One of the question of the draft is that what kind of value can be expected from the players at a given position. There is a draft trade value chart, but the top picks in it are way overpriced. Despite that, with the expection of the top-5 picks, trades usually follow the chart.
Tony Vilotti at draftmetrics.com tabulated the success of players picked at every single draft position from 1992 to 2011. Based on this data, I selected two criteria to measure NFL success. For "floor" value at each pick, I used the ratio of players, selected at a given draft position, who had a career at least 5 years. This was normalized to take the last 4 draft years of this study into account - a 2010 draft pick could not accumulate more than two seasons at the creation of the document. To represent the "ceiling" for the picks, I chose the ratio of players with at least one all-pro selections.
I put the values on a graph after smoothing the data out:
Looking at this graph six value groups can be identified.
Group 1 - draft positions 1-17
This group consists of the upper half of the 1st round with the blue chip players and the unavoidable QB reaches. The difference between pick 1 and pick #12 is negligible, although the positional value (i.e. #1 QB) is not taken into account. In this group, one in five players was selected into the all-pro team. There is a dropoff in performance from #12 to #20, I chose the dividing line at pick #17. Chance of being a bust (career ended in rookie contact) in this group is 10%.
Solid starters and backups
Group 2- draft positions 18-49
Bottom 1st and top 2nd round picks. The top players are already accounted for. This group has 10% chance for all-pro selection and 15% bust chance. Almost uniform talent level in the group.
Group 3 - draft positions 50-70
Late second and top third, a narrow but distinct group of still small bust chance (21%) but only all-pro ratio dropping to half (4.6%). The bust chance and increases dramatically to 40% in a few picks in the next group, even if the all-pro chance is still high. I.e. the remainder of the identified high-floor, low-risk players goes here.
Group 4 - draft positions 71-160
This pick range coincides with the mid rounds (mid-3rd to end of fifth), a surprisingly wide pick range. This group still has 2.4% (slowly decreasing) chance to get an all-pro vote. The talent is already off the board, with the exception of a few sleepers, but you can still expect a career backup or even a starter. Selecting NFL players is a toss-up at this point, with half the players making it longterm. The main difference between Pick 75 and 150 is the bust chance (40 vs. 55%).
Group 5- Draft positions 160-210
5th round compensatory to top-7th, including the Tom Brady group of 7 all-pro players picked between #193 and #201. One in three makes it.
Group 6 - Draft positions 211+
From the middle of the 7th round, the positional value is getting indistinguishable from UDFA players, only one in four would last 5 years. There are relatively strong performances bunched around the start of rounds 6 and 7. Probably kickers and punters drafted early in the rounds.
Value of the 2013 49ers Draft
Granted, draft talent levels are different from from year to year, but some general conclusions can be drawn from this chart on what to expect from the picks, and whether to go for BPA or need.
It should be noted that the draft consensus for this year is no top talent, so the top-16 might rather be a top-5 this year. The depth of the draft, however, should push the tail of groups 2 and 3 lower, right where the Niners have two picks.
The picks the Niners projected to have are the following:
#31 and #34. Middle of the second group. Most probably any slipping top-talent players were already grabbed earlier, and draft talent levels out at this point. A strict BPA philosophy might not be ideal, so pick BPA for the need positions (DB, DL, WR/TE).
#61: This draft, it could be argued that the third pick is not significantly weaker than the first two, but talent level drops at this point fast. Screams for a BPA pick.
#74 and #93. Top of the 4th group, and despite being 2nd-day picks, not much valuable than our 5th rounders. Based on the graph, picking BPA (players that slipped from the previous group) at this point is the best choice. Baalke picked need positions here in the last two drafts.
#31 in 4th round, 4th round comp., #24 and #31 in 5th: four picks, of which 2 can be expected to last in the league. Fill roster depth.
#12 and #31 in 6th, all the seventh rounders: unless one wants to get a kicker or FB, all needs should be filled up by this point. Grab player who slipped this far due to a few red flags (medical, work ethic, criminal). If there is still a need left, better to insure it signing two more UDFAs for the position.