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Crunching the numbers on NFC West rosters, Part Eight (the finale)

The “value” of Round 1 draft picks and the players they represent.

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Seatle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

In Part Seven of this series, we looked at ALL of the drafted players on the NFC West rosters (as of June 25th).

Today, we are going to narrow our focus to the first round picks.

No one else on the NFCW rosters matter.

Just the R1s.

Oh, and it doesn’t matter which team selected them originally; it only matters that they’re on an NFC West team right now.


Programming Note: This is the final installment in this series. I still have some data in the ol’ spreadsheet that may find its way onto Field Gulls, but it will be via future, standalone articles. Thanks for reading!


Related: Part One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven


As of June 25th, there were a total of 37 players on the 4 NFC West rosters who were selected in the first round of their respective draft.

That’s an average of 9.25 per team.

One of the recurring / underlying themes with this series has been Seattle’s tendency - coincidental or otherwise - to hover around the division average from a roster-composition standpoint.

Surprise, surprise! Seattle has 9 first-round picks on their roster right now.

So let’s start there - with us.

Sound good?


The R1s on Seattle’s roster

How many of the 9 first-round picks on our roster can you name?

And how many of the 9 were originally drafted by us?

...

(No peeking!)

...

Table 8.1: Seattle’s R1s

Were you right?

...

Say what you want about the selections themselves and/or what the Seahawks gave up to get one of them in particular (Adams), but you’ve got to admit that it’s an interesting list.

Three of the 9 were picked by us; none before pick #27.

Only 2 of the 9 were top-10 picks.

And, if we’re speculating, it’s very possible that as many as 4 of them could be looking for work come August 31st.

Starters.
Barring injury, Duane Brown, Jamal Adams, and Jordyn Brooks are the starters at Left Tackle, Strong Safety, and Weakside Linebacker (WILL), respectively.

Key contributors.
Rashaad Penny enters camp as RB2 and L.J. Collier is expected to be part of the rotation on the defensive line come Week 1.

The other 4.
What do Aldon Smith, Cedric Ogbuehi, Robert Nkemdiche, and Damarious Randall have in common?

Answer: They’re all going to need to earn a spot on the team, starting on July 28th – i.e. the first day of training camp.



The value of an R1 pick - Part One

Most of the rest of today’s story asks (and attempts to answer) a semi-rhetorical question: How much value do R1s have to a team?

Consequently, while there will be plenty of numbers to crunch and digest, particularly in the “Bonus Coverage” section, much of today’s journey will skew more toward a philosophical view of what R1s represent.

But it will still be sort of geeky!

I think.


The Rams’ current view on R1s

If you asked the Rams’ front office how much value a first-round draft pick has, the answer would probably be, “Not much ... except as a trade asset.”

Seriously.

The R1 players on the Rams roster, in order of selection number, are:

As you can see, three of the four were Top-10 picks.

The one that wasn’t a Top-10 pick, All-Everything Aaron Donald, is the only one that started his NFL career with the Rams.

(And he clearly should have been picked A LOT higher.)

Matthew Stafford was a #1 overall pick and spent his first 12 years in Detroit. The Rams acquired him earlier this year in return for a 2021 R3, two future R1s (2022 + 2023), and their former starting-QB, Jared Goff.

Jalen Ramsey was a Top-5 pick and spent 3+ years in Jacksonville before the Rams acquired him in October 2019. He cost the Rams their 2020 + 2021 R1s, plus a 2021 R4. Less than a year later, the Rams handed him a record extension (5/$105M).

Leonard Floyd started his career in Chicago. He cost the Rams $10M in 2020 (via free agency) and re-upped with them for 4/$64M in March.

Worth noting: The last time the Rams made a first-round pick was 2016 (Jared Goff). Having traded away their 2022 + 2023 R1s, the next time they’ll make a first-round pick - as things stand now - is 2024. That is SEVEN consecutive years.


The Cardinals’ current view on R1s

If you ask the Cardinals’ front office what a first-round draft pick is worth, they might just shrug.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Arizona is, after all, the organization that used the 10th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to select a “franchise QB” (Josh Rosen) - after sending an R3 (#79) and an R5 (#152) to the Raiders to move up from #15 - and then completely bailed on him and selected another QB (Kyler Murray) with the #1 overall pick exactly 364 days later.

Here are the R1s on the Cardinals roster right now:

Table 8.2: Arizona’s R1s

As we can see, the Cardinals have 10 R1s on their roster ... but only 4 of them were their selections.

How did they acquire the other 6 R1s?

Here are the details, listed in chronological order:

  • Chandler Jones landed in the desert via a trade in March 2016, with the Cardinals sending the Patriots a player (OG Jonathan Cooper) and their 2nd-round pick in that year’s draft.

Note: Cooper was the 7th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

  • A.J. Green joined the Cardinals via free agency, signing a 1-year, $6M contract that includes up to $2.5M in incentives (max $8.5M) on the first day of the 2021 league year (i.e. March 17th). Not everyone thinks that was a good move by Arizona.


The 49ers’ current view on R1s

Given that San Francisco has had a losing record in 5 of the last 6 years, including 3 of the 4 years under the current regime of Shanahan and Lynch, it seems pretty clear that the Niners view first-round picks as the lifeblood of mediocrity.

(Sorry; couldn’t resist.)

...

Let’s take a look at their collection of R1 talent ...

Table 8.3: San Francisco’s R1s

That is a seriously impressive list!

...

I mean, sure, they (and their fans) had to suffer through some “down” years to assemble that collection ... 2-14 in 2016 ... 4-12 in 2018 ... 5-11 in 2015 ... 6-10 in both 2017 and 2020. Fourth place in the NFC West 4 of the last 6 years.

I mean, it’s not suffering on the scale of, say, the Seattle Mariners (who have the longest postseason drought in professional sports), but for a once-proud franchise like the 49ers ... ya gotta admire their commitment to earning picks in the top half of each round.

(Alright, fine ... I’ll stop kicking them while they’re down.)

...

How about the 49ers’ bold decision to move up to #3 in this year’s draft so they could grab an FCS quarterback? I mean, I like Trey Lance just fine, but if he struggles (or just plain doesn’t unseat Jimmy G) then the Niners might wish they had kept their 2022 and 2023 R1s.

(Now I’m done.)



The value of an R1 pick - Part Two

You know the common refrain about how Seattle is always picking in the latter stages of the NFL Draft’s first round?

I’m not going to address that today.

But this chart - which only shows the R1s on each team’s roster, not whether they were picked by that team - kind of sort of supports that argument (but also not really).

Table 8.4: R1s by “draft tier”

Note: The 2 “high” R1s in the Seahawks’ column are Jamal Adams and Aldon Smith, neither of whom were originally drafted by Seattle.

And just to fully illustrate the differences between Seattle and their rivals ...

Table 8.5: R1s by selection number

Worth noting: 100% of the R1 players on the Rams roster were selected in the top half of the round - i.e. within the first 16 picks. The 49ers (7 of 14) and the Cardinals (5 of 10) are both at 50%. Seattle sits at 22.2% (2 of 9).



The value of an R1 pick - Part Three

Let’s tie the last 2 sections together and look at some of the R1 players on NFC West rosters, grouped by tiers (i.e. Top 5, 6-10, 11-20, and 21-32) to see how the “value” of an R1 pick drops as players come off the board.

__________

Tier 1: R1.01 to R1.05

Here is the complete list of Top-5 picks that are currently on NFC West rosters:

  • QB Matthew Stafford (R1.01, 2009)
  • QB Kyler Murray (R1.01, 2019)
  • DE Nick Bosa (R1.02, 2019)
  • QB Trey Lance (R1.03, 2021)
  • LT Trent Williams (R1.04, 2010)
  • WR A.J. Green (R1.04, 2011)
  • CB Jalen Ramsey (R1.05, 2016)

Stafford is currently #16 all-time in career passing yards. He trails Warren Moon (#12 on the list) by only 4,136 yards and will now be piloting Sean McVay’s offense and tossing the rock to Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods (among others).

Williams is the highest-paid OT in the game (with an APY that edges GB’s David Bakhtiari by a whopping $10k per season).

Ramsey is the league’s highest-paid cornerback.

Green started fast, amassing a combined 2,407 receiving yards his first 2 seasons and a total of 8,213 through Year 7. Unfortunately, he has missed 23 games over the past 3 seasons (including the entire 2019 season).

Murray and Bosa are both considered to be franchise-caliber players at this point but are only entering their 3rd year in the league.

Trey Lance hasn’t even officially signed his rookie contract yet.


Tier 2: R1.06 to R1.10

With the exception of Trey Lance, who gets an incomplete, the Tier 1 R1s have acquitted themselves well.

How’s about the guys in Tier 2?

Well ...

SS Jamal Adams (R1.06, 2017) is about to (probably) become the league’s highest-paid safety and may “reset” the market by a significant amount.

DE Aldon Smith (R1.07, 2011) set the league on fire with a record 33-1/2 sacks his first two seasons but became something of a cautionary tale after that.

RT Mike McGlinchey (R1.09, 2018) just had his 5th-year option exercised for the 2022 season.

DE Leonard Floyd (R1.09, 2016) signed a massive extension with the Rams in March which seems like a good thing, but ... the jury might be out on his actual value.

QB Josh Rosen (R1.10, 2018) is currently QB3 in San Francisco and his career stats are uninspiring (2,845 passing yards; 54.8 completion percentage, 63.5 QB rating).

WR Kevin White (R1.07, 2015) has a career total of 285 receiving yards.

LB Isaiah Simmons (R1.08, 2020) gets a pass for now.


Tier 3: R1.11 to R1.20

J.J. Watt (R1.11, 2011) and Aaron Donald (R1.13, 2014) are the headliners in Tier 3. Both are first-ballot Hall of Famers and clearly should have been drafted higher than they were.

DE Arik Armstead (R1.17, 2015) is currently the 3rd-best player in this group (with the #9 contract for an EDGE rusher to prove it; 5/$85M; $17M APY). The 49ers may have overreached though.

LG Justin Pugh (R1.19, 2013) has had a decent, if unspectacular career.

DT Javon Kinlaw (R1.14, 2020) and LB Zaven Collins (R1.16, 2021) get passes for now.


Tier 4: R1.21 to R1.32

There are almost as many R1-T4 players on NFC West rosters as there are from the first 3 tiers combined (17 vs. 20).

I will definitely not be listing them all.

LT Duane Brown is clearly the cream of the crop from the seven R1-T4 players on Seattle’s roster. Opinions on the other 6 vary pretty widely.

The Niners have six Tier 4 players, including OC Alex Mack, DE Dee Ford, and FS Jimmie Ward. Oh, and WR Brandon Aiyuk is in that group too.

Note: I just remembered one of the reasons we dislike the Niners so much.

DE Chandler Jones is probably edged by WR DeAndre Hopkins down in the desert but both are, shall we say, “significantly above-average”. The Cardinals other T4 players clearly trail those two.

Down in L.A., the Rams R1-T4 group consists of ...

No one.

Don’t feel bad for them though because (a) they’re the Rams and we don’t like them; and (b) they have Aaron-freaking-Donald. Not only has he won the Defensive Player of the Year award 3 times in his first 7 seasons, but according to PFF, he is the single-best player in the league.

Oh, and, as we 12s know all too well, A.D. is basically a god among mortals.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

---- How on earth did Russ survive this play?



The value of an R1 pick - Part 4

I am going to put this bluntly ... Some positions are more valuable than others. Especially in the first round.

That said, I am not going to actually dive into the numbers.

For 2 reasons:

Reason #1: It would be very easy for me / you / us to reach conclusions, based on the current rosters, that may not accurately align with organizational beliefs.

For instance:

Fact #1: 7 of the 37 R1s in the NFC West are defensive ends and 5 are offensive tackles. Four positions are tied with 4 R1s apiece. One of the 4 is cornerback.

Fact #2: The 4 R1 cornerbacks are evenly distributed among the 4 teams in the division - i.e. one per team.

...

Let’s pause here for a moment.

Mostly just to give you a chance to form an opinion based on those 2 facts.

Question: ARE cornerbacks a “high value” position for NFC West teams? If not, are they a medium value position?

...

Here’s one more fact that we can pull from the roster data:

Fact #3: None of the 4 cornerbacks currently on an NFC West roster were originally selected by an NFC West team. Z-E-R-O.

...

Reason #2: Curiosity kills cats, creates rabbit holes, and causes all sorts of other challenges ... and Fact #3 made me curious. But my curiosity took me beyond the scope of this series and, well, this is Part Eight and I would rather work toward wrapping up the series rather than expanding it.

...

Note: There are some tables in the “Bonus Coverage” section at the end of this article that I was going to include in this section. Some of you may find them interesting.

__________

I will share one more thing before moving on - because I already sort of opened the box via Fact #3.

...

R1.05, 2011 NFL Draft

2011 NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

That gentleman, Patrick Peterson, is the ONLY cornerback that has been selected by an NFC West team in the first round of the NFL Draft IN FIFTEEN YEARS!

...

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but that blew my mind.

__________

Note: To save my fellow 12s from Googling it, here are the most recent R1 cornerback selections for the division’s other 3 teams:

Seattle Seahawks: Kelly Jennings, 2006, #31 overall - played 5 years in Seattle, 6 overall.

St. Louis Rams: Tye Hill, 2006, pick #15 - played 5 seasons.

San Francisco 49ers: Mike Rumph, 2002, #27 - played 5 seasons; 4 for the 9ers.



Final thoughts

R1s have value and they are important. Obviously.

It isn’t one-size-fits-all though.

Players flash, players fade, and value is often subjective, rather than objective.

In addition, environment and circumstances play a larger role than some might think - just ask Josh Rosen.

__________

Go Hawks!



“Bonus Coverage”

As promised, here are some tables for y’all to pore over and glean valuable insights from.

Enjoy!

...

Table 8.6: R1s currently on NFCW rosters, by position

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Table 8.7: NFCW R1s by position - i.e. the division’s actual picks

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Table 8.8: Seattle’s R1 selections by position - ACTUAL SELECTIONS

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Table 8.9: San Francisco’s R1 selections by position - ACTUAL SELECTIONS

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Table 8.10: Arizona’s R1 selections by position - ACTUAL SELECTIONS

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Table 8.11: L.A.’s R1 selections by position - ACTUAL SELECTIONS

...

And, last but not least ... the same positional breakdowns for the league as a whole.

Table 8.12: R1s by position, league-wide



Bonus “Bonus Coverage”

Surprise!

Here are a couple more tables that I created and considered using, but ... didn’t.

Table 8.13: “Own” R1s, by year selected

...

Table 8.14: “Acquired” R1s, by year selected