It does seem at times as though everybody has an opinion about the NFL Draft, and many of them believe that they have unique insights that get them closer to the truth. Analytics continue to be an expanding business within football coverage, and ESPN has been among its participants, though it hasn’t necessarily been highly publicized.
Over the weekend, their Next Gen Stats made the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class as being among the best in the league for 2020, in fact, ranked tied for third with the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans. Only the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts were considered to have done better with what they had.
“The Next Gen Stats Draft Model analyzes historical college performance data to represent a player’s production in a single score based on the metrics that best predict NFL success”, the graphic posted on Twitter reads. Athleticism and production appear to be what the model values.
The Ravens, Titans, and Steelers were all given a score of 74, while the Colts scored a 75, and Broncos at 77. According to their model, a 74 is at the top end of the ‘below average’ class, while 75 and up (I’m guessing to 89) represents ‘good’, with the tiers above and below those two being ‘elite’ and ‘poor’.
So according to this, only two teams in the league produced a draft class that was not below average, if these scores represent the five best marks in the league, and needless to say, that isn’t saying much. All of the teams are from the AFC, while two are from the North and two from the South, with the best class coming from the West.
The Steelers did draft some athletes this year, like Chase Claypool and Anthony McFarland, as well as seventh-round defensive tackle Carlos Davis. Alex Highsmith had the college production, albeit at a small school, while Kevin Dotson had a lot of starting experience. Claypool’s 13 receiving touchdowns in 2019 was among the most in college football last year.
The long and short of this post is that we have here just another meaningless data point that isn’t going to tell us whether anybody the Steelers drafted will be successful or not. But at least this one is optimistic—or feels better about their class than most of the others in the league, even if it’s still rated below average.
Final Top 5 Draft Classes by Overall Draft Score
The #Broncos, #Colts, #Ravens, #Titans and #Steelers prioritized athleticism and production throughout the draft, as represented by average overall draft score of their class according to the Next Gen Stats draft model.#NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/8Xqe01F0wG
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) April 25, 2020