In order to appropriately evaluate a draft pick, it’s important to have reasonable expectations. Hopes are high among Colts fans that the 22nd pick will yield an instant starter and a future star.
Those expectations need to be tempered.
Look back at the last 10 years of the NFL draft. I’ve run some numbers on the players taken between picks 20 and 24 since 2001.
- They play an average of 12.4 games in their rookie years
- They start an average of 7.5 games
- 30% of them ever make a Pro Bowl at any point of their careers
- 6% of them ever become All Pros
- Their average “Approximate Value” for their rookie year is 4.3. As a reference point, Don Brown’s value for his rookie year was 4.
The five best players taken in that range in terms of immediate production were:
Percy Harvin (WR), Chris Johnson (RB), Willis McGahee (RB)*, Tamba Hali (DE), Michael Oher (OT). McGahee probably shouldn’t count since he missed his entire rookie year with an injury, but that was also known when he was drafted, so when he did play, he played very well.
The five best players overall taken in that slot in terms of career production were:
Ed Reed, Dallas Clark, Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson, and Vince Wilfork
The quarterbacks taken in this range are cringe inducing:
Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, Rex Grossman, and JP Losman.
There’s one big homerun and three massive swings and misses. Note that the one decent QB that was picked in this range (Rodgers) came from a near historic draft day tumble, and many people had been discussing him as a top five pick. Of course Brady Quinn had the same thing happen, so there you go.
Of the 15 players (out of 50) who went on to Pro Bowls at some point in their careers, four of those were running backs (Jackson, McGahee, Johnson, McAllister), 2 were wideouts (Bowe and Harvin), 2 were safties (Reed and Merriweather). There was one QB, DE, CB, C and DT.
By position, the picks break down like this:
OL: 7 (2 C, 4 OT. 1 G)
DB: 12 (8 CB, 4 S)
DL: 7 (4 DE, 3 DT)
1. Don’t expect a massive contribution right away. Of the five best players selected in this range, only one was an instant star (Chris Johnson). Ed Reed also had a good rookie year, but Dallas Clark had 29 catches for 340 yards and 1 TD, Aaron Rodgers didn’t play, and Vince Wilfork had just 2 sacks, started just 6 games, and had an AV of 4 (perfectly average). Among the best rookies taken guys like McGahee, Reggie Nelson and Maroney started well but saw their careers dead end quickly. Drafting in the early 20s, you are looking for Donald Brown level contributions in the first season. I think most Colts fans would see that as a massive disappointment, rather than exactly what should be expected.
2. Any QB taken by the Colts will likely never become star anywhere. The low 20s is NOT the place to find a franchise quarterback. Here are all the QBs taken between picks 20-30 since 1980:
Brady Quinn, Tim Tebow, Aaron Rodgers, JP Losman, Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman, Jim Drunkenmiller, Tommy Maddux, Todd Marinovich, Jim Harbaugh, Ken O’Brien, Dan Marino, and Mark Malone.
Four of the 13 eventually went on to play in Pro Bowls, six were massive busts, Malone and Campbell were mediocre starters, and the jury is out on Tebow (though early indications are that he’s headed for massive bust territory). Note that O’Brien and Marino were both part of the famed ‘Class of ’83′ that saw six quarterbacks drafted in the first round, and three of those went on to make the Hall of Fame, so their low draft status had something to do with an unusual concentration of great QB prospects.
I’ve already commented on what I think about the rumors Indy is interested in a quarterback. People are simply failing to do the math. The Colts could well draft a quarterback in the first round, but he would NOT be a future replacement for Manning, and would almost certainly be a piece to be traded in the future.
3. He ought to become a starter, though not necessarily on day one. Most guys taken in this slot don’t start every game their rookie year. 9 of the 50 started at least 14 games. 23 started at least 10 games, and 27 started at least 8. This includes McGahee who sat a full year. Among the best players who didn’t start right away are: Aaron Rodgers, Javon Walker, Stephen Jackson, Duece McAllister, and Vince Wilfork.