The NFL Draft: going deep, part two

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Updated: January 31, 2014
What positional trends can teams looking to score big in the NFL draft learn from the Super Bowl teams?

What positional trends can teams looking to score big in the NFL draft learn from the Super Bowl teams?

I recently wrote an article outlining just how important the later rounds of the draft (and undrafted free agency) are for building a quality roster.  In that article, I looked at the draft status for the 106 combined players on the Super Bowl teams and found that more players were undrafted than were taken in any two rounds combined.

In the comments below that article, Water Cooler Sports user MKE raised the idea of looking at the draft status of each position group in an effort to determine if any one position generally gets draft priority (what do you know, we actually do have some insightful discussion sometimes!).  I thought this was an excellent idea and decided to check it out.  The results are in the table below.

One quick note: in order to make the numbers work I simply inserted round eight for any undrafted player to still get a reasonable average.

Position
Number of Players
Number Undrafted
Average draft round
Quarterback 5 0 3.0
Running back 9 2 3.7
Wide receiver 11 5 5.1
Tight end 7 0 4.7
Offensive tackle 9 3 5.2
Offensive guard 7 1 4.1
Center 3 0 4.3
Defensive end 10 3 4.8
Defensive tackle 8 2 4.5
Linebacker 12 5 5.9
Cornerback 11 3 4.6
Safety 8 3 4.9
Kicker 2 2 8.0
Punter 2 2 8.0
Long Snapper 2 2 8.0

Conventional wisdom says that the most important position on an NFL team is the quarterback.  These numbers seem to bear that out, as the quarterbacks have the highest draft position by far of any position group.  That average would get even higher (up to 2.0) if you remove Zac Dysert, a third string quarterback for the Denver Broncos who is not going to be playing in a game anytime soon.  The four quarterbacks with any chance of actually playing in the Super Bowl-the two starters and their top backups-were all drafted in the first three rounds.

Quarterbacks like Peyton Manning are usually the most highly drafted position. Who knew?

Quarterbacks like Peyton Manning are usually the most highly drafted position. Who knew?

That brings up an important point to make: some of these position groups have incredibly small sample sizes, where one player can skew the data dramatically.  So while these numbers can possibly show some interesting trends, they should not be viewed as absolute fact.  A larger study-perhaps of all twelve playoff teams, or even all 32 NFL teams-would be needed to help get more precise data if we wanted to draw more detailed conclusions.

With that said, the numbers here don’t seem to follow any real discernable pattern outside of quarterback, as far as I can see.  Again, a notably larger sample size might help create some separation; with less than ten players, the difference between 4.1 and 5.1 really isn’t all that notable.  There are a few interesting points to make though.

First, many people believe that the most important positions on the roster (outside of quarterback, of course) are those that either protect the quarterback or are responsible for hitting the quarterback.  None of the position groups on the offensive or defensive lines-offensive tackle, offensive guard, center, defensive tackle, defensive end-really seem to reflect that status, although that could simply be due to teams drafting well in those areas and finding good value there.

Another important point to remember about this study is that draft status does not always equal production; Seattle, for example, has two excellent pass rushers in Chris Clemons and Michael Bennett who were both undrafted.  Generally, however, you expect higher-drafted players to be better (although again the small sample size can become an issue here).

Maybe running backs like Marshawn Lynch aren't as devalued in the draft as we thought.

Maybe running backs like Marshawn Lynch aren’t as devalued in the draft as we thought.

There are a few other conventional truths that these numbers might pass some judgment on.  People claim that running backs are getting devalued and it makes sense to wait on them in the draft, but these numbers seem to suggest otherwise. Both running backs who will be starting in the Super Bowl were first round draft picks, and the running backs as a whole had the highest average draft position of any group outside of quarterbacks.

It would also appear that the easiest position to find value performers in is linebacker, at least for these two teams.  The linebackers had far and away the lowest average draft status of any non-special teams position group, yet both Denver and Seattle have solid linebacking corps.

Speaking of special teams, none of the six players dedicated solely to special teams (kickers, punters, and long snappers) heard their names called in the draft.  Yet all are established NFL veterans who are among the best at what they do.  This reinforces the notion that it is absolutely unnecessary to spend high picks (or even any picks) on specialists.

Once again I want to reinforce the idea that these numbers are from a small sample size and should not be viewed as conclusive.  But they do help to either reinforce common draft notions or perhaps suggest that they are not necessarily true.  Maybe in the future I’ll do a more thorough breakdown with more teams involved in an effort to find more conclusive results.  Or you could , which takes a slightly different approach to trying to find out what positions are worth early round picks.

About the author(s)

Johnathan Wood is a passionate fan of the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, and Northwestern Wildcats. He enjoys being the beat writer for the Bears at Water Cooler Sports and being obnoxiously unapologetic about how his favorite teams are more awesome than yours. Feel free to email him at if you have any comments or suggestions. Connect with .

838 comments
Cdfour Packers Think Pink
Cdfour Packers Think Pink

Tearloch, to answer your question smarty pants.. I only comment on here during lunch break or when I do not have a class. I rarely post on here during work hours anyway. 

andylet445
andylet445

go to the new article damn it.  

Shared sex is not to be experienced
Shared sex is not to be experienced

I have a lawyer friend (incidentally, a rabid Packers fan) who says that the fact there is a 30-year waiting list for Packers tickets shows that the board is in dereliction of its fiduciary obligation to maximize revenues, and that ticket prices should be raised every year until the waiting list drops to zero. It is fun to watch fans splutter when he says that.

Tearloch
Tearloch

What?  Link that shit...

thebaskett
thebaskett

subway is gross.. so 5 guys.. did you know at 5 guys.. extra cheese is free

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

The real problem is the grandfathered clause of being able to hand down the seats to relatives - some families have owned the best seats since Lambeau was built

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

I think your friend is an asshat - that won't happen - it was said the last 3 times they raised ticket prices only to have the list get larger

Tearloch
Tearloch

Well, he is correct.  Too bad this isn't a capitalist country...

Tearloch
Tearloch

Wait, you are a teacher commenting on here during school?  WTF?

thebaskett
thebaskett

ive been drunk dialing that number for years

Staffords_Glove
Staffords_Glove

 Turkey and Pepperoni on Italian Herb and Cheese aint bad for $5

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

not defending it - having the "Golden Shower" package seats and wanting green package seats - I have my own beefs with the system - LIKE I WANT MY 3rd GAME BACK _ BASTIGS

Shared sex is not to be experienced
Shared sex is not to be experienced

 The fact that people defend this absurd system with almost religious zeal just proves that it's nothing more than elaborate publicity stunt.

Tearloch
Tearloch

Hmmm, too bad GBs ownership will not allow such a drastic change....

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

turn over is where the list will get reduced

Tearloch
Tearloch

So you are saying that the theories of supply and demand are wrong?

thebaskett
thebaskett

5 dollars for 6 -8 slices of meat is really expensive

thebaskett
thebaskett

um yeah it is considering for another doll hair .. i can get a firehouse sub and it has twice the meat and taste way better

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

The green package which has the other games, the seat license is like $1500, and the seats are probably the same per game

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

there is like a $600 dollar seat license that you get back when you get rid of your seat - for the seats we sit in they are 75-80 bucks a game

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

pretty good seats tho - 18 rows up in the end zone between the tunnels the players use - you can see their faces real good from our seats and see them with their helmets off going into and out of the tunnel

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

hence the gold shower package

Tearloch
Tearloch

Calling that a season ticket package is like calling a "time-share" a home...

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

1 preseason and 2 regular season - used to be 3 reg season in Milw

Tearloch
Tearloch

So your "season" ticket package is 2 games?  What kind of shit is that?

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

LOL - Milwaukee season ticket holder have the gold package - that is what I call it because they took our 3rd game away

Tearloch
Tearloch

"Golden Shower" package?  Did you pay extra for that action, Cotton?

Shared sex is not to be experienced
Shared sex is not to be experienced

 As a fan, I can like the fact that the seats are cheaper without agreeing with it philosophically, just as I can like the effects of smoking bans without agreeing with smoking bans.

Tearloch
Tearloch

And Chicago still sells them out...that is the point he is trying to make.  

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

why would we want that - everyone will just pay more and more and more in the long run - I'd rather have it as cheap as possible - $75-80 for an end zone seat to me is to high - the same seat in Chi though is like 300

Shared sex is not to be experienced
Shared sex is not to be experienced

 Right, which proves -- yet again -- that they haven't raised prices enough.

In any case, I like the stock sales, as bogus as they are, because they foist the cost of building these overpriced stadiums onto the shoulders of fans, where they should be, instead of onto the shoulders of the cities and states.

Tearloch
Tearloch

Packer fans need to "organize" and make a hostile takeover attempt to change the ticket practices...

TheHairy1
TheHairy1

a sell-out is a sell-out - I could see them raising the prices by 20-30 dollars and nothing changing

Tearloch
Tearloch

Right, and I am sure many of those are people with influence as stock holders...

Tearloch
Tearloch

No, this is what happens when you let fans own the team.  They defend systems that benefit themselves...