last post, a 6th round draft pick would have about a 2.5% success rate in starting 56 games in his first 5 seasons. Those are long odds, especially when the average career length of an NFL player is around 3.5 years. Now that we have something to aim for, we can begin our journey.

The research in my last article concluded that the Broncos had a 12.5% success rate (according to Reuter’s chart) in their history of 5th round picks. Let us take a look at the 6th rounders in Denver’s draft history.

From 1967 to date, the Broncos have drafted 36 players in the sixth round. Out of the last 7 drafts, Danny Trevathan (2012), Mike Mohamed (2011), Eric Olsen (2010), Tom Brandstater (2009), Spencer Larsen (2008), and Greg Eslinger (2006). Mike Mohamed has 2 games under his belt, but I am going to exclude him and Danny Trevathan from the overall number because it hasn’t been long enough to make a determination on those two yet. Eric Olsen was cut, Brandstater was released and Eslinger was a Practice Squad player who was poached by the Cleveland Browns. Larsen wasn’t re-signed and left in Free Agency. Out of those six players, only Spencer Larsen had any kind of impact. He played in 50 games with 15 starts. Hardly a bust, but a draft success? Well maybe.
After removing Trevathan and Mohamed from our list, we now have 34 players to work with. Two of those players (5.8%) went to the Pro Bowl (Terrell Davis 3, Keith Bishop 2) and five players (14.7%) were the primary starters at their position for at least 5 seasons. Seven players (20.5%) started at least 30 games and nine players (26.4%) started at least 15 games for the Broncos.

So we come back around to Spencer Larsen. While a fan favorite, he was at best a journeyman player who made the roster each year mainly as a stand out on Special Teams. Larsen was an undersized player at Linebacker and not exactly your prototypical Fullback, but he played at both positions. The old regime may have overvalued "versatile utility players," but the current one seems to want maximum value on every roster spot. Thus the reasoning for not re-signing Spencer. There is nothing wrong with being versatile, but there should rightly only be room for one or two such players on any teams final 53.

I guess my question to you today, would be whether Larsen’s numbers (50 games with 15 starts) are an accurate standard to rate him a success from the 6th round? The numbers show that the Broncos have had more success in the sixth round than the fifth in their franchise history. Of course the jackpot who is Terrell Davis, 3 year All-Pro, Super Bowl MVP and 2 Super Bowl Rings tilts the scale by a huge margin. He was one of the all-time best draft picks by the Broncos (by my reckoning he beats out Karl Mecklenburg by virtue of the MVP award). Otherwise, the 5th round had Sammy Winder as the lone Pro Bowl representative and would balance out with Keith Bishop in the 6th round.

In my opinion (and nothing against Spencer), if 56 starts is a measure of success for an early round draft pick, half of that (23 games) should be a fair success rate for a late rounder.


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