FanPost

Was the 2012 49ers Draft the League's Worst This Decade?

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Fooch's update: Room for disagreement here, but this is an interesting take on the 49ers recent drafting.

I hate to say it, but Trent Baalke isn't even close to the Seattle Seahawks when it comes to effectiveness on draft day. In fact, that little doozy in 2012 may very well be the reason that we didn't make the playoffs last year.

Well, I decided to run the numbers and quantify just how terrible 2012 was. Using Pro Football Reference's Draft Finder, I was able to assess the effectiveness of every NFL team's draft over the past five years, based on CarAV. So, I did a quick regression based on draft position (1 through 256) for each draft since 2010 to see how well teams drafted.

I tallied up total CarAV per team as well as CarAV above expected value -- I think this last one is important; its not really fair to give credit to the Rams for taking Sam Bradford in 2010 #1 overall while not giving tremendous credit to the Seahawks for taking Richard Sherman. So, I'm ranking by the 'residuals' -- CarAV above expected CarAV. Here are the sum results from the last five drafts -- its automatically weighted, so that the 2010 season matters much more than 2014 -- since we don't know how 2014's class will truly turn out, I think that's fair:

Tm CarAV Z-score Residual CarAV Resid Z-score
SEA 477 3.3 167.2 3.6
PIT 343 1.0 71.3 1.5
DEN 373 1.5 50.6 1.1
DAL 297 0.3 46.7 1.0
GNB 303 0.4 42.0 0.9
MIA 316 0.6 37.9 0.8
NWE 348 1.1 21.9 0.5
CHI 210 (1.2) 21.1 0.5
HOU 321 0.7 21.1 0.5
CIN 348 1.1 14.6 0.3
NOR 209 (1.2) 9.9 0.2
ATL 232 (0.8) 9.4 0.2
SFO 317 0.6 9.1 0.2
SDG 258 (0.4) 7.1 0.2
ARI 276 (0.1) (0.6) (0.0)
CAR 276 (0.1) (0.7) (0.0)
IND 252 (0.5) (1.6) (0.0)
WAS 260 (0.4) (8.2) (0.2)
CLE 323 0.7 (9.6) (0.2)
NYJ 199 (1.4) (20.0) (0.4)
TEN 267 (0.2) (20.2) (0.4)
OAK 239 (0.7) (21.5) (0.5)
BAL 234 (0.8) (22.8) (0.5)
KAN 290 0.1 (27.3) (0.6)
PHI 305 0.4 (35.2) (0.8)
TAM 261 (0.3) (38.3) (0.8)
MIN 256 (0.4) (42.5) (0.9)
DET 231 (0.8) (48.9) (1.1)
STL 312 0.5 (51.3) (1.1)
JAX 203 (1.3) (54.9) (1.2)
NYG 196 (1.4) (56.5) (1.2)
BUF 270 (0.2) (66.6) (1.4)

The 49ers have the 13th best draft haul since 2010...but its only a fifth of a standard deviation above average. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are over three-and-a-half standard deviations above average; that's absurd. In addition, we seem to be riding on the fact that the 49ers turned in an exceptional draft in 2010, and that's weighed the heaviest (again, because that's the only fair way to do this); but when you look at more recent classes, the results don't look nearly as good. (Note: Look at how well this lines up with on-field success). So, let's take a look at individual 49er draft classes:

Tm CarAV Z-score Residual CarAV in-year Z-score Year
SFO 158 1.71 49.57 1.63 2010
SFO 96 0.73 9.26 0.41 2011
SFO 12 (1.65) (31.19) (1.65) 2012
SFO 31 (0.48) (16.00) (1.32) 2013
SFO 20 0.45 (2.56) (0.38) 2014

Again, you can see that 2010 was phenomenal -- over one-and-a-half standard deviations better than the average 2010 team draft; its a little bit inflated because Taylor Mays has continued to produce in Cincinnati. 2011 was a good draft too...but merely above average. 2013 was a BAD DRAFT -- players have yet to produce other than Reid -- and 2012 was an epic failure. 2014 is listed as below average -- but its hard to tell at this point...Ward may be a bust, but Carlos Hyde hasn't had a chance to start yet.

Now, let's take a look at how the 2012 compares to all 160 team drafts since 2010 -- I have to weigh them by Z-score (standard deviations from in-season mean) because that's the only way to objectively compare different years. So, here are the 16 worst drafts since 2010 (bottom 10%):

Tm CarAV Z-score Residual CarAV in-year Z-score Year
HOU 8 (1.18) (15.47) (2.29) 2014
STL 83 (0.27) (56.68) (1.86) 2010
MIA 26 (0.88) (21.77) (1.79) 2013
NYJ 10 (0.91) (11.50) (1.70) 2014
DET 6 (1.45) (11.49) (1.70) 2014
SFO 12 (1.65) (31.19) (1.65) 2012
BUF 56 (0.98) (49.62) (1.63) 2010
DET 31 (1.65) (34.22) (1.51) 2011
CIN 26 (0.88) (18.03) (1.48) 2013
DAL 26 (1.15) (27.63) (1.46) 2012
NYG 39 (1.36) (29.94) (1.32) 2011
SFO 31 (0.48) (16.00) (1.32) 2013
GNB 30 (1.01) (24.18) (1.28) 2012
DEN 4 (1.73) (7.78) (1.15) 2014
TAM 92 (0.03) (34.55) (1.14) 2010
SEA 22 (1.20) (13.68) (1.13) 2013

SF-2012 is rated as the 6th worst team draft since 2010. However, if you look deeper it may very well be the 2nd or 3rd worst: There are a lot of 2014 classes up there, and there simply hasn't been enough time to evaluate those classes thoroughly. Cleveland's 2014 class still can turn it around, as can Miami's. However, the 2010 Rams Class is in the books, as is SF's 2012 class...barring Joe Looney becoming an all-pro, this draft is an epic failure. Buffalo has been a draft day train-wreck and their 2010 was abysmal. Before we finish, I just wanted to take a quick look at he best 16 drafts since 2010:

Tm CarAV Z-score Residual CarAV in-year Z-score Year
SEA 143 3.01 75.14 3.97 2012
SEA 141 2.37 71.38 3.14 2011
GNB 73 2.85 31.39 2.57 2013
PIT 167 1.94 64.55 2.12 2010
HOU 123 1.72 42.44 1.87 2011
DEN 171 2.05 56.69 1.86 2010
CHI 49 0.95 21.45 1.76 2013
NYG 28 1.54 11.76 1.73 2014
SFO 158 1.71 49.57 1.63 2010
DAL 115 1.42 33.87 1.49 2011
DAL 53 1.26 17.63 1.44 2013
NWE 167 1.94 43.18 1.42 2010
IND 108 1.77 25.01 1.32 2012
BUF 26 1.27 8.89 1.31 2014
GNB 118 0.65 39.61 1.30 2010
SDG 47 0.79 14.94 1.22 2013

Seattle was just incredibly in 2011 and 2012 and Green Bay was pretty spectacular in 2013.

Bottom Line: So what does all this mean? Well for one, Baalke did not draft well in 2012 and 2013, and 2010 was only half his class (transition). 2014 saw some day 2 and day 3 gems, but to be honest Ward looks like a bad pick...but hey Aaron Lynch could end up being a superstar from the 5th round. If the 2013 class doesn't produce this year (looking at you, Tank), or if 2015 is a bad class, Trent Baalke is going to get fired along with Jim Tomsula after the 2016 season. You simply cannot miss this much. He's been a slightly above average Drafter who's riding on the success of 2010. He is no draft Ninja

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.