The True Value of a 1st Round Pick? Percy Harvin Edition

The Seahawks trade for Percy Harvin is one of the most exciting trades they have made in quite awhile. So like all the rest of Seahawks nation I wondered what the rest of the world thought about this wonderful trade. I noted as I read comments and discussions from various fans and pundits they were all mentioning how much the Seahawks had given up in acquiring Harvin. To me these individuals seemed to be drastically inflating the true value of a 1st round draft pick.

I decided to do a little bit of number crunching to see If I was mistaken in this feeling or if maybe I was incorrect and the Seahawks had actually overspent to acquire Percy Harvin.

In order to go about this analysis I reviewed all of the 1st Round draft picks for 10 years from 2001 to 2010 and rated the careers (or careers to date) of each player picked in the 1st round over those 10 years. I used the following simple rating system to judge each player:

Pro Bowl / All Pro Caliber Player - This is pretty self-explanatory. These are the players that turned into NFL stars. Most of these players were voted All Pros or into the Pro Bowl. However, I did include some players in this grouping that have never been to a Pro Bowl but have obviously had numerous seasons that were Pro Bowl or All Pro worthy. This category includes players like Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and of course Percy Harvin. This category is where you want all of the players picked in the 1st round to end up. Unfortunately that is not the case. Which leads into the next category of players.

NFL Regulars / Journeymen - These are the players that are not star players but also are not total busts. These are the players that you fill out your roster with and who provide regular contributions to whichever team they are playing for but they are far from irreplaceable. This category would include players like Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin etc. I think it goes without saying that it is fairly disappointing if a player picked in the 1st round ends up in this category. However, it is still better for a 1st round pick to end up in this category than the next one,

1st Round Draft Busts - These are the players that were completely wasted picks either because of injury or poor play. These players contributed little to nothing to any NFL team in their short and disastrous NFL Careers. Think Aaron Curry, Jamarcus Russell, etc.

Obviously I had to use quite a bit of personal judgment when deciding which players fit into which categories. So it is possible that my analysis may not correspond perfectly to other analysis that you might have seen. However, I do believe that my analysis is reasonable and accurate. With that disclaimer out of the way let's look at the results of the analysis.

From 2001 to 2010 there were a total of 318 players drafted in the 1st round. Of those players only 28.3% turned out to be Pro Bowl / All Pro Caliber players. Which means a player like Percy Harvin is incredibly difficult to find in the 1st round of the draft.

It is actually interesting that 37.7% of the players drafted in the 1st round turned out to be solid NFL regulars while 34% of the players drafted in the 1st round turned out to be complete busts. This is interesting because it seems as though a simple rule to follow for all players drafted in the 1st round based on this analysis is that approximately 1/3 will be stars, 1/3 will be average players and 1/3 will be busts.

Based on my analysis I am more than happy that the Seahawks traded away a 28% chance to get a star player ,give or take a few extra percentage points for the probability that the 7th and 3rd round picks also sent might produce a star, in exchange for a 100% chance that they will get a star player in Percy Harvin.

Just remember this analysis next time you or someone you know starts to talk about how valuable 1st round draft picks are. Yes, they are valuable and there is a chance that the team might draft a star player who will be cost controlled for the next 4 years. However, it is much more likely that the team will draft an average player or completely waste the pick.

In other words I am even more excited about this trade after analyzing the data.

So let's celebrate. We have Percy Harvin!

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