It is easiest to view the charts by just clicking them to view in a new window
A while ago, I wrote a fanpost entitled, "A Discussion of Draft Value for all 32 Teams Over the Past 4 Years." I researched each team to try and figure out where Buffalo stood in terms of talent accumulated over the past 4 years. When I looked at the data some trends emerged and I wanted to see if any other trends came through. So I extrapolated some of the data which I found in my previous post and took it back to 2003 so that I had nine years of draft data. I’ll go into what I proceeded to look into.
The first thing I did was just sum the draft class averages from PFR.com. It’s pretty straight forward and rather easy to look at. (Click Here for Larger Chart in New Window)
The charts are color coded so that the darkest green is the best class in that year and dark red is the worst draft class. There are a few interesting things of which to note. Here are the team records for easy reference. New England has rather bad drafting particularly when they were most successful. It shows that often on successful teams draft choices don’t get the chance to start and have an impact because of the talent in front of them. Examples of this are the New England streak of drafting ’05-’09 when they won at least 10 games, Indy from 06-11 went they also won at least 10 games or recent Baltimore teams which were built on the drafting success of three years, 06-08 and went on to win 11, 9, 13, 10 and 13 games on the strength of those draft classes.
The next chunk of data involves fluctuations in-between records and what leads to a consistently good team. The differences between the record of the previous year and the record of the year in question is what is displayed here, so the Indianapolis number 9 means it was 9 wins better than last year while the Kansas City -5 means it was 5 less wins than last year. Also, I wanted to see if drafting a QB was as a huge of a game changer as people said, so each data point in red means the class had a QB in the 1st or 2nd round. (Fluctuations in record chart)
While this data is pretty interesting I thought that it would be very interesting to see how it correlated with how strong your draft class was. So I tracked each class and the difference between the record of the year prior and the average change in record in comparison to that year prior. The visualization of what I did is the last chart I posted because I think it’s the coolest to check out each draft class and track how they have impacted the team. This chart is here if you would like to peek ahead. Two types of draft classes stood out to me. The first were the Atlanta and Baltimore classes in 2008 along with the San Diego and Pittsburgh classes in 2004. These classes picked QB’s following drafting the core of their teams, something which I believe that Buffalo has done. I believe that San Francisco and Minnesota have also done this but have failed at hitting on the QB as the prior 3 teams have. The next thing which stood out to me was how good draft classes can have progress completely stalled by bad draft classes. This is a consistent thing which seems to plague teams. Minnesota and Buffalo in 2008 along Dallas in 2009 are examples of teams who seemed to be on the cusp of things but due to miserable drafts, the teams were not able to capitalize on the talent they had accumulated.
My favorite metric which I found in my first post was the percent of talent taken. It took the total career average points awarded to a whole draft class and then totaled the team total for the draft class and divided the second by the first to get the talent percent drafted. (Click Here for Larger Chart in New Window)
Again, Atlanta and Baltimore in 2008 are great examples of this. Anything above a 5 percent is excellent; with three being average and anything below a 2.5 will set your team back a year. In order to have a playoff team, a consistent talent percentile drafted above 4 for 3 years will get your team to the playoffs. I took the talent percentage and multiplied it by the average record change then multiplied it by a hundred. The results, I was happy with because it differentiated key drafts well. A draft above a 10 is typically and good draft that contributed to a playoff run. (Notice the Bills haven’t had a +10 in this whole decade.)
Finally, I’d like to just go into my favorite analysis of the group and that was the tracking of draft classes. I enjoyed this because it showed how each draft affected its team. (Click Here for Larger Chart in New Window)
If we start from the first year 2003 a class to look at is Chicago. The strong 2003 draft class immediately helped the team and then a weak class hurt the team and then another strong team combined to make them rather feared. Minnesota also was extremely interesting, as they had a phenomenal draft only to have that class decimated by next year’s class. This is a consistent trend, where one team will dominate a draft or even two drafts and then murder all the progress it had made with a single bad draft class. Boldin, Calvin Pace, Larry Fitzgerald, Dansby, Dockett, and Antonio Smith all in two years but then the next three years, the best player drafted was Antrel Roll, and after that Levi Brown a tackle. The dismal 3 drafts led them to dissipating their talent to the 4 corners of the NFL world. As I examined this data, I would find this trend consistently, great drafts by teams for either one or two years but then the next one or two would be miserable. The Bills suffered from that in 2003 (2004/2005 was miserable), 2006/2007 was ok and 2008 was just embarrassing. The key for Buffalo is to simply just not bust at the moment and the playoffs will in front of us by next year or possibly this year. All it took various teams like the Giants in 2005 or Chargers in 2006 was two good drafts (and a QB) to open the door to the playoffs. We aren’t cursed, we just haven’t drafted decent enough for 3 years in a row. We have been on the cusp of a good team and then shot ourselves in the foot with a miserable draft.
Any suggestions you guys have for some more data examining is totally welcome, I still have my excel files so it would be easy to change things up if you'd like to see something a different way.
On the poll question: I think the NFL has 3 dichotomies when building a team.
1) Build a team then draft a QB (Successful: Atlanta/Baltimore/San Fran-Kaep Failed: Carolina/Jets/Arizona)
2) Draft a QB then build your team around him (Successful: Green Bay/Indy/New England Failed: San Francisco-Smith/Miami/Detroit)
3) BPA all day.