NFL Draft Roulette: Excellence Usually Found Early

If you love studying human performance and the pursuit of excellence — and enjoy trying to predict them as well — then you might also be mesmerized and captivated by the NFL Draft process.

So many highly-touted college players eventually prove to be busts or so-so players, but crunching the numbers doesn’t lie: When it comes to producing the very best NFL players, the perennial All-Pros, the first-round produces more All Pro players THAN ALL OTHER SIX ROUNDS COMBINED¬†(according to this report from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper that cites Ken Marshall and Rich Exner for compiling the data from 2002-2011).

http://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/index.ssf/2012/04/most_all-pros_are_found_in_fir.html

The round that produced the second-most All-Pro players: Round 2.

In fact, according to Marshall and Exner, a whopping 84 percent of All-Pro NFL players during the decade studied were drafted in the first three rounds.

So while we marvel at someone like Tom Brady getting passed over 198 times in the Draft, it’s worth noting that the case of the Best Player Ever is extremely abnormal.

For all the flack and criticism that NFL scouts, General managers and coaches receive for midjudging players, it does appear they tend to do a good job of at least identifying which college players have the greatest potential, mindset and work ethic to achieve excellence. But of course, there do seem to be far more bust than boom picks for first-rounders (the vast majority of them, despite these stats, will not be Pro Bowlers or All Pros and usually fail to live up the hype).

On the other end of the spectrum are the massive underdogs everyone loves to root for: Undrafted Players. 

Driven, scout-defying, undrafted Pro Bowlers from small schools such as Adam Vinatieri (South Dakota State), James Harrison and Antonio Gates (Kent State), Tony Romo (E. Illinois), Kurt Warner (N. Iowa) and Nate Newton (Florida A & M).

An interesting NFL.com story that ranks its 30 best Undrafted Players of All-Time.

http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000663921