Keeping Talent and Drafting Talent are Different

All week, I’ve been running down the results of The Draft Project.  For the most part, I’ve stuck to the results generated by looking only at value produced for the team that drafted the player in question.  Today I’ll examine total value created.

As far as the Colts go, this hasn’t been a big issue.  By far the vast majority of value created from Indianapolis drafts has stayed in Indianapolis.  Part of the reason for this is that the Colts play a very specific set of schemes and look for players that other teams don’t value well. Many players, particularly corners and linebackers, have met with mixed success playing in other cities. The Colts focus on keeping their own free agents, and only very rarely does a player like Jake Scott leave and become productive in other cities.

This is not the case the for all NFL teams.

2002: Oakland spends picks on players like Phillip Buchanon, Napoleon Harris, and Langson Walker. All go on to produce good value for other NFL teams after getting the boot from the Raiders.  Oakland’s Total Value from the draft ranks the 23rd in the league that year, but in terms of the value the players they picked generated to the league as a whole, they ranked 8th.  They just didn’t keep the players.

2003: The Giants, Patriots, Browns, and Rams all ended up producing a lot of value for other teams. The Pats’ pick of Asante Samuel is a classic example of exemplary drafting, but poor roster management.  Samuel was a 4th round pick and an absolute steal. However, the Pats foolishly let him walk in free agency and have struggled to replace him ever since.  Now, he’s produced nearly as much value for the Eagles as he did for the team that took him.

2004: The Cowboys and Chiefs made similar mistakes.  Both ranked in the mid 20s in value produced for themselves, but jumped to 10th and 12th in total value. The Chiefs decision to trade Jared Allen was a big reason why.

2005: The Broncos accomplished a rare feat of producing MORE value for the league than for themselves.  They had a truly horrible draft, almost as bad as Detroit’s. However, they did manage to introduce players like Chris Myers to the league who became a starting center for the Texans. 

Overall, from 2002-2009, the Chicago Bears rank as the team who is most affected by considering value produced for the league. They were only 19th in total value generated for themselves, but jump 12th if we consider total value drafted regardless of what team the player played for.

The Colts have kept 88% of their draft value for themselves.  That’s good for 9th in the NFL. The rest of the top 10:

Tampa: 92%; Jacksonville: 91%: Washington, Pittsburgh: 90%; Minnesota, Houston, New Orleans: 89%; Buffalo, Indianapolis: 88%; Seattle 87%.

On the low end, the Broncos are last in the league at 72% of their total draft value staying with the team.  Also in the bottom five are Cleveland, Saint Louis, Chicago and Kansas City.

In a week, when the draft cards are turned in, remember that picking the right player is only a small part of the process.  Teams must also develop and cultivate the player and then be smart enough to keep the guys who can actually play.