Under the most recent CBA in the NFL, first round draft picks can be controlled by the team that drafts them for five seasons before they can become free agents - more if a franchise tag is used. Players drafted in round 2-7 get four year contracts. This is one reason why it doesn’t make sense to evaluate a draft until three years (or maybe four years) after the draft.
For this analysis I chose to evaluate the entire league over the last six drafts, 2012-2017. Obviously any evaluation of the 2018 draft is entirely speculation at this point.
What is the DERPP Method?
I’ve decided to call this method the Draft Evaluation by Relative Performance and Play - the DERPP method. As you will see later, DERPP is a good description of the Denver Broncos last six drafts.
The method that I chose to evaluate relative draft performance was to figure out how much each draft pick actually played each year (offensive or defensive snap percentage) and then multiply a players snap% by their yearly PFF, profootballfocus.com grade. I did not include special teams play (or specialists), nor did I include UDFA’s since they were not DRAFTED and this is about draft performance. I also only counted players playing for teams that drafted them and no credit was given for value obtained by trading a player who was still on his rookie contract. There is also no consideration of where a player was drafted.
Here’s an example from the Broncos recent drafts: Ty Sambrailo played 19% of the offensive snaps for us in 2015 and 23% in 2016 (he played for Atlanta in 2017). His PFF yearly for those two years here was -9.70 and -20.10. Multiply -9.70 by 19% and -20.10 by 23% and then add those two values together. The result is a total of -6.37 towards the team total. How do we interpret that value? Ty Sambrailo was well below average (average would be a result of 0 for a player - if average for that position group was 0, which isn’t for some). To give you some perspective, the minimum yearly ranking in the league from PFF for this entire time frame was -54.20 (T.J. Clemmings in 2016) and the maximum was 96.20 (Aaron Donald in 2015).
So why did I choose/develop this method to evaluate relative draft performance?
Firstly, it rewards a team for playing players that they draft. If the guys you draft, don’t end up playing for you you get zero credit for them. Or course as we see with Sambrailo, sometimes playing a draftee out of necessity or obligation because of draft spot actually hurts the team more than it helps. I like that this method captures that. Secondly, the DERPP method rewards teams that draft and develop players but it also rewards teams for knowing when to cut bait with drafted players.
For example, you get good credit for guys who play well, but play sparingly. Using a metric like AV which rewards guys who are listed as starters, does not capture the value of strong performances from minor contributors. Malik Jackson in 2013 was not listed as starter at DE (he only started 5 games) and because of that his AV for that year was only 4. Malik played 52% of the defensive snaps that season and he had already become a dominant force on the defensive line with 50 total tackles, 6 passes defended, 6.0 sacks and one forced fumble.
Going only AV, he had the same value to the team that year as Mike Adams and just a little bit more than Paris Lenon and Ronnie Hillman (both AV of 3). If you the use DERPP method, Malik contributed a value of 3.99 in 2013 while Hillman only contributed 0.13. In my opinion this is much closer to what both players actually contributed to team success that year. For guys like Michael Schofield and Sambrailo, you get “credit” by getting rid of them since they can no longer contribute negative values to the team score. Schofield had a PFF grade of -12.2 for 2017 (for LAC) and Sambrailo had a score of -8.0 (for ATL).
2012-2017 NFL DERPP Rankings
There are other ways that you can do this, but I think the DERPP method gives a better picture of true draft performance. Let’s see the comparative ranked data and how the Broncos ranked.
So we can see that over these six drafts the Dallas Cowboys have actually gotten the most out of their drafted players with the Carolina Panthers coming in a close second. The Broncos came in at 22nd. The Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the two worst teams. I found it interesting that half the league came in above zero and half below. Let’s look more closely at the Panthers.
Remember that Cam Newton was drafted in 2011 so he does not factor into this. Carolina gets a large portion of their team total from two guys, Luke Kuechly and Kawaan Short. Those two combined for +210.58 of the Panthers’ team total. The other 32 draftees accounted for the remaining +34.00.
Denver Broncos DERPP Rankings
Focusing on Denver we see that only four Broncos’ players had total DERPP values of +10 or greater: Malik Jackson +34.12, Matt Paradis +31.00, Danny Trevathan +17.33 and Derek Wolfe +11.14. On the flipside we had five guys who were worse than -10: Trevor Siemian -29.79, Max Garcia -24.73. Michael Schofield -21.60, Sylvester Williams -12.95 and Garret Bolles -12.17. Unlike the Panthers, the Broncos weren’t able to resign their stud LB and DE/DT (Short and Kuechly were both resigned after their rookie deals were up).
|Player||Total DERP value|
So how has the rest of the AFC done over this same span of six drafts? The Oakland Raiders (7th) and the Los Angeles Chargers (9th) are both in the top 10, while the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the worst in the league at 28th. So at least the Broncos have outdrafted the Chiefs.
While we are basking in the glow of what appears to be a very good draft by the Broncos, we need to keep in mind that we have been lagging behind most of the league in draft performance for the six drafts before 2018.
For those interested in viewing the data in more detail, here is the viewable link for the spredsheet.
Where did you expect the Broncos to rank when you clicked on this link?
This poll is closed
Much better than 22nd
A little better than 22nd
About where they do rank
Somewhat worse than 22nd
At or near the bottom of the league