This may surprise those of you who routinely express dissatisfaction with Thomas Dimitroff's draft prowess--Tony Villiotti at National Football Post has established a set of metrics which establish that, over the past several years, Atlanta has drafted more efficiently than the remainder of the league in the first three rounds.
Now, bear in mind that coming up with a formula to determine draft efficiency isn't a simple undertaking, and Villiotti incorporated some data that I might have excluded. For example, when determining the total number of games started, Villiotti did incorporate games started for other teams. Atlanta gets credit for guys like Curtis Lofton and Vance Walker who left Atlanta in free agency and went on to start to other teams. Those players did not benefit the Falcons after leaving Atlanta, so I'm not sure I'd incorporate games started for other teams as a function of this equation.
There's also not an easy way to realistically and objectively assess the positive or negative impact each drafted player has had on Atlanta's success or lack thereof over that time period. I'd argue that would be the most important thing to look at, but it would be pretty challenging to accurately assess that for each drafted player.
While Atlanta is, by these standards, drafting more efficiently in the first three rounds than every other team in the league, the story of rounds four through 7 is very different. The Falcons are ranked 19th in the league for their selections in those rounds. It's an interesting discrepancy, and you would assume that if a team is successfully evaluating talent to hit on early round picks, that the same principles would apply to late round picks, but the Falcons weren't the only team with a striking discrepancy between the success of early round picks and late round picks. It was pretty consistent. Of course, if a team is going to hit on any picks, rounds one through three matter more than the late rounds.
Another element I'd factor into this would be draft pick retention, because, again, the quality of the picks only matters if they're actually on the team and contributing. There has been some research suggesting that the teams with higher draft pick retention over time also experience more wins over time. Heading into the 2013 season, Atlanta's draft pick retention was among the top in the league at 68.42%. It has dropped during this offseason to 60.9% following Jason Snelling's (7th round, 2007) retirement and the release of Stephen Nicholas (4th round, 2007), Thomas DeCoud (3rd round, 2008), Garrett Reynolds (5th round, 2009) and Bradie Ewiing (5th round, 2011).
Villiotti said that his approach was pretty simplistic, maybe overly so, but he did a nice job of quantifying something that is pretty difficult to translate numerically, and it's a really interesting read. What do you think about Atlanta's draft efficiency over the past several seasons?