Draft analysis: Keeping what they covet?

Some teams have the draft mojo in the last five years and some don't. Our look at the draft continues by analyzing which teams are able to plug-and-play the talent they select and which ones have the most player fizzle out of the league. Some results are surprising.

What makes an effective war room? If somebody could answer that question, the draft wouldn't be such an annual turkey shoot in which winners and losers can be projected that very weekend even though it typically takes three years to truly evaluate any draft class.

However, there are formulas that can determine who knows what they're doing and who doesn't. The biggest factors can be formulated into a relatively simple equation. Take the total number of picks a team has and determine how many of their full-time starters came from the draft. Also, how many draftees remain with the team? Another factor can be the players who are no longer with the team, but still in the NFL. This can point to either a player wanting out of an organization when his first contract comes up or another team finding use where the drafted team couldn't or didn't. Finally, there is the easiest sign for organizations that are clueless – the number of their draftees that are no longer in the NFL.

The Vikings, unfortunately, have not fared too well in this regard despite some recent success. What follows is a breakdown of the last five years of NFL drafts. Each team is assigned numbers in five categories. They are: total picks, full-time starters, backups on the team, playing for other NFL teams, or out of football as of 2008. Here is that list.

THE LIST
Team-Tot-St-Ba-OT-Out

Arizona – 33-11-11-7-4
Atlanta – 42-9-13-7-13
Baltimore – 42-9-15-5-13
Buffalo – 38-11-13-3-11
Carolina – 40-9-15-10-6
Chicago – 42-7-15-8-12
Cincinnati – 44-8-13-6-17
Cleveland – 36-10-10-6-10
Dallas – 38-6-17-10-5
Denver – 36-8-11-5-12
Detroit – 36-5-15-5-11
Green Bay – 49-12-17-10-10
Houston – 36-9-11-5-11
Indianapolis – 44-12-15-8-9
Jacksonville – 40-13-11-4-12
Kansas City – 42-12-13-5-12
Miami – 44-11-13-6-14
Minnesota – 34-5-13-7-9
New England – 41-11-10-8-12
New Orleans – 34-8-13-6-7
N.Y. Giants – 33-10-15-4-4
N.Y. Jets – 38-8-12-11-7
Oakland – 39-7-16-8-8
Philadelphia – 47-10-16-10-11
Pittsburgh – 41-9-14-9-9
St. Louis – 44-11-13-6-14
San Diego – 38-14-13-4-7
San Francisco – 45-11-18-5-11
Seattle – 37-10-15-5-7
Tampa Bay – 47-8-14-13-12
Tennessee – 51-7-20-12-12
Washington – 31-7-12-4-8

One of the first things to notice about the Vikings is that they have a history of packaging picks to move up. Over the last five years, they have made just 34 picks. Only three teams – the Cardinals (33), Giants (33) and Redskins have made fewer picks. Who clearly stockpiles picks? Tennessee tops the list with 51 draft picks, followed by Green Bay (49), Philadelphia (47) and Tampa Bay (47). These are teams that have clearly shown a willingness to trade players for picks or trade down to amass more selections – something to keep an eye on draft weekend when they are on the clock.

The Vikings are also dubiously at the bottom of one of the categories – current starters on the roster. Exactly half of the NFL's 32 teams have produced 10 or more of their starters from the draft over the last five years, led by San Diego with a whopping 14 starters. The Vikings only had five full-time starters last year drafted within the last five years – and four of those came from the same draft (Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook and Ray Edwards to go along with 2007 first-rounder Adrian Peterson). The only other team with that low of a starter total from recent drafts is the hapless Detroit Lions. While the numbers don't take into account trades like the one the Vikings made to get Jared Allen, when half the league has produced more than twice as many starters as you and nobody has less, that can't be overly comforting.

The news doesn't get much better when you combine the starters and the backups that have been produced in the draft. The Packers and 49ers lead the league in that respect. Of the 53 players on their rosters last year, 29 of them were players that were drafted by Green Bay and San Francisco in the last five years. Of the 44 picks made by Indianapolis, 27 of them are still on the team, while 27 of San Diego's 38 picks are still with the Chargers organization – an outstanding percentage of 75 percent. The Vikings are once again at the bottom in that category – which ranks them last in the league with just 18 players – five starters and 13 reserves. Some other teams came close – Washington had 19 with seven fewer picks, Denver also had 19 and the Browns, Lions, Texans and Jets each have 20. Even so, with the exception of the Lions and Redskins (fewer picks), each of the other teams have produced eight or more starters for their team total.

There's something to be said about having players you drafted wind up on other teams that just doesn't seem right. Your team invests in them, yet someone else has a use for them or stole them away as four-year free agents in 2008. Either way, it doesn't bode really well for the team involved. It says either the player wanted out of the organization or management didn't see any reason to keep him. Bad form all the way around. Not surprisingly, a couple of teams with the most picks over the last five years – Tennessee and Tampa Bay – top the list with 13 and 12, respectively. The Vikings are in the middle of the pack with seven. The teams to note here are the ones with extremely low totals – Buffalo has just three players on other teams and four others – the Giants, Jaguars, Redskins and Chargers have four.

Finally, the last column represents the swings and misses that a franchise made – a draft pick that they made a mistake on and the rest of the league has clearly agreed. It's one thing to lose players to other teams, but to have a player you drafted unwanted by any of the other 31 teams is a list you don't want any part of. The Vikings fared pretty well with a representative number. Of their 34 picks, only nine are no longer in football. The best in this regard? The Denny Green-drafted Cardinals. Of their 33 picks, only four are out of football. Close behind was Dallas (five of 38) and Carolina (six of 40). The worst, which should come as no surprise, are the Bengals. Of their 44 draft picks, 17 of them (42.5 percent) are no longer playing in the NFL. Denver sneaks in on their right. Although their total is lower than teams like Miami and St. Louis (14 of 44 players out of the league) Atlanta and Baltimore (both with 13 of 42), Denver's 12 players out of the league comes from just 36 picks – one out of every three. They haven't had much to work with and have squandered that.

If you look at these teams, you find a lot of turmoil. Scott Linehan has been involved with two of the implosions, Mike Shanahan got fired in Denver, and both Miami and Atlanta had brief, ugly tenures with college coaches who wanted to go back to the college game after one year. Those can lead to bad drafts.

In the end, the numbers that should matter most is how many of your draftees are still on the team. That is the purpose of the draft and some seem to do that much better than others – and some of the answers may be surprising. Who has the best war room? My vote has to go the Giants, who have lost just eight of their 33 picks over the last five years and still have 25 of them. Next are the Chargers (losing only 11 of 38 picks) and Arizona (keeping 22 of 33 picks). The Vikings are in the lower middle of the pick by still having 18 of their 34 picks. Most teams are slightly over half in that category and only two no longer have more than half of their draft picks. One, as you would likely guess, is Cincinnati. Of their 44 draft picks in the last five years, 21 remain and 23 are gone. But they're not the worst. That goes to Tampa Bay. The Bucs have made 47 picks in that span and 25 of them are gone. No wonder Jon Gruden got the hook and his players were glad. Most of them were outsiders anyway.

As a final thought, who was third on the list for worst success in keeping draftees? The Patriots. Of their 41 picks the last five years, only 21 are still on the team. Wearing his genius credential card under his hoodie, Bill Belichick's gospel has spread throughout the league the last three or four years. But he's as hit-and-miss on drafting talent as just about anyone. Who would have thought the Brilliant Bill could learn a thing or two from Denny Green about drafting?

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