Following the NFL Draft, there's a gargantuan amount of hope in each fan base that all rookies will have success. Fans desire that success and the optimism that comes from hope drives conversation throughout training camp.
Hope is wonderful. Reality, oftentimes, is not.
It is often harsh and for many rookies, it can be devastating. The reality of the NFL is that many draftees don’t pan out. Some don’t even make a roster when September rolls around.
Odds are, one or more of the Denver Broncos' 2020 draft class either won’t make a contribution to the team or will be on the outside looking in when the final cuts are made. Analytics suggest that some position groups are more likely to make a final roster and get regular-season game time.
What does the analytics say about the Broncos crop of new rookies? Here's what I've learned.
In the last 10 years, there has only been one first-round selection that has not been credited with appearing a game in the NFL. That player is Jonah Williams. He was drafted in 2019 by the Cincinnati Bengals and ended up on injured reserve before the season started.
Since it was so recent, Williams has not had a game under his belt, but if he stays healthy, he will be on the Bengals' final roster in 2020. It is a foregone conclusion that Broncos' first-rounder Jerry Jeudy will make the roster and be a contributor in the future. If it didn't unfold that way, it would have to be nearly unbelievable.
Days 1 & 2 Picks Have it Made in the Shade
As for Day 2 selections, the chances of them not making the team is extremely low. The highest percentage of players who did not get credited with a single game in the NFL is quarterback at 8.7%.
The Broncos did not select a quarterback on Day 2, but they did take a wide receiver, a defensive tackle, a cornerback, and a center. The percentages of those positions not credited with appearing in at least one game are 2.2%, 1.3%, 1.1%, and 3.5%, respectively. This bodes well for KJ Hamler, Michael Ojemudia, Lloyd Cushenberry, and McTelvin Agim.
It's safe to say that all the Day 1 and 2 draft picks will be on the team. Those selected on Day 3, however, are at risk. On average, 14.7% of all players selected from rounds 4-7 don’t play a game in the NFL.
Certain positions are more likely to stick than others. With the Broncos selecting a tight end, linebacker, guard, wide receiver and edge rusher in rounds 4-7, the next part of the analysis will focus on those positions.
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE
The Broncos selected Okwuegbunam in round four. Of all the Day 3 positions selected by the Broncos, tight end is the most likely to make the team. Only 10.5% of TEs, have been credited with zero games in the NFL.
Justin Strnad, LB
Next, Denver snagged the linebacker in round five. The good news is that linebackers' chances of making the team are similar to tight ends at 10.8%. Strnad has a solid chance of making the team due to special teams contributions.
Netane Muti, OG
A guard, Muti came in round six. This is where it gets bleaker. Interior offensive linemen are second to only quarterbacks in getting credited with appearing in zero games in the NFL at 25.5% for Day 3 players. This is significantly higher than the mean. Of all Day 3 selections the Broncos made, the analytics indicate that Muti is the most at risk for not making the team.
Tyrie Cleveland, WR & Derek Tuszka, Edge
In round seven, the Broncos took a wide receiver and an edge rusher. Day 3 WRs are at the mean with 14.7% not making the final roster while edge rushers are above the mean at 17.4%. Either way, both players are at some risk of not making the team, based on analytics.
Now let’s examine GM John Elway’s track record. Only one player he has selected in rounds 4-7 at the above positions has been credited with appearing in zero games — interior lineman Phillip Blake. That alone doesn’t bode well for Muti.
Digging a little deeper, the good news is that out of six interior OL Elway has drafted, three have become starters. That is a solid ray of hope for Muti.
Elway has also hit on the LB and TE positions on Day 3. His worst position for high-caliber players is on Day 2 at wide receiver.
Elway has only drafted one edge rusher late and that player has bounced around the league. However, Elway has shown a knack for finding edge rushers in the college free-agent ranks.
Least Likely to Make it: Tyrie Cleveland
Predicting which players will stick and those that won’t is nearly impossible. There are so many surprises from years past that can be used as an example of late-round gems defying the odds. On a macro level, it is less difficult to point to players who are at risk of not making the team.
Muti seems like the obvious choice here, but with Elway’s track record of finding those diamonds in the rough on the interior O-line later in the draft, it is not so obvious. When Elway misses at IOL, he misses big, but the hits have been stellar.
Believe it or not, the player who is at the most risk of not making the team is Cleveland. Fans can hope Cleveland does find a way to make it and he might, but the odds aren't in his favor.