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Notes: Brad Holmes’ draft efficiency could do wonders for Lions’ inconsistency

New GM Brad Holmes comes from a club that drafted (sorta) great even late.

2011 NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

It is going to take some time for the Detroit Lions fanbase to get to know newly-hired general manager Brad Holmes, and our fearless leader Jeremy Reisman has been on the hunt for as much information as possible. Here’s a really interesting find by our managing editor while looking at a draft efficiency table from Football Outsiders:

In a previous article, Jeremy noted that the Rams traded away their early picks and still managed to find a lot of useful talent in their draft classes. What Jeremy references in his tweet above is a table from Benjamin Ellinger’s guest article on Football Outsiders titled “NFL Drafting Efficiency, 2010-2019.” In the article, Ellinger states that the total “value” of draft picks available to each team is measured by Chase Stuart’s draft value chart to convert pick positions into a single metric. The outcomes of the players actually selected are taken to be normalized approximate value generated across the players’ careers. With a cost (the draft chart value of the picks) and benefit (average value generated) in hand, Ellinger plots out the cost-benefit ratios for every team.

It is a good thing Jeremy highlighted the Rams in bright yellow, because I was looking for “STL” in the left-most column. Anyway, when you look at the Rams before Holmes took over in 2013 versus the years prior when he was a national scout or an area scout with less influence, there is a pretty sharp jump. Now, we are not going to do a formal difference-in-difference, but the before and after is pretty obvious. It’s pretty interesting to see how the Rams never struck it exceptionally big aside from Aaron Donald, but consistently got decent value; arguably just one “bad” draft since Holmes has been the director of college scouting (2016’s 71%).

The detailed tables in Ellinger’s articles are pretty interesting in their own right. The draft capital table, which shows the share of overall draft capital owned by each team, has the Rams as being in the bottom 10 percent of the league over the last five years (it’s the red 2.59% in the table). Another way to think about the before and after difference is to look at the far right columns of the table that Jeremy tweeted. In the most recent five years, the ratio for the Rams is 114% (bigger is better). Over ten years, which reveals the effect of adding the front five years, the Rams drop down to a 94% score. That’s worse because their earlier drafts were worse, but now consider that the front five years includes the 2014 bonanza year where the massive chunk of points for Aaron Donald are sitting. If we really split it into “before Holmes” and “after Holmes,” it would be a lot more tilted to the latter period since 2014 would be in the “after Holmes” group.

Then look three rows above the Rams: there are the Lions with a five-year score of 97% and a ten-year score of 95%, so no difference on average. When you look at the detail, though, the Lions have the absolute worst score on the entire table in 2011 (the Nick Fairley year, with a smexy 33% score) and a bomb of a score in 2019 (61% is pretty awful), but massive value in the Ansah-Slay-Warford draft of 2013 and the Golladay-Agnew 2017 draft. So, the Lions have been “meh” in what they have done with their draft capital for quite a while, but a big part if it is because they have no consistency. There are both atrocious drafts and lucky strikes; it’s extremely volatile. At the least, perhaps Holmes will bring some stability to the returns the Lions get with their draft picks. This will be crucial in 2021 since the team may have as few as five selections in the upcoming draft.

And now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • The Lions PR account has been posting some nice quotes from former defensive backs in a media campaign to support Calvin Johnson’s Hall of Fame candidacy. The defenders quoted today were Peanut Tillman and Aqib Talib. No word yet on a check, though.

  • Good stuff being done by good folks:

  • Dan Orlovsky likes the idea of Dan Campbell as the head coach of the Detroit Lions:

  • For entertainment purposes only: