The Urgency Index

We have entered the time of year when the term “best player available” dominates any draft conversations with NFL general managers. I personally find the BPA to be somewhat of a mythical and fuzzy character that is often more of a computer creation than an actual football player, kind of like building a player in Madden. There is not necessarily agreement across the league regarding the BPA. This makes it difficult to say with any certainty whether teams are sticking to the BPA strategy or drafting according to need. When a team drafts a so-called BPA, it is often the case that the player is really someone who is graded significantly different by one team than the consensus. For example, team A may have a player carrying a second round grade but he is still available in the fifth round. Team A may take him under the guise of a BPA but he is really just a player they value differently than the rest of the league. Despite what they may say, it seems to me that teams typically draft for need, and I think that is a good thing. Is Jameis Winston the BPA or the best prospect at a high value position that is a need for the team in line to draft him? The combination of need and position value likely moves Winston to the front of the line on draft day. Consistent with the concept of drafting for need, several years ago I began writing about something I dubbed the Urgency Index. This article updates that discussion. The concept embodied by the Index is that, when in doubt, a team should draft a player at a position of need for which there is the biggest disparity in results between a player drafted earlier and a player drafted later. The Index is the mechanism by which the differences are measured. I certainly agree with those who believe a team’s scouting department should be relied upon for their opinions. I also believe, though, that the Index has a place as a “tiebreaker” in the draft room when the decision makers are undecided between drafting a player at one playing position versus another. The current Index is based on historical information from the 1995 through 2009 drafts and compares the probability of drafting a five-year starter in a Draft Range with the probability of drafting a five-year starter in all later Draft Ranges. Draft Ranges are explained in the article “Breaking Down the NFL Draft” and are as follows: An Index value would be calculated only for the first seven Draft Ranges because there are no drafting alternatives for Draft Range 8. The Index would be calculated as follows:
  • The historical probability of drafting a five-year starter at a playing position in a Draft Range, divided by
  • The historical probability of drafting a five-year starter at that same playing position in all later Draft Ranges, times
  • 100
Fox example, 68.4% of cornerbacks drafted in Draft Range 2 became five-year starters, while 19.0% of cornerbacks drafted in Draft Ranges 3 through 8 achieved that milestone. The first step of the calculation is 68.4% divided by 19.0%, yielding a product of 3.6. The second step of the calculation is to multiply the 3.6 by 100 to arrive at an Urgency Index of 360. The following table sorts the indices by playing position within each Draft Range. A few notes should be made regarding the table:
  • NA denotes that no player at that position was selected in that Draft Range, making a calculation impossible
  • A higher Index means that history suggests there is more urgency to draft a player at that playing position in that Draft Range.
  • An Index of 100 means that players drafted later have the exact same level of success as those drafted in the current Draft Range.
  • An Index of less than 100 indicates that players drafted later have actually had more success than those in the current Draft Range.
    • The only position where the Index is lower than 100 is wide receiver in Draft Range 7, indicating that Draft Range 8 wide receivers have actually done better than Draft Range 7 wide receivers.
  • The sole purpose of the Index is to allow comparisons within a Draft Range
    • Any comparisons between or among Draft Ranges are useless
  • An Index is more meaningful with more data points
    • Quarterbacks have fewer data points than the other positions included in the Index
    • Draft Range has only 60 data points in total, so the Index is less helpful for the earl picks
So how is the table used? Let’s say that a team has needs at both wide receiver and corners and is considering equally rated players in Draft Range 2. The Index would say to select a wide receiver, (with an Urgency Index of 525), because it is more likely to land a corner, (with an Urgency Index of 360) later in the draft. There are situations where the Urgency Index preserves the tie. For example, in Draft Range 2, both defensive tackles and safeties have an Urgency Index of 383. In that case the Index tells us nothing and it is time to bring out the coin. Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics

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