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The Real Numbers on any Draft

Here is a quote from a sports junkie, a fan of the NFL and a diehard 365 day fan of all of the major sports:

“The wonderful thing about the draft, which is all about PR and stoking the flames for a season that’s half a year away (if they play), is that EVERY team gets precisely the player they plotted for.  And we get articles for days about each unheralded pick, about players we’ve never heard about till they’re drafted, each of whom fills a need and will prove to be a surprise.  No surprise, by next year at this time, we’ll realize that many of these players aren’t in the league, most are ordinary at best, and only a few stand out – and those few are usually not whom we expected.   Reggie Bush anyone?  Yet we’ll start again, fantasizing about this year’s crop.  The cycle of life, and football……”

So let’s see if we can put some analytical numbers on the qualitative statement above.

FACT #1: There are TWO SHUTDOWN CORNERS IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE.  Because Mel Kiper and a few others anointed Prince Amukamara a Top 10 pick, he was deemed a steal at 19 and a shutdown corner.  Why can’t we agree that Prince Amukamara is going to be a very good player for the Giants?  Isn’t shutdown corner a little bit much?  Isn’t It statistically less than realistic, especially considering that well before the draft that our experts did not project that ability?  There are ~128 CBs in the league.  If there are truly ~2 or 3 in the league, that is ~2-3% that are shutdown corners.  We will all be ecstatic if PA is a shutdown corner, but statistics remind us that “only a few stand out.”

FACT #2: 2.5 draft choices make it per team per draft as starters.  So assuming Reese is near average (which he actually is, see Fact #5), we will get either 2 or 3 starters from this group. For my money, it will be Amukamara, Austin and Sash.  Brewer may have an oppty because so many starters are getting old.  Jernigan is looking like a specials/slot WR in the 3 or 4 WR set.  Even Austin will probably take time, since MOST DTs take time. With Grant old and the Giants rotating Safeties like crazy, Sash as a 6th rounder imo may have an opening to break in.  RB and LB are wide open (assuming injuries/FA losses), and yet that is where little was done.  When you look at it from this perspective, 2.5 starters sounds a little more realistic. 

Let’s go even a little further, and get a little more objective.  Wonder and Pete generated the following grades BEFORE the draft, so they had no idea who the Giants were going to pick.  For these purposes, we will take the average of the two analysts, or just one’s where only one is available.

Player              Wonder/Pete Rating 
Amukamara                  3    (both agreed)
Austin                          3    (both agreed)
Jernigan                       4    (both agreed)
Brewer                         4.5
Jones                          –     (unranked, Wonder says 7)
Sash                           4.5
Williams                      –     (unranked, Wonder says 7)
Scott                           –     (unranked, Wonder says 7) edit, He’s a 5, was 104 ranked on the board 5/3/11, AF

This draft will be a major success, if we generate two 3’s and two 4’s.  There is no doubt that Reese drafted for Best Player Available. 

FACT #3: The average first round 1 pick over the past 10 years has been a 3.5!  That is average.  Right now, the only thing many Giants fans are trying to figure out is if the first round pick will be a ‘2’ or a ‘1’.  We are just trying to be sober here.  At this point it is worth reminding everyone that Wonder and Pete analyzed all these guys.  Last year they each had a handful of 1’s in the draft.  This year, between both of them, they found a grand total of two players that they projected as dominant players in the NFL- Marcell Dareus and Patrick Peterson.  Will one of these guys we picked this year, including Prince Amukamara, become a ‘1’?  Statistically it is doubtful.  

FACT #4:  Out of 53 pros on the current roster of the NY Giants, there is not a single player that is a ‘1’.  If you rated the entire current roster of the NY Giants, who would you rate as the best of the 53 people on the roster?  I would choose Justin Tuck.  And I would rate him a ‘2,’ a pro bowl player.  Michael Strahan was a ‘1,’  Tuck needs to stay healthier (think 2009) and do a little more (2 all pro seasons in 6 years) before he is the consistent impact player every game that is a ‘1’ star.  At his current rate he will get there, but even he is not there yet.  It is against this backdrop that we project where draft choices can get to, and we realize how difficult it is for these guys to climb the mountain.  

FACT #5:  In 4 previous years as GM, Reese has generated a total of 8 starters (Smith, Boss, Bradshaw, Phillips, Thomas, Manningham, Goff, Nicks).  If we want to be generous, we can call it a total of 9 by including Michael Johnson, who no longer is a starter.  Eliminating 2010 (too early), we have an average of ~2.5-3.0 starters generated per year.  This is right around the NFL average. 

The ratings of those 8 players are (in order): 2, 3, 3, 3/4, 3, 3, 4, 2 (when healthy).  That averages approximately a 3. 

Summary:  If we can get 4 starters, it will make it a very successful draft.  Finding Pro Bowl players like Tuck, Nicks (if not in name) and Smith are not so easy.