I read Bill Barnwell’s Best and Worst Draft Picks piece on Grantland and was impressed with their method. Barnwell assigned points for starts, fill-ins, Pro Bowls, and All-Pro selections. Then he compared these points against the averages in the part of the draft a player was selected.
All was measured over their rookie contracts or their first 5 years, when they should have been with the team who drafted them. Those with the biggest positive difference were the best picks, while those with the biggest negative difference were named the worst picks. Here’s the results.
Best Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Worst Quarterback: Akili Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
Best Running Back: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
Worst Running Back: Curtis Enis, Chicago Bears
Best Wide Receiver: Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings
Worst Wide Receiver: Charles Rogers, Detroit Lions
Best Tight End: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Worst Tight End: Bennie Joppru, Houston Texans
Best Offensive Lineman: Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints
Worst Offensive Lineman: Bruce Nelson, Carolina Panthers
Best Defensive Lineman: Jared Allen, Kansas City Chiefs
Worst Defensive Lineman: Jamal Reynolds, Green Bay Packers
Best Linebacker: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
Worst Linebacker: Andy Katzenmoyer, New England Patriots
Best Defensive Back: Sam Madison, Miami Dolphins
Worst Defensive Back: Charles Fisher, Cincinnati Bengals
Notes on the Best & Worst
Tom Brady barely edged out Peyton Manning for most value at QB. Since spot-drafted is a key stat, that should tell you that Peyton Manning did score higher in a raw numbers format, but being the 1st pick in the draft hurt Manning’s relative value versus a 6th rounder.
Jason Witten beat out Tony Gonzales for the same reasons, since Gonzo was a 1st rounder and Witten was only a 3rd rounder. Tony Gonzales was the only tight end who had better numbers than Witten in his first 5 seasons. By the way, worst tight end selection Benny Jopru was drafted 21 picks in front of best TE Jason Witten.
The Cincinnati Bengals were the only team with two people among the worst. That figures. You kind of see why teams suck, which you see the Matt Millen Lions and the Bengals on the worst list. Still, I guess the Packers and Patriots were there, too.
Pro Bowl Selections
My one quibble is with the use of the Pro Bowl as such an important stat or factor. While getting a trip to the Pro Bowl should be factored in, there should be a distinction (in point values) between those who were voted in directly and those who earned their way onto the team because 1 or more people declined their invitation to play in the Pro Bowl.
So many players decline these days that Pro Bowl appearances are somewhat devalued in my book. This measurement won’t be usable too much into the future, since the Pro Bowl is now before the Superbowl and possible Pro Bowlers from the two Superbowl teams would never join in the fun. You can’t penalize a player for missing the Pro Bowl because their team made the title game.