The AFC South and the Draft

Yesterday, I unveiled our 2011 Draft Project. Among the conclusions was that the Colts are incredibly efficient when it comes to maximizing draft points. 

You can explore the methodology and the data behind the draft project here. 

To provide further context for the Colts drafts, I will compare Indianapolis to the rest of the AFC South from 2002-2009.

To review, here is the Colts’ chart:

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%

Here are the numbers for Jacksonville:

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % of NFL Average
2002 3rd 173% 8th 152%
2003 9th 147% 13th 115%
2004 4th 138% 17th 103%
2005 16th 87% 13th 114%
2006 9th 126% 3rd 202%
2007 11th 116% 8th 140%
2008 30th 34% 32nd 35%
2009 1st 252% 6th 191%
2002-2009 1st 132% 8th 127%
2005-2009 9th 113% 10th 124%

The Jags had an amazing draft record for most of the eight years in question. During that span, however, they went just 63-65.  The Jags had physically imposing teams and invested heavily in a certain style of football team just at the moment the game was changing to favor faster, more efficient passing offenses. The 2007 Jaguars had a strong season and appeared to be on the brink of joining the upper echelon of the NFL, but age coupled with a horrendous draft (Harvey and Groves) destroyed any chance they had at becoming an elite team.  The good news for Jags fans is that they bounced back strong in 2009 with an excellent draft.

Tennessee Titans

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % of NFL Average
2002 8th 125% 10th 129%
2003 26th 46% 24th 81%
2004 9th 118% 14th 118%
2005 2nd 204% 11th 141%
2006 10th 126% 22nd 81%
2007 25th 73% 23rd 84%
2008 7th 132% 3rd 174%
2009 8th 128% 5th 187%
2002-2009 6th 120% 11th 120%
2005-2009 2nd 141% 9th 131%

The Titans have also been an excellent drafting team, especially recently, but the 2006 draft is emblematic of what has held the franchise back. The Titans drafted highly that year, and did reap some players. However, while guys like Vince Young and LenDale White had value, they were not nearly as good as they could have been. The Titans had a top 10 draft in terms of raw value, but their efficiency was only 22nd.  In other words, they should have done much, much better considering their slot.  And that basically sums up the period for the Titans as well.  They finished 71-57 over this span.

Houston Texans

Total Value Rank % Compared to NFL Average Efficiency Rank % of NFL Average
2002 6th 149% 27th 66%
2003 12th 126% 25th 69%
2004 28th 53% 29th 59%
2005 28th 42% 26th 60%
2006 3rd 174% 24th 78%
2007 16th 98% 16th 112%
2008 14th 96% 7th 157%
2009 7th 131% 11th 133%
2002-2009 13th 111% 24th 82%
2005-2009 15th 109% 17th 100%

Wow, it’s almost as if the Texans got a new GM after the 2006 draft, huh?  The Texans have gotten decent value totals for most of the decade, but only because they were drafting at the top for most of those years. After Charlie Casserly departed following the 2006 draft, the Texans became much more efficient and their performance on the football field reflected that.  Over the last three years, the Texans have been the definition of league average when it comes to drafting.  Not surprisingly, they finished around .500 on the field as well, posting a record of 33-47 in the last 5 years, but 25-23 from 2007-2009.

Summary:

The other teams in the AFC South have drafted well for the most part, but the combination of the Colts consistency and failures to develop truly elite quarterbacks have held the Titans, Jags, and Texans back.  The Texans in particular are drafting better than they had for much of the early part of their history.  The Jaguars suffered a horrible draft at the worst possible moment. The Titans have gotten excellent draft production recently.

The AFC South should be a difficult division for the Colts to win thanks to excellent drafting by the other teams. Fortunately, questions at quarterback still dog the Titans and Jaguars, potentially crippling what would otherwise be talented teams.

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