Drafting Linebackers

Advanced NFL Stats has continued their series on draft scarcity, this time focusing on linebackers. We've certainly seen the Seahawks build a linebacking corps out of guys drafted after the first round (Julian Peterson is the exception, although the Niners drafted him). Once again, there are graphs that you'll want to take a look at, so make sure you actually click through and follow the link. Remember that this is not a discussion of value, but rather a discussion of success.

Firstly, the measuring stick:

Pro Bowl selection is a very imperfect measure of a player's value for a lot of different reasons, but it does identify the top players at each position which is what much of the draft is about. One other advantage it offers is that player value can be compared across positions. For example, we can compare LB draft picks to QB draft picks using Pro Bowl selections, but using passing yards or tackles wouldn't work to well.

Thanks to the complexity of football, we're a long way from having an individual value stat like baseball has in WAR. As such, these sort of analyses will always come with an asterisk and an admission of imperfection.

The continuing theme in this series is that the best players really do come from the top of the draft. No surprise there. But the top players have more than just an incrementally higher chance of great success, but double or triple the chance.

As much as the financial disincentive for high draft choices is real, players at the top do have more success. What this discussion does not encompass is the ability of top linebackers to make a major impact on the success of their team. In the discussions on Aaron Curry over the last week, John has touched on the fact that he does not believe that top linebackers are as valuable to a team as other defensive positions. That will be exceedingly difficult to prove empirically, but at least sleep well at night knowing that the draft is also sane with respect to linebackers.

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