Who Is the Best Drafting Team in the NFL?

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIMarch 26, 2013

Who Is the Best Drafting Team in the NFL?

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    The 2013 NFL draft is rapidly approaching, with some teams having thrived in the draft while others have failed miserably.

    The debate, however, rages on as to which team is actually the best drafting team in the NFL. Is it the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers or Baltimore Ravens? Or are the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams really as bad as everyone thinks they are at the draft.

    We'll hopefully answer those questions as we break down which team truly is the best in the NFL draft.

How We Calculated the Best Drafting Teams

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    Figuring out which team drafts the best wasn't an easy task. In fact, the formula that we came up with was our best attempt to put actual numbers on the value of an NFL team's draft.

    Here are the guidelines of the system we used:

    Current Starters

    We went through every team's current depth chart and valued the starters on their roster. Each team was given one point for a starter drafted between the first and fourth rounds.

    A team was given two points for a starter that it drafted between rounds five and seven, since finding a starter that late in the draft should hold more value.

    An example would be the Arizona Cardinals drafting Larry Fitzgerald. He starts for them and was drafted in the first round by Arizona, so his worth in this category would be one point.

    Another example would be Carl Nicks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was drafted in the fifth round, but was selected by the New Orleans Saints, so the Saints would get two points for drafting a starter between rounds five and seven.

    *We used current NFL depth charts. Free agents that haven't been signed weren't included. Also not included were positions that will likely have starters from the 2013 NFL draft (i.e. Arizona Cardinals' quarterback).

    Pro Bowls

    The Pro Bowl is one way to measure, albeit not the best way, a player's impact for a team.  Much like with the starters, players who have made the Pro Bowl who were drafted between rounds one and four receive two points. Players drafted between rounds five and seven receive four points.

    Nicks is another example. He was drafted in round five and has made numerous Pro Bowls so his value in this category is four points for the Saints.

    *We used the 2002 NFL draft through the 2012 NFL draft for this category.

    AP All-Pro Teams

    Making The Associated Press All-Pro team proves that a player was one of the best at his position over the course of a season. For this honor, players drafted between rounds one and four will get three points for the team that drafted them. As in the previous two categories, players drafted between rounds five and seven who have made the AP All-Pro Team will get their team six points.

    Once again, using Nicks as an example, he would be worth six points to New Orleans in this category.

    *We used the 2005 AP All-Pro Team through the 2012 AP All-Pro Team for this category. This will keep up somewhat current in terms of players not be drafted too far outside our wanted time frame.

    Super Bowl Wins

    The last category for points was simply looking at the teams that have won Super Bowls since the 2002 season. 

    We gave this category a value of three points for each Super Bowl win, since it is hard to determine exactly just how much of a championship roster was due to the draft. However, there is definitely some value and correlation between Super Bowls and the draft, so it would be foolish to leave it out completely.

    This certainly isn't an exact science or calculation, but it was a good way to give numerical value to how well teams scouted players and drafted for value.

    Let's take a look at the results.

Some Interesting Findings

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    Before we start breaking down the bast drafting teams in the NFL, a quick look at some interesting findings when running these numbers.

    St. Louis Rams

    The team that came up with the least amount of points was the Rams. Their 25 total points were six points less than the Washington Redskins.

    The Rams haven't drafted anyone during the time frame studied that has been a member of the AP All-Pro Team. They've also only had three players voted to the Pro Bowl—Steven Jackson, Chris Long and Richie Incognito.

    St. Louis' roster is filled with young players who haven't quite lived up to expectations and they've been the worst drafting team in recent years.

    Oakland Raiders

    Oakland is often considered the worst team in the NFL draft. However, their 38 total points were only the fifth-worst in the league.

    They've only drafted 16 current starters in the NFL, one of the lowest numbers in the league. On top of that, the Raiders have only drafted two Pro Bowl players and three All-Pro players.

    The Raiders are definitely one of the worst-drafting teams in the league, but not as bad as many may believe.

    Green Bay Packers

    Ask Packers' fans who is the most successful team in the NFL draft, and they truly believe it is Green Bay. That's in large part to the fact that they follow general manager Ted Thompson with complete faith.

    However, the Packers only finished as the eighth-best team according to our system with 63 points. They've hit on their early-round picks with seven Pro Bowl players and three All-Pro players drafted between rounds one and four.

    Unfortunately, the later rounds have only produced two Pro Bowl players. The Packers and Thompson still work the draft like few others, but they aren't quite as dominant in their pics as many believe.

    Carolina Panthers

    No team was a bigger surprise to us than the Panthers, who finished with 61 points, good for 12th overall.

    They've drafted six Pro Bowl players and four All-Pro players. However, where they really made an impact is drafting starters. They have drafted 28 current starters in the league, including nine that were drafted between rounds five and seven.

    It appears as if the Panthers have built a roster that should be ready to compete rather quickly.

5. San Diego Chargers

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    Total Points: 70

    It may seem a little surprising to see the San Diego Chargers as our No. 5 drafting team. However, when you look at how they have drafted, especially in early in the past decade, it is quite clear that this team is, or at least used to be, very good at drafting.

    Their 12 Pro Bowl players were tied for the most out of any team in the league. On top of that, the Chargers have drafted seven All-Pro players. Players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Eli Manning (even though he was traded) and Eric Weddle have, or were, some of the best players in the league at their positions.

    The biggest surprise when looking at San Diego's recent history in the NFL draft is that there are only 19 players that they've drafted currently starting in the NFL. Even more surprising is that only two of those 19 players were drafted in rounds later than the fourth round.

    Postseason success is always going to haunt the Chargers, and is likely why many people might not think they do a good job in the draft. However, San Diego has been a good team at drafting talent that produces.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Total Points: 71

    Two Super Bowls are what ultimately bumped the Pittsburgh Steelers up to being the No. 4 team in our rankings. Of course, it helps to have drafted players like Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Maurkice Pouncey.

    The Steelers have only drafted nine Pro Bowl players, including two between rounds five and seven. However, even more surprising is that Pittsburgh has only drafted four All-Pro players. Only  16 teams had fewer All-Pro players than the Steelers, despite Pittsburgh having above-average success in recent years.

    What makes the Steelers such a quality team in the draft is that they have great success at finding starting-level talent. They've drafted 25 starters in the league, with 19 of those starters coming in the earlier rounds. Those 19 starters drafted between rounds one and four are tied for the second-most of in the NFL.

    Simply put, Pittsburgh knows how to find players who can come in pretty quickly and provide solid production. It's a huge reason why they've been such a consistent team over the past decade.

3. Baltimore Ravens

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    Total Points: 75

    No team has drafted more starters in rounds one through four than the Baltimore Ravens. Their 21 starters who have come early in the NFL draft are a testament to Baltimore finding players who are ready to play in the NFL from day one.

    The Ravens are one of only 10 teams to find an All-Pro player in the later rounds of the draft. That player was Adalius Thomas, who made the AP All-Pro Team in 2003 and 2006.

    The rest of Baltimore's draft success really shouldn't be too surprising considering it has drafted players like Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. The bad news for the Ravens is that much of their draft success happened in the early 2000s and we are now starting to see some departures of key players.

    However, if there is one thing that general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have proven over and over again, its that they know how to reload in the draft. Current starters Jimmy Smith, Courtney Upshaw, Michael Oher and Terrence Cody prove that the Ravens continue to build through the draft.

    With Baltimore coming off a Super Bowl win this past season, combined with all the talent they lost in free agency, it'll be interesting to see how the attack the draft this year. 

2. San Francisco 49ers

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    Total Points: 80

    The San Francisco 49ers have become one of the best teams in the draft in recent seasons, and we're starting to see that success starting to pay off.

    When you look at the roster of the 49ers, it's easy to see why they ranked out as the second-best drafting team in the NFL. From Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith to Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers' roster is loaded with talent that they've hand-picked in the draft.

    The 10 Pro Bowl players they've drafted in the first four rounds are tied for the most in the NFL while their six All-Pro players in rounds one through four are tied for the fourth most in the NFL.

    Overall, San Francisco has done a fantastic job at building elite talent through the draft. The scary part for the rest of the NFL is that the 49ers are only going to get better.

    This is a young team that is loaded with picks in the 2013 draft. If the rest of the NFL hasn't taken notice yet, it certainly will this upcoming season.

1. New England Patriots

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    Total Points: 99

    Was there really any doubt that the New England Patriots weren't going to be the best team in the NFL draft? Their 99 points are nearly 20 points ahead of the San Francisco 49ers.

    No team has drafted more All-Pro talent than the Patriots, who have taken 10 All-Pro players. Nine of those 10 players were drafted in the first four rounds.

    The only other team to produce as many Pro Bowl players as the Patriots are the San Diego Chargers with 12 Pro Bowl picks. To prove that New England can also find talent late in the draft, it has taken three Pro Bowl players in rounds five through seven, tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the most in the NFL.

    Overall, the Patriots are far above the rest of the NFL in terms of successfully drafting players who make impacts. While Tom Brady is the perfect example of New England's draft success, we also can't forget about players like Matt Cassel, Alfonzo Dennard or Aaron Hernandez who prove that the Patriots excel at finding in the later rounds.

    Teams that want the same type of success as the most dominant franchise in football for the past decade only need to look at how the Patriots have dealt with the NFL draft.


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