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Broncos' Mock Draft Based on Hit-Rate Probabilities Gleaned via Analytics

Based on the hit-rate success of different positions in different rounds, here's a mock draft to give Broncos Country a little different experience.

Today's mock draft is the culmination of our draft analytics series as iterated by the three previous articles. With the vast amounts of data available, teams can be more calculated in the draft process to increase their chances of success. This is an attempt at using this philosophy in draft-day simulations.

I looked at the three potential scenarios for the Denver Broncos: standing pat, trading back in the first round, and trading up in the first round. I ran 50 draft simulations and decided how to proceed each time by weighing the probability of drafting an impact player and the success rate of taking a position of need at the selection spot.

Some simulations seemed unrealistic (such as two of the top-rated quarterbacks falling to the No. 9 selection. Simulations with those results were discarded. Below is how each of the mock draft scenarios turned out.

Standing Pat

  • Round 1: Rashawn Slater | OT | Northwestern
  • Round 2: Baron Browning | LB | Ohio State
  • Round 3: Tyson Campbell | CB | Georgia

A very high percentage of simulations in this scenario left me with the choice of offensive tackle or cornerback at pick 9. Both are areas that the Broncos need to address beyond the 2021 season. Offensive tackle has a higher success rate (64% vs 56%) than cornerback in the top-10, which made Slater the choice.

In the second round, nearly every simulation had Browning available at pick 40. Of the top needs the Broncos must address, linebacker has a significantly higher success rate (58%) in the early portion of Round 2 than edge rusher (47%), cornerback (31%), or safety (46%).

Standing pat in the draft will allow the Broncos to address their needs while not losing any draft capital. As seen in previous articles, the probability of selecting an impact player in this scenario is .51.

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Trading up

  • Round 1: Justin Fields | QB | Ohio State
  • Round 3: Elijah Molden | DB | Washington

The only position that should be targeted in a top-5 trade-up scenario is quarterback. In this simulation, Fields was often the available QB at selection pick 4. The trade moved the Broncos up from a .51 probability to a .62 probability of selecting an impact player in Round 1, but it cost the team its No. 40 pick and a 2022 second-round selection.

The Broncos will have a more difficult time finding success in the 2021 and 2022 drafts since they went from six selections to four in the top-3 rounds, but their probability will not change significantly because the team should move back to later picks in each of the rounds in 2022 if the quarterback can improve the team’s performance. The impact of a successful quarterback can make up the difference in lost draft capital and the hit rate on a QB in the top-10 is 63%.

Trading Back

  • Round 1: Teven Jenkins | OT | Oklahoma State
  • Round 2: Baron Browning | LB | Ohio State
  • Round 2: Asante Samuel, Jr. | CB | Florida State
  • Round 3: Jevon Holland | S | Oregon

The simulation netted many trade back options, but most meant the Broncos had to move from pick 9 to the 21-32 range. This scenario netted an additional second-round selection in 2021 and 2022, and a seventh-round selection in 2021.

Not a massive haul as many would think, but the Broncos increased their probability of selecting an impact player from .51 to .63, a significant gain. Offensive tackle is one of the positions that teams find success in late Round 1 (50%), higher than all but two positions (IOL 75% and ILB 57%). Interior offensive line is not a high need for the Broncos and there was no first-round linebacker here in these simulations to select.

Browning was again available at pick 40. Cornerback is a decent bet in late-Round 2 with a 43% success rate, so Samuel got the nod. Round 3 added Holland as safety has one of the best success rates in the third round at 44%.

The simulations provided many late-round options, but typically this is how the final rounds ended up.

  • Round 4: Patrick Jones | EDGE | Pittsburgh
  • Round 5: Rodarius Williams | CB | Oklahoma State
  • Round 6: Nick Eubanks | TE | Michigan
  • Round 7: Dan Moore | OT | Texas A&M and Chris Evans | RB | Michigan

The Broncos could use analytics to be more calculated in the draft and weigh the actual cost of trading up or actual gain of trading back on gameday. The probabilities of the potential scenarios should be done before draft day in preparation because 10 minutes doesn’t allow much time for crunching the numbers.

Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasHallNFL.

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