The Vikings have a reputation for drafting at a very high level, particularly in recent years. Thanks to a new tool from Dan Morse, we can see exactly how well they've done in comparison to the rest of the NFL. Spoiler alert: it's quite impressive.
Morse's Draft Value Over Expectation tool uses Pro Football Reference's "Approximate Value" statistic to show if a draft class exceeded or fell short of what was expected at the time. I don't entirely understand the formula for how AV works, but it's PFR's way to put a single number on any players' contributions in a given season.
The Vikings have led the league in AVOE in each of the past two drafts, and three out of the last six. Here's how they've fared in every year since Mike Zimmer was hired:
It's important to keep in mind that these rankings aren't based on total AV. The Vikings' 2019 class, for example, hasn't been the most productive group in the NFL. But that class has exceeded expectations more than any other team's 2019 draftees. Using AVOE instead of pure AV allows classes to be adjusted for the quality of a team's picks, positional value of players, and how PFR viewed the picks when they happened.
Being in the top 11 in AVOE in six of the past seven years is excellent. The 2015 class obviously shattered expectations due to the success of Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Stefon Diggs. The 2019 group has gotten contributions above expectation from players like Garrett Bradbury, Alexander Mattison, and Bisi Johnson. And Justin Jefferson led the way in last year's draft class. The 2019 and 2020 classes have plenty of work to do to remain in the top spot going forward, but it's encouraging to see.
Then there's the 2016 class, which might be the biggest blemish on Rick Spielman's resume. That was the year of Laquon Treadwell and Willie Beavers.
Going back a little further, here are all of the Vikings' drafts since Spielman arrived in 2006 (he didn't become GM until 2012, but still played a major role in the process before that). After a poor stretch from 2010 to 2013 –– at least relative to expectations –– the Vikings have gotten back to exceeding expectations.
The tool goes back to 1989, and the Vikings also led the league in AVOE in 1992 and 1998.
This data is far from perfect or all-telling, for several reasons. AV is a very confusing stat, and it's unclear how the predicted AV is calculated. But it's an interesting look at how successful the Vikings have been in getting the most out of their drafts in recent years.
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