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Managing expectations: Closing out those Day 3 picks

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL draft less than three weeks away, we’ve taken a look at what the probabilities of success are for the various rounds of the draft. Going in order, we started by comparing first and second round picks, followed that by adding third round selections to the mix, and then made our way through to start of Day 3 by adding the fourth and fifth rounds.

In this piece, we’ll look at all the same metrics, but we’ll finish things up with the inclusion of the final two rounds. So, without wasting too much time, here’s the data.

Just as was seen with the earlier rounds, the bust rates continue to go up as we go deeper into the draft, while the probability of finding an impact starter, or even a contributor simply keep dropping lower and lower.

The extremely low probability of getting a solid return on a sixth or seventh round pick makes them effectively lottery tickets, and the returns the Seahawks have gotten from their sixth and seventh round draft picks under Pete Carroll and John Schneider are representative of this. In particular, the Hawks have drafted 28 players in the sixth and seventh rounds since 2010, and of those 28 draft picks, six have never appeared in an NFL game, including:

  • Offensive lineman Garrett Scott,
  • Defensive back Mike Tyson,
  • Offensive lineman Justin Senior,
  • Wide receiver Kenny Lawler,
  • Running back Zac Brooks and
  • Defensive lineman conversion project Jared Smith.

In addition to the six who have yet to appear in a game, there are a further ten who have appeared in a game, but never started a game in the NFL. They are:

  • Defensive end Ty Powell,
  • Defensive end Greg Scruggs,
  • Linebacker Dexter Davis,
  • Defensive end Obum Gwacham,
  • Defensive back Eric Pinkins,
  • Defensive line Lazarius Levingston,
  • Defensive back Ryan Murphy,
  • Wide receiver David Moore,
  • Offensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli and
  • Tight end Jameson Konz.

That’s 16 of 28 draft picks in the late rounds who have not made much of any kind of impact, and from that point there are another half dozen who have started eight or fewer games in their NFL careers. Those names are

  • Offensive lineman Joey Hunt,
  • Fullback Kiero Small,
  • Running back Chris Carson,
  • Offensive lineman Ryan Seymour,
  • Defensive back Winston Guy and
  • Offensive lineman Michael Bowie.

Now to flip to the other side of the production table and looking at some of those who have made an impact. Based on the probabilities in the table, it would be expected that roughly 11 percent of the players the team has drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds would have a career AV above 20. So, 11 percent of 28 is just over three, and that is indeed exactly what we find. Those three players are J.R. Sweezy, Malcolm Smith and Byron Maxwell. Spencer Ware and Jeremy Lane are within striking distance if they can somehow manage to put together another two or three years of production. Unfortunately for Seahawks fans, even if they do play enough and play well enough to reach a career AV of 20, they likely won’t be doing it in a Seattle uniform.

What all this means is that even though Pete Carroll and John Schneider were able to find Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith in the seventh round, they have not been vastly better than league average in finding contributors in the last two rounds. Sure, there are still several who are playing and could change the numbers, but for the most part, the return they have gotten in the sixth and seventh rounds are right in line with where one would expect them to be. That is extremely important because it simply adds another data point as to why it is so important for teams to have as much draft capital as possible. If it’s impossible to beat the average, then it makes sense that the best strategy is to is to simply increase the number of attempts.

Moving on to the contracts for the last two rounds of the draft, we see there is not a massive difference between rounds four and five and rounds six and seven.

What is amazing is that even as the bust rate continues to approach 90% for seventh rounders, the salary difference over four seasons for the player taken with pick 32 in the fourth round is barely $500k more than for the player taken with pick 32 in the seventh. The difference between the last pick in the third round and the last pick in the seventh round is barely $700k, meaning over the four years of the contract, there is only a $175k per year difference in cap hit, in spite of the fact that teams are several times more likely to find a Pro Bowl caliber player in the third round.

That’s just scraping the surface on the meaning of all this data, but it’s not hard to see that the true sweet spot of the draft where value is most likely to be found is in rounds two through rounds four and possibly into the early part of round five. However, digging into the meaning and value of the various draft picks is a different topic for a different post, so we’ll get into that as the draft itself approaches.