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

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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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