Sep 9, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin (89) before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Arrowhead Stadium. Atlanta won the game 40-24. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Bust Rate And The Chiefs’ 1st-Round Pick


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Now that free agency has cooled, the conversation is moving to what the Chiefs need to do in the Draft to keep improving the roster while faced with much tougher schedule than they went through in their 11-5 2013 campaign.

The way the free agency chips have fallen, the order of Chiefs needs has shifted somewhat. In my opinion they are in descending order of importance: defensive backfield, wide receiver, guard.

With no 2nd-round pick and scant financial resources, the Chiefs’ best shot at adding a quality starter to this roster is with its 23rd-overall pick in the 1st round. Given where the Chiefs’ needs lie, one would think it should be easy to figure out where the team should go with that selection.

Chiefs GM John Dorsey purports to be from the “best player available” train of thought. This means, at its most extreme, that the Chiefs would take a running back or linebacker with the 23rd pick if that’s the player with the best value on the board when Kansas City is on the clock, regardless of the fact that those are the strongest units on the team at the moment.

I don’t think this is how Dorsey will approach the issue this year. Last year, the team had the 1st overall pick and

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

therefore could grab anyone it wanted. With that in mind, the team was able to execute its free agency plans knowing that it would enter the first two rounds of the draft essentially with guaranteed acquisitions — T Eric Fisher in round 1 and QB Alex Smith in round 2.

This year, Dorsey can’t count on betting the players he wants with the team’s top picks and the front office may have to maneuver a bit in the draft to make sure that the team gets an impact player at a position of need while still getting the best value possible.

As complicated as that process is, I propose that another factor be taken into consideration — bust rates.

In 2010, Walter Football did a study of players selected in the 1st round from 1998 to 2007, that determined that with the 10-year view, 46% of 1st-round picks are busts. While this average was hurt by the fact that a majority of picks in 2002 and 2003 were considered busts, the study still shows that in any given draft a third or more of the players selected in the 1st round will be disappointments.

Going into the Draft last year, the Chiefs had an all around pretty solid roster and could afford to miss. Today, it has a fair amount of question marks at various positions. Given that this Day 1 pick is so important, I think it is important that the Chiefs examine which positions tend to be safer and what areas of their roster can they afford to swing and miss with.

First off, which positions are safe and which are a gamble?

Chase Stuart at Footballperspective.com tried to answer that question in a post last year looking at the results of drafts from 1990 to 2009. His results were interesting.

Quarterbacks had the highest bust rate in the 1st round with 30%, followed by defensive ends, outside linebackers and wide receivers. Defensive ends were busts 20% of the time, and wide receivers and outside linebackers both busted 18% of the time. On the positive side, centers, tight ends and safeties proved themselves to be the safest bets, albeit that is partially because so few have been chosen in Round 1.

Although only nine centers were drafted in the 1st from 1990 to 2009, none of them were outright busts. However, Stuart found that 78% of them turned into just average starters.

1st-round tight ends were similarly safe and similarly mediocre. Stuart rated just 4% of the 24 tight ends drafted as busts, but 50% ended up as average starters, with 30% rated as either “Good” or “Great.”

More important to the Chiefs in this discussion is the performance of safeties. They also boasted an extremely low bust rate of 7%, but a similarly small sample size with just 29 drafted in the 1st. Thirty-five percent of 1st round safeties ended up “Good” or “Great” by Stuart’s calculations but 28% were “Bad” or “Busts” with 38% rated as “Average.”

It should also be noted where these players tend to be drafted. Interestingly, the positions with the highest bust rates — QB, DE and OLB — were also drafted highest in the round on average. In the 32 top picks, the QB’s were taken at an average draft position of 9.6, while DE and OLB were picked on average at 14.1 an 14.6, respectively.

Meanwhile, safeties, corners, tight ends and interior linemen were all picked on average in the second half of the 1st round.

I think you see what I am getting at.

If the Chiefs really want to get production out of their 23rd-overall pick at a position of need, past experiences says the safest bet is to go S.

I also think that the defensive backfield is where the Chiefs most need to add a good player. I don’t think the Chiefs will greatly miss WR Dexter McCluster’s production at WR, and the team played well enough on offense late last season and in the playoffs to win games. What killed the team was breakdowns in the defensive backfield. Meanwhile, having another star safety would give the Chiefs some flexibility should it prove difficult to extend SS Eric Berry to a long-term deal.

What say you, Addicts? Is looking at bust rates defensive thinking and should the Chiefs go for a home run swing in the 1st? Or, should they play it safe?

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  • berttheclock

    Great breakdown of the Boom or Bust league of the first round.

    I am really becoming a believer in San Fran making a move from 30 to trade up to 23. They have the most draft picks to offer as they are loaded in the 3rd round.

    BTW, as the NFL is a copy cat league, so too is sports journalism. I suggest you peruse this morning’s article at sfgate by Kevin Lynch where he rates who was responsible for, either, selecting or developing 20 players for the Forty Niners. GMs such as Scott McCloughan and Trent Baalke for selecting, HCs Singeltary and Harbaugh for developing, even their excellent defensive line coach for turning Dorsey into having his best year as a player following his move to NT. Two examples were, simply, the respective player for working very hard and helping his own stock to rise. But, notice in reading through those 20 picks, the propensity for the Niners to trade up in the draft to select a player. Such as their 2010 move from 13 to 11 to take Anthony Davis or the trade up in the second round with Denver to take Kaepernick and the Broncos ended up with two picks who developed into starting DBs. BTW, even Mike Solari, the much maligned former OC for the Chiefs, but, excellent o-line coach is credited for developing talent on their offensive line.

    Would be fun to read how AA rates the developers of 20 of the Chiefs players, as well.

  • berttheclock

    BTW, I love that “Please Recycle” shown just below Mr Bust Baldwin. Well, he went to the Niners at a time they really needed help at wide out. If you go to sfgate and insert his name in the question box, you will find several articles where Harbaugh kept saying he was going to use him, but, he ended up only catching 3 passes and has been placed into the “Must win a job in the upcoming training camp” category after taking a major pay cut. After failing to do so, he will, probably, be recycled, once again, to the Pittsburgh area where he can team up with Palko in Pop Warner ball.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I think the highest positional value will be at wide receiver. That’s where the Chiefs are most likely to get the biggest bang for their buck. Safety is also a position they should strongly considered both for reasons Clayton cited and because the dropoff in talent after Pryor and Clinton-Dix is extreme.

    DE and OLB will be picked over. Not sure we’re going to get a significant passrushing skillset at 23.

    G and TE are two other groups where the Chiefs will probably get good value.

    For me, it’s either Beckham, Cooks, Pryor, or Clinton-Dix

    • Michael Shaw

      Again Mr. Smith I think we might be on the same page. I am thinking, as much as the Baldwin pick a few years ago angered me, that we need to go either WR or OL with our #23. I agree emphatically that the drop off after Pryor and Dix is just too great to take a chance on Safety at #23. I also think this year’s class is clearly too deep to take a chance on drafting a DE or LB at #23 when we are in more of a dire need at WR, OL and Safety.

  • freshmeat62

    I just went thru all of the draft picks the Chiefs have had, from Abner Haynes thru Eric Fisher, and gave each a grade (1 – 5) that I thought each deserved.

    Hank Stram had the best average, 3.6. He had one heck of a run at the beginning (Haynes, Holub, Buchannan, Budde, even Sayers, though he didn’t sign).

    Then came the Steadman/Schaff era – yuk. 2.75 average. Their most unmemorable run was Eathan Horton, Brian Jozwiak, and Paul Palmer – wow! Hard to believe they lasted one more year after that. They did hit a home run the next, and their last, year w/ Neil Smith.

    Peterson I gave a 3.06. He had the most busts (Percy Snow [although he may have turned out pretty good if not for the mo-ped accident], Harvey Williams, Trezell Jenkins, Sylvester Mooris, Ryan Sims) and only 3 exceptional (Derrick Thomas, Tony Gonzales, Tamba Hali), not very good for as long as he was in charge.

    Pioli had a 3.00, with Berry and Poe saving him. Baldwin got a 1, and Tyson Jackson I gave a 2.

    I gave Fisher a 3, although I believe that will go up in the coming years.

    • berttheclock

      The reason Stram had such a good run was because of Don Klosterman. He found the talent, kept several away from the NFL and signed them. I sill believe had Klosterman been there when they tried to sign Sayers, he would have been a Chief. However, as noted in his bio, Steadman/Schaff went into the negotiations believing he was a “Given” and they talked of moving him to wide out. Papa Bear knew of this and he had Buddy Young fly to Lawrence and romance Sayers by telling him how much better he would be in Chicago, as there would be more opportunities off the playing field. Sayers said the Chicago group treated him as a man.

  • Michael Shaw

    Good post Nick. I am a firm believer in us getting a Safety with the
    #23, but something tells me they might get the BPA. I only say that
    because I don’t think there is a safety rated high enough to take at #23
    after Pryor and Clinton-Dix are off the board. If you look at the prospect listing on Walter Football, Dion Bailey is projected as a 2nd-3rd round talent. If there is a WR, OL or even LB prospect with a 1st round talent level available at #23, then I say we pull the trigger on them. I know we need Safety help badly, but I don’t see one worthy of a #23 overall pick after Pryor and Clinton-Dix. I say this only because in your analysis safety is listed as one of the safest picks in the first round. I believe, and I think your article proves my belief, that the reason safety has suck a high success rate in the first round is because teams do not reach. If the Chiefs draft a Safety not named Pryor or Clinton-Dix, then I believe they would have reached too badly to fill a need. Do I think Dion Bailey or Jimmie Ward would be good fits for our team? Yes. Do I think either of them are worthy of the #23 pick? Absolutely not. Not if there is a higher rated WR, ILB or OL available when we pick. Drafting for need AND drafting a guy too early is a bust in my opinion. Now, IF Pryor or Clinton-Dix (Who was available at 23 when I did my Fansided draft!!! How awesome would that be!!!!?????) were to fall to the Chiefs at #23, then heck yeah pull that trigger as fast as you can. GO CHIEFS!!!!!

  • freshmeat62

    Mrs. Opel E. Eckert, my high school English teacher, used to preach over and over, “read between the lines”. So after this FAgncy period (as far as I’m concerned it’s over), that is what I’m going to try to do, concerning the draft.

    The Chiefs biggest needs going into FAgncy were FS, G, ILB, LDE, and WR.
    FS – Abdullah and/or Commings, if he can stay healthy.
    G – It sounds to me like they think Rishaw Johnson will fill. Lickenbach I believe is for depth.

    ILB – Mays.
    LDE – Walker is making too much to be on the bench. He’s the starter.
    WR – nothing!!! To me this stands out like the elephant in the room. It’s got to be a WR. Which one? Not sure about that yet, although Beckham seems to fit what Reid has liked in the past.

  • Bigtexjayhawk

    Please go google a highlight video of Brandon Cooks and tell me why we should not take him. He can return punts. He can stretch the field. Elusive. Bubble screen wizard. He is our man. The WR depth con game they are saying is their cover. They want a game changing WR in round one!!

  • tm1946

    I am sticking with DE. But if Dorsey/Reid go for BPA, could be anyone. If the team goes for a specific position, just asking to increase the odds of a less than great player. If they have a great player on their list, grab him.
    PS no issue if they trade down, just not that easy to do.

  • freshmeat62

    I’ve said this before, but when they say best player available, there may be several players at different positions that fit bpa. I think most everyone has a numbering system, or some kind of grading that will allow for multiple players at different positions having the same grade. They may have 4 or 5 players that have a grade of 90 lets say, so they take the player at a position of greatest need w/ that grade of 90. That way they can say they took the bpa, and still fill an area of need. They cover their butts either way.

    • mnelson52

      I think they will look at our needs and take the best player available for one of those needs.
      For instance if we need WR, DE, FS, OLB, OL, he will take which ever has the highest value of those five positions even though it might not be the highest value player on the board. This does go against his philosophy though of BPA. He has said many times that he will not draft for need but will take BPA.

  • berttheclock

    I have been in the corner of Brandin Cooks for over two months. I appreciate the argument that Beckam gives the Chiefs more flexibility as a returner, but, Cooks did not do as much at OSU because they had a very fast freshman who specialized in returns and this kept the injury bugaboo away from Cooks. That said, it would not upset me that much if we did end up trading the 23 to San Fran, so, they could take Cooks. He would be a loss, but, this team needs to build more players and the trade would add a 3rd. We still could find value at 30, as well.

  • berttheclock

    However, one caveat about this upcoming draft. Outer Space to Earth. Outer Space to Earth. The Chiefs did not lose to the Colts due to any problems with the offense. They lost to the Colts due to major problems with the defense. As proven, once again by the Seahawks, Defense, I repeat Defense wins Championships, not offense. Yes, we do need a wide out who can stretch the field and take pressure off Bowe, but, we really need to improve the defense. So, use our picks more for defense than offense. Fix the wide out problem, but, please FIX THE DAMN DEFENSE. And, we do NOT need to waste a pick on any QB in the draft. Bray will be fine.

    • freshmeat62

      I agree totally about having a strong D. But from what I get from the tea leaves, is that they think they have upgraded the FS, and they have signed better players at ILB and LDE than they had last year, able to put more pressure on the QB. I get the impression that they think they have fixed the damn defense.

      As far as the o-line goes, to me as important as a strong D, from what I’ve read about Reid, he thinks he can bring his type of player in and build a good line. I get the impression he thinks o-linemen, especially G’s and C, are expendable.

      So the only area they haven’t touched is receiver. I’m not crazy about taking a WR in the 1st rd because of their failure rate, and because most seem to have this “I am great”, primadonna complex. I just think every thing they have, or haven’t done points to a WR as their 1st pick.

      And I’m hoping for Bray to come on strong also.