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Mailbag: Great draft class fallout

4/17/2010

Chris from Philadelphia writes: Firstly, I loved your past draft analysis piece, and I think it is a great attempt at trying to objectively evaluate these classes. My only suggestion and/or gripe is that having an MVP be worth eight points favors a little too much in draft classes where the star players are primarily offensive.

Rarely does a defensive player receive that award, and I'm curious if your results may or may not be a little skewed because of it. In fact, in several years, the same player won the MVP and offensive player of the year award (1972-77, 1979, 1981, 1983-85, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2004-2007).

My thoughts would be to limit the MVP to six points as well, and in years there are duplicates to only count that award once or limit the offensive player of the year to three points. These last thoughts were just some quick and crude ruminations.

Again, I really appreciated the article.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Chris. I tweaked point totals and recalculated throughout the process. I even ran a statistical correlation between various category totals and overall point totals. Like you, I wanted to know if any category was influencing the totals inappropriately.

Pro Bowls correlated most strongly. All-Pro honors also correlated strongly. The other awards weren't handed out enough to significantly alter the results. And I was certainly fine with Pro Bowls playing a large role in the grading. A player will get to a Pro Bowl undeservedly from time to time, but guys with six or eight or 10 appearances were almost always really, really good players.

To test your theory, I removed MVP and offensive player of the year points entirely, then recalculated the totals. The top five classes remained 1983, 1996, 1981, 1969 and 1985 -- in that order. The 1988 and 1989 classes were close behind.


Mark from Arlington, Va., writes: I'm not even a Rams fan, but in the most-likely-to-end-up-in-Canton list, you don't include Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt? Huge omissions!!! Those guys are in!! Period. Do you have something against the Rams? Go take a look at their stats. Also, keep in mind that they had to share one ball. Pro Bowls? Super Bowls? C'mon. This throws a wrench in your findings if you ask me.

Mike Sando: A year ago, I wondered how Cris Carter fell short of the Hall of Fame. Then I became a Hall of Fame voter. Now I know. You don't assume these guys will get into the Hall of Fame just because they put up big numbers. Receiving numbers have suffered from inflation. There's a line of thinking that says we need to get more receivers into the Hall, and perhaps it's a matter of time. But it's also a matter of opportunity and some of the non-receivers are stronger candidates. Bruce and Holt may have put up Hall of Fame-type numbers, but that doesn't get them in automatically. Carter can attest to that.


Brendan from Inwood, W.Va., writes: Mr. Sando, in your 1985 draft, you did not mention the two supplemental picks, specifically Bernie Kosar -- a first-rounder who started half-way through his rookie campaign, where he led Cleveland to the playoffs. He had multiple playoff appearances in his career, appeared in a Pro Bowl, had the best passer rating in the AFC one year, and has the record for the most passes without throwing an interception. Not to mention he led the Browns to three AFC championship games and could easily have made it to two Super Bowls, and indeed helped the 1993 Cowboys in the NFC Championship game making his first super bowl appearance to run out the clock. Just thought that he should be mentioned. Have a great week!

Mike Sando: Nothing against Kosar, but we didn't evaluate supplemental draft choices. Supplemental drafts are separate from regular NFL drafts.


Dan from Tacoma writes: One thing you seemed to forget in rating the draft is to take into account player careers shortened by injury. One example was Derrick Burroughs from the 1985 draft. His career ended during the fifth season with the Bills due to a spinal-cord injury.

You wonder if Buffalo had him along with Nate Odomes, another corner whose career was shortened after he moved from Buffalo to Seattle via free agency, where he ended his career due to repeated knee injuries. Had Burroughs been with the Bills through their Super Bowl run, the Bills would have won at at least one of them. Nate Odomes with the Bills was considered the top among corners in the NFL in the early 90s. Where was 1987 in your rankings?

Mike Sando: Burroughs and Odomes were indeed good players. I'm thinking the injuries evened out across classes. Kenny Easley was on his way to a Hall of Fame career and probably could have racked up five or six more good seasons for the 1981 class if kidney failure hadn't ended his career prematurely.

The 1987 class ranked 15th in point total.


Dan from Greenville, S.C., writes: In discussing the Class of 1981, you omitted (perhaps purposely) the Kansas City great Deron Cherry. A six-time Pro Bowler and a member of the All-Decade team of the 1980s should warrant mention. But, inexplicably, he was not drafted, so I guess you had to draw the line somewhere. But I think he warrants some mention among the late-round steals.

Mike Sando: Consider him mentioned, Dan. It's not his fault he wasn't drafted, but in assessing draft classes, we did limit the field to drafted players.

This issue came up with another good player from the 1981 class. When I spoke with Ronnie Lott, he was rattling off names of top defenders from that class. He mentioned Everson Walls and my ears perked up because I knew he wasn't someone I had considered.

At first, I wondered if I had made an oversight. But then I looked up Walls and confirmed that he was not drafted. Four more Pro Bowls out the window for the 1981 class.


Chuck from Pittsburgh writes: Mike, your article, while interesting has absolutely no credibility. When you leave out the 1974 draft and include drafts with two or zero Hall of Famers, your left coast bias comes through loud and clear. Still a little bitter about the Whinehawks -- er Seahawks' -- lone Super Bowl appearance?

Mike Sando: The Steelers had a great draft in 1974. This project was about great draft classes across the board, not just in Pittsburgh. The 1974 draft class produced a combined 68 Pro Bowl appearances. Twenty-four other drafts since 1967 produced more.


Ryan from Denver writes: Hi Mike, I enjoyed your aticle on the 1983 draft class. Was curious as to why you award points (2) for Rookie of the Year awards. Doesn't every draft class have one (and only one) rookie of the year? Have a good one!

Mike Sando: I had the same thought when I received the spreadsheet from ESPN Stats & Information. Turns out the 1980 draft class had two rookies of the year on defense, Buddy Curry and Al Richardson. Those extra two points didn't make a difference in the end.