A FanPost by Tyrone:
We’ve all heard the rumors around why The Chiefs, 2 months after the 2017 NFL Draft, and only a month before training camp, parted ways with GM John Dorsey. Communication and management style, salary cap mismanagement, releasing a player who was on his honeymoon via voice mail, we’ll never know the exact reasons the Dorsey Era came to an end, but we can assume those reasons were justified. I’m not here to tell you that John Dorsey was a perfect GM, or that The Chiefs would be in a better position if he was still making the decisions in Kansas City. I am here to tell you that John Dorsey was a great talent evaluator.
The Draft Grade
In the hours, days, and weeks following every NFL Draft, fans are subjected to an avalanche of the most pointless of sports journalism takes: The Draft Grade Articles. It is impossible to determine how well any team has drafted before any of the newly acquired players have ever played a single down of professional football. The players first drafted by John Dorsey for the Chiefs – including Eric Fisher – have now been in the league for six seasons, and the players most recently drafted for the chiefs by Dorsey – including Leon McQuay (and others) – have been in the league for two seasons. This is now a reasonable time to start assessing what sort of value The Chiefs (and the league) have gotten from those players. I’m not claiming my methods are by any means perfect, but it is a fun way to look at the quality and value of drafted players using a few different metrics.
So how do we measure the quality of an NFL player? Pro Football Focus tries to do something like this via their “proprietary” grading system where they grade every single snap for every single player. This isn’t really what we want though. If a player only plays one game in a season, but grades exceptionally highly in that one game, they will end up with a very high grade, but have they really provided much value to the team? No they haven’t.
One method used by one of my favourite websites, pro-football-reference.com, does things a little differently. They use a metric called Approximate Value to try to assign a number to a player based on the value they contributed to their team for any given season. It is by definition an approximate value. It is not intended to be exact. Doug Drinen, the founder of Pro Football Reference, and the creator of the metric explains it here:
“AV is not meant to be a be-all end-all metric. Football stat lines just do not come close to capturing all the contributions of a player the way they do in baseball and basketball. If one player is a 16 and another is a 14, we can’t be very confident that the 16AV player actually had a better season than the 14AV player. But I am pretty confident that the collection of all players with 16AV played better, as an entire group, than the collection of all players with 14AV.”
“Essentially, AV is a substitute for — and a significant improvement upon, in my opinion — metrics like ‘number of seasons as a starter’ or ‘number of times making the pro bowl’ or the like. You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, ‘number of seasons as a starter’ is a reasonable starting point if you’re trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn’t, and so on. And non-starters aren’t worthless, so they get some points too.”
I have also used a few other criteria to determine the quality of the draft picks, and to make it more interesting: Pro Bowls, All-Pros, Games Started, and a formula that includes them all. So let’s have a look at some of the data. All data that we will be looking at is from the 2013 draft (Dorsey’s first with KC) through to the 2017 draft (Dorsey’s last with KC).
*All Data was sourced from www.pro-football-reference.com
Expected Output By Draft Round
Let’s start off with something simple to give us an idea of what to expect from a player drafted in a given round.
It’s important to remember that these numbers are only what to expect their output to be from the time they were drafted, up until the end of the 2018 season. Obviously if we had more data on their full careers to work with, these numbers would be higher. This is really just a way to show the difference between the draft rounds.
Total Pro Bowl Selections By Draft Round By Team
Here we’ve got a nice little bar chart that shows how many total Pro Bowl selections a team’s draft picks between 2013 and 2017 have received to date.
Things of note here:
1. The Cowboys had the most total Pro Bowl selections of any team, followed by The Chiefs in second, and The Rams and Raiders tied for third.
2. Incredibly, the Broncos, Bills, and Colts managed to not pick a single Pro Bowler in six years, despite having a combined 108 draft picks including 13 first round picks.
3. As is to be expected, first round picks account for the largest proportion of Pro Bowl selections, and in fact more than half – 98 out of the 183 total.
4. Several teams were good at finding Pro Bowlers outside the first round. The Chiefs, Steelers, Saints, Packers, Panthers, and Dolphins all had significant numbers from outside the first round.
5. The Chiefs have been the kings of the fifth round. Thanks to Tyreek and D.J. Alexander. Yes, that D.J. Alexander. Special Teams Pro Bowls count too.
All-Pro Selections/Pro Bowl Selections/Weighted Career Average By Team
This graph may be my favourite. It is a little cluttered, but that was a trade-off to get the filters at the top to work. There’s 3 metrics displayed on the one graph for each team’s draft picks.
1. X-Axis – This is a weighted Career AV score per draft pick. The further to the right of the graph that a bubble is, the better.
2. Y-Axis – This is the average number of Pro Bowl selections per draft pick. The higher up on the graph that a bubble is, the better.
3. Bubble Size – This is the total number of All-Pro first team selections for the team’s draft picks. The larger the bubble, the better.
Things of note here:
1. By pretty much all metrics, The Cowboys, Chiefs, Bears, Rams, and Saints have drafted very well.
2. The teams grouped in the bottom left have all drafted very poorly. I hope the Broncos never fire Elway.
3. I feel like the 3 different metrics can be looked at differently. Having All Pro selections means you’ve probably drafted some elite level players. Having Pro Bowl players means you’ve probably drafted some very good, but not necessarily elite players (especially if you don’t also have the All Pro numbers). Having a high average Weighted Career AV means you’ve probably drafted pretty well overall (although it could also be that you drafted a handful of really top end players that brought the average up).
4. The Colts drafted Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard in 2018. That gave them a Pro Bowl selection, and 2 First Team All-Pro selections. They had zero of each in the five years we’re looking at. Is Chris Ballard the one that got away?
Full Draft List – 2013-2017
This is simply a full, sort-able list of all the draft picks we’re looking at, with some handy filters across the top. The only new metrics here are the two last columns TBSS and TBSS Per Year.
These 2 additional metrics are probably just redundant, less accurate versions of the Weighted Career Average metric, but including them was really just an excuse to play around with the data. The formulae are:
*TBSS – (CarAV)+(All Pro First Team*15)+(Pro Bowls*10)+(Years Starting*2)
*TBSS Per Year – TBSS/(2019-Year)
The list is initially sorted by TBSS Per Year, as this should give an idea of who the best players are irrespective of how recently they were drafted.
It’s fun to filter this list by AFC West teams to see all the Chiefs picks near the top.
Dorsey Can Pick ‘Em
If there’s one thing this research has proven to me, it’s that John Dorsey can pick talent. He’s consistently been able to draft elite players, often doing so in the later rounds, and without having a high draft position.
However, the ability to draft quality players hasn’t always ended as planned. We are all well aware that some players he has drafted have not even finished their rookie contracts with the Chiefs, for various reasons. This may be considered a fault in his abilities as a GM, but it doesn’t detract from his abilities as a pure talent elevator.
A New Hope
It’s far too early to judge Brett Veach’s talent evaluation abilities, as the small sample of players he has drafted have only played at most one season in the NFL. He does however have a very big grey sweatshirt to fill if he is to reach the lofty standards set by his predecessor. But thanks to Dorsey, Veach does have the biggest advantage a GM can have – Patrick Mahomes – and as long as he has Mahomes, maybe all he has to do is draft well enough and just not screw up in the same areas that Dorsey failed in.