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Comparative draft evaluations 2012-2017

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How has John Elway drafted over the last five years? The answer is not well...

Denver Broncos v. Oakland Raiders Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

There has been a great deal of discussion recently on MHR about the quality, or lack thereof, in our scouting department. This has been driven largely by the fact that only one of our 2017 draftees has contributed significantly to the team in 2017 - Garett Bolles. Three of the 8 are on the IR and the other four who have been healthy have hardly played. To make matters worse, two of the rookies have played poorly when they have seen the field (Isaiah McKenzie and Brendan Langley). This evaluation is largely meaningless without context though.

Firstly you can’t really evaluate any draft until the players have been in the league for three years. The Broncos’ 2017 draft may turn into a great draft still as we have no idea what, if anything, DeAngelo Henderson, Carlos Henderson, Jake Butt and Chad Kelly will do in the NFL. Additionally, Demarcus Walker and Brendan Langley could very well turn into great players for the Broncos, but they have not been put in situations to succeed this season (for different reasons).

In the John Elway piece today, Sadaraine uses the 2012 to 2017 time frame (six drafts) to evaluate how John Elway (and the rest of the franchise) have done at drafting and developing players. I wanted to provide some more context to this to see how the rest of the league has done over the time period. So that is what this article will do.

Allow me to explain the stat that I am “coining” for this - starteryears. Pro-football-reference.com (PFR) will call a player a starter if he starts the majority of his teams games at a position on the offense or defense. For example, Kayvon Webster, who was never listed as a starter for the Broncos during his four years here, is listed as a starter at CB for the Rams despite only playing 11 games (he got hurt and is on the IR). Webster, despite being a starter for another team, would contribute one starteryear to the Broncos tally for this time frame. To use another example, Derek Wolfe, who has been a starter all six years he has been in Denver, would count for six starteryears. From the 2012 through the 2017 drafts the Broncos have gotten 36 starteryears. So the table below for how that compares with the rest of the league.

Rank Team StarterYrs # of picks StYr/pick
1 LAR 60 50 120%
2 JAX 58 45 129%
3 HOU 55 47 117%
4 MIN 52 58 90%
5 DET 51 51 100%
6 TAM 50 38 132%
7 BUF 50 42 119%
8 MIA 50 48 104%
9 CAR 49 35 140%
10 CHI 45 40 113%
11 CLE 44 56 79%
12 CIN 43 55 78%
13 ATL 42 41 102%
14 DAL 42 49 86%
15 PHI 41 45 91%
16 SEA 41 58 71%
17 KAN 40 45 89%
18 OAK 40 49 82%
19 GNB 40 51 78%
20 IND 39 45 87%
21 LAC 38 38 100%
22 BAL 38 53 72%
23 NYJ 37 47 79%
24 TEN 37 49 76%
25 WAS 37 51 73%
26 DEN 36 45 80%
27 SFO 36 60 60%
28 NWE 35 46 76%
29 NYG 33 38 87%
30 NOR 32 36 89%
31 PIT 32 46 70%
32 ARI 30 43 70%

The Broncos are 26th if you just go by starteryears. Note that I have done a similar analysis using AV (approximate value) before. It is interesting to note that of the teams that are worse than Denver in this, NE, NOR and PIT all have a shot at winning the super bowl this year. You can also see that I have tried to normalize for total number of picks (far right column) so that teams with a bunch more picks will get penalized while teams with relatively few picks won’t. You can see that while NOR has had little success by the starteryear metric, they have also had the second fewest total draft picks during this six year window (36, only CAR had fewer with 35). Normalizing by number of picks moves the Broncos up to 20th, which is a little better.

Of course, this brings up the argument about bad teams NEEDING to start players immediately while good teams don’t. I agree that is something that is hard to correct for, but one way to do so is to look at the total number of Pro-bowl (1st team) and All-Pro (1st team) selections that the players drafted by every team have earned. If you focus on this, during this time frame, the Broncos have been horrible.

Team ProBowl Selections AllPro Selections
MIN 10 3
CAR 8 4
DAL 8 4
KAN 8 3
OAK 7 2
SEA 7 3
IND 6 0
WAS 6 0
ARI 5 2
CHI 5 0
LAR 5 2
PIT 5 2
TAM 5 2
ATL 4 1
BAL 4 1
GNB 4 0
NYG 4 1
MIA 3 0
NWE 3 0
PHI 3 0
HOU 2 0
LAC 2 0
NYJ 2 0
TEN 2 1
BUF 1 0
CIN 1 0
DET 1 0
JAX 1 0
SFO 1 0
CLE 0 0
DEN 0 0
NOR 0 0

Only three teams have not had a player that they drafted from 2012 through 2017 make the Pro-Bowl. I am not counting that 7th alternate selection that Trevor Siemian garnered last season. That is not counted by PFR and I don’t count it either. Only Cleveland and New Orleans are in the same boat of not having a Pro-bowl selection from their draft picks and New Orleans will most likely get two this year from Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore.

Any time your franchise sharing a category with the Browns and only the Browns, it is a sad thing. Now, before you raise the issue, I will concede that C.J. Anderson has made the Pro-bowl (in 2014), but he was not drafted by the Broncos. Even if you expand the net to include undrafted college free agents, during this time window, you only get that one Pro-Bowl selection from the Broncos franchise.

If you look at the teams that are down near the bottom in this metric with the Broncos, you find a bunch of “perennial loser” franchises like Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Fransisco, Detroit, Cincinnati and Buffalo. With the exception of San Fran none of the cellar dwellars (at least in this metric) can claim anything close to the level of success that the Broncos have enjoyed during this time period.

Never forget that during the 2012 through to the 2017 season, the Broncos have had:

1 Super Bowl victory

2 Super Bowl appearances - Lamar Hunt Trophies

4 AFC West titles

5 Playoff victories

San Fran made the Super Bowl and lost in 2012 and then made the playoffs in 2013 and lost in the NFC title game. Cincinnati has made the playoffs four times but has not won a single playoffs game. Detroit has made the playoffs twice (and lost in the WC both times). New Orleans has made the playoffs once. Jacksonville will make the playoffs this year first the first time since 2007. Buffalo and Cleveland have not made the playoffs this century (ok, I joke, Cleveland has, they made it in 2002).

So what is there to do done? Do you see this as a failure on John Elways part or does the blame lie somewhere else? Let me know in the poll and the comments.

Poll

Who is to blame for the Broncos poor draft success?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    No one - we just were unlucky
    (55 votes)
  • 44%
    John Elway - you had the most power, you get the most blame
    (592 votes)
  • 15%
    The Coaching staff(s) - they failed to develop these guys
    (206 votes)
  • 35%
    The Scouting department - they are the ones who convinced us to draft {insert player}
    (473 votes)
1326 votes total Vote Now