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Measuring the Broncos ability or inability to draft (and develop) players this century

Using first team AllPro and first team Pro-Bowl selections to grade the Broncos relative to the rest of the of the league

NFL: OCT 10 Broncos at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One way to evaluate a franchise’ ability to draft (and develop) players is to quantify how many players that it has drafted who have been selected as first team AllPro and/or first team Pro-Bowl. This study will not look at undrafted players that were developed by a team. This study will give the credit to the drafting team even if the player received the accolade(s) after leaving the team that drafted him since we are trying to determine which franchise has been the best at drafting this century. This study will look at every draft from 2001-2021 (twenty one drafts in total). As I have been reminded recently, the year 2000 was technically last century so that draft is not being included. Of course players who were drafted prior to this study can and did have a large effect on the winning percentage (as we will see later).

I know that the Pro-Bowl is a popularity contest, so I will give that data second since I think it has less value than first team AllPro selections which are voted on by sports writers for 30 of the 32 NFL franchises. So on to the data. I will show the total number of team drafted players players who have received the accolade(s) as well as the total number of accolades. For example, Von Miller has eight first team Pro-Bowl selections, so while he only counts as one player (of Denver’s fourteen), he adds eight to the Broncos 39 total Pro-Bowl selections.

First Team AllPro Players and Selections

There have been 204 players drafted 2001-2021 who have been selected first team AllPro.

TEAM Drafted First Team All Pro Total Times First Tm AllPro
SEA 8 21
CAR 12 21
KAN 10 21
NWE 11 19
DAL 11 19
MIN 8 18
SFO 9 18
PIT 7 18
BAL 9 15
HOU 7 14
IND 8 14
ARI 8 13
NOR 7 11
SDG/LAC 8 11
STL/LAR 4 10
PHI 7 10
TEN 8 10
NYJ 5 9
CLE 3 8
CHI 6 8
DET 4 8
DEN 4 8
GNB 5 8
CIN 4 7
NYG 6 6
OAK/LV 2 5
MIA 4 5
BUF 4 5
ATL 4 5
JAX 3 4
TAM 4 4
WAS 1 1

The Broncos have drafted four: Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil, Ryan Clady and Von Miller. The total of four is tied with eight other franchises for 28th (or 21st depending on how you look at it). Only Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland/Las Vegas and Washington have drafted fewer players who have made first team AllPro. The Panthers have drafted the most with twelve. The Broncos total number of first team selections is eight - three of those belong to Von Miller (Clady - 2, Dumervil - 2, Marshall - 1). Six of eight of the Bronco draftee’s AllPro selections happened while playing for Denver. The exceptions are Marshall who was first team AllPro for the Bears in 2012 and Dumervil who did it for the Ravens in 2014 (dang fax machine!). That value of eight ties the Broncos with five other teams for 23rd (or 19th) most. Three teams are tied for first: Seattle, Carolina and Kansas City all with 21. AllPro selections reflect poorly on the Broncos’ ability to draft and develop players, but Washington has only one total first team AllPro selection. That lone draftee was Brandon Scherff.

(note the time-frame for this study above in the tweet was 2011-2021)

First Team Pro-Bowl Selections

There have been 577 individual players who have been selected as first team Pro-Bowlers this century. The Cowboys and Ravens have the most with 27 while the Raiders have the least with eight. In terms of total selections, the Cowboys stand alone with 83 while the Raiders are still in last with 20.

Rank Team Probowl Players they drafted Total 1st Tm PB Selections
1 DAL 27 83
2 BAL 27 74
3 SDG/LAC 26 73
4 GNB 25 55
5 KAN 24 70
6 SEA 22 61
7 MIN 22 56
8 CAR 21 60
9 NOR 21 59
10 SFO 21 53
11 PIT 20 68
12 ARI 19 66
13 BUF 19 39
14 CHI 19 38
15 MIA 19 35
16 ATL 18 42
17 NWE 17 61
18 HOU 17 46
19 TEN 17 32
20 IND 16 49
21 CIN 16 48
22 PHI 15 40
23 NYG 15 38
24 DET 15 32
25 CLE 14 40
26 DEN 14 39
27 WAS 14 36
28 JAX 14 24
29 TAM 13 26
30 NYJ 12 31
31 STL/LAR 10 27
32 OAK/LV 8 20

The fourteen Bronco draftees are tied with four other teams for 28th (or 25th depending on viewpoint). The 39 total selections are tied with Buffalo for 21st. For what it’s worth, 30 of the Broncos 39 happened when the player was on the Broncos.

Bronco Draftee 1st Tm PB Selections With Denver
Von Miller 8 8
Brandon Marshall 6 2
Elvis Dumervil 5 3
Ryan Clady 4 4
Demaryius Thomas 4 4
Chris Myers 2 0
Clinton Portis 2 1
Julius Thomas 2 2
Zane Beadles 1 1
Bradley Chubb 1 1
Jay Cutler 1 1
Malik Jackson 1 1
Justin Simmons 1 1
Courtland Sutton 1 1

Both values say that the Broncos have not been very good at drafting (and/or developing) players this century. But does this mean anything (outside the obvious)?

Correlation (not causation)

If we look at the franchise winning percentages, we can see if there is any correlation between any of these values and winning consistently.

Team Win% 2001-2021 Total Times First Tm AllPro Total 1st Tm PB Selections
ARI 0.457 13 66
ATL 0.509 5 42
BAL 0.585 15 74
BUF 0.454 5 39
CAR 0.476 21 60
CHI 0.493 8 38
CIN 0.466 7 48
CLE 0.343 8 40
DAL 0.537 19 83
DEN 0.543 8 39
DET 0.338 8 32
GNB 0.638 8 55
HOU 0.433 14 46
IND 0.614 14 49
JAX 0.368 4 24
KAN 0.549 21 70
MIA 0.466 5 35
MIN 0.504 18 56
NOR 0.576 11 59
NWE 0.739 19 61
NYG 0.463 6 38
NYJ 0.430 9 31
OAK / LVR 0.389 5 20
PHI 0.573 10 40
PIT 0.648 18 68
SDG / LAC 0.525 11 73
SEA 0.580 21 61
SFO 0.470 18 53
STL / LAR 0.464 10 27
TAM 0.451 4 26
TEN 0.504 10 32
WAS 0.411 1 36

The correlation between total drafted Pro-Bowl players and winning percentage is 0.49.

The correlation between total Pro-Bowl selections and winning percentage is 0.60.

The correlation between total drafted AllPro players and winning percentage is 0.58.

The correlation between total AllPro selections and winning percentage is 0.53.

Now the big caveat - CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. That being said, if you know anything about statistics, those correlation values are decent. For the correlation value to considered “strong” it has to be 0.7 or greater. Another caveat here is that I don’t know how many of these total selections occurred when the player was on the drafting team. Are the Broncos “normal” with 30 of 39, or does it occur more often that players “bloom” for a franchise that did not draft them? I don’t know the answer to this, but let’s look more closely at the teams that don’t “fit” into the correlation very well focusing on total drafted Pro-Bowlers since that has the highest correlation value.

This century there are ten teams with a regular season winning percentage greater than 54 percent (good teams) and ten teams with a winning percentage less than 46 percent (bad teams). The average number of total Pro-Bowl selections was 18.0 and the standard deviation was 4.8. There are seven teams that are greater than one standard deviation above the mean and there are four teams that are less than one standard deviation below the mean. In terms of “good” outliers from Pro-Bowl players, only the Cowboys (53.7 percent) and Viking (50.4 percent ) are below 54 percent win percentage. From the “bad” side, only the Rams are not below 46 percent winning (they are at 46.4 percent).

There are three teams who have strong win percentages despite being close to average in terms of total Pro-Bowl selections. Those are

  • Indianapolis - 16 drafted Pro-Bowl Players - 61.4% win
  • Pittsburgh - 20 - 64.8%
  • New England - 17 - 73.9%

All three of the good outliers who have “drafted poorly” by this criteria have hit on the one position that matters most in the NFL, quarterback. They all drafted future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks. Drafting one of those makes up for a host of draft sins. Of the ten “bad” teams, only two have drafted elite quarterbacks and both drafted that QB recently (Arizona - Kyler Murray and Buffalo - Josh Allen). You could make an argument that Detroit, Houston and Oakland drafted elite QBs (Matthew Stafford, DeShaun Watson and Derek Carr), but I would only argue that Watson is elite and he wasn’t elite long enough for the Texans to outweigh the “draft sins” of their past.

Both Murray and Allen are on career paths that could get them into the Hall of Fame. Only zealots would argue that Stafford, Watson and Carr are on that same path.