Michael Nania analyzes the success rates of each offensive and defensive position in the fourth 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.
After digging through the third round, we move on to the fourth. I charted the career production of each fourth round pick from 2010-19 (371 players) to get a sense of how successful draft selections at each position have turned out to be.
Various measures of productivity are listed for each position, as well as its rank in those measures among all positions. For the round one and round two breakdowns, I ranked the positions by their “primary starter rate,” and in round three, I ranked them by their average approximate value (AV) per season.
As we move into Day 3 of the draft, I will now be ranking the positions by their percentage of games played out of possible games. Once this point of the draft is reached, nothing is handed to any prospect. Whereas earlier picks will usually get an ample amount of time to show what they are capable of, the later picks need to prove themselves to get on the field at all. Every game played is earned. For that reason, I believe this is the best way to measure success on Day 3.
Which positions have proven to be the worst investments during the fourth round? Let’s start with the most successful positions and work our way towards the least fruitful of the bunch.
#11 – Defensive tackle (64.9% of games played)
Possible seasons: 129
Games played: 1,339 (64.9% of possible games – 1st)
Approximate value: 363 (2.81 per season – 1st)
First-Team All-Pro seasons: 2 (1.6% – 1st)
Pro Bowl seasons: 9 (7.0% – 1st)
Seasons as primary starter: 39 (30.2% – 2nd)
First-Team All-Pro players: 1 (4.0% – 2nd)
Pro Bowl players: 2 (8.0% – 4th)
Defensive tackle has been a gold mine in the fourth round relative to other positions. Geno Atkins is the cream of the crop, responsible for the group’s only two First-Team All-Pro appearances and eight of its nine Pro Bowls. Green Bay’s Mike Daniels made one Pro Bowl and provided seven seasons of solid play for the Packers.
Even if you took Atkins’ enormous production out of the picture (his 87 AV is more than twice as much as Daniels’ second-ranked total of 37), the defensive tackle position would still have the second-best average of AV per season and the best rate of games played. DaQuan Jones, Akeem Spence, Al Woods, Rodney Gunter, David Onyemata, Andrew Billings, and Justin Ellis are among the other multi-year solid contributors among the bunch.
This defensive tackle group hardly stands out as “star-studded,” yet it is the fourth round’s most productive position by a wide margin. As we work our way through this list, it will become evident just how staggeringly unlikely it is that a given Day 3 draft selection goes on to become a quality starter in the NFL.