In case you missed the first four posts in this series of about the importance of drafting and the AFC West you can find the the proceeding articles with the links below.
So what's it all mean?
I've spent the last week throwing lots of numbers and facts at you. After all this you'd think we can project what each team is going to do for the next 3-5 years based on all this data.
Maybe someone else can, but I can't.
A successful football season has too many variables that effect the outcome of any given season. Coaching, injuries, match-ups, team chemistry, weather, officiating, free agency, etc... It's one of the primary reasons I love the game.
But none of those other potential potholes hold a candle to a lack of talent.
The draft is the single most important factor to help define a team's fortunes. I don't believe that a team's success can be predicted, but I do believe that you can see trends that help predict long-term failure. You should also be able to predict if a team has a chance to be competitive if all other factors remain to the positive.
The AFC West, as a whole, has fallen on hard times and it's easy to see why. The Chiefs, Broncos and Raiders were horrible at identifying and acquiring talent through the draft from 2001-2010. The Chargers were the most successful drafting team during this ten year span and held the AFC West in thrall for 10 years as a result. These are the facts.
For a week now I've shown you individual team draft statistics and told you to take my word that this team did better than that team. Unless you've been jumping from post to post or have gone digging up the references yourself you've been accepting these facts or taken them at face value for the sake of conversation and moved on.
So let's look at all these team drafts side-by-side.
I've taken the liberty of picking a winner from each draft class in the division. The class in the table below that is highlighted in yellow is who I perceive as the winner of that year's draft. The 'grading' scale is weighted based on All Pros, Pro Bowlers, then Starters:
- * = Starter (Must have started 16 games with team to qualify)
- + = Pro Bowler
- # = All Pro
- BOLD = Players still with the team
- SWT= "still with team"
I apologize for the blurry image. If there is a way to create tables in the SB space I haven't figured it out. So Excel, Photobucket and Image Shack it is. If you click on the table it will take you to a larger image that is easier to read as well.
Couple of ground rules before you shred me. (I'm looking at you ksraidercte1)
For the draft winners, I went purely off the All Pro / Pro Bowl / Starter system. I can find no other way to make this work.
In 2009, for example, Denver, KC and Oakland all drafted two starters while San Diego drafted one. I personally think Tyson Jackson gives the Chiefs the victory in that draft to date, but that's my inner-homer. (No really, he's the number one run-stopping 3-4 DE in the league, and he has great hair and...crap). So it's a three way tie for now between Oakland, Denver and Kansas City with San Diego loser to date.
Which brings us back to the main point, predicting the future, sort of.
Here's the draft break down by the numbers for the division over the decade. Once again (and throughout this post) a yellow square indicates an advantage in the given category to the corresponding team.
Damn you San Diego!!! Or better yet, Damn you Carl Peterson!!!!
San Diego has a 17% Pro Bowl Rate. The Chargers have an 8% All Pro rate. The next closes is KC and it's not that close.
I haven't done the research, but I believe you'd be hard pressed to find that kind of draft disparity between one team and the other 3 in their divsion throughout the NFL. Maybe the Patriots in the AFC East....maybe....
Here's the translation on the football field 2 years later in terms of record, division titles, etc... from 2003-2011. Again, a "winner" for each category has been identified. Hope you Denver fans weren't hoping for a surprising finish. And if the Chiefs fans were...shame on you.
NOTE: Average finish in the division was found by adding up the finishing postions (1,2,3,4) and awarding 1 to lowest, 2 to 2nd lowest, etc...
The greatest draft disparity within the division occured in the early part of the decade from 2001-2007. Want to see some REALLY ugly numbers? Let me qualify that, ugly numbers for everyone but Chargers fans.
Draft Numbers from 2001-2007:
And just to put the dagger in the soul of everyone outside of San Diego Charger-land, here's the season totals for the corresponding years of 2003-2009:
Maybe I should buy a Chargers jersey.
Screw that. You ever been to Qualcom? I have...
The inspiration for this entire series of posts came back in April when wustl_chiefs_fan submitted a FanPost titled "Are the Chargers Regressing?" He focused primarily on whether Rivers had been injured or not. Somewhere in the discussion the San Diego drafts were reviewed and I noticed something. The last few drafts by AJ Smith had been horrible.
Carl Peterson Al Davis horrible. (Carl usually found a 1st round stud, then blew the rest)
As always, judge for yourself.
It's been changed up a little this time. I've included all the draft picks for all teams from 2008-2010.
- * = Starter (Must have started 16 games with team to qualify)
- + = Pro Bowler
- # = All Pro
- BOLD GREEN= Players still with the team
- Green Italics= Has not played 16 games with team and is still with team RED= No longer with team
- RED BOLD= No longer with team, but played 16 games for the team that drafted them
- Red Italics= No longer with team and did not played 16 games with team and
Here's the table describing the AFC West Draft numbers from 2008-2010.
Over this short time period, the Chiefs matched or beat every other team in the division.
I know, I know, "You're only breaking these drafts out this way because KC started drafting well in 2008". In all honesty that thought did cross my mind.
But 2008 is when San Diego started to draft badly. As much as I love my Chiefs, they have to catch the Chargers. You can believe that or not.
Whatever you believe, just note that EVERY team in the division had superior drafts in comparison to San Diego from 2008-2010. The only category where the Chargers outperformed another team was in player retention percentage in comparison to Denver. (San Diego had 52% draft pick retention, Denver had 35% retention)
Denver drafted an All Pro.
One last blurry table before we get to the meat of things here. I warn you, this is the most unfair table of them all. Twain's "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" doesn't seem harsh enough. But if we're going to see it for every other draft period we need to see it for this one.
Below is the season result table for 2010-2011. Two seasons is a very short time to try to gauge anything about drafted players, let alone view drafting and team trends. Outliers turn a strange occurrence into what looks like a hard, immutable fact that can destroy your ability to perceive the truth.
Take this one with a grain of salt.
The 2010-2011 season results table:
Alright. We have tons of data and now there are colors involved. Seems like we should wrap things up before we start breeding flow charts and demanding TPS reports.
After ruling the roost for the past years, things have started to change. I've tried to show that the Chargers have not drafted as well in recent years. Maybe you're a Charger fan and want to argue how good the players are that SD drafted. Too subjective. Try this statement instead.
San Diego has not drafted as well as their counterparts in the division from 2008-2010. Any arguments?
We can talk all day about the talent that Ryan Matthews posses. I don't care. I need hard facts. For whatever the reason, Matthews has not put it together and the Chargers have suffered after selecting him and giving up other picks to get him.
I don't mean to pick on Matthews (maybe just a little). He just seems to be the poster child for where the Chargers are right now. Tons of talent, under-performs, always has an excuse why it happened and the fan base/coach follows with "just wait till next week, month, year, etc...."
But Matthews is just one pick. Ryan could turn it around this season and start on a journey to become a Hall of Fame running back to rival LT. It still wouldn't help with 08 or 09.
As the Chiefs fans can tell you, drafting one world beater a draft will not get you anything but an increase in jersey sales for that player. Whiff on 6 of your 7 picks and that one guy is going to look really good during losing seasons.
Who am I talking to here? San Diego knows all about this. Think LT early in his career.
Face it, the Chargers have strung together 3 bad drafts. They still have 18 of the players that led them to divisional supremecy on the squad, so it's not like they are going away anytime soon. Depth is gone though, and there's not a lot to reload with when those guys start to decline. At the very least, SD is not the same dominate force they were.
Of the 6 All Pros drafted from 2001-2011 there are only two left. Nate Kaeding and Eric Weddle. Weddle should be a fixture in the defense for years to come. Kaeding is a kicker...not sure where to go with that one but I'm sure San Diego fans will think of something.
If your starters aren't coming from the draft they come from UDFA's or free agency.
In 2009, before the drafted players began to dry up, San Diego used ZERO free agents as starters on offense. On defense in 2009 there was one imported free agent starting. Ian Scott.
In 2010 when the draft class of 2008 should have been stepping in, AJ Smith was forced to use Michael McNeill to back fill for an injured Antonio Gates. The defense went from one free agent starting to two free agents starting. Garay and Burnett.
2011? Still only had McNeill as a FA on offense, but now the defense had 3 free agents starting. Garay, LaBoy and Spikes. It should have had 4 . Bob Sanders only played in and started 2 games before UDFA Gregory had to step back in.
Sense a pattern?
I'm not really up on my 2012 Chargers squad, but I'm pretty sure that the only homegrown WR left is 2nd year man Vincent Brown. Those free agent numbers are going up again.
Never count out a team with a QB like Rivers. But never count on any one player to consistently beat teams with more talent from 1-53 either.
I don't pretend to know what San Diego's draft class of 2011 or 2012 is going to be. I do know what the free agency monkey looks like though. And it sure looks like the Chargers are forming a habit.
Next thing you know your going to see AJ Smith running out of a free agent truck stop late at night, cops hot on his heels, with Dan Snyder matching him stride for stride.
Everybody is going to have bad draft classes and free agency can be that bridge to get you through the rough patches. Maybe that's all this is. Maybe.
If free agency becomes your panacea to solve draft woes you're in trouble. The best you can hope for is to have Shanahan-like success and be competitive but not quite there. The worst is...
I really don't want to talk about Manning. No choice.
Manning is blah, blah, blah, greatest ever, Hall of Famer, please bless my children and heal my puppy, have my baby, etc, etc... It's what he could mean for the draft picks of 2010 that is going to be interesting.
It's hard to get a read on Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both came out raw. They had the whole Tebow thing to work with and did better than good with a bad throwing QB. If Manning is healthy and, well, Manning, the Denver 2010 class could rival or even surpass the Chief's 2010 class. Manning has a history of turning pedestrian WR's into pro bowlers, good receivers into All Pros and great receivers into Hall of Famers.
Denver still has the 2 All Pros they drafted on the squad. Dummervill and Clady. Plus there's the senior statesman of All Pros Champ Bailey. Champ may be an import but he's been there for 7 years. He may have even bought a home in the Denver area by now.
I don't really want to get into anyone's 2011 draft picks. The year was just so weird and there is not enough info, but Von Miller won defensive rookie of the year. He's already made noise in the NFL and needs to be mentioned.
Honestly, Denver is the hardest team to figure out. They haven't drafted well and are relying on a free agent. But that free agent is Peyton friggin Manning.
The coaching job that John Fox and company did last year may have been the finest I've ever seen. To create an entire offense on the fly to fit a QB who wasn't a QB and actually win, not just regular season games, but a playoff game as well....man I hate the Broncos.
I leave Denver with this. I honestly feel that injuries will cripple this team. It won't take many either. The team is not deep due to poor drafting over the years. If they are healthy they should challenge for the AFC West crown and beyond (ground breaking statement I know). If the injury bug bites one of the few years with Manning will go to waste.
And if Manning isn't what Elway dreams about at night, or the injury bug strikes Peyton himself, the hole Denver finds itself in may be as deep as the one KC jumped into in 08.
8-8 two years in a row. Holy crap. Everybody better be watching for four guys on horses riding through the neighborhood and start getting right with Jesus.
Raiders fans love to trumpet the talent they have on their team. They are right. When healthy the Oakland Raiders can play with anyone in the league. But their roster is unbelievably thin.
No team in the league has mismanaged personnel as badly as the Raiders over the last decade. We already went down that road. No need to rehash it all.
There is light at the end of the tunnel though. McKenzie is changing the way Oakland does business. No more high priced free agents. No more drafting for style over substance. And all the right words are coming out of the front office.
The Raiders are coming back, just not this year in my opinion.
Is it possible the Raiders rise up and take the AFC West? Absolutely . Is it likely? Absolutely not.
The team is being gutted to a large extent. Oakland is not going through the wholesale firesale that KC went through. The flip side is that Oakland does not have 12 draft picks to start the process with either.
The changes in the squad are minor in comparison to the changes in the front office and staff. If you think 40+ years of Al Davis is going to go away in an off season you're in for a shock. I know Raider-nation loves Al but the issues with Oakland are as much about the Al's culture as anything else. That includes all that goes with it: the penalties, the attitude, and the on-field implosions.
KC only had Herm Edwards for 3 years before half the team was eating itself out of the league. The screams were heard round the entire mid-west when Haley came in with a different way of doing business.
Toss in a history of drafts from hell and the Raiders are going to have a hard time competing this year.
Sorry. Call em as I see em.
If any of the Bronco or Raiders fans are reading this, thank you for taking the time. I hope I helped you to see your teams in a different light. There's a lot of data here, feel free to take it and run with it for your respective teams.
The team I was most concerned with was San Diego, but wanted to take a brief look at Denver and Oakland as well.
I'm not going to claim II know a lot about your teams, certainly not enough to make any kind of bold statements about the future beyond "they've both had better drafts than San Diego and worse drafts than Kansas City from 2008-2010".
I do believe the entire AFC West is coming back after 10 years of bleh. See what happens when you let the Chargers out from under the stairs where they lived with the Seahawks for 20 years.Shame on us all for that.
Good luck. May your beer be cold, the games good and the Chiefs kick the ever loving #@% out of your team for the next 10 years. :)
I've done my best to be objective as I can throughout these posts, minus a verbal jab at the other teams in the division from time to time. I'm not really objective though. I am a Chief's fan through and through. So let me preface the rest of this piece by saying,
If you are a Chiefs fan and you're not excited about the direction this team is going you need to be flogged.
For the first time in a decade the Chiefs have "won" the draft or kept even with the other teams in the AFC West for 3 straight years. I'd put those three draft classes up against any team in the NFL.
Let's do just that. Here's the 08-10 draft classes when compared to the last three Super Bowl Winners using the same criteria as with the AFC West.
Man do I want to give 2010 to KC, but Pierre-Paul is an All Pro in his 2nd year. That's hard to ignore. For the sake of appearing objective I'll give it to New York.
But it ain't over New York.
The Green Bay class of 09 is simply outstanding. Especially when you take into account how ridiculously bad that draft was.
KC took 08 hands down.
Green Bay's class was world's away from everyone on that list, but KC's other draft classes from 08-10 make up for it. Simply put, the Chiefs 08-10 are on par with the elite teams in the league.
But the best part is, it doesn't matter if KC's draft classes are better than New Orleans, Green Bay or New York's. That will only matter if Kansas City meets them in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have to win a playoff game first.
What matters for the moment is out-drafting the rest of the AFC West and getting into the playoffs. KC has the out-drafting the AFC West part covered for 2008-2010. The rest is on the players and coaching staff.
So what does that guarantee for KC? Not a damn thing.
San Diego out-drafted the division and 99% of the league for a decade. No rings and a losing record in the playoffs to show for it.
Off the top of my head some potential problems that could get in the way within the division:
- KC is the worst in the division at the most important position.
- Peyton Manning is in the division.
- Oakland has had the Chief's number the last few years.
- San Diego is older, but still semi-loaded for bear with a Pro Bowl QB.
- And, as 2011 taught us, having the NFL All IR team just makes you graduate from beer to whiskey on game day.
I could go on listing hurdles till training camp and still miss a few.
Who thought the topic of importing women could help to cause distractions or that it was even a topic that could cause issues?
Gum wrappers anyone?
We didn't touch the draft class of 2011 and those guys are just as important as anyone else.
Houston looked good down the stretch, but not as good as Von Miller. Baldwin has flashed in OTA's and had a couple of spectacular grabs during the regular season. Denarius Moore has flashed just as often but in game situations as opposed to OTA's.
I will say that no pick from the 2011 San Diego class has flashed as much potential as the top performers from Oakland, Denver or Kansas City. 4 years of bad drafting? Friggin sweet. Take those powder blue jerseys and shove them up your...
But I digress.
The potholes that are lurking out there that could potentially derail the Chiefs are too numerous to mention and that's not what this is about anyway.
This is about the draft. And my friends, everything that can be done on that front has been done in terms of success. You can argue the individual picks but you can't argue that overall the Chief's front office has done a fine job of identifying talent to help the team.
Thank you Carl Peterson. I know I shredded you (and you deserved it), but you also laid the groundwork for what is to come.
Thank you Scott Pioli. I don't know if you're the warm, loving friend from War Games or the ruthless, micro-managing maniac from the newspaper reports. I don't particularly care. You have done a magnificent job in a short time as the GM when it comes to the draft. Thank you.
And thank you all for reading this, whatever kind of fan you are.
If you didn't know KC was coming, consider yourself informed.