Michael Nania analyzes the success rates of each offensive and defensive position in the first round of the NFL Draft.
As Joe Douglas and the Jets ponder over positional value in preparation for the Draft, it is interesting to look back at the past and examine which positions have yielded the most value at each point of the draft.
Today, we start with the first round. I charted the career production of each first round pick from 2010-19 (319 players) to get a sense of how successful draft picks at each position have turned out to be.
Various measures are included with each position, as well as their rank in those measures among all positions, but I decided to rank the groups according to their cumulative “primary starter rate” – the ratio of total seasons accumulated as a team’s primary starter out of possible seasons (all seasons that have passed since a player was drafted).
Which position has proven to be the least fruitful investment during the first round? Let’s start with the most successful positions and work our way towards the worst of the bunch.
#13 – Center (77.4% primary starter rate)
Possible seasons: 31
Seasons as primary starter: 24 (77.4% – 1st)
Approximate value: 202 (6.52 per season – 2nd)
First-Team All-Pro seasons: 3 (9.7% – 3rd)
Pro Bowl seasons: 14 (45.2% – 1st)
First-Team All-Pro players: 2 (28.6% – 2nd)
Pro Bowl players: 3 (42.9% – 3rd)
Center takes the cake as the most efficient first round position of the 2010s, as its small sample of seven selections has been largely successful. Maurkice Pouncey (#18, 2010, Pittsburgh) and Travis Frederick (#31, 2013, Dallas) make up 13 of the group’s 14 Pro Bowls, with eight and five, respectively. Ryan Kelly (#18, 2016, Indianapolis) and Frank Ragnow (#20, 2018, Detroit) have been solid starters.
Since centers are not valued quite as highly as other positions on the offensive line, not many are taken in the first round. Because of that lesser emphasis, it stands to reason that if a center warrants a first round pick, it is probably because he is an extremely unique talent. Only the best centers get taken this high, whereas at other positions, teams will reach on players who do not have first round-caliber talent in order to fill a need.