NFL Draft 2014

2014 NFL Draft: By the Numbers—What the Consensus Big Board Says About Who Had the Best Draft (It’s the Vikings)

One of the interesting things about gathering Big Boards across the country and finding the different ways that evaluators grade the players is that it gives us an ability to take a look at the draft from their perspective. There’s a big stigma against “grading the draft,” that I don’t think makes a lot of sense because we’re so willing to share our opinions on the players and teams who drafted them in every other way.

It seems we can give opinions about individual players and their teams without criticism. but as soon as we summarize it in a letter grade, we’re doing something wrong and have to wait. Instead, it may be better to wait three years to judge it.

But that’s no fun, and we want feedback. We just have to acknowledge we have a high band of uncertainty and give our impressions of the draft.

But how about instead of inserting post-hoc opinions about our favorite team, we take a look at a metric we’ve already laid the groundwork for? Let’s compare a team’s draft capital to what the Big Boards accumulated said.


It’s not perfect, especially in a deep draft, but by assigning players in their rankings an amount of points equal to the trade charts’ equivalent pick value, we can find out what players are considered to be worth. Using the NFL Trade Value Chart (put together by Jimmy Johnson way back when), we can compare the amount of draft capital a team entered the draft with to the “value” of players selected. This is perhaps the most appropriate way to gauge the number of “steals” and “reaches” a team makes and quantifying.

The question is which board to use? We have a consensus board, an evaluator board and a forecaster board from fifty different sources. After looking at the forecaster boards, I saw that they did end up—as we expected—being the most accurate at creating a Top 100  that matched the draft value of the NFL (not by counting the number of players in both top 100s, but by finding the average error for each player. I’ll write about it in more detail later, but for now just know that “predicting” where players go doesn’t tell us if a player is good).

Instead, we’ll look at the evaluator board. The two point systems I’m using are the Jimmy Johnson chart and the Football Perspective Chart based off of Approximate Value. The system is simple—the percentage difference between the amount of draft capital you have and the amount of player capital you acquired determines how well you did. I have also added and subtracted the traded future picks from their relevant teams using the traditional discount rate (50%), even though there’s good evidence that that’s a bad rate.

The scores are normalized so that 100 is average, and every 15-point difference is one standard deviation away from average. The first chart uses the traditional Jimmy Johnson chart:

Team Score
Minnesota 165.4
Oakland 124.2
Green Bay 122.4
Baltimore 118.8
Houston 116.4
Atlanta 111.5
Tennessee 109.0
San Diego 108.1
Carolina 107.6
Cincinnati 107.1
Detroit 107.0
San Francisco 102.5
Washington 101.9
St. Louis 100.4
New York (J) 97.3
Buffalo 96.5
Chicago 96.2
Philadelphia 93.8
Indianapolis 93.6
Tampa Bay 92.1
Cleveland 91.8
New England 91.6
Pittsburgh 91.1
Jacksonville 90.5
Kansas City 88.1
New Orleans 86.0
Dallas 85.9
Arizona 85.1
Denver 84.9
Miami 81.5
New York (G) 78.8
Seattle 53.3

The second chart uses the Approximate Value calculator from Football Perspective:

Team Score
Minnesota 143.8
Oakland 132.1
Tennessee 123.8
Houston 117.1
Philadelphia 111.0
Green Bay 109.4
Chicago 107.4
Washington 106.6
Atlanta 105.9
St. Louis 105.3
San Francisco 105.1
Baltimore 104.8
Detroit 103.1
Pittsburgh 102.2
Jacksonville 101.6
Indianapolis 99.2
Cincinnati 97.6
Carolina 96.4
Buffalo 96.3
Miami 94.5
San Diego 94.4
Cleveland 93.8
Arizona 92.6
Kansas City 92.3
New England 92.2
New York (J) 91.5
Tampa Bay 91.1
Dallas 89.2
New Orleans 76.2
Denver 75.8
New York (G) 72.7
Seattle 48.1

Either way, the Vikings come out ahead. Oakland’s draft was stellar, but most people didn’t catch that and Seattle may have gotten better players  in UDFA than they did in the draft (this chart doesn’t account for that). If Seattle had drafted zero players with its picks, it’s score would have been 44 and 19, depending on the chart, making their draft shockingly subpar.

This chart doesn’t take into account needs, scheme fit or positional value (both concepts I think are important when evaluating drafts), simply the pre-draft judgment of talent.  That might be why, when I asked on Twitter, I got wildly different responses from people when I asked them who they thought had the best draft for value. Most said San Francisco (12th and 10th) and I also got responses saying St. Louis (14th and 15th), Jacksonville (24th and 13th) and the Steelers (23rd and 14th). I would also argue that some of the responses were not driven by the amount of capital the teams entering the draft had, and both the Rams  and the 49ers entered the draft in the top five of total draft capital (pick value) in the AV calculation. Because the Jimmy Johnson chart is steeper, the Rams ranked 1st in the Jimmy Johnson chart and the 49ers ranked 16th. Basically both teams had a ton of high value picks, so they should have more high-value players.

For what it’s worth, I trust the AV chart more on both accounts—determining who had the most capital and who got the most return, because it is based on historical data. One final thing we can do is look at it division by division. First, by the Jimmy Johnson TVC:

Division Score
NFC North 125.3
AFC West 107.5
AFC South 105.1
NFC South 100.4
AFC North 99.7
NFC West 93.1
AFC East 92.3
NFC East 87.9


Then by the AV Chart:

Division Score
NFC North 117.0
AFC South 111.5
AFC West 102.5
AFC North 98.8
NFC West 94.3
NFC South 93.7
AFC East 93.7
NFC East 92.8


Which means that the improvement teams saw relative to their draft may differ significantly by the fact that their divisional rivals did well or poorly. The Vikings’ success, for example, is going to be tamped down by the success of the rest of the division, while the New York Giants’ failure may be hidden by the weak drafting of its division.

And yes, again it is impossible to truly judge a draft until we’re three years out. But based on what we know, this is the evaluation as it stands right now—driven not by homerism but by the consensus of 50 experts and some interesting tools. If you want letter grades, they are as follows:

Team Grade
Minnesota A+
Oakland A
Tennessee A-
Houston B
Philadelphia B-
Green Bay B-
Chicago C+
Washington C+
Atlanta C+
St. Louis C+
San Francisco C+
Baltimore C
Detroit C
Pittsburgh C
Jacksonville C
Indianapolis C
Cincinnati C-
Carolina C-
Buffalo C-
Miami D+
San Diego D+
Cleveland D+
Arizona D+
Kansas City D+
New England D+
New York (J) D
Tampa Bay D
Dallas D
New Orleans F
Denver F
New York (G) F
Seattle Please see the teacher after class


Enjoy your success Vikings fans! I am sorry, Seahawks fans but you’ve had it pretty good for a bit now, anyway.

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  1. Wow! I’ve used the consensus board for several things, but this article blows my uses out of the water. I do find it interesting that (of the 171 players on both the projection and evaluation top 200 lists) Minnesota got the top valued draft pick (Teddy Bridgewater) AND the top valued UDFA. Definitely a successful haul of college talent.

  2. Great analysis and amazing result, espesh for a Vikes fan.
    I totally agree re not being able to evaluate a draft until years later, but I’m actually no more interested in how a draft class ends up doing in reality – once all the vagaries of life and football have have taken their toll – than I am in how well the organisation makes decisions given the knowledge available at the time. Arif, your analysis may be flawed (it might reflect too much expert bias and group-think for instance, but I’m not Nate Silver and evaluating the detail is beyond my pay grade), but I think what you’ve done is more than entertaining. Nice job 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      By it’s nature, it’s a reflection of consensus, but the individual boards that went into it were not the result of groupthink—there was a wide variance in the valuations by individual boards. In terms of expert bias, I think that’s a given, but there are enough amateur boards from unpaid writers whose talent at evaluation I respect (another bias) that there is some amelioration of it.

      Nevertheless, it’s impossible to escape that. 50% of first-round picks (and it’s a deep class, so maybe fewer) will bust. This board does not reflect that (though to some extent each ranker has priced what they think the likelihood of a bust is into their rankings), but it at least represents some interesting ways to use data.

  3. Speilman has been spectacular. I had faith that he’d kill it, and he did. Bridgewater who we all thought would be gone, and Barr to replace Allen. Very nice. Now Ponder is what he should’ve been, a good back up for a year and then he can be a F.A…. Regarding Johnny Football, I wanted that guy initially, but then I thought of Harvin and being great, but always hurt and always a question about attitude. Patterson is WAY better, no attitude and always available, a team guy, going to Wild games, a Minnesota fan. Now we can have a quality prospect without the Manziel celebity man guy BS.. Now, we’ve got to beat the Rams and then the Pats at home.

  4. By the way, classy move Patterson taking Bridgewater to the Wild game. Remember when Ponder called all the recievers to some passing working and it was all crickets.

  5. Interesting stuff, in as much as attempting to provide objective analysis with a subjective data set can be. Just out of curiosity, what would these numbers look like if compiled using say, Mel Kiper’s big board (and his alone)?

  6. Why in the world did the Vikings pass on drafting Michael Sam?
    I would gladly give him a ride in my tow truck. The Front Seat!

  7. Just watched 2 minutes of TE AC Leonard vs tenn. Tech and had enough. He was getting beat every play.

    1. So 2 minutes and you saw enough to say he can’t play in the NFL, is that what you are eluding to? Man where where you in year 2000 around lets say pick 199 we could of used you and the top notch NFL insight!

      1. No, DB. I’m saying what I was watching was so bad I turned it off. Comparing every player to a 1/5000 late blooming generational talent is not my cup of tea, thank you.

        If you would, provide me with your opinion of the quality of his play against below average talent. Now that you’ve disregarded my analysis of his play, I’d like to hear what types of skills you think he can develop to become a historic monument of football history just 14 years from now.

  8. i don’t mean to give you a hard time man it just pretty silly to make any “analysis worth a damn” based on 2 minutes of game film.

    If that was the criteria the UDFA OT out of Tennessee we signed is going to be the best OT ever has he was the only OT to dominate Clowney in his monster 2012 season…just kind silly is all

    1. Richardson is going to get ridden hard. Maybe he makes it, maybe not.

      Without further tape review on AC:
      Needs to attack his man
      Needs to widen base in blocking
      Needs to lock out
      Cannot catch block edge rushers at D1AA .. Will be wildly overmatched by pros
      Needs to get off the ball both in routes and blocking
      Need quicker breaks in routes
      Needs to finish routes to open space for other options
      Needs to smoothen routes, better understand coverage
      Needs to add after the catch moves
      Needs to add break tackle, stiff arm
      Needs to drive through blocks
      Often thrown off balance by smaller defenders
      Often gives up inside to rushers

      What he did well:
      Controls significantly smaller defenders
      Capable of catching

      That’s as far as I got on the tape.

      1. If you were judging him on his blocking you might as well turn it off. The guy is a receiving TE, anyone will tell you he isn’t a blocker right now. He has freaky athleticism and is getting a look in camp. If his legal stuff is behind him and he’s willing to dedicate himself to football he could be great. If not, he’s one of 37 guys that will be cut. The is an undrafted free agent we’re talking about, it’s not like they just blew a 2nd round pick on him. If he didn’t have the legal issues and flaws your pointing out he would have been a 1st or 2nd round pick.

        1. Jimmy Graham probably catches more balls than any other receiving tight end in the league. Less than 10 a game. So for 60 or so plays a game what are his responsibilities? Either clear defenders or block them. 80% of his snaps he blocks or clears defenders.

          I understand why he is going to camp and the likelihood of him making the team. What I said was the film was no good. Thank you for adding something like “I saw his game against X and he was tearing it up”. That was much appreciated.

      2. Um ya, that’s why he went undrafted. It is not going to cost the Vikings a draft pick or count against the cap to bring him in and take a look.

        1. CAPTAIN _BVI_US : I’d like to by a vowel.

          Can we please act like he’s played football before? That we can enter camps with some idea of where our players talents might stack up? Can we use what little information we have to formulate an opinion of what he’s going to have to get better at just to make the practice squad? No? Let’s just be thankful he comes at no cost and that anything he does is gravy? Well that’s one way of doing things.

          1. STRENGTHS: Fluid body control and athleticism with natural movements in his routes and as a ballcarrier. Good build-up acceleration to be a vertical threat and get behind the defense. Tough ballcarrier with good core strength and balance to shrug off tacklers. Speed to finish with the ball and be a dangerous YAC target. Good extension and catching radius to snag grabs away from his frame. Tracks well with the hand-eye coordination to watch the ball into his hands. Uses his frame well to shield defenders, staying focused in traffic. Experience lining up inline, in the slot and out wide with four career 100-yard receiving games, earning FCS All-American and All-OVC consideration the past two seasons.

            1. Leonard was named a second-team All-American after leading the Tigers with 34 receptions and 441 yards for an average of 13 yards per catch in 2013. He also scored an invited to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where his agility test scores were among the best in the tight end group across the board.

              The junior also added five touchdowns in 2013
              Combine Results
              40 Yd 20 Yd 10 Yd 225 Bench Vertical jump Broad Shuttle 3-Cone Drill
              4.50 2.57 1.51 20 34 10’8″ – –

  9. got it so a 21/22 yr old college TE who has never been coached up by NFL coaches has flaws and areas to improve upon..color me utterly shocked

    1. There’s really nothing wrong with your sentiment. You’ll have to excuse me for hoping to see a small school player holding his own or flashing something. That’s all I was hoping for. Instead I was a little bit embarrassed at the inept play I was seeing.

  10. It would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between successful drafts and performance on field. One would think that a team rebuilding through the draft would see a trailing rise in success over time.

  11. well what defines a successful draft?

    Players who have success with the team that drafted them or a team staying true to their board and beign able to detect future promise and getting value for where they pick?

  12. This is all fine and good, results are what I wanna see. Teddy needs to be way better than average, I want Pro Blowls…playoffs, and Super Bowls. Same for Barr. It all hinges on Teddy tho…He fails to be the man? This will be a failed draft.
    Value….see that word a lot in these draft talks. I don’t like it. “It was a great value pick.” Makes me think it’s not the best…generic. I don’t want the value brand! Give me the top of the line, don’t care about value. I’ll pay the extra, when it’s my team!

  13. Arif: Since your Vikes numbers encompass only 8 individuals, how much of this stellar rating “belongs” to Bridgewater’s selection? What would happen to your numbers if the Vikes had chosen someone else at 32 as a “What if…” scenario, for example? You know the old saw: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    1. It is impossible to figure out what the Vikings would have rated if they didn’t grab Bridgewater at 32, because I don’t know who they would have grabbed, and each player carries a different score.

      If I eliminate the draft capital the Vikings used to get him (picks 40 and 108 IIRC) and eliminate the Bridgewater value, they still rank first (in the AV chart getting a score of 132) because the draft community liked the Barr pick and absolutely loved the Crichton and Yankey picks.

  14. And this Arif is why you are the best damn sports journalist in the business. Your research and analysis skills are based on rationality and numbers and not just sensationalism or mima bird rewrites like so many others.

    So happy you write for the vikes side. Keep up the great work. You deserve a raise. Seriously. You are building a fantastic reputation and I have a feeling you are only going to the top with what you are doing with your career.

    Great job.

  15. Excellent response to my query. One of the joys of stats is being able to “play” with the numbers in your analysis — but, of course, I’m preaching to the choir [director] here! ;-))

  16. Another brilliant application of available information, Arif. More credible than anything else currently, I would say.. More feel good for Vikes fans than anything, tho, right now. It will be interesting to see how this stacks up to reality three years from now.

  17. Wow, that’s probably the Seahawks worst score since 2012. Schneider might as well resign.