While some applaud the LA Rams’ ability to find gems in the NFL Draft despite a lack of firepower (in the form of early draft picks), the folks at ESPN are quite a bit more critical. In their latest article – NFL draft: Which teams have gotten the best value since 2012? – the analysts who once declared All-Pro Aaron Donald as someone who is just average against the run are at it again.
This time, they’ve taken aim at another bastion of bravado for the Rams, their draft success. They have adopted criteria of examining where a player was drafted, and then comparing that to how well that player compared career-wise to the average career of a player at that position for that round.
Of course, NFL Draft results on an individual basis fly all over the place. To smooth out the peaks and valleys, they have elected to examine the past 10 years worth of draft data. That means that the Rams’ draft success is not measured in terms of recent drafts, but rather over the past 10 seasons.
To add insult to injury, the article embeds a table that illustrates Day 3: Teams Getting Most, Least Value. In that presentation, the woeful Rams show up as 31st out of 32 teams with a rote score of -48.4. Only the New York Jets, with a score of -73.3, are worse.
The LA Rams draft has built this team into a Super Bowl winner
While I’m not about to argue that the LA Rams drafts throughout the past ten years were great, this team did land Aaron Donald, Greg Zuerlein, Michael Brockers, Todd Gurley, and a host of players who did ultimately contribute to the Rams’ eventual success. And while their rating system evaluates drafted players, it does nothing to consider how effective the LA Rams have been at coaching up undrafted players into NFL players.
No money. No first-round picks. Now the team doesn’t do a very good job of drafting. Huh?
Perhaps we’ve lost sight of something here. The job of data analytics is to add further understanding of actual events to increase the likelihood of duplicating desired results. But if your model leaves you with the conclusion that the LA Rams, an NFL team that has been one of the most successful in the league over the past five years, and now defending Super Bowl winner, does not do a good job in the NFL Draft?
Then you’ve got a problem with the model. First, use your eyes. Start from the knowledge that the LA Rams are tops in the NFL. If you don’t end up there? Well, that should tell you something, right?
Back to the drawing board, again, fellas.