How the Best Teams in the AFC Drafted

All this week we’ve been discussing the 18to88 Draft Project. Today, we’ll look at how the elite teams in the AFC have fared in the draft.  Without question the six best teams in the AFC over the past eight years are the Colts, Patriots, Steelers, Jets, Chargers, and Ravens.  These teams have accounted for 17 of the last 18 AFC Finalists and 21 of the last 24.  These teams have won 7 of the last 11 Super Bowls (losing 3 others).

To review, here are the Colts’ draft numbers over that span:

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % Compared to NFL Average
2002 9th 125% 13th 113%
2003 4th 162% 1st 230%
2004 13th 99% 3rd 162%
2005 20th 71% 14th 107%
2006 4th 156% 1st 276%
2007 13th 106% 6th 141%
2008 8th 128% 1st 438%
2009 10th 122% 6th 185%
2002-2009 4th 124% 1st 184%
2005-2009 6th 118% 1st 199%

 

New England Patriots:

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % Compared to NFL Average
2002 11th 109% 7th 176%
2003 2nd 182% 5th 151%
2004 14h 99% 18th 97%
2005 4th 183% 1st 374%
2006 27th 48% 28th 53%
2007 32nd 40% 22nd 40%
2008 24th 70% 26th 67%
2009 3rd 170% 10th 143%
2002-2009 8th 115% 6th 132%
2005-2009 16th 100% 12th 121%

Fascinating results for the Patriots. They were dominant drafters early in the decade, posting an incredible draft in 2005. However, from 2006-2007 they were down right awful, producing very few viable players.  In fact, they had the worst draft in the NFL in 2007.  Pats fans will point out that the 2007 roster was stacked and the team went undefeated. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the players the Patriots selected were terrible.  Even taking into account value produced by Patriots draftees for other teams, they STILL finish last in the NFL for the 2007.  2008 was little better, though the team seems to have rebounded in 2009. Colts fans who complain about ‘bad drafts’ by Indy in 2007 or 2008 need to look long and hard at the Patriots draft record to see what a truly bad drafts look like.  It’s clear that Belichick’s status as a draft genius is vastly overrated.  He has had some incredible Aprils, but also some real stinkers.  The sum total is that the Patriots should be considered a very good drafting team, but not an excellent one, especially not recently.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % Compared to NFL Average
2002 2nd 176% 2nd 298%
2003 14th 120% 4th 164%
2004 7th 125% 16th 114%
2005 12h 113% 6th 192%
2006 24th 70% 11th 115%
2007 6th 133% 7th 140%
2008 29th 49% 27th 67%
2009 15th 94% 8th 159%
2002-2009 7th 116% 2nd 157%
2005-2009 18th 95% 6th 135%

The Steelers have also been excellent overall.  They had top five drafts in efficiency in 2002 and 2003, but weak drafts in 2006 and 2008 have greatly supressed their overall numbers.  Only two of the last five drafts were above average in total value.

San Diego Chargers

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % Compared to NFL Average
2002 14th 106% 25th 67%
2003 19th 77% 19th 90%
2004 1st 263% 10th 123%
2005 5th 180% 10th 151%
2006 13th 119% 6th 148%
2007 19th 80% 14th 114%
2008 32nd 27% 30th 54%
2009 20th 82% 15th 111%
2002-2009 2nd 128% 12th 119%
2005-2009 10th 112% 4th 140%

The Chargers’ 2004 draft ranks as one of the richest of the decade, but their 2008 draft ranks as one of the worst.  The Chargers total value has been dropping in recent years, but their efficiency has been strong for the most part.

Baltimore Ravens

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % Compared to NFL Average
2002 4th 171% 4th 261%
2003 6th 153% 15th 113%
2004 32nd 26% 24th 79%
2005 23rd 63% 16th 79%
2006 8th 129% 9th 131%
2007 15th 100% 4th 168%
2008 3rd 171% 4th 172%
2009 21st 76% 16th 109%
2002-2009 10th 114% 4th 141%
2005-2009 12th 110% 7th 133%

The Ravens are an excellent team when it comes to the draft, but their decision to take Kyle Boller in 2003 almost destroyed the franchise. They traded up to get him, costing them picks in the 2004 draft which turned into one of the decade’s worst. The Ravens show that even a team that is excellent at drafting can turn in some real stinkers from time to time.

New York Jets

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % Compared to NFL Average
2002 20th 87% 12th 123%
2003 22nd 66% 28th 52%
2004 11th 113% 7th 134%
2005 15th 90% 2nd 289%
2006 5th 153% 20th 86%
2007 5th 148% 3rd 180%
2008 26th 69% 29th 55%
2009 25th 70% 24th 67%
2002-2009 18th 102% 15th 101%
2005-2009 7th 116% 15th 111%

The Jets have been an absolutely league average team when it comes to the draft.  They’ve had some good drafts and some bad ones. Recently, they haven’t fared well, and instead have built their team through free agency and trades. This would suggest to me that they might not have the staying power the other teams on this list have demonstrated.

Summary:

Every elite team in the AFC has shad some amazing drafts and some awful ones over the course of the last decade. The Colts have by far been the most consistent from year to year.  The Patriots, Chargers and Ravens all had at least one draft that ranked as the WORST draft in the NFL.  

For more on the methodology of the Draft Project, please read the appendix.

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