A DECADE OF DRAFTING OUR STUDY OF THE NFL DRAFT REVEALS ITS UPS AND DOWNS, AND CHOICES BOTH BRILLIANT AND BOTCHED

July 15, 1997

At the conclusion of our exhaustive statistical examination of
every NFL draft of the past decade, one team emerged atop the
list as the best selector of collegiate talent. Guess who. The
49ers? Nope. The Cowboys? Wrong again. Try the Detroit Lions.
Yes, we too were shocked. But the Lions ranked near the top in
each of four categories (games played and games started by a
draftee for the team that chose him, and total games played and
started by a draftee), and from 1987 to '96, Detroit selected
six players who went on to the Pro Bowl--Jerry Ball, Bennie
Blades, Herman Moore, Dan Saleaumua, Barry Sanders and Chris
Spielman. The trouble with the Lions, who are 72-87 since '87,
is that though they're good at identifying talent, they're not
so good at holding on to it. Ball, Blades, Saleaumua and
Spielman will hang their helmets elsewhere in 1997.

The Redskins, meanwhile, have not only drafted poorly but have
held on to their poor picks. Washington was below the league
average in all four categories, and only Carolina, Jacksonville
and Tampa Bay had fewer draftees named to the Pro Bowl. (The
Panthers and Jaguars did not begin drafting players until 1995,
so they were exempted from the overall ratings.)

All teams make mistakes, but when they do so in the first round,
it sticks out like a sore thumb. Still, for every first-round
blunder like the Raiders' Todd Marinovich or the Dolphins'
Sammie Smith, there is a late-round discovery like the Broncos'
Terrell Davis or Shannon Sharpe. The charts on the following
pages show which teams have been the best at distinguishing
Sharpes from Smiths, foretelling who will be a gem and who will
be a lemon.

TEN YEARS OF PICKS: HOW THEY STACK UP

In rating the drafting prowess of each of the 30 NFL teams, we
evaluated the 2,968 players selected from 1987 to 1996. Players
were given credit for playing in games, starting games and
appearing in the Pro Bowl. These figures were then weighted and
combined to calculate an overall score, with a total of 100.0
assigned to the top team.

[1] Total no. of picks
[2] Avg. no. of games played for team by draftees
[3] Avg. no. of games played in NFL by draftees
[4] Avg. no. of starts for team by draftees
[5] Avg. no. of starts in NFL by draftees
[6] Pro Bowl appearances by draftees
OVERALL
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] SCORE

Detroit Lions 92 9.57 12.65 5.70 7.39 20 100.0
Dallas Cowboys 114 8.40 12.55 4.94 7.24 44 96.7
Pittsburgh Steelers 116 9.47 12.43 5.17 6.78 24 95.2
Philadelphia Eagles 97 9.39 12.45 5.10 6.61 20 90.5
Miami Dolphins 106 8.82 12.80 5.59 7.45 16 88.8
Buffalo Bills 111 9.63 13.16 5.30 7.13 14 73.2
Arizona Cardinals 117 7.49 11.92 4.61 6.78 16 72.1
Kansas City Chiefs 96 8.50 11.70 4.09 5.21 20 71.0
San Francisco 49ers 89 8.64 13.24 3.97 5.72 16 69.4
New England Patriots 122 9.43 12.73 5.56 7.03 13 66.5
Denver Broncos 102 8.91 12.46 4.01 5.44 16 66.3
San Diego Chargers 116 8.52 12.36 4.55 6.46 15 62.2
Green Bay Packers 116 9.56 12.77 5.29 7.28 12 60.9
Oakland Raiders 84 10.09 11.75 5.02 5.67 14 60.1
Seattle Seahawks 94 9.99 12.62 6.33 7.61 7 58.0
Baltimore Ravens* 88 8.57 13.03 4.37 7.06 12 51.8
Tennessee Oilers 112 8.61 12.58 4.34 5.70 13 48.2
Indianapolis Colts 100 9.23 12.71 4.87 6.76 11 48.0
Cincinnati Bengals 109 9.79 11.80 4.64 5.68 7 32.9
New Orleans Saints 107 9.01 12.55 4.28 5.76 7 31.2
Chicago Bears 114 10.07 12.30 4.91 5.54 6 27.0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 117 8.37 12.83 5.37 8.23 2 24.4
Atlanta Falcons 95 7.76 11.78 3.77 5.41 9 22.8
New York Giants 108 9.31 12.63 4.68 6.27 4 22.7
New York Jets 103 8.76 12.11 4.63 6.32 4 19.4
Minnesota Vikings 95 7.94 12.24 4.38 6.54 4 17.1
St. Louis Rams 114 7.94 12.00 4.02 5.97 5 13.8
Washington Redskins 92 8.04 11.58 3.95 5.50 3 0.0
Carolina Panthers 21 11.10 11.10 5.90 5.90 0 N.A.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20 8.83 9.13 5.39 5.39 0 N.A.

*Before 1996, the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns

GEMS: BEST PICKS BY ROUND, OFFENSE

Round Pos. College Year Pick Team

1 Emmitt Smith RB Florida '90 17 Cowboys
2 Thurman Thomas RB Oklahoma State '88 40 Bills
3 Curtis Martin RB Pittsburgh '95 74 Patriots
4 Chris Warren RB Ferrum (Va.) '90 89 Seahawks
5 Ben Coates TE Livingstone (N.C.)'91 124 Patriots
6 Terrell Davis RB Georgia '95 196 Broncos
7 Shannon Sharpe TE Savannah State '90 192 Broncos
8 Kevin Gogan T Washington '87 206 Cowboys
9 Terry Allen RB Clemson '90 241 Vikings
10 Curtis Duncan WR Northwestern '87 258 Oilers
11 Howard Ballard T Alabama A&M '87 283 Bills
12 Keenan McCardell WR UNLV '91 326 Redskins
Supp.Cris Carter* WR Ohio State '87 N.A. Eagles

BEST PICKS FROM SMALL SCHOOLS

Pos. College Year Round Pick Team

1 Shannon Sharpe TE Savannah State '90 7 192 Broncos
2 Chris Warren RB Ferrum '90 4 89 Seahawks
3 Erik Williams T Central State(Ohio)'91 3 70 Cowboys
4 Ben Coates TE Livingstone '91 5 124 Patriots
5 Tony Martin WR Mesa State (Colo.) '89 5 126 Jets
6 Larry Allen G Sonoma State '94 2 46 Cowboys
(Calif.)
7 Christian Okoye RB Azusa Pacific '87 2 35 Chiefs
(Calif.)
8 Leon Lett DT Emporia State '91 7 173 Cowboys
(Kans.)
9 Lee Woodall LB West Chester (Pa.) '94 6 182 49ers
10 Greg Lloyd LB Fort Valley State '87 6 150 Steelers
(Ga.)

BEST PICKS BY ROUND, DEFENSE

Round Pos. College Year Pick Team

1 Derrick Thomas LB Alabama '89 4 Chiefs
2 Chris Spielman LB Ohio State '88 29 Lions
3 Aeneas Williams DB Southern '91 59 Cardinals
4 William Thomas LB Texas A&M '91 105 Eagles
5 Bryan Cox LB Western Illinois '91 113 Dolphins
6 Bryce Paup LB Northern Iowa '90 159 Packers
7 Leon Lett DT Emporia State '91 173 Cowboys
8 Blaine Bishop DB Ball State '93 214 Oilers
9 Jeff Cross DE Missouri '88 239 Dolphins
10 Brian Washington DB Nebraska '88 272 Browns
11 Richard Harvey LB Tulane '89 305 Bills
12 Tyrone Braxton DB North Dakota State'87 334 Broncos
Supp. Darren Mickell* DE Florida '92 N.A. Chiefs

MAKING 'EM COUNT

These numbers indicate which teams had the highest and lowest
percentage of draftees to go on to play at least one game in the
NFL.

Total Picks who
The Best Picks Played Pct.

1 Steelers 116 96 82.8
2 Lions 92 74 80.4
3 Oilers 112 90 80.4
4 Bengals 109 86 78.9
5 Falcons 95 73 76.8

The Worst

1 Packers 116 76 65.5
2 Seahawks 94 62 66.0
3 Redskins 92 61 66.3
4 Panthers 21 14 66.7
5 Patriots 122 84 68.9

GETTING BETTER

To determine which teams have most improved their drafting in
recent years, we split the past decade into two periods and
looked at each team's percentage of draftees in each five-year
period who went on to play at least one NFL game. These are the
teams that had the greatest increase in the percentage of
draftees who played.

Percentage of Draft Picks Who Played

The Best 1987-91 1992-96 Diff.

1 Saints 62.9 88.9 +26.0
2 Giants 62.5 86.4 +23.9
3 Eagles 64.0 87.2 +23.2
4 Bills 59.3 80.8 +21.5
5 Buccaneers 66.2 87.0 +20.8

LEMONS: THE WORST PICKS OF ALL
Drafting
Pos. College Year Round Pick Team

1 Mike Junkin LB Duke '87 1 5 Browns
2 Todd Marinovich QB USC '91 1 24 Raiders
3 Huey Richardson DE Florida '91 1 15 Steelers
4 Sammie Smith RB Florida State '89 1 9 Dolphins
5 Kelly Stouffer QB Colorado State '87 1 6 Cardinals
6 Blair Thomas RB Penn State '90 1 2 Jets
7 Andre Ware QB Houston '90 1 7 Lions
8 Dan McGwire QB San Diego State'91 1 16 Seahawks
9 Brian Bosworth* LB Oklahoma '87 Supp.N.A. Seahawks
10 David Klingler QB Houston '92 1 6 Bengals

Games with Games
Drafting team in NFL
[Mike Junkin] 15 20
[Todd Marinovich] 8 8
[Huey Richardson] 5 16
[Sammie Smith] 34 37
[Kelly Stouffer] 0 22
[Blair Thomas] 51 64
[Andre Ware] 13 13
[Dan McGwire] 12 13
[Brian Bosworth] 24 24
[David Klingler] 31 32

MAKING IT PAY
Starts Starts
for for
Drafting Drafting Other
Pos. College Year Team Team Teams

1 Brett Favre QB Southern Miss. '91 Falcons 0 77
2 Cornelius Bennett LB Alabama '87 Colts 0 141
3 Steve Wisniewski G Penn State '89 Cowboys 0 126
4 Jeff Blake QB East Carolina '92 Jets 0 41
5 Dan Saleaumua DT Arizona State '87 Lions 0 116
6 Jimmy Spencer DB Florida '91 Redskins 0 51
7 Jay Leeuwenburg C Colorado '92 Chiefs 0 55
8 Shawn Jefferson WR Central Florida'91 Oilers 0 54
9 Stevon Moore DB Mississippi '89 Jets 0 67
10 Yancey Thigpen WR Winston-Salem '91 Chargers 1 23
State

PICKING EARLY (IN ROUNDS 1 THROUGH 5)

Early Pct. making Early Pct. making
THE BEST Picks Pro Bowl THE WORST Picks Pro Bowl

1 Cowboys 70 15.7 1 Vikings 48 2.1
2 Steelers 58 15.5 2 Buccaneers 60 3.3
3 49ers 46 15.2 3 Jets 50 4.0
4 Eagles 49 12.2 4 Redskins 42 4.8
5 Browns/Ravens 42 11.9 5 Rams 60 5.0

PICKING LATE (AFTER ROUND 5)

Pct. playing Pct. playing
at Least at Least
Late three years Late three years
THE BEST Picks Or still active THE WORST Picks Or still active

1 Oilers 52 44.2 1 Packers 58 20.7
2 Steelers 59 44.1 2 Bears 57 21.1
3 Falcons 51 43.1 3 Broncos 56 23.2
4 Dolphins 55 36.4 4 Patriots 54 24.1
5 Giants 55 36.4 5 Vikings 47 25.5

GETTING WORSE

To determine which teams have regressed in their drafting in
recent years, we split the past decade into two periods and
looked at each team's percentage of draftees in each five-year
period who went on to play at least one NFL game. These are the
teams that had the greatest decline--or smallest increase--in
the percentage of draftees who played.

Percentage of Draft Picks Who Played

The Worst 1987-91 1992-96 Diff.

1 Broncos 73.2 71.7 -1.5
2 Falcons 77.2 76.3 -0.9
3 Seahawks 66.1 65.8 -0.3
4 Cowboys 74.2 75.0 +0.8
5 Browns/Ravens 68.6 70.3 +1.6

*Supplemental draft pick: a player who has lost or forgone his
college eligibility after the regular draft. NFL teams,
selecting in the same order as in the regular draft, may choose
these players but must give up their rights to draft in the
corresponding rounds of the next regular draft.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS [Hand giving thumbs-up; Hand giving thumbs-down] COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON (2) Marinovich (far left) and Smith (third from left) were duds for the Raiders and the Dolphins, respectively, but Davis, Denver's sixth-round pick in '95, was a steal and Moore (above) is one reason the Lions landed atop our list. [Todd Marinovich] COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [See caption above--Sammie Smith] COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON (2) [See caption above--Terrell Davis] COLOR PHOTO: DAVID STLUKA [See caption above--Herman Moore] COLOR PHOTO [Gemstone] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Shannon Sharpe] COLOR PHOTO: ALLEN KEE/BRSP [Larry Allen] COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES [William Thomas] COLOR PHOTO [Lemon] COLOR PHOTO: ANTHONY NESTE [Blair Thomas] COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY [David Klingler] COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS [Brett Favre]
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)