Rick Reilly has an edict that, ironically, he seems to repeat every time he opens his mouth: “One of my rules is to write sentences that have never been uttered before in the history of the English language.” I will now heed this advice with the following five words:
“Drawing inspiration from Rick Reilly…”
This is a true statement, even if a little embarrassing. I blame the lockout. Either way, Reilly’s NFL re-draft column defied the odds, somehow avoided the usual self-serving banalities, and was … pretty interesting.
Maybe it’s my unhealthy infatuation with trying to rewrite history, particularly when it comes to the Steelers and the draft (handy links here and here). Whatever, my affliction is your gain. I took Reilly’s idea, as well as my previous forays into time travel, to build a better, stronger, faster, etc., Steelers Lounge Time Machine.
(Just to be clear: CarAV has limitations, which author Doug Drinen acknowledges up front:
“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.”
With that out of the way, let’s get to it…)
So here’s the deal: I looked at every draft from 2000-2010, which also happens to coincide with Kevin Colbert’s tenure in Pittsburgh. I then ordered every draft by CarAV to see how good or bad teams were at predicting the future success of the players they selected.
(Because this turned into a much larger endeavor than I originally intended, I’ll spread the findings out over a few posts.)
Below: every first-round re-draft from 2000-2010 by CarAV. I also include the original draft position for comparison, and a separate table showing the Steelers’ selections each year.
A few things:
* Because CarAV is cumulative, the longer you play, the higher your CarAV. Which is why Steve Hutchinson’s (class of ’01) CarAV is higher than Ben Roethlisberger’s (’04). It also means that guys like Larry Foote and Antwaan Randle El are ranked relatively high compared to their draft classmates. But that’s sort of the point: longevity plus productivity makes for a good player and a solid draft pick.
* I probably should have stopped after 2007, or maybe 2008, because the results become noisy after that. For instance, looking at the 2009 draft table, CarAV says that the Pats’ Sebastian Vollmer should have been the second-overall pick. Vollmer has played well, but is he as good as Jake Long or Joe Thomas? It’s hard to say definitively since he’s only played two seasons. (I ended up including every draft through 2010 because I figured someone would ask for it. Just take the results with a grain of salt.)
* The tables that follow are, as mentioned, ordered by CarAV. That doesn’t mean that, say, John Abraham should have been the No. 3 pick in 2000 based solely on his career productivity. Clearly, teams have different needs based a whole bunch of things. Instead, this is a first-to-worst ordering of players by output. It allows us to compare, comment, and, well, waste time until we have actual football again. This seems obvious, but for completeness, I point it out it here.
* Note to nerds: you can view the data here.
(FYI: New_Rnd = new round player was drafted using CarAV; New_Pick = new pick player was drafted using CarAV; Rnd = original round drafted; Pick = original pick drafted)
It’s no surprise Brady’s the first overall pick, but it appears the Ravens were spot on with Jamal Lewis at 1.5 despite my RB Fungibility Theory. Same deal with Shaun Alexander at 1.6. I’ll write about this in more detail in a subsequent post, but the Ravens know what they’re doing in the first round. More than just hitting on their first-round picks, they also have a knack for finding first-round talent in later rounds. In 2000, it was Adalius Thomas, originally a sixth-rounder.
One of the common complaints of the Colbert era is that while he’s money in Round 1, he’s average or worse late in the draft. One thing worth considering: a lot of his early selections turn out to be first-round quality. So here, in addition to Plax, Marvel Smith played like a late first-rounder.
For the Steelers: the Clancy and Poteat picks don’t seem nearly as bad when viewed through CarAV, and Haggans played like a second-rounder.
* Worst first-rounder: Jay Soward, WR, Jags. Originally drafted 1.29, now 5.162 in re-draft.
I remember reading recently that the Bengals gave serious consideration to taking Drew Brees with the fourth-overall pick but eventually settled on Justin Smith. It turns out, that’s exactly where Brees should have been taken. But the Bengals are the Bengals and fate intervened. Still, Cincy got three first-round talents in ’01: Chad Ochocinco, Smith and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, originally second-, first-, and sixth-rounders.
For the Steelers: Colbert & Co. took Hampton, Bell and Okobi right where they should have, missed on Nkwenti but did well with Bailey.
* Worst first-rounder: Jamal Reynolds, DE, Packers. Originally drafted 1.10, now 6.164 in re-draft.
Woo hoo, the Steelers took a second-, third-, and fourth-rounder and turned them all into first-round selections! It’s hard to imagine Foote or Randle El as first-round talents, but part of that has to do with longevity as well as their relative productivity. Look at it this way: all three players contributed to the Steelers’ 2005 Super Bowl, all were playing on rookie contracts (I think), and none were making first-round money. However you label and order them, that’s a nifty draft haul.
More impressive than that: Keisel, originally the 242nd pick, is now an early second-rounder. In fact, you could argue that he’s more a first-rounder than Foote, Hope or Randle El.
* Worst first-rounder: Wendell Bryant, DT, Cards. Originally drafted 1.12, now 5.147 in re-draft.
In the re-draft, the Steelers have two defensive backs as first-round picks, and Taylor would be even higher if he could catch. For the purposes of re-signing him for a reasonable sum, we’ll call that a feature instead of a bug.
The latest evidence Alonzo Jackson was a stretch: according to CarAV, the Steelers drafted him 107 spots to soon.
* Worst first-rounder: Jerome McDougle, DE, Eagles. Originally drafted 1.15, now 5.164 in re-draft.
This is something I will have to investigate further but first impressions are that there are a lot of running backs worth top-10 selections, but most of them were originally drafted after 1.15.
I remain unconvinced that DeAngelo Hall is a top-10 selection although Chris Cooley is worthy of 1.19.
For the Steelers: Roethlisberger’s a top-3 players, which is no surprise. And for the second consecutive draft, the Steelers took a player in Round 2 that was a fifth-round talent. Starks turned out to be a second-rounder, while the front office missed on every player not named Ben or Max.
* Worst first-rounder: Rashaun Woods, WR, 49ers. Originally drafted 1.31, now 6.178 in re-draft.
Rodgers is only the sixth-overall pick because he had to sit behind Favre for three years. The fact that he’s already accumulated CarAv of 48 is a testament to just how good he has been in a short period. The Pats look brilliant taking Logan Mankins, and the Seahawks were right to draft Lofa Tatupu at 2.45 (which flabbergasted some folks at the time).
Despite hands of stone, Braylon Edwards has had some productive seasons, although Vincent Jackson might be more valuable. The Chiefs got Matt Cassel for a second-round pick, so clearly Belichick gave Pioli a hometown discount (*cough* collusion *cough*). This sounds like a job for Roger Goodell.
For the Steelers: turns out, B-Mac has performed like a second-round pick. In terms of CarAV, Antrel Rolle (now 2.36, originally 1.8), Carlos Rogers (now 2.42, originally 1.9), Ellis Hobbs (now 2.45, originally 3.84), and Corey Webster (now 2.53, originally 2.43) rank ahead of McFadden, but Rolle was moved to safety, Hobbs will likely retire due to neck injuries and Rogers and Webster aren’t huge upgrades. Basically: the Steelers did the best with that they had. B-Mac’s a serviceable No. 2 corner.
Kemoeatu has provided third-round productivity, as has Essex (as a backup), while Fred Gibson and the “He’ll replace Plax!” hype barely lasted through ’05 training camp.
* Worst first-rounder: Troy Williamson, WR, Vikings. Originally drafted 1.07, now 4.119 in re-draft. (David Pollack and Erasmus James were first-round picks with lower CarAV, but both suffered career-ending injuries so I didn’t include them here.)
Leading up to the ’06 draft I remember all the talk about the complete lack of depth among the wide receivers. Basically, Santonio and Chad Jackson were the only first-rounders, although Jackson ended up going to New England in Round 2. Five years later and this class was stacked: I’ll put Hester (although he’s more dangerous as a returner), Jennings, Colston, Marshall, and Holmes up against any WR class.
After watching Kyle Williams destroy Kemoeatu last season, I can very easily seem him as a top-15 pick.
The Saints have a knack for finding first-round offensive linemen late in the draft. In fact, they have three first-rounders in the ’06 re-draft, and Jahri Evans and Colston have been more productive than Reggie Bush, originally taken second overall.
For the Steelers: nothing’s changed — Smith and Reid remain wasted picks. Colon’s now a third-rounder (which lends credence to the argument that he probably wasn’t one of the NFL’s best right tackle’s in 2009), and the front office would have had more success throwing darts at the draft board with selections 4-7.
* Worst first-rounder: John McCargo, DT, Bills. Originally drafted 1.26, now 5.155 in re-draft.
Some surprising names here, starting with Patrick Willis. He gets lost in San Francisco and you forget how good he really is. Lynch, Griffin and Weddle seem like stretches, as does Jamaal Anderson. This could be early signs that CarAV becomes less stable as we approach 2011.
Fun fact: Brady Quinn falls from 1.22 to 5.150. Sounds high.
Still, Woodley has played like he’s worth the No. 6 pick, and along with Timmons has worked out well for Pittsburgh.
Gay is now a third-rounder, Spaeth is 19 picks worse, and McBean is slightly more productive (although that was with the Broncos after the Steelers released him). Sepulveda’s CarAV is 0, but that’s because I don’t think it accounts for kickers or punters.
* Worst first-rounder: Justin Harrell (Packers) and Jarvis Moss (Broncos) share the honors. Harrell was originally drafted 1.16, Moss 1.17, and now are 6.161 and 6.162 in the re-draft.
Because you’re no doubt wondering: JaMarcus Russell, the new face of “Biggest Bust Ever” (Ryan Leaf finally catches a break), ends up at 4.105, primarily because he was afforded so many opportunities to fail.
For the Steelers: Limas somehow avoids the seventh round (but still ranks higher than Bruce Davis!), Tony Hills does not, and Ryan Mundy provides some value as a fourth-rounder.
* Worst first-rounder: Vernon Gholston, DE, Jets. Originally drafted 1.06, now 4.102 in re-draft.
You could make a case that Wallace is the No. 1 player in this draft although No. 6 ain’t bad. Early returns are that Ziggy has been a second-round talent, Urbik a bust, Lewis a reach and Burnett exactly what the team thought. David Johnson is now a fourth-rounder.
* Worst first-rounder: Andre Smith, T (Bengals), Aaron Maybin, DE (Bills), and Peria Jerry, DT (Falcons) share the honors. Smith was originally drafted 1.06, Maybin 1.16, and Jerry 1.24. Now they 4.103, 4.104, and 4.105 in the re-draft.
All bets are off. I’ll get behind the top-4 selections but can’t see tight ends going fifth and sixth (to the same team, no less … although it if were going to happen it would be the Pats). Also: Colt McCoy is now a first-rounder. We have reached the event horizon, folks.
Based on one season, Manny is now a second-rounder, Antonio Brown a third-rounder and Sylvester a fourth-rounder. Take that for what it’s worth, which at this point isn’t much.