The Number One Pick: Less than 50/50

As the NFL Draft approaches in May, speculation is already running wild about who will be the top pick. Unlike some years, there does not seem to be an odds-on favorite. While almost everyone agrees that this selection process is at best a crapshoot, it is reasonable to expect, certainly at the upper end and, indeed at the top of the first round, that only superb NFL prospects will be chosen. With the torrent of data from workouts, combines, pro days, film analysis, interviews, scouting service reports and analysis, Kipers, and Kiper-clones, and much more you would think it would be hard to miss with a top five pick.


            We decided to look back just a bit to see just how hard it is to miss. Over the last 25 drafts from 1989 to 2013, it is no surprise that quarterbacks have dominated the number one overall selection. In fact, 15 of those 25 (60%) top picks have been signal callers. There have been 5 defensive linemen, 3 offensive linemen, 1 wide receiver and 1 running back. No one can sensibly question the need for a competent quarterback.


            Where it gets interesting is to evaluate how these “can’t miss” absolute lottery winners have actually performed on the field. This process is made more difficult by the fact that as of this writing fully 12 these 25 number one picks are still active players, with much of their careers ahead of them. We are, therefore, forced in those cases to assume that their performances to date will remain consistent until they hang their cleats up. That said, here is the way these superior best-of-the-best prospects have done:


      Performance Level                                Number                            Pct.

      Hall of Fame                                                 2                                8.0%

      All Pro                                                           8                                32.0%

      Solid NFL Starter                                          8                                32.0%

      Mediocre at Best                                           2                                 8.0%

      Busts                                                              5                                20.0%

      If you were to assume that a team would be happy to have a number one prospect overall have a Hall of Fame or at least a Pro Bowl career and that anything else would be a disappointment, then there is about a 40% chance of lucking out, or less than 50/50. At the other end, incredibly, fully 1 out of 5 has been an outright bust.

             While we recognize that there is a wide disparity among teams as far as just how much input the head coach has in the draft selections, he certainly must have at least have some say in most cases. (Isn’t that right, Jeff Fisher? You argued for Vince. Right?) Input or not, those coaches whose teams drafted the “Busts” did not have stellar careers, to say the least. How about Chirrs Palmer in Cleveland with both Tim Couch and Courtney Brown in consecutive years, or Lane Kiffin with Jamarcus Russell in Oakland or Dave Shula with Ki-Jana Carter in Cincinnati? Dom Capers took David Carr Number 1 in Houston, who wasn’t a pure bust. It probably would have been better if he had been. The Texans might not have wasted several years waiting for him.


            For more on how we rate head coaches visit our website- .


The Perfect Pro Football Coach by Robert DeLuca is now available at the I Bookstore and most other national EBook booksellers.


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