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Using career AV to measure which team has been the best at drafting players 2011-2019

How has John Elway done in the NFL draft overall? Here is a complete breakdown of all the draft classes from 2011-2019.

NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I know that AV (approximate value) is not a great stat, but it is still the best stat available for comparing players who play different positions in terms of their contributions to the team. I also know that John Elway was not really involved in the Denver Broncos draft in 2011. With those two caveats in mind, let’s look at how the Broncos compare to the rest of the league in terms of drafting from 2011 through 2019.

This analysis was done with data from pro-football-reference.com. I looked at the total career AV from players drafted by every team from 2011 through 2019. I also called out the best player that each team drafted and look at how they fared beyond their best selection. Note that I give teams credit for value that players generate even if the value was for another team (drafting team still gets credit for drafting the player and nominally developing). What I did not do in this study was look at how much expected career value would have resulted in getting the average from every player at every spot for a given team.

In other words I did not look at return on investment given how much draft capital a team had to invest over the last nine drafts. Perennial losers had much more draft capital and hence should have gotten much more from the their picks than perennial winners.

Career AV Per Pick

Rank TEAM Total Picks Total Career AV AV from best single pick Player Name Total Career Av - best pick % of total AV from best pick Average Career AV per pick Average Career AV per pick minus best pick Delta in AV per pick Total 1st team ProBowl Selections Total 1st Tm AllPro Selections
Rank TEAM Total Picks Total Career AV AV from best single pick Player Name Total Career Av - best pick % of total AV from best pick Average Career AV per pick Average Career AV per pick minus best pick Delta in AV per pick Total 1st team ProBowl Selections Total 1st Tm AllPro Selections
1 NOR 55 734 77 Cameron Jordan 657 10.50% 13.35 12.17 1.18 21 4
2 KAN 67 850 62 Justin Houston 788 7.30% 12.69 11.94 0.75 29 8
3 CAR 58 779 104 Cam Newton 675 13.40% 13.43 11.84 1.59 19 8
4 BUF 68 823 60 Stephon Gilmore 763 7.30% 12.1 11.39 0.71 7 4
5 CHI 57 684 49 Alshon Jeffery 635 7.20% 12 11.34 0.66 13 3
6 HOU 70 847 98 J.J. Watt 749 11.60% 12.1 10.86 1.24 18 8
7 PHI 67 787 76 Fletcher Cox 711 9.70% 11.75 10.77 0.97 16 5
8 SEA 88 1045 108 Russell Wilson 937 10.30% 11.88 10.77 1.1 22 10
9 JAX 64 721 44 Blake Bortles 677 6.10% 11.27 10.75 0.52 8 1
10 DAL 74 867 84 Tyron Smith 783 9.70% 11.72 10.73 0.99 32 9
11 NWE 75 847 69 Nate Solder 778 8.10% 11.29 10.51 0.78 6 2
12 MIA 68 762 63 Ryan Tannehill 699 8.30% 11.21 10.43 0.77 16 1
13 BAL 82 906 61 C.J. Mosley 845 6.70% 11.05 10.43 0.62 19 4
14 TAM 63 708 63 Lavonte David 645 8.90% 11.24 10.4 0.83 9 2
15 LAC 61 668 51 Melvin Ingram 617 7.60% 10.95 10.28 0.67 12 2
16 ATL 61 704 94 Julio Jones 610 13.40% 11.54 10.17 1.37 17 3
17 TEN 68 733 70 Jurrell Casey 663 9.50% 10.78 9.9 0.88 11 2
18 LAR 78 838 93 Aaron Donald 745 11.10% 10.74 9.68 1.07 16 10
19 GNB 82 851 75 David Bakhtiari 776 8.80% 10.38 9.58 0.8 13 1
20 DET 71 725 55 Riley Reiff 670 7.60% 10.21 9.57 0.64 9 2
21 DEN 70 746 98 Von Miller 648 13.10% 10.66 9.39 1.27 12 3
22 ARI 68 706 85 Patrick Peterson 621 12.00% 10.38 9.27 1.11 16 7
23 PIT 73 728 65 Cameron Heyward 663 8.90% 9.97 9.21 0.76 17 7
24 CLE 82 819 79 Mitchell Schwartz 740 9.60% 9.99 9.14 0.85 7 1
25 IND 72 717 71 Andrew Luck 646 9.90% 9.96 9.1 0.86 12 3
26 CIN 84 827 81 Andy Dalton 746 9.80% 9.85 8.99 0.86 11 0
27 MIN 88 827 56 Harrison Smith 771 6.80% 9.4 8.86 0.54 24 7
28 NYG 63 593 49 Odell Beckham Jr. 544 8.30% 9.41 8.77 0.64 7 1
29 WAS 81 757 62 Kirk Cousins 695 8.20% 9.35 8.69 0.66 13 0
30 OAK 76 710 69 Khalil Mack 641 9.70% 9.34 8.55 0.8 13 3
31 NYJ 67 594 63 Muhammad Wilkerson 531 10.60% 8.87 8.05 0.82 5 2
32 SFO 88 713 45 Colin Kaepernick 668 6.30% 8.1 7.68 0.42 7 2

There’s a whole host of information in this table so let’s make some sense of what is here.

The range of the best team Carolina (13.43) to the worst team San Francisco (8.10) in terms of average career AV per pick is quite large. It’s almost as large as the range between the best player (by career AV) taken in the last nine drafts (Russell Wilson - 108) and the “worst best” (lowest best player by career AV, Blake Bortles - 44).

From a percentage standpoint only three teams get 13% or more of their career AV from a single player: Denver (13.1% from Von Miller), Atlanta (13.4% from Julio Jones) and Carolina (13.4% from Cam Newton). It is interesting to note that so far all three of those players have played their entire careers with the team that drafted them. This will change with Cam no longer in Charlotte.

Removing the best pick and re-evaluating the quality of each team’s draft in also informative. Note that it doesn’t change the relative rankings much. For example the Broncos drop from 19th down to 21st. While the Chiefs move from 3rd up to 1st. The Titans, whose best pick now plays for Denver, stay at 17th.

It should be noted the the change in AV per pick (delta) for the Broncos (1.27)is one of the largest. Only Carolina (1.59) and Atlanta (1.37) have larger drop offs when you remove their best pick.

You should also note the 1st team Pro-Bowl and 1st team All-Pro selections columns. Note that his is total selections NOT total number of players who have been selected. For example the Broncos have three first team AllPro selections, but those all came from one player, Von. Cincy and Washington have zero AllPro selections and are the only teams with zero.

It’s pretty crazy to think that the Jets (5) and Patriots (6) have about the same number of first team Pro-Bowl selections from their 2011-2019 draftees. The two teams have been almost opposite in terms of their fortunes over the past nine seasons. It also goes to show how useless Pro-Bowl selections are as a tool for evaluating draft success. The range of 5 (NYJ) to 32 (DAL) is quite large, despite both teams having the same number of total playoff victories during this time-frame - zero.