Jahan Dotson, Penn State, NFL Draft, Mock, NY Jets
Jahan Dotson, Penn State Football, NFL Draft, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets are perfectly positioned to capitalize on the NFL draft’s sweet spot

In general, NFL draft choices are expected to gradually decrease in value with each and every slot down the board. That’s just simple logic. The 11th pick offers more options than the 12th pick, so over the course of time, we expect players taken with the 11th pick to yield more production than the 12th pick. Pick 35 should be better than pick 36, pick 88 should be better than pick 89, and so on.

This has proven to be true for the most part. Obviously, there are some pick slots whose all-time yield stands out as an outlier due to one or two grand-slam picks that were made in that position, but there continues to be a strong linear relationship between pick-slot and expected production. With each slot you move down the board, the expectations get lower.

However, an anomaly has emerged over the past few drafts; a sweet spot, if you will. It’s a defined range of selections where the production yield has actually been significantly higher than the range that comes before it.

This sweet spot comes in a part of the draft where the New York Jets have the ammunition to do massive damage in 2022: the early second round.

Is the early-second round a better position in the NFL draft than the late-first round?

Over the past few years, we have seen much better results from the first few picks of the second round than the final few picks of the first round.

Seen below is the difference in production between the final eight picks of the first round (25-32) and the first eight picks of the second round (33-40) over the previous six drafts (2016 to 2021). Both groups include 48 players.

  • Picks 25-32: 4 Pro Bowlers, 746 total Approximate Value (AV)*, 15.5 AV per player, 1,323 games started, 27.6 starts per player
  • Picks 33-40: 8 Pro Bowlers, 812 total Approximate Value (AV)*, 16.9 AV per player, 1,567 games started, 32.6 starts per player

*- Approximate Value is a metric via Pro Football Reference that attempts to measure a player’s cumulative impact on winning.

With twice as many Pro Bowlers, 1.4 more AV per player, and 5.0 more starts per player, the early part of the second round has been producing far better results than the final run of the first round.

In terms of AV, the 33-40 range has outperformed the 25-32 range in five of the past six drafts:

DraftAV from picks 25-32AV from picks 33-40

The early second round gains its edge over the late first round through a significantly lower bust rate. While the two ranges each offer a similar ceiling, there has tended to be a much lower bust rate in the early second round.

Over the last six drafts, the best 15 players selected in the 25-32 range (in terms of total AV) combined for 499 AV (33.3 per player), which is actually a tad better than the 488 AV (32.5 per player) accumulated by the 15 best players selected in the 33-40 range. This tells us that there has tended to be a nearly identical ceiling for players taken in these two areas of the draft.

However, the non-top-15 players in the 25-32 range combined for just 247 AV (7.5 per player), significantly less than the 324 AV (9.8 per player) racked up by the non-top-15 players in the 33-40 range. This tells us that there has tended to be a much higher floor for players selected in the early second round than for players selected in the late first round.

The 25-32 range has delivered a whopping 25 players who are currently averaging 3.0 AV per season or less – more than half of all picks in that range. For reference on how ineffective a 3-AV season is, it’s equal to the total that Keelan Cole, Ashtyn Davis, and Shaq Lawson had for the Jets in 2021.

Meanwhile, the 33-40 range has delivered only 12 players who are currently averaging 3.0 AV per season or less, making up merely one quarter of all picks.

The question of course becomes, “how legitimate is this data?” Is this a blip on the radar or something that we can expect to continue for years to come?

I believe this phenomenon has a good chance of being sustained. There are certainly legitimate reasons to think this is a real thing and not just a random statistical outlier.

My theory is that, in the late first round, we see a bevy of contending teams draft with a win-now mindset, bypassing overall talent in favor of players who can fill one of their few vacant starting positions. This leads to better talent falling into the early second round.

Additionally, teams picking in the early second round get a whole day to analyze the board and formulate a plan. Teams picking in the later stages of the first round do not get the same luxury.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a look at the picks made in the NFL draft’s 25-32 range from 2016-21:

PITT.J. Watt6012.0OLB201713047777
BALLamar Jackson5914.8QB201813225849
NORRyan Ramczyk5511.0T201713207373
BUFTre'Davious White459.0CB201712727272
GNBKenny Clark406.7DT201612728975
SEAGermain Ifedi366.0G201613108583
CLEEmmanuel Ogbah325.3DE201623208367
ATLCalvin Ridley266.5WR201812604935
BALMarquise Brown248.0WR201912504641
CLEJabrill Peppers224.4S201712506159
ATLKaleb McGary217.0T201913104645
PITTerrell Edmunds215.3S201812806460
NWESony Michel215.3RB201813105535
WASMontez Sweat196.3DE201912604242
BALPatrick Queen189.0LB202012803333
PITArtie Burns162.7CB201612506938
ATLTakkarist McKinley153.0DE201712606027
LACJerry Tillery144.7DT201912804729
SFOBrandon Aiyuk136.5WR202012502927
KANClyde Edwards-Helaire136.5RB202013202323
CARVernon Butler132.2DT201613007619
BALHayden Hurst123.0TE201812505718
SEARashaad Penny123.0RB20181270376
CLEDavid Njoku122.4TE201712906536
SEAJordyn Brooks115.5LB202012703123
BUFGregory Rousseau1010.0DL202113001717
JAXTaven Bryan102.5DT201812906317
OAKJohnathan Abram93.0S201912702828
DALTaco Charlton91.8DE201712805513
SEAL.J. Collier82.7DE201912903716
MINMike Hughes82.0CB201813004112
SFOReuben Foster81.6LB201713101616
NYGDeandre Baker62.0CB201913002617
NWEN'Keal Harry62.0WR201913203318
ARIRobert Nkemdiche61.0DT20161290386
MINJeff Gladney52.5CB202013101615
SFOJoshua Garnett50.8G201612802511
BALRashod Bateman44.0WR20211270124
GNBEric Stokes44.0DB202112901614
TAMJoe Tryon-Shoyinka44.0OLB20211320176
CLEGreg Newsome II33.0DB202112601211
BALOdafe Oweh33.0DE20211310152
MIANoah Igbinoghene31.5CB20201300233
GNBJordan Love21.0QB2020126061
DENPaxton Lynch20.3QB2016126054
NORPayton Turner11.0DE2021128050
TENIsaiah Wilson00.0T2020129010
JAXTravis Etienne00.0RB2021125000

And here is a look at the picks made in the NFL draft’s 33-40 range from 2016-21:

INDDarius Leonard5513.8LB201823635858
KANChris Jones508.3DT201623739069
MIAXavien Howard477.8CB201623837271
ARIBudda Baker428.4S201723647868
JAXMyles Jack376.2OLB201623608882
CLENick Chubb358.8RB201823535851
DALJaylon Smith315.2OLB201623417458
INDBraden Smith276.8G201823705654
SFODeebo Samuel268.7WR201923613831
NYGSterling Shepard264.3WR201624007270
JAXCam Robinson255.0T201723406161
NYGWill Hernandez235.8G201823406256
SDGHunter Henry233.8TE201623507259
NYJMarcus Maye214.2S201723906060
DENCourtland Sutton205.0WR201824015040
JAXJawaan Taylor196.3T201923504949
CLEAustin Corbett194.8C201823305541
CHIJames Daniels184.5C201823905448
CARCurtis Samuel183.6WR201724005833
CINTee Higgins178.5WR202023303028
INDMichael Pittman Jr.178.5WR202023403025
TAMRonald Jones II174.3RB201823805525
ARIByron Murphy155.0CB201923304739
GNBKevin King153.0CB201723305142
BUFZay Jones153.0WR201723707945
DETD'Andre Swift136.5RB20202350268
BUFCody Ford134.3T201923803829
TAMSean Murphy-Bunting124.0CB201923904131
MIARobert Hunt115.5G202023903328
INDRock Ya-Sin113.7CB201923404129
OAKTrayvon Mullen103.3CB201924003731
NYGXavier McKinney94.5S202023602320
NWEKyle Dugger94.5S202023702920
DENJavonte Williams88.0RB20212350171
LACForrest Lamp81.6G201723802618
MIAJevon Holland66.0S202123601613
PHILandon Dickerson66.0OL202123701413
SEAMalik McDowell61.2DT201723501514
JAXTyson Campbell55.0DB202123301514
CARYetur Gross-Matos52.5DE20202380269
TAMNoah Spence50.8DE20162390436
NYJElijah Moore44.0WR20212340116
NWEChristian Barmore33.0DL20212380172
HOURoss Blacklock31.5DT20202400293
CARGreg Little31.0T20192370146
TENKevin Dodd20.3DE20162330181
CHITeven Jenkins11.0OL2021239062
ATLRichie Grant11.0DB20212400160

Armed with the 35th and 38th overall picks in this year’s draft, the Jets are set to make two selections within the heart of this sweet spot. They are currently the only team that owns two of the second round’s first eight picks.

This is a draft class that is better known for its depth than its star power at the top. Plenty of intriguing prospects will be available in the early second round.

Some of the most popular second-round options for the Jets include Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson, Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker, Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones, and Baylor safety Jalen Pitre among many others.

New York seemed to strike gold in this range last year by selecting Elijah Moore with the 34th pick. Can Joe Douglas do it twice more?

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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1 year ago

Those early 2nd round picks probably feel slighted at not having been drafted on day 1 and may have an extra bit of motivation too.

1 year ago

I agree with the reasoning of why this is likely to be sustainable. It is also further validation of the principle of drafting BPA over need.

1 year ago

Also picking at the end of the first is much more reactionary, where as the start of the second round, you have an entire day to sit back and reevaluate your board fits etc.