The NFL Draft is More of a Crapshoot Than an Exact Science 2
Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft takes place this week in Philadelphia and this year’s class is more unpredictable than ever.  Or is it?

If you’ve been following the NFL Draft run-up the past few weeks, your head has got to be spinning. Talent recruitment and aggregation have always been sort of a parlor game throughout history, but only the really tuned-in people seem to get it right.

I rail about these “pundits” that post these mock drafts filled with fool’s gold and overrated prospects. The draft is a process, yes, but only the patient and pragmatic succeed with regularity. 

Baltimore Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome, who knows a few things about the draft, once said, “there’s always enough players,” meaning don’t sweat it. Put your board together and let the chips fall where they may. Statistics show that if you don’t choose wisely in the first three rounds, your draft is going to end up being a steaming pile.

The first round is a 50/50 proposition with the percentages dropping with each turn of the selection order. Plus, half of the players drafted this weekend will be out of the league before you can bat an eye.

How many will be stars? Only a fraction. Since an NFL player’s average career lasts four years, and NFL rookie contracts are based on that statistic, here are the number of Pro Bowlers the past four drafts have produced:

  • 2013 – 20 out of 254 – only 4 came after Round 3.
  • 2014 – 18 out of 256 – only one came after Round 3.
  • 2015 – 13 out of 256 – 11 were taken in the first three rounds.
  • 2016 – 4 out of 253, with three of the four coming after the fourth round.

Some teams will naturally do better than others. Of course, a draft should not be based on the number of Pro Bowlers it produces but rather how many players make the roster and play out their rookie contracts to the fullest.

Examining just the local New York teams, let’s see how each of them has fared over the past four seasons.

New York Jets 

Players selected the past four drafts – 33. Only 18 are on the current roster. Pro Bowlers – 2 (DLs Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams).

2013: Players selected  – 7. Players still with the team – 2 (DT Sheldon Richardson, OL Brian Winters).

2014: Players selected – 12. Players still with the team – 4 (CB Calvin Pryor, OL Dakota Dozier, DB Dexter McDougle, WR Quincy Enunwa).

2015: Players selected – 7. Players still with the team – 5 (DL Leonard Williams, WR Devin Smith, LB Lorenzo Mauldin, QB Bryce Petty, DL Deon Simon).

2016: Players selected – 7, all still with the team.

New York Giants

Players selected in the last four drafts – 26, of which 17 are currently on the roster. Pro Bowlers – 1 (WR Odell Beckham, Jr. -three times).

2013: Players selected – 7. Players still with the team -1 (OL Justin Pugh).

2014: Players selected – 7. Players still with the team – 5 (WR Odell Beckham, Jr., C Weston Richburg, DL Jay Bromley, S Nat Berhe, LB Devon Kennard).

2015: Players selected – 6, five still with the team (WR Geremy Davis was released).

2016: Players selected – 6, all still with the team.

The reason the most recent draftee are almost all still on the roster is that they are still developing and come relatively cheap. Teams usually give a player a few seasons to see if they pan out.

So, knowing this, how can anyone possibly speak about the draft with such confidence after statistics have proved that this process is nothing more than a roll of the dice?

John Fennelly has been covering the New York sports scene on the Internet since 1997. He has advised and been published on dozens of prominent websites and in major periodicals and can been heard on sports talk radio stations all over the dial. Before embarking on his career as an accredited journalist, John held several management positions in a successful 25-year career in the financial industry. He holds a degree in New Media/Journalism from Queens College.