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Road to the 2023 NFL Draft: Positional Value Part II

Welcome back. Part I of this series showed the relationship between the capital spent on WR and CB by NFL teams and how the top 15 players at each position (mostly objectively, but inherently subjectively on some level) were acquired. WR/CB are a logical pairing, mirroring each other on offense/defense.

In part II, rather than look at TE/EDGE which is another logical pairing, I've decided to look at TE/LB to create a better contrast and more obvious difference, if results hold. I'm going in blind and finding the results through a combination of top 10-30 player lists, PFF grades, counting stats, All-pro teams/pro bowl nods, etc. Some research essentially, but a lot of the guys on these lists are obvious, as anyone can guess we'll see Kelce, Kittle, Andrews, etc. LB is a bit more obscure and I'm curious to see what that looks like. Well either way, here we go:


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TE:


Player | Draft Position


1.
Travis Kelce | 63rd overall pick, 3rd round
2. George Kittle | 146th overall pick, 5th round
3. Mark Andrews | 86th overall pick, 3rd round
4. T.J. Hockenson | 8th overall pick, 1st round
5. Darren Waller | 204th overall pick, 6th round
6. Kyle Pitts | 4th overall pick, 1st round
7. Dallas Goedert | 49th overall pick, 2nd round
8. Pat Freiermuth | 55th overall pick, 2nd round
9. Dalton Schultz | 137th overall pick, 4th round
10. Hunter Henry | 35th overall pick, 2nd round
11. David Njoku | 29th overall pick, 1st round
12. Dawson Knox | 96th overall pick, 3rd round
13. Evan Engram | 23rd overall pick, 1st round
14. Tyler Higbee | 110th overall pick, 4th round
15. Cole Kmet | 43rd overall pick, 2nd round


Honorable Mentions: Mike Gesicki, Gerald Everett, Zach Ertz, Noah Fant, Tyler Conklin, Hayden Hurst


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ADP: 72.53


1st rounders: 4
2nd rounders: 4
3rd rounders: 3
4th rounders: 2
5th rounders: 1
6th rounders: 1
7th rounders: 0
UDFAs: 0


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Analysis: Right away we can see a significant drop in ADP of the top 15 TEs compared to the previous two positions of WR/CB. A dramatic difference really. Although there are no UDFAs or 7th rounders, the distribution of players in specific rounds is far more evenly spread too.

As a side note, I believe Waller and Pitts to be more talented than Hockenson, but his production v.s. theirs this season is undeniable so he got the 4th spot. Order doesn't really matter. It is clear that TE is a position of lower positional value than WR and CB based on NFL teams' investment into the position.


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LB (off-ball, cover):


Player | Draft Position


1. Fred Warner | 70th overall pick, 3rd round
2. LaVonte David | 58th overall pick, 2nd round
3. Bobby Wagner | 47th overall pick, 2nd round
4. Demario Davis | 77th overall pick, 3rd round
5. Matt Milano | 163rd overall pick, 5th round
6. T.J. Edwards | UDFA
7. Dre Greenlaw | 148th overall pick, 5th round
8. Tremaine Edmunds | 16th overall pick, 1st round
9. Frankie Luvu | UDFA
10. DeVondre Campbell | 115th overall pick, 4th round
11. Bobby Okereke | 89th overall pick, 3rd round
12. Roquan Smith | 8th overall pick, 1st round
13. C.J. Mosley | 17th overall pick, 1st round
14. Foyesade Oluokun | 200th overall pick, 6th round
15. Nick Bolton | 58th overall pick, 2nd round


Honorable Mentions: Eric Kendricks, Willie Gay Jr, Josey Jewell


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ADP (w/o UDFA inclusion): 82.00

ADP (UDFA counted as "263"): 106.8


1st rounders: 3
2nd rounders: 3
3rd rounders: 3
4th rounders: 1
5th rounders: 2
6th rounders: 1
7th rounders: 0
UDFAs: 2



Analysis: Well it' obvious here. The ADP (average draft position) is even lower than TE without including the two UDFA guys on the list, and well below TE, and therefore far far below WR/CB when including them (or not).

Off-ball / Cover LB is just a position that isn't too valuable. It's not invested in heavily at all. Ideally I would have paired this with RB but the results would be obvious and similar. With TE we can at least see the difference between WR/CB to TE to LB by how NFL teams have invested into what became the top 15 players at the position.

Also as a side note, no Devin White (45.5 PFF grade) is not making the top 15, he's terrible and overrated. Athletic specimen who is bad at the position, just a name. Patrick Queen, even Roquan Smith who did make the list is generally overrated. Either way he made it. This position, like RB, usually has "sexy" names attached due to draft position and prospect hype.


Conclusion & Checkpoint:

LB like RB is a position that was super en vogue and star powered decades ago. This is a 60s to 90s position. It is still important today, but investing in it doesn't make sense. Again positional value. Spending a 1st on a LB makes very little sense in today's league.

TE on the other hand is a very odd position to judge. A transcendent star at this position is arguably the most valuable weapon you can have i.e. Gronk, Kittle or even Kelce/Andrews, healthy Waller, Pitts hitting a ceiling.

But on the other hand it seems very dubious to invest a 1st rounder into the position and generally the results are terrible. I don't think teams can accurately assess TE prospects like the can WR/CB, hence all your elite and near elite guys - Kelce, Kittle, Andrews, Waller - of recent years being late 2nd to 6th round investments.


ADP Checkpoint:

WR: 50.26

CB: 30.77 / 61.73 (non UDFA / UDFA)

TE: 72.53

LB: 82.00 / 106.80 (non UDFA / UDFA)

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