Is there such a thing as a Safe First Round Pick?

Updated: April 30, 2015


With the recent draft history of the Cleveland Browns, many fans are clamoring for the Browns to go the safe route in the 2015 NFL draft. The question is; what does that mean? Is there such a thing as a safe first round pick?

I did a brief study of five recent NFL drafts to determine if there are positions that can be deemed safe or risky. The answer to the question is: kinda?

I took the first round picks from 2008 through 2013. I did not include 2013 and 2014 because those players are relatively new and the jury is still out for many of them. However, we have a pretty good idea of who the guys from 08-12 are by now. With the help of I was able to sort the draft picks into positional categories (QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DB, DE, DT, LB). Admittedly there is overlap. Many players play different positions, no more so than LB and DE. There are some rush linebackers in the DE and LB category.

From the data, I was able to determine a reliability score (games played vs total games possible), how many First Team All Pros and how many Pro Bowls. In addition, has some advanced stats called CarAV (Weighted Career Approximate Value) and DrAV (Approximate Value for the Drafting Team) that I factored in.

What did the data tell me? If you look at the reliability score along with how many different players made All Pro Teams and Pro Bowls the safest first round pick is… Defensive Back.

Reliability / All Pro / Pro Bowl
# Position Score
1 DB 2.7
2 LB 3.3
3 OL 3.7
4 DT 4.3
5 WR 4.7
6 TE 5.3
7 DE 5.7
T8 QB/RB 6.3
 Note: The lower the score the better

What happens if you layer in the CarAV and DrAV scores? Well QBs take a significant jump up the rankings because they impact the game so much. Conversely, DBs take a giant step down because their impact is less.

Overall Ranking
# Position Score
1 LB 2.8
2 OL 3.4
3 QB 4.2
T4 WR/DB 4.4
6 DT 4.6
7 RB 6.2
8 TE 6.4
9 DE 7.0

So what does this tell us? LBs and OL are pretty steady picks high in the draft while RBs, TEs and DEs offer the greatest risk. Frankly I’m a little surprised by the LB score but the OL score was what I expected.

For those of you who are beating the drum for the safest picks in the draft, how does Shane Ray at 12 and La’el Collins at 19 look to you?

Missouri Tennessee Football_24    ncf_i_laelcollins_ms_400x600

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