I conceived a simple system that ranks how NFL franchises value the different positions when it comes to the NFL Draft’s top-ten picks. I looked back at the drafts of the past decade. Then I assigned 10 points to each No. 1 overall pick, nine points to each No. 2 pick…all the way down to one point for the No. 10 pick. Afterward, I added the point totals up for each position and divided by ten (number of drafts). This gave me each position’s Positional Ranking Score; the higher the score, the more valuable the position.
The Positional Ranking Score shows which positions NFL front offices have valued the most over the past decade. After all, if a team is willing to burn a top-ten pick and a pile of cash on a player, that means they value both the player and his respective position tremendously. Here are the results using the 1999-2008 NFL Drafts…
1. Quarterback – 11.3 PRS
2. Wide Receiver – 7.9 PRS
3. Pass Rushers (Pass-Rushing LBs + DEs) – 7.4 PRS
3. Running Back – 7.3 PRS
4. Offensive Tackles – 7.2 PRS
5. Defensive Ends – 6.8 PRS
6. Defensive Tackles – 4.5 PRS
7. (tie) Cornerback – 2.9 PRS
7. (tie) Linebackers (PRLBs + NPRLBs) – 2.9 PRS
8. Non-Pass-Rushing Linebackers – 2.3 PRS
9. Saftey – 2.1 PRS
10. Tight End – 1.1 PRS
As you can see, there is a heavy emphasis on skill positions and protecting/rushing the QB. I have long believed that QB is the most important position in the NFL. This proves that the front offices of NFL franchises are in agreement with my theory. Wide receiver, pass rusher (as well as defensive end by itself), running back (not trending downward as much as you’d expect) and offensive tackles are also viewed as impact PRS positions (+5 PRS or higher).
Defensive tackle is close to being an impact PRS position, but misses the mark by .5 points. We’ll dub it the lone middle-value PRS position. Other positions miss by quite a bit, and are considered non-impact PRS positions. This is why past picks like Michael Huff (2.1 PRS) and Vernon Davis (1.1 PRS), and an upcoming pick like Aaron Curry (2.9 PRS even if you give him just LB) don’t make a lot of sense. Their positions just don’t hold top-ten value. This chart also shows why past picks like Jake Long (7.2 PRS) and Mario Williams (7.4 PRS) make so much sense. It also shows that Michael Crabtree (7.9 PRS) is probably undervalued heading into this weekend, and explains how someone like DE Tyson Jackson or LB Larry English could sneak into the top ten.
Now, there are always exceptions to the rule. But it’s my guess that NFL teams have some sort of rankings system like this one in order to both prevent them from picking a bust and overspending on a non-premium position.