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NFL Draft: High Bust Rate With Top 10 Picks

April 18, 2011 12:21 pm

Do you wish your team had a top 10 pick in the draft this year? If you said yes, think again because you could very well be in for a major disappointment. After taking a look at the top 10 overall draft picks from 10 draft classes, it doesn’t appear to be all it’s cracked up to be.

They say it takes 3 years to give a fair assessment of a draft pick. With that being the case, the 2008 draft class just completed their 3rd year so I started with them and went back 10 years (draft classes from 1999 – 2008). What I wanted to find out was the hit and miss rate for top 10 picks with a secondary analysis to see which position had the highest bust rate.

At the end of the day, I wanted to see how beneficial it really is to have a top 10 draft slot. My findings were that if this was a scholastic test it would have received a big fat “F”! 10 draft classes of top 10 picks = 100 total players evaluated. Per my highly subjective analysis, I deemed that 43 of these players could be labeled as busts. So in exam terms that would equal a 57% grade, aka FAIL.

Opinions vary from person to person on whether or not a particular player should be labeled as a bust. Some people place very high expectations on a top 10 player because not only was he thought to be one of the best college players in the country, he was also getting paid a lot of money. If you’re being paid mega-money, people expect mega-results.

While that mindset has validity, it is not entirely the case for me. In my opinion, a player ultimately just needs to be a solid player and produce at a decent level for multiple years. I am not of the opinion that a top 10 pick has to be a perennial pro-bowler. If you draft a player in the top 10 and end up with a long term solid starting player…even if he doesn’t make the pro bowl…then you made a good choice.

When looking at the 100 players in those 10 drafts, I took the following into consideration to form my opinion:

Level of production
The hype that surrounded the player
Is the player a starter
How many years has he started and produced adequately
Did he switch teams (most teams retain their good players, especially top draft picks)
To a lesser extent, the general consensus from the fan base
Of course there are players who have been universally declared a bust, such as Jamarcus Russell, but there are many that are in the murky waters between bust and stud. For example, would you rate players like Reggie Bush, A.J. Hawk, or DeAngelo Hall as a bust given where they were drafted and the hype surrounding them? To me, those types of players aren’t exactly as easy to judge but I did my best to apply an unbiased analysis, albeit a completely personal opinion. Having said that, let’s break down these 10 draft classes with some details:

Position, total selections/number of busts, and ranked by highest BR (bust rate):
1. WR – 17/12 – 70% BR
2. QB – 15/9 - 60% BR
3. DE – 11/6 - 54% BR
4. TE – 2/1 - 50% BR
5. DT – 10/4 - 40% BR
6. RB – 11/4 - 36% BR
7-T. LB – 9/3 - 33% BR
7-T. CB – 9/3 - 33% BR
8. S – 5/1 - 20% BR
9. OL – 11/1 – 9% BR

Again, that breaks down to 57 hits and 43 misses for an overall 57% success rate for draft picks in the top 10. Also, it seems that certain positions are astoundingly over a 50% bust rate. Wide receivers had the most selections with 17 followed by quarterbacks with 15 selections. Out of the 17 WR’s, 12 turned out to be busts while 9 out of the 15 QB’s stunk up their stadiums. That is a 70% and 60% bust rate on those 2 positions respectively, which is an alarming rate of failure. The defensive end position comes bustin’ in at 3rd place with a 54% fail rate (6 out of 11). This is the main reason why a rookie wage scale is assured to be in place in the next CBA.

As you can see, selecting a WR in the top 10 is extremely risky. Maybe I’ve been listening to Andy Reid too long but I’m not sure I understand why that position had the most selections in the top 10…even beating out the most important position in all of sports, quarterback. I have to wonder if the reason why teams go for the star WR is for fan excitement rather than football reasons. Fans love the big play guys and offense sells tickets, right? But as Reid always says, games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage.

The rest of the positions with the most selections are more up Andy Reid’s alley with QB, DL, and OL. Offensive line also proved to be the least risky with only 1 bust out of 11. That’s why highly regarded offensive tackles are usually always considered the “safe pick” in a draft.

In the end, it doesn’t seem like having a top 10 pick in the draft is especially beneficial although every year there is a premium value placed on them in regards to trading. Maybe that is the real benefit…the possibility of trading the pick to acquire more picks in order to draft players just as good but would come without the price tag of a top 10 pick.

If I were an owner, and unless I need a franchise QB or a left tackle, I’d prefer not to be in a position where I’m stuck paying huge money to a player who has almost a 50% chance of failing in the NFL. But as a fan I think having a top 10 pick makes the draft very exciting although the reason why you have it in the first place is usually NOT very exciting (aka, your team must stink).

Here is the run down of players in the past 10 “gradable” drafts. I listed them by position and crossed out the ones I think are/were a bust. Take a look and tell me if you disagree, or place your vote in the poll. I’d be very interested in hearing why or why not you feel one of these players is or isn’t a bust.

QB – Matt Ryan, JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith

WR – Calvin Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr., Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Reggie Williams, Charles Rogers, Andre Johnson, David Terrell, Koren Robinson, Peter Warrick, Plaxico Burress, Travis Taylor, Torry Holt, David Boston

DE – Chris Long, Derrick Harvey, Gaines Adams, Jamaal Anderson, Mario Williams, Kevin Williams, Julius Peppers, Justin Smith, Andre Carter, Jamal Reynolds, Courtney Brown

DT – Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, Amobi Okoye, Dewayne Robertson, Johnathan Sullivan, Ryan Sims, John Henderson, Gerard Warren, Richard Seymour, Corey Simon

LB – Vernon Gholston, Keith Rivers, Jerod Mayo, A.J. Hawk, Ernie Sims, Terrell Suggs, LaVar Arrington, Brian Urlacher, Chris Claiborne

RB – Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams

CB – Pacman Jones, Antrel Rolle, Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, Dunta Robinson, Terence Newman, Quentin Jammer, Champ Bailey, Chris McAlister

S – LaRon Landry, Michael Huff, Donte Whitner, Sean Taylor, Roy Williams

OL – Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Levi Brown, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Robert Gallery, Jordan Gross, Mike Williams, Bryant McKinnie, Levi Jones, Leonard Davis, Chris Samuels

TE - Vernon Davis, Kellen Winslow

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