Thursday Night 3rd and Long: Analyzing the Draft

Sorry for the delay- this article is coming out a bit late because the statistics I assembled took me quite a bit of time to compile.  At 1 a.m. this morning I had an unfinished article, a dayjob looming, and a decision to make.  So a morning article became a night article (just for this week).  Please stay with me even though this is long-winded, because I think the statistics I put together are really interesting.

Usually before I sit down on Wednesday night to write this column, I watch the prior weekend's Patriots game to remember anything fresh I may have missed or to analyze certain players performances more in-depth.  This week, I decided to skip that.

To be honest, I'm not sure I could have subjected myself to that torture again.

I think that everyone here at Pats Pulpit has done a great job of breaking down New England's struggles against the Steelers, so I have decided to do a statistical breakdown of the last eight years worth of Patriots draft to see if I can spot any trends in how New England values different positions in the draft and then also what the value added has been per position and per round over the last eight years.

Before people go on a tirade about how this system is flawed, I'll go over a few things:

A.    For the "perceived value," I created an arbitrary valuation system that I believe accurately shows how teams value certain rounds in the draft.  I went with decreasing values for rounds 1-7 that add up to a total value of one.  These values are respectively 0.4, 0.25, 0.15, 0.1, 0.06, 0.03, and 0.01, with 0.4 representing the perceived value of a first round pick and 0.01 being the perceived value of a seventh round pick. 

B.     In the second set of analysis, I decided to base what I felt a player's actual value was to the team in teams of two things, and two things only: games played of potential games (meaning games in which the player was actively employed by the team), and games started.  Production is an entirely different thing, but it's hard to have any concrete comparison between different positions based on production.  If we instead look at value as games played and especially games started, we can compare by round and by position how the Patriots draft according to need.

C.    In the upcoming weeks I will have charted similar data for at least one other team to compare the Patriots.  This particular set took me long enough that there was no way to get it accomplished in time to publish this.

First, lets examine draft picks from 2004-2011 (I figured 8 years would be an accurate snapshot).        

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

2004

DL- Vince Wilfork

DL- Marquise Hill

S- Guss Scott

S- Dexter Reid

WR- P.K. Sam

CB- Christian Morton

TE- Ben Watson

RB- Cedric Cobbs

2005

OL- Logan Mankins

-

CB- Ellis Hobbs

S- James Sanders

LB- Ryan Claridge

QB- Matt Cassel

OL- Nick Kazcur

TE- Andy Stokes

2006

RB- Laurence Maroney

WR- Chad Jackson

TE- Dave Thomas

TE- Garrett Mills

OL- Ryan O'Callaghan

DL- Jeremy Mincey

CB- Willie Andrews

K- Stephen Gostowski

OL- Dan Stevenson

DL- Le Kevin Smith

2007

S- Brandon Meriweather

DL- Kareem Brown

OL- Clint Oldenburg

LB- Justin Rogers

LB- Oscar Lua

CB- Mike Richardson

OL- Mike Elgin

RB- Justise Hairston

OL- Corey Hilliard

2008

LB- Jerod Mayo

CB- Terrence Wheatley

LB- Shawn Crable

CB- Jonathan Wilhite

WR- Matthew Slater

LB- Bo Ruud

QB- Kevin O'Connell

2009

-

S- Pat Chung

WR- Brandon Tate

OL- Rich Ohrnberger

OL- George Bussey

LS- Jake Ingram

WR- Julian Edelman

DL- Ron Brace

LB- Tyrone McKenzie

DL- Myron Pryor

DL- Darryl Richard

CB- Darius Butler

OL- Sebastian Vollmer

2010

CB- Devin McCourty

TE- Rob Gronkowski

WR- Taylor Price

TE- Aaron Hernandez

P- Zoltan Mesko

C- Ted Larson

OT- Thomas Welch

OLB/DE- Jermaine Cunningham

DL- Brandon Deaderick

LB- Brandon Spikes

DL- Kade Weston

QB- Zac Robinson

2011

OT- Nate Solder

DB- Ras-I Dowling

RB- Stevan Ridley

-

OL- Marcus Cannon

LB/DE Markell Carter

DB- Malcolm Williams

RB- Shane Vereen

QB- Ryan Mallett

TE- Lee Smith

Here is the breakdown of position by round and how many total draft picks were used in the time period at each position:

By Position

LB

DL

WR

RB

QB

S

OL

K, P, LS

DB

TE

1

1

1

0

1

0

1

2

0

1

1

2

1

3

1

1

0

1

1

0

3

1

3

2

0

2

1

1

1

1

0

1

1

4

0

1

0

1

0

2

1

1

1

2

5

1

0

2

0

0

0

4

1

0

1

6

2

4

0

1

0

0

3

1

1

0

7

1

3

1

0

2

0

2

0

2

1

Total

8

12

6

5

3

5

14

3

9

7

I take a few things from this initial count.  First- the parity of the first round selection.  The Patriots have used a first round pick on every position with the exception of WR, QB, and the combination of K,P, and LS in the last eight years, with a maximum of 2 picks used on the offensive line. I feel that this demonstrates a remarkable equality between positions in drafting strategy. 

Now, lets take the notion of "perceived value" and multiply it with the position drafted by round:

Perceived Value

LB

DL

WR

RB

QB

S

OL

K, P, LS

DB

TE

1

0.4

0.4

0

0.4

0

0.4

0.8

0

0.4

0.4

2

0.25

0.75

0.25

0.25

0

0.25

0.25

0

0.75

0.25

3

0.3

0

0.3

0.15

0.15

0.15

0.15

0

0.15

0.15

4

0

0.1

0

0.1

0

0.2

0.1

0.1

0.1

0.2

5

0.06

0

0.12

0

0

0

0.24

0.06

0

0.06

6

0.06

0.12

0

0.03

0

0

0.09

0.03

0.03

0

7

0.01

0.03

0.01

0

0.02

0

0.02

0

0.02

0.01

Total

1.08

1.4

0.68

0.93

0.17

1

1.65

0.19

1.45

1.07

Per Pick

0.135

0.117

0.113

0.186

0.057

0.200

0.118

0.063

0.161

0.153

This distribution tells a story of how much the Patriots are willing to "spend" in terms of perceived value per position.  The offensive line is obviously the area that stands out, but mostly because two first round picks were used on those players.  The next highest valued draft positions are the defensive line and defensive backs, which is interesting considering how poorly these two positions have performed as of recent. Not surprisingly, quarterback, wide receiver, and the combination of K, P, and LS (long snapper) are the least valued draft positions, at least according to this chart.  However, we must take into account that the former position has been occupied by Tom Brady for the last decade, so there was little need to utilize better draft picks for that position.  Also, before 2007 Randy Moss and Wes Welker were traded for, so that is most likely why the drafted value for wide receiver is so low.

I then took the average per position to see what the standard value associated with a specific position would be. Safety and running back stand out as the highest average, indicating that the Patriots were more willing to use higher draft picks on those positions.  Values of .2 and .186 would indicate that New England spends, on average, a pick between the 2nd and 3rd rounds on safeties and running backs.  Values of .161 and .153 would indicate that the Patriots average a third round pick on cornerbacks and tight ends.  The values for defensive lineman, wide receivers, and offensive lineman are all around .11, which would indicate that New England usually drafts these positions around round four, but occasionally higher. The value for quarterback is lowest, but the Patriots have also only selected 3 quarterbacks in the measured span of time, but average a fifth round pick on the position.

Moving on from perceived value, we next visit the added value of a player according to a simple formula.  First, I gathered information on how long each pick was with the team.  For this calculation, I'm ignoring any time spent on injured reserve or injured during the season.  Although injury may not be the fault of the player, it definitely subtracts from the value a player has to the team, at least in terms of starts.  So for this added value statistic, I'm using PG- potential games, GP- games played, and GS- games started.  The calcuation is simple: (PG/GP) + (GS/GP)= value.  Given this equation, the maximum value for any player is 2, which would imply that the player played and started in every possible game after they were drafted.

1

PG

GP

GS

Value

2

PG

GP

GS

Value

2004

DL- Vince Wilfork

119

113

103

1.861

DL- Marquise Hill

48

12

0

0.250

 

TE- Ben Watson

96

87

63

1.630

2005

OL- Logan Mankins

119

106

106

1.891

-

 

2006

RB- Laurence Maroney

64

45

14

1.014

WR- Chad Jackson

24

14

1

0.655

 

 

2007

S- Brandon Meriweather

64

64

40

1.625

 

 

 

2008

LB- Jerod Mayo

64

50

48

1.741

CB- Terrence Wheatley

32

11

1

0.435

 

 

2009

-

S- Pat Chung

39

36

20

1.479

 

DL- Ron Brace

39

22

7

0.882

 

CB- Darius Butler

32

29

8

1.182

 

OL- Sebastian Vollmer

39

32

25

1.602

2010

CB- Devin McCourty

23

23

23

2.000

TE- Rob Gronkowski

23

23

18

1.783

 

OLB/DE- Jermaine Cunningham

23

20

11

1.420

 

LB- Brandon Spikes

23

18

11

1.394

 

2011

OT- Nate Solder

7

7

6

1.857

DB- Ras-I Dowling

7

2

2

1.286

RB- Shane Vereen

7

3

0

0.429

3

PG

GP

GS

Value

4

PG

GP

GS

Value

S- Guss Scott

32

5

2

0.556

s- Dexter Reid

16

13

2

0.966

RB- Cedric Cobbs

16

3

0

0.188

CB- Ellis Hobbs

64

63

49

1.762

S- James Sanders

96

84

50

1.470

OL- Nick Kazcur

90

70

64

1.692

TE- Dave Thomas

48

32

13

1.073

TE- Garrett Mills

16

0

0

0.000

K- Stephen Gostowski

87

79

79

1.908

DL- Kareem Brown

16

0

0

0.000

LB- Shawn Crable

18

6

0

0.333

CB- Jonathan Wilhite

48

39

13

1.146

QB- Kevin O'Connell

16

2

0

0.125

WR- Brandon Tate

32

18

11

1.174

OL- Rich Ohrnberger

23

5

0

0.217

LB- Tyrone McKenzie

16

0

0

0.000

WR- Taylor Price

23

3

0

0.130

TE- Aaron Hernandez

23

19

12

1.458

RB- Stevan Ridley

7

6

1

1.024

-

QB- Ryan Mallett

7

0

0

0.000

5

PG

GP

GS

Value

6

PG

GP

GS

Value

7

PG

GP

GS

Value

WR- P.K. Sam

16

2

0

0.125

CB- Christian Morton

0

0

0

0

LB- Ryan Claridge

16

0

0

0.000

QB- Matt Cassel

64

30

15

0.969

TE- Andy Stokes

0

0

0

0.000

OL- Ryan O'Callaghan

32

26

7

1.082

DL- Jeremy Mincey

0

0

0

0

CB- Willie Andrews

32

30

0

0.938

OL- Dan Stevenson

8

0

0

0

DL- Le Kevin Smith

48

31

0

0.646

OL- Clint Oldenburg

0

0

0

0.000

LB- Justin Rogers

0

0

0

0

LB- Oscar Lua

16

0

0

0.000

CB- Mike Richardson

16

10

0

0.625

OL- Mike Elgin

0

0

0

0.000

RB- Justise Hairston

0

0

0

0

OL- Corey Hilliard

0

0

0

0

WR- Matthew Slater

55

50

0

0.909

LB- Bo Ruud

0

0

0

0

OL- George Bussey

0

0

0

0.000

LS- Jake Ingram

24

24

24

2

WR- Julian Edelman

39

30

10

1.103

DL- Myron Pryor

39

24

2

0.699

DL- Darryl Richard

16

0

0

0.000

P- Zoltan Mesko

23

23

23

2.000

C- Ted Larson

0

0

0

0

OT- Thomas Welch

0

0

0

0.000

DL- Brandon Deaderick

23

11

4

0.842

DL- Kade Weston

0

0

0

0.000

QB- Zac Robinson

0

0

0

0.000

OL- Marcus Cannon

7

0

0

0.000

LB/DE Markell Carter

0

0

0

0

DB- Malcolm Williams

0

0

0

0.000

TE- Lee Smith

0

0

0

0.000

From these values, we can then take total value per round and then assess average value per player:

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Total

13.620

12.794

7.870

7.353

4.116

3.970

3.851

avg

1.702

1.066

0.715

0.817

0.457

0.331

0.296

The trend in total value is exactly what you would hope for; i.e., the Patriots are getting the maximum value out of their first round picks and that value decreases as the rounds progress.  However, we have to see that Stephen Gostkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and James Sanders all push the average value of the fourth round higher than the third.

This statistic shows one major thing- the Patriots don't appear to be having major busts when it counts.  They are getting great value (at least in terms of starts) from their first round picks, with the average per pick of 1.7 indicating that each player drafted in that round both plays and starts in almost every game while they're with the team.  Instant and prolonged contribution is exactly what a team is looking for out of a first round pick.

Then, we go to total and average value per position:

LB

DL

WR

RB

QB

S

OL

K, P, LS

DB

TE

Total

3.468

5.180

4.095

2.654

1.094

6.096

8.341

5.908

8.087

5.944

avg

0.434

0.432

0.683

0.531

0.365

1.219

0.596

1.969

0.899

0.849

I take a few things from here (and for the few people that are still reading this, thank you kindly): We can really disregard the special positions category (K, P, LS) because they weren't actual starts, but I considered them so. 

-        Surprisingly, the defensive back position had the best average value and nearly the highest total value.  This obviously isn't taking into account production, as I said, but instead shows that the cornerbacks that are getting drafted are playing a good percentage of the time.

-        As offensive line was the highest "perceived value" in the draft, it has also become the most valuable position over the last eight years in terms of games played and started.  The average is low, but this is mostly because lineman are drafted for depth in the later rounds, and the turnover in the position is relatively low.

-        The third highest average value is for tight ends, which makes sense- Dave Thomas in his years here, Ben Watson, and recently Gronkowski and Hernandez.

-        Though most people will gripe about Brandon Meriweather's production, the fact is that in terms of games played and started, the Patriots are very efficient with drafting safeties.  This is evidenced by the fact that the average value is an insane 1.219, which means the Patriots drafted mostly only safeties that have an impact.

-        Linebacker and defensive end are unsurprisingly our weakest positions during this time period (quarterback not included).  As most people have cried for impact players in those positions for the years after New England's 3 Super Bowls, these numbers would definitely indicate that the Patriots are not getting very consistent starters with the linebackers and defensive linemen they draft.  Obviously, this doesn't take into account free agent acquisitions or players traded for.

These are all the immediate impressions I take from this data.  I'm sure I'll have a head slapping moment between this week and next, but I will obviously write about that in the future.  As I said, I will definitely have a comparison team broken down in the future- I'm thinking the Colts or the Packers, but post in the comments if you want another team looked at.

A few more quick notes from the team:

-        I'll be disappointed and revolted if the allegations regarding Julian Edelman's conduct are a reality, and he is found guilty.  Though he's been unproductive as of recent, I've always been a fan of Julian and if these allegations are true, I hope that Robert Kraft takes action.  I made my sentiments on Albert Haynesworth known before, but violence against women is absolutely unacceptable no matter one's occupation.

-        A thought popped into my head today- I'm not sure the reason for Leigh Bodden being released, and I'm not certain we will ever know.  Most have speculated that he was no happy in the "star" role.  It definitely wasn't a financial transactions because New England will likely have to pay his remaining salary.  Is it possible that the move had nothing to do with Bodden himself?  Leigh was the Patriots' oldest secondary member by far, and definitely the highest paid.  With Devin McCourty being named a captain, it's obvious that he represents what the Patriots are looking for in a leader.  I've heard Patrick Chung discussed in the same hard working and studious manner as Devin.  Is it possible that at his relatively high age, and level of financial security, that Bodden wasn't ready to study as hard or put in as much work?  Not as a slight to Bodden, but he wasn't playing for his first non-rookie contact.  Even if Leigh wasn't acting as a malcontent, maybe Belichick wanted his youthful secondary members to mold themselves in the vein of McCourty and Chung.

-        We might get to see more of Taylor Price this weekend.  Awesome!  

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Pats Pulpit

You must be a member of Pats Pulpit to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Pats Pulpit. You should read them.

Join Pats Pulpit

You must be a member of Pats Pulpit to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Pats Pulpit. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker