Which NFL teams have drafted best over the last 5 years?

May 15, 2014 § Leave a comment


With the NFL draft pushed back by a couple of weeks, coverage of the league’s biggest offseason event is getting a little stale as we inch closer to the first round on May 8.

There’s only so much that can be said about a process that is based on the unknown: how a college football player will translate to the next level.

But the draft gets intense coverage for a reason: It’s the most crucial and effective tool for building a roster. The teams that draft well are more likely to enjoy sustained success thanks to an injection of cheap, young talent. A team’s failure to replenish its talent in the draft forces NFL front offices into spending in free agency, a strategy that rarely pays off.

The changes in the last CBA, which significantly lessened the amount of money given out to rookies selected at the top of the draft, has made the draft even more valuable to NFL front offices.

So which front offices have done the best job of taking advantage of the draft? To figure that out, the Q reviewed the last five drafts and developed a statistical measure of which teams have done the best job of selecting college prospects, regardless of their draft slot.


The goal of this study is to determine which teams draft the best — not which teams have drafted the best players. So a team, like the Patriots, who routinely pick at the end of rounds, might not bring in the type of marquee rookies that a team like the Lions have; but New England has done a better job of picking given their positions in the draft order.

Each draft pick has been assigned a numerical grade based on the player’s performance, number of games played, positional value and the pick with which they were selected. The average grade was 0.55.

Performance was based on Pro Football Focus grades. Positional value was based on the average salary of each position. And the value of the draft pick was based on Jimmy Johnson’s famed draft pick value chart. Performance and games played accounts for about two-thirds of the grade, while pick and positional value accounts for the remaining third.

The grade is not necessarily a representation of the player’s ability but rather the value of the pick he was selected with. For instance, Andrew Luck is probably a better player than Russell Wilson, but Wilson has a higher grade because he was picked in the third round. The Colts do not get credit for being good drafters for making a pick that even the worst GM would have made.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the results.


It shouldn’t be a surprise that teams finishing in the top-half of the league combined for nine Super Bowl appearances — and all five Lombardi trophies — in the last five seasons, while the bottom half combined for just one appearance in the title game. Only four of the league’s 12 playoff teams in 2013 finished in the bottom half. In a league driven by the salary cap, the NFL Draft is still the most efficient way of building a roster. The teams that do the best job of doing so are the teams that finish at the top of the standings.

Click here for grades for every player picked over the last five years.



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