It's fun to give predictions about how good or bad draft picks will be, based on having watched them in college or on game tape, or by what we've heard babbled by Mike Mayock or read on Walter Football. I'll admit I've committed my share of ticking folks off by making comments about the future of players that I don't understand why we picked. It's time to fess up... I have no clue. But neither do you. The brightest and dumbest, and most and least informed among us have something in common... We don't have a crystal ball or flux capacitor to peek into the future to see what these players will become. And while common sense suggests Luke Kuechly is far more likely to be a ProBowler than DJ Campbell, it's totally plausible that Kuechly could be the next Dan Morgan, and Joe Adams the next Steve Smith.
To prove just how clueless we are, check out the comments in this CSR post from this time last year. It's pretty funny. We seemed to be very uncertain about the future of our new 1st overall QB, but seem to think DT had just become a position of strength. I even declared Pilares the "steal of the draft".
However we can gain a slightly more accurate perspective not by just looking at the players themselves, but by examining the historical odds of how Hurney's draft picks have panned out in the past. I'll call this strategy "Draft Freakonomics", based on the popular book by Stephen Dubner, that uses statistics to explain anything and everything.
If you're unfamiliar with Freakonomics, here's a clip by Stephen Dubner on Cam Newton from last year...
What I've attempted to do is to break the Carolina Panthers draft picks under Marty Hurney's watch, into 3 categories... Pro Bowlers, Solid Starters, and Borderline Starters/Backups. The first category is objective, they've either been to the Pro Bowl or not. The other 2 categories are more subjective, but more or less make the same point. Any player who didn't pan out for whatever reason was excluded. I also only used players drafted from 2003 to 2008, because the verdict is still too far out on players like LaFell, Gettis or Sherrod Martin. I then crunched some percentages to try and determine the odds of this year's draft class producing Pro Bowlers, solid starters, decent backups and flat out duds.
So, on to the analysis, after the jump...
- Jordan Gross (1st round)
- DeAngelo Williams (1st round)
- Jon Beason (1st round)
- Ryan Kalil (2nd round)
That's 4 legit ProBowlers in 6 drafts. Or in terms of this draft, there's a 67% chance that one of our 2012 draft picks will be a Pro Bowler. And if that happens, chances are it will be either Kuechly or Silatolu, our 1st and 2nd round picks.
- Chris Gamble (1st round)
- Travelle Wharton (3rd round)
- Thomas Davis (1st round)
- Geoff Hangartner (5th round)
- James Anderson (3rd round)
- Charles Johnson (3rd round)
- Jonathan Stewart (1st round)
- Charles Godfrey (3rd round)
- Dan Connor (3rd round)
9 very good starters in 6 drafts combined with the 4 Pro Bowlers above, produces 13 players that I believe would start for most teams in the NFL. That's 2.2 starters per draft. Which means out of the 7 guys we just drafted, 2 will become solid starters immediately or over the next couple years.
- Ricky Manning (3rd round)
- Michael Gaines (7th round)
- Richard Marshall (2nd round)
- Jeff King (5th round)
- Jeff Otah (1st round)
- Geoff Schwartz (7th round)
This group is much more subjective. Injuries are snubbing Otah of what could have been a great career. I almost put TD here for the same reason, but figured 4 solid seasons was enough to move him above. Most of these are guys that would start for teams that are weak at their position, but for many other teams they'd just be solid backup contributors. That's 6 borderline starters in 6 drafts.
What this all adds up to, is that we most likely just drafted 2 solid starters and one solid backup who could start if needed. The other 4 players probably won't be in the league in 4 years.
Another way to look at this is by round. For example we've produced 6 very good starters in the 1st rounds of 6 drafts. If Luke Kuechly doesn't suffer injuries like Otah, then he has a near perfect chance of being our starting linebacker for the next 10+ years. And a 50% chance of being a Pro Bowler. While Amini Silatolu has a 100% chance of being a-meany, due to our wealth of misses in the 2nd round, he only has a 17% chance of being a solid starter... But also a 17% chance of becoming a Pro Bowler. We have an 83% chance of landing a starter in the 3rd round, so it's too bad that we didn't pick there. 4th and later rounds don't produce nearly the same odds as the 1st and 3rd.
Clearly this is in no way an exact science. The future will probably produce something slightly better or worse. However in most cases, history and statistics are a far more accurate judge than any of our guess work.