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Players In The Draft Are Always A Toss Up

With the 11th pick in the first round of the draft, the Broncos are in a sweet spot. They are in prime position to get a real impact player or they can trade the pick for something good if they don’t like how the draft is unfolding.

The Broncos have reportedly been contacted by many teams already to trade down in the draft. The Broncos are listening to all offers. This brings me to the decision making process that leads to picking the right player.

Many teams look at quantifiable scores. Whether it’s a college TD to INT ratio, a time in the 40-yard dash, or a Wonderlic score, these are the measures NFL teams use to evaluate potential and risk to reward ratios.

The Combine is the venue that many teams use to evaluate talent. It’s the most recent performance an athlete will give before the draft, and all potential pros are put through the same tests, so teams can evaluate positional players head-to-head. It sounds great in theory, but new research has come out that the Combine may not do a good job of predicting player success.  

“Using correlation analysis, we find no consistent statistical relationship between combine tests and professional football performance, with the notable exception of sprint tests for running backs.”  (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)

Until the Combine puts different weights on its measures, the massive gathering of athletes and NFL scouts will not be the most valid way to predict success in the NFL.

Teams have more information on their potential employees than any other employers in the world. They have medical reports, drug tests, personal interviews, press coverage, college history, and Combine scores. They knew every inch of the player by the time the draft rolls around. Yet, teams often make the wrong decisions when it comes to drafting a player and predicting success.  

With this information, why are certain teams so confident in their decision to trade up for a higher draft pick? They are willing to pay higher salaries and/or give up future draft picks all for one player that may or may not succeed in the NFL.

In Cade Masey and Richard Thaler’s paper, The Loser’s Curse: Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the National Football League Draft“, Thaler explains why the first pick in the draft is on average, the least valuable player in the first round.

“If the market for draft picks were ‘efficient,’ meaning that the prices reflected intrinsic value, the resulting value for a team that trades up for a higher pick should be equal to the value of the picks it gives up. The price of moving up is steep: to move from the 11th pick to the 5th pick, for example, a team would have to forfeit its second-round pick as well. To be worth it, the player taken just six picks earlier would have to be a whole lot better — because both of the players given up could have become stars, too. How confident should a team be that this early pick is better? Suppose we rank all the players at a given position — running back, linebacker, etc. — in the order they were picked in the draft, then compare any two in consecutive order on the list. What do you think is the chance that the player picked higher will turn out to be better — as judged, say, by number of games started in his first five years in the league?

If teams knew nothing, the answer would be 50 percent, as it would be for flipping a coin. If they had perfect knowledge, the answer would be 100 percent. Go ahead, make your guess.

The answer is 52 percent — an outcome that is barely better than that of a coin flip.”

Better decisions or effective decision making models are not made/improved just because a powerful incentive is present.

Like I said, the Broncos are sitting pretty with their 11th pick, and if they choose to trade down depending on how the draft plays out, I wouldn’t complain too much. Look at Terrell Davis who was a 6th round pick, or Rod Smith who went undrafted. You never know what kind of player you’re going to get in any round. That’s scary yet comforting at the same time.

Just a reminder that I’m making picks for the Broncos in the CBS live Mock Draft today beginning at 1 p.m. ET. You can catch the action here.

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Tags: Denver Broncos Nfl Draft Rod Smith Terrell Davis

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