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The 5th Year Option- A Review of 2011’s Round 1 Draft

When we started the Draft Project in 2010, we were hoping that Bloguin would fill out its roster of NFL team coverage so that each blogger could grade their own team’s Draft.  This would provide independent and knowledgeable conclusions on the performance of each player drafted in all 7 rounds.  That has not happened, and other attempts to get independent grading have been limited/unsuccessful.  It’s a great amount of work to request and then cull all of that information.  With that said, there has been one source of data that is interesting and valuable in assessing Draft skills: The Exercise of the 5th Year Option…

This past month, NFL GM’s had their first deadline (since the CBA) where they had to choose to pick up or decline their 2011’s FifthYear option on that Round 1 player contract.  This is a quick way to grade whether or not the selections made by GMs worked out.  It is also a way to look and see how our site’s Draft Analyst (Wonder) did in comparison to the GMs.

Of the 32 players selected in Round 1, 21 of them had their option picked up, and 11 were not.  Let’s have a look at where the GM’s took those players that succeeded/failed and where our analyst took them:

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By comparing the average selection location, we can see that when it came to finding good players (the two categories of selecting pro bowlers and exercising the option), the GMs and Wonder both did a similar job.  They both selected these optioned players at (an average of) the ~14th pick in the draft, and pro bowlers at ~8th pick in the draft. While Wonder inched out the GMs both times, the difference was so small as to be deemed a ~ dead heat.  But where Wonder distanced himself and stood out was in the ability to downgrade players that were unworthy of a Round 1 grade.  By using the measure of the unwillingness of these same GMs to pick up the option on their selections’ 5th year, we get a pure measure of whether the performance has been worth the pick.  GMs took these players at an average spot at pick #20.5 in the NFL Draft, whereas Wonder selected these same players at an average spot of 53rd, fully 32 spots later FOR EACH.  That is a HUGE difference. It speaks to the willingness of Wonder to independently evaluate these players and not be a lemming by echoing the consensus drafting groupthink.  Wonder had Danny Watkins 60th overall in the draft, yet he was taken 23rd and busted.  He had Christian Ponder at 106th overall.  He had Adrian Clayborn as his 118th player overall, one of his 5 overvalued players in the draft, and specifically noted his bust potential.  If these players had their options picked up, it would have hammered Wonder’s comparison on those that did past that test, but that was not the case, as Wonder did have high grades for all of the ones picked up.  Interestingly, it is of note for this NY Giants blog that the lowest selection Wonder made for a player that had his option picked up was Prince Amukamara at 35.  Wonder had rated Prince a solid starter, and given his “unspectacular” performance thus far, he has been exactly that, nothing more and nothing less.