Friday, April 25, 2008

Round By Round: The Final Numbers

by: Michael Steffes

I am not sure how this post is going to work out, and to be perfectly honest the numbers are mostly what you would expect, but I wanted to experiment for further use.

I have taken the roster information, which throughout the week I used to go round by round looking at the current Hawks, and added some statistics such as TD's, Tackles, Sacks, Pro Bowls, and Starts. These were last years #'s, so simply put, this is what the team got out of players picked from certain rounds LAST year. Also, there are no definitive stats for O linemen, other than starts, so this analysis devalues their contribution in many ways, but that will be addressed.

In using these numbers I was able to put a lot of the info into graphs so that you could view the results of the analysis in an easily viewable format. Now, I am just hoping blogger makes it do-able. Any graph or chart can be clicked on to view as larger image. So here we go....

To begin with, I set out in this analysis looking mostly to pass time till the draft. I expected, as I am sure many of you would, that the higher a player is drafted the better player he is. Often people use the rare case, such as Antonio Gates, as examples of why not to take players in the top of the draft. Well, the numbers suggest that the top of the draft is where the impact players do come from. At least on the Seahawks. I would also be remiss to mention that this is an incredibly small sample size, looking at only one team, but in this instance I didn't have the time to use the whole NFL, and really we are only interested in the Hawks.

To begin with lets look at the starting line up. What rounds does the team get the most starts of?

As you can see, over half of the pie is taken up by first and second rounders. This reinforces the importance of the first day. However, one thing that is interesting here is the number of starts that the team got from undrafted free agents (8th round). In nearly equals the contribution of the third rounders. To me, this sheds light on to why the team emphasizes these players during the month leading up to the draft. While many of us say "ho" hum" every time we hear of another low profile guy coming for visit, the team places importance on this and it has paid off. The are getting good production from undrafted free agents. You can see the totals of these positions better here in the bar graph....

Notice here that the Seahawks are getting their most starts from the 2nd round. Moving down from #25 into the second would allow Tim Ruskell to draft twice in the round he has had the most success.

Now it is important to recognize the difference between a starter and a quality starter. So where do the superstars come from? Lets look at this bar graph which depicts the pro bowls per draft round....

If you notice there are only two bars on the right side of the graph. The sixth round is represented by Matt Hasselbeck's 3 pro bowls, and the 8th (UDFA) is represented by Olindo Mare's 1 pro bowl. We all know that kickers are rarely taken in the top rounds, and I think many of you would consider Matt Hasselbeck's success from the sixth rare. Of course if we broke down the Patriots, they share a similar phenomenon, another connection between the two teams successes. Anyway, back to the graph. You can see that the pro bowlers mainly come from the first and second round. This says to me that while you can be a quality player if taken in the late rounds, really that rare athletic ability and college stardom that make a player a high pick are also what makes a player more likely to reach the highest level of success in the pros. So what position do we need a pro bowler at? Tight end would help? It would seem taking a 2nd rounder, which has been speculated to death, is the right choice. Also, as you will see upcoming, that round is where the touchdowns come from too.

Lets look now at how draft position actually correlates with statistical success. Here is a large chart you may want to click on that is a table of correlations. If you don't understand it don't worry, I will explain the numbers. The important thing to know is that the #'s with the * next to them are the ones that are statistically significant. This means they can used to make general assumptions. The others don't provide that because anomaly wasn't strong enough.

What you can see right off that bat is that the universal stats to both units, pro bowls and starts both have a negative correlation with draft round. On offense pro bowls have a -.381 value and starts have a -.561 value. On defense, pro bowl list at -.440 and starts at -.580. What this means is that as the round value goes down (closer to 1) the number of pro bowls and starts go up. Because these correlations are significant, we can assume that this would be a pattern you would see through out the league. When you break down the units, you see that on offense round doesn't have a significant correlation with touchdowns. The reason for this is because the team has found a lot of scoring from second and third rounds. You can see that better, here, in this bar graph....

Also of note here is that I didn't include touchdown passes, which is why the sixth round has no touchdowns. Had I included that, it is possible that there would have been a positive correlation, meaning the higher the round the more touchdowns. My feeling is that adding TD passes would have created a false number because most teams did not get a pro bowl QB in the sixth. When you look at this graph, also notice that the Hawks get their scoring from the 2nd and 3rd, along with the 7th and undrafted guys. To me this means that often the first rounders are used on defensive guys (which we know to be true) and the mid rounds is where the team likes to address the line. When looking at the fourth rounders we saw a large population of linemen in the fourth. This is why I said their contributions are devalued in this analysis. Because it is hard to judge a quality linemen from late rounds compared to a skill position. There are no real stats to do so.

Back to the correlations. Defensive statistics show some significant correlations as well. Both sacks(-.419) and tackles (-.478) are notable numbers. Again, what these numbers mean is that as the draft round gets lower(1st or 2nd), the number of sacks and tackles go up. This is backed up by what we saw in the daily looks, the Seahawks have found some special defensive players that were taken at the top of drafts. If you look back, a large portion of the defensive starters were taken in rounds 1 and 2. So what can we take from this? It makes complete sense that the Hawks use their first rounder on a defensive player despite the need for offense, because they have gotten better scoring production from the 2nd and 3rd rounds. That means that this draft sets up well for the Seahawks to dramatically improve both sides of the ball in the manner in which they have done it before. Here are the the bar graphs that show the tackles and sacks.

As you can see, both tackles and sacks are heavy on the first two rounds, but the difference between the two charts is again the 8th, or undrafted guys. To me this shows that pass rushers need to be addressed early. A team can get some general defensive production from the late rounds/free agents, but rarely do the get the sacks from there. We all know how the Seahawks defense thrives by creating pressure, and when you consider that the team brought in a lot of DT prospects who look to be late round guys, it could be they are thinking defensive end in the first. It would make sense compared to how things have worked out among the current Seahawks. Interesting to look at for sure.

Hope you enjoyed this analysis. Like I said, it really just supports what a lot you, including me, would suspect is par for the course. However, often numbers don't support what we believe, so it is fascinating to get the empirical proof. Now when you say D line in the first and TE in the second, you can sleep well knowing that those rounds fit according to where the Seahawks have done well from. Lets go get some more pro bowlers on Saturday, right!