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OL Draft capital: Denver vs rest of NFL

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Here is how the Denver Broncos have spent their draft capital on offensive linemen versus the rest of the league.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If Ronald Leary and Allen Barbre start on Sunday, the Broncos will have two offensive lineman starting who were drafted by the team. Conversely, if Max Garcia and Conner McGovern end up starting, Menelik Watson will be the only starter not been obtained via the draft. This caused me to ask the question:

How much draft capital have we invested in the offensive line over the past five drafts? How does our investment compare to other teams?

You know that I would chose an analytical way to approach this, so this is the method I chose. Pro-football-reference.com has developed a method for roughly estimating the approximate value of a player (AV). It’s not perfect, but it’s the best way to compare the contribution of an offensive guard to the contribution of a free safety. The wonderful folks over at PFR have also calculated the average career AV by draft position for every spot in the draft. This is much better estimate of the actual value of a draft pick than the old model that is attributed to Jimmy Johnson, which gives way too much weight to early first round picks. I used the average career AV by draft spot to evaluate how much draft capital every NFL franchise has invested in their offensive line over the past five drafts. Here are the results

RANK TEAM OL Draft AV 2013-2017
1 TEN 75.0
2 JAX 56.5
3 STL 55.8
4 MIA 55.3
5 DET 53.7
6 SDG 53.4
7 KAN 53.3
8 ARI 53.3
9 NYG 48.1
10 IND 47.7
11 WAS 44.8
12 SEA 44.3
13 BAL 39.3
14 CLE 39.2
15 NOR 38.7
16 DEN 38.6
17 CHI 38.5
18 CIN 35.7
19 DAL 35.6
20 PHI 34.7
21 HOU 33.4
22 SFO 32.2
23 NWE 31.8
24 TAM 29.0
25 BUF 28.0
26 ATL 27.7
27 OAK 25.3
28 CAR 23.8
29 MIN 23.6
30 GNB 22.2
31 NYJ 20.4
32 PIT 6.3

Also keep in mind that we have been drafting late in most rounds during this entire time frame, meaning that we had less overall draft capital to spend than most teams in the league. It should also be noted that the Steelers invested heavily in the OL prior to this time frame. Also note that this does’t show the total number of drafts used on offensive lineman by each team (I could have shown that but it convolutes the message).

The Broncos are about in the middle of the pack in terms of draft capital invested in the OL over the last 5 drafts, but remember we had less to spend so we should be higher if this were done on a relative basis. The other side of this is that you can either invest draft capital or you can invest cap space, but it’s almost impossible to win consistently in the NFL without doing one or the other for the OL (some teams have done both). Here is the total offensive line spend for this year by team. I was surprised that we have that much in the OL, but I always forget how much we are paying Donald Stephenson (highway robbery). Denver was second to last in 2016 in OL spend (only SEA spent less). Data below is from overthecap.com

Team OL Spend 2017
OAK $43,169,700
CLE $42,101,328
PIT $39,996,188
BUF $35,825,166
PHI $34,626,446
WAS $34,355,155
NOR $33,591,634
CHI $32,458,240
NYJ $29,918,788
HOU $29,573,016
GNB $27,203,373
ARI $26,859,333
KC $26,553,212
ATL $25,963,671
SFO $25,622,171
JAX $24,435,522
DAL $23,904,641
DET $23,458,766
DEN $23,444,072
CAR $23,430,657
BAL $23,263,718
NWE $23,045,756
LAC $22,927,509
TB $22,446,090
NYG $21,894,224
MIA $21,642,313
LAR $20,802,504
IND $20,536,173
MIN $19,129,597
SEA $17,747,897
TEN $17,191,463
CIN $17,001,392

You can see that while TEN has invested a huge amount of draft capital in the OL, they have all of them still on their rookie contracts so they are still cheap (31st in OL spend fo 2017). The Steelers OTOH invested their draft capital in the 2010-2012 time frame and now they are having to pay those guys. Oakland has a huge OL spend, but they got some great results out of their OL last season. Derek, don’t call me David, Carr was hit the least often of any QB in the league on a per dropback basis in 2016 (and he still got injured).

Menelik Watson gave a very poor performance at RT on Monday night. He was “credited” with allowing 3.5 sacks. That is not quite as bad as Michael Schofield allowing Khalil Mack to get 5 sacks in one game, or Ty Sambrailo allowing Vic Beasely to get 5 sacks in one game, but it is pretty bad. Given that we have been struggling to find a RT who can pass block for at least 4 seasons, I sincerely hope we use a high draft pick on an offensive tackle in 2018 (and maybe that guy will turn out to be a decent offensive tackle). After one game Bolles looks to be pretty good. I hope I can say that same thing after 8 and 16 (or 19) games. The Broncos have not started two above average offensive tackles since Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin (maybe?) back in 2012.

We need to have fewer hits on Trevor Siemian going forward. He was sacked four times and hit another 9 times so on 39 dropbacks (28 throws, 4 sacks and 6 scrambles) he was hit 13 times (33.3% of the time) not counting the hits he took on the scrambles (on one he took a legal shot to the back on his helmet from Joey Bosa). That is not healthy for a guy who is on the skinny/light side for an NFL QB of his height (see below - showing the height weight comparsion for every QB invted to the NFL combine plus TS over the past decade)

Generally “beefier” QBs can take more punishment than skinnier QBs. This does not imply that Siemian will get hurt because he is either light(er) weight or because he is getting hit a lot (Carr didn’t get him much and still got seriously injured last year), but the odds of him having a serious injury are higher with more frequent hits particularly at his size. Drew Brees has managed to avoid serious injury for most of his career and he is smaller and lighter than Trevor, but Brees is the exception so I’d rather we let him get hit less often if it’s possible (and it may not be with the tackles on our current roster).

Poll

Do we need to draft another OT in 2018 and in what round (or rounds)

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    first round only
    (99 votes)
  • 39%
    first round and another round
    (302 votes)
  • 10%
    second round only
    (81 votes)
  • 24%
    second round and another round
    (189 votes)
  • 1%
    third round only
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    third round and another round
    (29 votes)
  • 1%
    4th or later only
    (8 votes)
  • 1%
    two OT picks but both on day three
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    we don’t to draft need another OT, Menelik Watson will suddenly turn into Joe Thomas
    (35 votes)
762 votes total Vote Now