A.J Green and "The Millen Effect" - Drafting WRs too early

I realize that most of the viewership here is aware that Matt Millen used the Lions' top pick on WR after WR for what seemed decades, and the Lions stayed in the worst to very, very bad category.  Actually, it was only a 5-year span beginning in 2003: Charles Rogers ('03, 2nd overall), Roy Williams ('04, 7th overall), Mike Williams ('05, 10th overall), no WR in '06 (Ernie Sims/LB, 9th overall), back to WR - Calvin Johnson ('07, 2nd overall).

Even with the big hit, Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, and a lesser hit in (now Cowboy) Roy Williams, the Lions still were drafting in the top 10 every year.  These guys, especially MegaT, put up great numbers for Detroit, in no small part because the Lions were playing from behind (alot).

The Lions under Millen are just the extreme example of, let's just say, a "not Smart" draft strategy that has failed more often than not for other teams as well.

Most of you know I glean a lot of information from studies done by R.C. Fischer and team at Fantasy Football Metrics.  Whether or not you agree with the history-based projection algorithms they utilize, you cannot argue with the historical details provided.  First, let's look at why taking ANY WR in the top 15 picks is not "Smart" for two reasons; 1) the odds of hitting an elite WR are very low, and 2) even elite WRs don't translate to success.  If you don't believe me, please read this article, entitled "In Search of the Next Great NFL WR -- a Mathematical Analysis of College WRs."

... money tied up in a star WR doesn't seem to be panning out too well in terms of sustainable wins and Super Bowl wins (or runs at it). Compare that to what a Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, etc can do for your franchise. Frontline QBs have a pretty instant, sustainable, and franchise turning impact -- to me, that is the more smarter spend of $10-15M+ a year. Give me Darrelle Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha, Julius Peppers, D'Brickashaw Ferguson for that kind of money. You have Calvin and Andre Johnson with your dollars.

Okay R.C., your opinion is noted.  The article continues with some compelling lists, like:
- Teams that picked WRs in the top 15 since 2003, and how none of them have factored into long-term success for their respective teams.  Only Fitzgerald (in '09) went to a Super Bowl.  And no team on that list had a winning record last year.
- "Smart" NFL teams (like NE, PIT, IND, NYG, NYJ, PHI, NO, etc.) haven't drafted a WR higher than 19th overall - Jeremy Maclin by PHI in '07.

This article then goes on to give a taste of how FFM developed a rating system for big/tall WRs, based on their final season of college production (as they did with QB rankings).  It also provides transparency regarding the things they can't measure (Character, Injury, Heart), and honestly addresses the small % of misses.  It then provides a list of the computed rankings for current NFL WRs.  Very interesting and thought provoking.  What else you got?

This article looks interesting; ""Why are you so sure Julio Jones and A.J. Green are NFL "Locks"? A Look at the Comedy that is WR Draft Picks in the NFL."  I like comedies, so let's have a look.

I also really like logic, and the first part of the article really digs into the question of: "why do you think Julio Jones and/or A.J. Green are no-brainer, future elite NFL WRs?"  The way the article circles the question from every vantage point leaves little room for debate, but then there's so much more, like:

19 WR's selected within the first 15 picks over the last 10 years...with only 3 good/elite/potential HOF WR's...and the other 16 of them almost complete whiffs, nothing much in-between. Braylon Edwards maybe, kinda an in-between...but not elite, that's for sure. 16 of 19 WR draft "failures" (considering the high pick and money spent), for an 84.2% failure rate.

The list provided of the 19 WRs taken in the top 15: Calvin, Fitz, and Andre and then a bunch of guys where you think;  yeah, he's been okay ... I remember that one great play... decent #2 guy ... and Heyward-Bay.  And then, here comes another list.  I gotta admit, there is info in these lists that support the premise of the article.  This list is especially fascinating to me:

In the last decade -- The best WR (according to me, and most not arguable) in the NFL draft vs. the best WR of the first 3 WRs selected:

*first we'll list the best WR I think was taken after the 3rd WR came off the board, then show the best representative WR among the first 3 WRs who were taken...

  • 2001 = Reggie Wayne, the 6th WR taken (#30) vs. Koren Robinson, as the best of the first 3 WRs selected (you also could have had Chad Johnson/OchoCinco as the 8th WR taken or Santana Moss, the 4th WR taken, or Steve Smith, the 74th WR taken)
  • 2002 = Deion Branch, the 11th WR taken (#65) vs. Ashley Lelie, the best of the first 3 WRs selected (could have had Antwaan Randle-El, the 9th WR taken)
  • 2003 = Andre Johnson was the 2nd WR taken and the best WR taken
  • 2004 = Larry Fitzgerald was the 1st WR taken, and the best WR taken
  • 2005 = Roddy White, the 6th WR taken (#27) vs. Braylon Edwards, the best of the first 3 WRs selected (could have also had Vincent Jackson, the 11th WR taken)
  • 2006 = Greg Jennings, the 4th WR taken (#52) or undrafted Miles Austin, or Brandon Marshall, the 14th WR taken, or Marques Colston, the 30th WR taken -- any of them vs. Santonio Holmes, the best of the first 3 WRs selected
  • 2007 = Calvin Johnson, the first and best WR taken
  • 2008 = DeSean Jackson, the 7th WR taken (#49) vs. Donnie Avery, the best of the first 3 WRs selected
  • 2009 = Hakeem Nicks, the 5th WR taken (#29) vs. Jeremy Maclin, the best of the first 3 WRs selected (an argument could be made for Percy Harvin, the 4th WR taken or Mike Wallace, the 12th WR taken, or Austin Collie, the 20th WR taken)
  • 2010 = Mike Williams, the 14th WR taken (#101) vs. Dez Bryant, the best of the first 3 WRs selected (ultimately Bryant may best Williams, but for now it's Williams)
The last 10 NFL Draft selections of WRs; and you could say there is a...
  • 30% chance the best WR in the NFL Draft is taken among the first 3 WRs selected -- over the past 10 years
  • 20% chance in the past 5 years, that the best WR in the NFL Draft is taken among the first 3 WRs selected
  • 60% chance the best WR will be the 5th, or greater, WR selected in the NFL Draft
  • 70% chance the best WR in the NFL Draft will be selected after the 25th overall pick 
  • 40% chance the best WR in the NFL Draft will be taken after the 1st Round

    And what have the "Smart" teams done (NE, SD, GB, PIT, PHI, BAL, IND, NO, NYG) and why are they so smart?: 

    Those 9 "smart" teams have won 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls

  • Those 9 "smart" teams have comprised 15 of the last 22 Super Bowl participants, 68%
  • 7 of those 9 "smart" teams made the playoffs in 2010
  • All 9 of those "smart" teams had a winning record in 2010
  • 8 of those 9 "smart" teams made the playoffs in 2009
  • More.... ?

    • 1996 = Marvin Harrison, IND (4th WR taken at #19) was best in class
    • 1997 = Derrick Mason, TEN (9th WR taken at #98) was best in class
    • 1998 = Hines Ward, PIT (15th WR taken at #92)  **Randy Moss, the 2nd WR taken was the best in class
    • 1999 = Donald Driver, GB (27th WR taken at #213) **Torry Holt, the 1st WR taken was best in class
    • 2000 = Laveranues Coles, NYJ (13th WR taken at #78) was best in class
    • 2001 = Reggie Wayne, IND (6th WR taken at #30) was best in class
    • 2002 = Deion Branch, NE (11th WR taken at #65) was best in class
    • 2003 = Anquan Boldin, ARI (6th WR taken at #54) **Andre Johnson, the 2nd WR taken was best in class
    • 2004 = Wes Welker, MIA/NE (undrafted) **Larry Fitzgerald, the 1st WR taken was best in class
    • 2005 = Roddy White, ATL (6th WR taken at #27) or Vincent Jackson, SD (11th WR taken at #61) are best in class
    • 2006 = Greg Jennings, GB (4th WR taken at #52) is best in class **Miles Austin or Marques Colston are potentially going to be as good/better
    • 2007 = Steve Smith, NYG (9th WR taken at #51) **Calvin Johnson, the 1st WR taken was best in class
    • 2008 = DeSean Jackson, PHI (7th WR taken at #49) is best in class
    • 2009 = Hakeem Nicks, NYG (5th WR taken at #29) is best in class **possibly Mike Wallace or Percy Harvin or Austin Collie someday
    • 2010 = Mike Williams, TB (14th WR taken at #101) is best in class **Dez Bryant may be someday
    What is the pattern of that group?  The pattern is -- just looking at each individual year at just the single best WR taken after the 3rd WR was selected, looking at just those WRs individually...11 of the 15 (73%) from each of the last 15 Drafts can trace back to the "smart" teams (I consider Wes Welker as a "pick" for NE, they essentially "found" him, that's sketchy I know). In this "crazy", "crap-shoot" NFL Draft process...somehow the smart teams have found really good QBs and really good WRs. Only in their WR game plan...they get their WRs later/cheaper in the Draft. They are "smart".

    ...  Are you really so sure that Julio Jones and A.J. Green are "locks" for success/greatness in the NFL?

    I'm getting the "comedy" part, I think.  The Smart teams are laughing their arses off at the teams drafting WRs too high.  Anyway, this is running longer than I like.  I encourage you to check out these articles, because there really is a lot more... what I've provided here is just a taste.  I'll quit with just a link and a nibble regarding their evaluation of A. J. Green:  Statistical Analysis of WR A.J. Green, a Bad Business Decision for the __?__ NFL Franchise 

    ....not the "top dog" among our "big WRs" in any speed or agility metrics, he is not even a Top-3 in any particular area
    ... did not record a great vertical leap on a historical comparison, nor very good in the perspective of the fact that 8 other of our "Big WRs" measured a vertical leap that was better than Green's.

    ... grades out well on his actual performance metrics...but so (does) Leonard Hankerson.
    ...has something (bad) in common with the ones on the list who graded high on college performance, but ultimately didn't translate as well to the NFL...the issue is "Hand Size".

    ... "Big WRs" that had very good (not great or awesome) performance metrics across the board, plus a little on the mediocre side for speed/agility...as well as WRs with a smaller hand size and smaller in weight/frame. Sidney Rice is a decent match, as is Eric Decker

    If you liked Green at #1, you may be reading and weeping, or you may be comedically thinking this is all BS.  In my now educated opinion, no WR is worth our top pick. 

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