Commentary, NFL, NFL Draft

The Anatomy of a Winner Part 1: The Draft.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft

In today’s NFL there are teams who have had consistent  success for so long they never appear to need the dreaded rebuild. For others, it seems like the franchise is stuck in a continual cycle of rebuild-fail-fire coach-hire new coach-rebuild-rinse-repeat. So what’s the formula to success in the NFL? In part one of this three-part series we will discuss the NFL Draft and see what a good draft strategy can achieve.

So let’s start with the best teams in each division from 2006 through the 2010 season, and jump into their draft numbers. (Special thanks to The San Diego Union Tribune’s Kevin Ace & Matt Perry, for the great Draft number breakdowns)

NFC West:  Arizona Cardinals (37-43 record): 23/34 Draft picks still with team (67%).
Pro-bowler success rate: 3% (1). Starter success rate: 24% (8). 1 Superbowl Appearance 

NFC North: Green Bay Packers (48-32 record): 31/47 Draft picks still with team (66%). Pro-bowler success rate: 4%(2).  Starter success rate: 23% (11).  1 Superbowl Victory

NFC East: NY Giants (48-32 record): 26/38 Draft picks still with team (68%). Pro-bowler success rate: 3% (1).  Starter success rate: 29% (11). 1 Superbowl Victory

NFC South: N.O Saints (49-31): 21/31 Draft picks still with team (68%).  Pro-bowler success rate: 9% (3).  Starter success rate: 32% (10). 1 Superbowl Victory

AFC West: San Diego Chargers (55-25 record): 17/34 Draft picks still with team (50%). Pro-bowler success rate: 6% (2).  Starter success rate: 18%(6). No Superbowl Appearances

AFC East: NE Patriots (63-17 record): 23/50 Draft picks still with team (46%). Pro-bowler success rate: 8% (4).  Starter success rate: 22% (11).  1 Superbowl appearance

AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers (51-29): 24/43 Draft picks still with team (56%).  Pro-bowler success rate: 5% (2).  Starter success rate: 21% (9). 2 Superbowl Appearances, 1 Victory.

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts (61-19 record): 28/41 Draft picks still with team (68%). Pro-bowler success rate: 5% (2). Starter success rate: 18% (11). 2 Superbowl Appearances, 1 victory

After looking at the numbers here is a composite sketch of what teams have done to be successful.

Winning Teams:

Average over 60% draft picks still with team.

Have a Pro-bowler success rate at or greater than 5%

Draft Starters at or greater than 24%

Seattle Seahawks: 35-25 record (2006-2010) To be fair, the Seahawks are in the middle of a major rebuild. Pete Carroll has made wholesale changes to this roster and has begun to weed out the majority of Tim Ruskell and Mike Holmgren’s draft choices. Hopefully we can achieve some continuity and draft success in the years to come.

19/37 (51%) draft picks still with team.

Pro-bowler success rate: .0%

Starter success rate: 18% (6)

0 Superbowl Appearances

It is striking to see the similarities in the successful teams. It’s also very easy to see where the Seahawks must improve. Stats do not lie, but they may not always tell you the whole truth.  Raw numbers do not take into account the impact a star QB has on the team, the team bias to defense or offense, injuries, or divisional opponents. However, one shocking thing I discovered was that the only team on this list of divisional draft success stories that did not make it to the Superbowl (San Diego), still managed a 55-25 record. It is becoming clear that the teams with the best scouting departments, and best organized draft board seem to be going to, and winning Superbowl titles.

So is it all in how you draft or is there more? In part two we will look at free agency and how big of a role it plays in a team’s success.


About Will

Football fanatic, former coach, and obsessive blogger. Proud member of the Seahawks 12thManNation. Follow him on twitter @12thManScribe


6 thoughts on “The Anatomy of a Winner Part 1: The Draft.

  1. Hard to believe the Chargers haven’t been to a superbowl after reading this. What is that about?

    Posted by 20Riggens | August 24, 2011, 8:48 pm
  2. If our FO would have drafted correctly over the years, we would have multiple championships. Loking at our history it is really pathetic. Hopefully Carroll and co. Change that. Great Article!

    Posted by TheRightStuff56 | August 25, 2011, 6:47 am
  3. Not sure if the draft is much more than a gamble. So many busts. What % of players end up out of football in a year or so? and how many undrafted guys wind of being stars?

    Posted by MoneyMaker23 | August 25, 2011, 3:22 pm
  4. Thanks for the comments! It’s very interesting to see the way teams have approached the rebuilding process. One thing is for sure: Each front office has a vision. That vision may ultimately be wrong, or lead them to a title.
    Tim Ruskell was wildly supported until he was not, If that makes sense. The jury is still out on Pete Carroll’s drafts, but in part 2 I’ll cover free agent signings and this is where Pete has put most of his focus in his first two years.

    Posted by Will McDougle | August 25, 2011, 3:27 pm
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