Note: I didn't do any of this research. It was all done by ChicoWong at the SBNation site "Pride of Detroit". It's so good that I just had to bring it over here and it's reposted with his permission. Go give him some love if you like the information.
Sure enough, it's that exciting time of year for Lions fans... the season is over and it's all about potential for next year. Which means it's draft time.
This second draft of the Schwartz/Mayhew regime is critical in the (re?)building process for the team; duplicate last year's success, and there is a real possibility for a solid foundation of young talent. Pull a Millen-esque failure, and the promising rookies from last year may end up "Lionized" and accustomed to losing.
In the process of "getting smart" for this year's draft, one of the things I wanted to do was go back and look at when different positions got drafted on average. Unlike last year, where we needed a franchise QB and then any talent with a pulse, the Lions can identify / prioritize specific areas of need. Plenty of posters have done a great job writing about the team needs; what I want to provide is a historic sense of when you can address those needs in the draft.
We always hear the cliches like "never draft a kicker" and other conventional wisdom; read on to see what the facts have been over the last 10 years.
So, where did the top player at each position get drafted, and when did the third player at each position get drafted?
The methodology: Used data from drafthistory.com and built a spreadsheet looking at the 1st and 3rd pick at each position from 1999 to 2009, specifically what overall pick in the draft they were (so, for 2009 QBs, Stafford was 1 and Freeman was 17). Then calculated the average (and median as a double check for myself) for the position over the last ten years for the 1st and 3rd player of that position selected. Was stuck using the positions as listed (so OT instead of LT and RT).
The idea with the third player is imprecise, but gives an idea of how long you can wait on average before the top three players in a position are gone. Are the top three players good enough? Are there better players beyond the top three? Varies year to year and by position, but your odds of getting a solid talent rise considerably if you draft in the top three at a position.
What did I find? Here are the positions in order of when the first player in that position has been selected on average in the last 10 years:
One of the best things about going deep into the data is noticing some interesting patterns.
For example, check out the first tight ends picked each year (as above, drafted around 23rd overall on average): Pettigrew, Keller, Olsen, Winslow II, Watson, Clark, Shockey, Heap, Franks. All names you recognize, all NFL starters with some impact. The 1st TE in a class seems to be a safe pick, and we got Pettigrew (20th OVR) right around the average spot to grab one of these guys. Let's hope it pans out that way.
That the 1st QB pick is risky is well known; the pattern for wide receivers shows that it's an equally risky set of picks (your last 10 1st overall WRs? Heyward-Bey, Avery, Megatron, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Fitzgerald, Charles Rogers, Stallworth, David Terrell, Peter Warrick, Holt). Talk about boom, bust, and everything in between.
Defense is a premium. All four defensive positions start getting drafted around 7th overall (DE) to 12th overall (LB) on average. The top three players in all four defensive positions are typically gone by the mid to late first round. This tells me the Lions really need to go defense with that 1st pick overall... DT, DE, DB, best player available is fine, but by the early second round the talent begins to be depleted in all four positions.
The second pick (34 overall) for the Lions is the key pick of this draft. The third best RB could still be on the board, the first or second best G likely will be available, and depending on how deep each of the defensive positions are in this class (and how other teams draft), you may still get a quality player at DT, DE, or DB.
Oh, and kickers? There's been a kicker drafted every year for the last ten years. Even if we exclude the Al Davis first round pick of Sebastien Janikowski in 2000, the average first kicker would be drafted 138th overall (early to mid fifth round). And yes, folks... in 2000 a kicker was drafted before the first QB off the board! Makes me hope those Millen to Oakland Raiders rumors are true.
[ Edited by smileyman on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:51:08 ]