A Blast from the Past: Regrading the 2013 Draft
The title is a bit deceptive, because I never actually graded the 2013 draft, or any draft for that matter. But as I have been looking up information about the various players the Steelers chose in 2013, most recently for Le’Veon Bell, I have been intrigued at how often I have run across words such as “abysmal” to describe the 2013 draft class as a whole. Since they generally appear in articles whose purpose is to regrade that draft, that’s how we’ll roll.
I’m going use this exercise as part of my BFTP review of the No. 1 Steelers pick, because I think this is where the subject gets the most interesting. Jarvis Jones has been the focus of a lot of fan ire, or at least fan annoyance, as he hasn’t turned out to be the player the Steelers presumably thought they were getting, at least up to this point. It became quite evident when the Steelers chose not to pick up Jones’ fifth year. But is he a “bust?”
The concept of a “bust” really only has a great deal of meaning in the first two rounds. To see what I mean, have a look at this:
This comes from a 2010 article by Danny Tuccito, writing for Niners Nation. He analyzed the data in Pro Football Reference for all players drafted between 1994 and 2005 (so that they would have had a chance to play more or less a full career.) The numbers on the left axis are the career Weighted AV (Approximate Value) divided by the number of years the player played. (For an explanation of Weighted AV click here.)
The figures on the bottom axis are draft slots, from No. 1 overall on the left to the end of the seventh round on the right. After charting all of the data, the author made these observations about what constitutes a “bust”:
1. It’s kind of silly to call any player a bust if he was selected after Pick 64. If he’s only supposed to be – at most – 32% as good as the #1 pick, can a team/fan really be that upset if he doesn’t even turn out to be that good?
2. Within each round, the actual pick numbers matter a heck of a lot for expected performance from Picks 1-32, somewhat less for Picks 33-64, and hardly at all for the rest of the draft. This is shown in the graph by the steepness of the drop at various points along the curve. Therefore, when defining a bust or diamond in the rough, there’s really no need to distinguish between picks within each round after Pick 64; whereas it is important to distinguish between Picks 1-64.
You can see the incredibly steep drop-off between the top few picks of the first round and the rest of it. So bearing this in mind, let’s look at what became of the first rounders in the 2013 draft. Since the above chart uses the PFR data, and since it is really the only place you can get any sort of assessment across all positions, I’m going to use it as well, but since these guys are still playing it is unweighted data, which results in higher numbers as a rule. [You can see this when you look at, for instance, Troy Polamalu’s page—his cumulative AV is 115, but his career Weighted AV is 94. So the actual AV for his first three years was Yr. 1: 1, Yr. 2: 13, Yr 3: 14, for a total of 28, but his average per season is 7.8, for a 3-year total of 23.4.]
As you see, the class average so far of 5.5 isn’t far off from the average of the large data set in the graphic above. But if you adjust it using the Troy Polamalu Index* [henceforth TPI], wherein the Weighted Career Average is about 84% of the total AV, it would be a bit below average, as it would be about 4.6 in Weighted Career Average, compared to around 5.0 in the graphic above.
But where it looks particularly bad is if you average the scores for the top ten players taken in 2013. Their average (5.0) is actually lower than that for the whole first round. Using the TPI once again, the figure is more like 4.2, way below the average of around 5.7 for the top ten picks in the graphic above.
So in other words, this wasn’t a very strong first-round class, at least as judged so far, and it explains why so many of the re-graders were using words like “disastrous.”
So let’s now consider Jarvis Jones in that context. His average AV of 4.7 would have been higher had he not missed such a large chunk of his sophomore season. It’s below the class average, but he was taken in the bottom half of the class, so in theory that’s to be expected. And it is pretty much equivalent to the 4.0 or so his position in the class would be expected to have earned—it comes in just below 4.0 when the TPI is factored in.
Let’s also look at him in terms of the linebackers taken in that class. For these purposes I’ll consider all LBs taken in the first two rounds of the 2013 class.
He was the first to go. Here are the others, what sort of LB they are, and their career AV and three-year average:
- Alec Ogletree [1/30] 3-4 ILB, 20, 6.6.
- Manti Te’o [2/38] 3-4 ILB, 14, 4.7.
- Kevin Minter [2/45] 3-4 ILB, 14, 4.7.
- Kiko Alonso [2/46] ILB (moved twice, from BUF to PHI and now to MIA) 11, 3.7.
- Jonathan Bostic [2/50] LB (started with CHI, traded to NE) 8, 2.7.
- Jamie Collins [2/52] 3-4 OLB, 26, 8.7.
- Arthur Brown [2/56] 3-4 OLB, 2, .7.
I think, based on the first two rounds at least, it’s fair to say it was not a strong class for OLBs. The only OLB with a better score than Jarvis Jones in the first two rounds is ARZ’s Jamie Collins. His was a name I don’t recall even being on the radar for the Steelers in 2013, although I may have missed something. As far as the entire 2013 draft class goes, the only two Pro Bowlers so far are Kiko Alonso and Jamie Collins, for what that’s worth.
Perhaps the Steelers should have gone with another position if it wasn’t a great linebacker class. (Although this is something far easier to see in retrospect.) Two of the defensive backs taken after him in the first round have done fine so far if you look at their average. But Eric Reid has never matched his play from his rookie season. The sole really good DB in the first round, at least at this juncture, is Desmond Trufant.
Whether they should have picked up a DB or not, though, in 2013 the Steelers were seemingly still in the “there’s plenty of DB talent which can be drafted more safely after the second round” mode. Other than that, as far as good players who would have been available to them, there were several offensive linemen, which the Steelers had just spent a lot of high-round picks on in the previous several drafts, and a wide receiver, which they didn’t need.
All in all, I don’t find it very surprising they drafted Jarvis Jones. He was considered a terrific pick at the time by most of the pundits. For example:
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com, grading the AFC North:
Some draft picks just seem tailor-made for their new teams. Jones falls into this category, as his game ideally suits theSteelers‘ zone-blitz scheme. An explosive edge rusher with exceptional first-step quickness and burst, Jones wreaks havoc off the edges against the run and pass. From strip-sacks to game-changing tackles for loss, Jones has a penchant for disruption that perfectly fits the mold of Pittsburgh linebackers.
ESPN writers, grading the AFC North:
Kiper Jr.’s comment: “The Steelers got a little bit of their bite back. I love the selection of Jarvis Jones in Round 1. I just thought Le’Veon Bell was a bit of a reach. I’ll say this for him, however: Bell played behind some pretty awful blocking last year and still managed to be productive.”
[Jamison] Hensley’s take: If you read my post-draft analysis, you already know that I think taking Jones was the best move when looking at the drafts for every AFC North team. The Steelers needed a pass-rusher after cutting James Harrison, and they got the best one coming out of college this year at No. 17. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the pick I’m most skeptical about is the Michigan State running back Bell. He’s a finesse back who could turn out to be another Rashard Mendenhall in terms of running style.
While the jury is still out at the moment, it will be delivering a verdict by the end of the 2016 season. I just hope it is a reasonable one which takes all the factors into account. Which may be a vain hope when the jury is the pitiless Court of Public Opinion.
*I realize my so-called Troy Polamalu Index is based on a single sample, but it lined up with most of what I’ve seen. I also checked Brett Keisel, and there was an even bigger disparity (his Career Weighted AV of 59 is about 82% of his total AV of 72.) Feel free to calculate a whole bunch of guys and call me on it…