Michael Nania analyzes the success rates of each offensive and defensive position in the sixth 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 fifth round, we move on to the sixth. I charted the career production of each sixth-round pick from 2010-19 (396 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. The positions are ranked by their percentage of cumulative 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 sixth round? Let’s start with the most successful positions and work our way towards the least fruitful of the bunch.
Note: Kickers and punters were removed from the rankings due to their vastly skewed numbers, but their sixth-round data can be found at the bottom.
#11 – Center (49.8% of games played)
Possible seasons: 83
Games played: 662 (49.8% of possible games – 1st)
Approximate value: 222 (2.67 per season – 1st)
First-Team All-Pro seasons: 3 (3.6% – 1st)
Pro Bowl seasons: 3 (3.6% – 1st)
Seasons as primary starter: 30 (36.1% – 1st)
First-Team All-Pro players: 1 (7.1% – 1st)
Pro Bowl players: 1 (7.1% – 1st)
Before we get into the sheer dominance of the center position here in the sixth round, let’s take a moment to recognize how low the numbers have fallen. Centers taken in the sixth round have played less than half of possible games, been a primary starter for just slightly more than a third of possible seasons, and have only produced one Pro Bowler. Yet, it is the sixth round’s most productive position by a wide margin in all of those categories.
With an average of 2.67 AV per season that is more than double that of any other position in the sixth round, teams have had an abnormal amount of success with centers in this portion of the draft. The sample size is respectable, too, with 14 players.
Philadelphia’s Jason Kelce is the gold standard, with totals of 68 AV and 126 starts that have earned him all three First-Team All-Pro nods and Pro Bowls that this group has to its name (Kelce earned one or both of those accolades in five different seasons).
Now, while Kelce is far and away the group’s best player, the center position would still top the charts in games played percentage, primary starter rate, and AV per season even if you removed Kelce’s production. There have been a few other successes, some who have stayed at center in the league, and some who switched positions. Brandon Fusco converted from center to guard and has started 87 games in the NFL (six seasons as a primary starter). Ted Larsen has played 137 games in his career, starting 88 of those, mostly coming at guard with a handful at center. Bradley Bozeman, a 2018 pick of the Ravens, started every game at left guard in 2019 and played solidly as part of an excellent line.
Chase Roullier took over at center for the Redskins midway through his 2017 rookie season after Spencer Long (future Jet) went down, and has been Washington’s starting center over the two seasons that have followed. After being drafted in 2014, Matt Paradis won the Broncos’ starting center job in 2015 and started every game throughout Denver’s Super Bowl championship season, holding down the role for four years before earning a three-year, $27 million contract from Carolina in 2019.
That makes six legitimate successes out of 14 picks, a hit rate of 42.9%. As we move throughout the sixth round, it will become clear how much of an outlier that is.