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First-Rounders Dominate the Ranks of NFL All-Pro Selections

Some positions are better than others but, over the past decade, 60 percent of Associated Press All-Pro selections were former first-rounders.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida
Terry Beckner is projected as a mid-round draft pick, which isn’t a great place to be if he wants to be first-team All-Pro, at least judging from the past decade of the NFL.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Think of this as a bit of a companion piece to the one I wrote a couple weeks ago.

In that one, I dove into how, generally, the better an SEC player’s Rivals rating is coming out of high school/junior college, the better his draft position will be.

Yes, there were exceptions but also, yes, that was the trend line.

Now, let’s look at how much draft position has to do with a player’s chances at being named All-Pro.

I took the Associated Press’ first-team All-Pro selections from the past decade at eight positions — quarterback, running back, wideout, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and defensive back — and saw how highly they were drafted.

Turns out that fully 60 percent of them were first-round draft picks. Just as with recruiting rankings, you have outliers here and there — did you know Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick? — but, if you’re a first rounder, your chances are ridiculously better at becoming first-team All-Pro. At least from 2009-18.

Consider it this way: There are 32 picks in the first round. That’s about 12.5 percent of the draft. The fact that 59.7 percent of AP All-Pros from the past decade come from those 12.5 percent of picks tells you that this group is over-represented by a factor of almost five.

Or, if you’re a first-rounder, you’re almost five times more likely to be an All-Pro offensive or defensive player (we’re not counting special teams selections here) than if you weren’t picked in the first round. At least over the past decade.

Let’s take a look at the position groups in depth. The median round selected for first-team All-Pro players at each position was 1.00, with two exceptions: running back at 1.50 and tight end at 2.00.

Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles did a lot to help out the chances of (relative) underdogs in that first group, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce the second.

For “average” round and pick, I treated undrafted — or supplementally drafted — players as the 257th pick in the eighth rounds.

Median Pick
Quarterback — 6.50
Defensive Line — 11.5
Defense — 14.0
Linebacker — 15.0
Defensive Back — 19.0
Overall — 19.0
Offensive Line — 26.0
Offense — 27.0
Wide Receiver — 27.0
Running Back — 39.5
Tight End — 42.0

Average Round Selected
Defensive Line — 1.83
Linebacker — 1.89
Defense — 1.93
Quarterback — 2.00
Defensive Back — 2.05
Running Back — 2.05
Overall — 2.16
Tight End — 2.20
Offensive Line — 2.30
Offense — 2.42
Wide Receiver — 3.33

Average Pick
Defensive Line — 40.1
Linebacker — 43.8
Defense — 43.9
Quarterback — 46.3
Defensive Back — 47.5
Running Back — 49.2
Tight End — 49.5
Overall — 52.7
Offensive Line — 58.7
Offense — 62.4
Wide Receiver — 97.0

Pct First-Rounders
Defensive Line — 80.0
Quarterback — 80.0
Defense — 66.1
Defensive Back — 60.5
Overall — 59.7
Linebacker — 57.9
Offensive Line — 56.0
Offense — 52.7
Wide Receiver — 52.4
Running Back — 47.4
Tight End — 20.0

A couple things that stand out to me:

— Defensive players, on the whole, have a better pedigree than offensive players. You see that in median pick (14 vs. 27), average round (1.93 vs. 2.42), average pick (43.9 vs. 62.4) and percent of All-Pro players who were first-rounders (66.1 vs. 52.7). So, while the NFL is an offense-heavy league, it still looks like teams are willing to gamble on getting difference-making defenders early in the draft.

— Fully 32 of the 40 first-team All-Pro defensive linemen chosen over the past decades were first-rounders. The only exceptions were Calais Campbell, Geno Atkins, Jared Allen (both twice), Jay Ratliff and undrafted free agents Damon Harrison and Cameron Wake. That seems like inauspicious news for Terry Beckner, who’s looking like a third- or fourth-round projection right now.

— It’s crazy how much of a wrench one certain quarterback throws into the proceedings at that position. He accounts for both of the non-first-rounders over the past decade and, by himself, changes the average round from 1.00 to 2.00 and the average pick from 8.13 to 46.3. Let’s just call him Tom B. Nah, that’s too obvious. Better go with T. Brady.

— So basically, unless you’re Tom Brady, you’re not going to be a first-team All-Pro selection at quarterback unless you’re a first-rounder. At least over the past decade (although Drew Brees has earned recognition on other first teams and he was the first pick of the second round in 2001...still 32nd overall though). You listening, Drew Lock?

— Those wide receiver numbers are similarly yanked downwards by interlopers such as fourth-rounder Brandon Marshall, fifth-rounder Tyreek Hill, sixth-rounder Antonio Brown (four times), supplemental draft pick Josh Gordon and undrafted free agent Wes Welker (twice). Emanuel Hall is looking like a mid-rounder, so Marshall wouldn’t be the worst example for him.

— I feel like out of these position groups, generally, tight end and offensive line are regarded as kind of the value positions. The spots where you can wait around until the later rounds and still get yourself an All-Pro caliber player. I was kind of surprised by how untrue that is. All but 11 of the 50 offensive line All-Pros came off the board in the first 100 picks. The exceptions were Jahri Evans (four times), David Bakhtiari, Carl Nicks, Jason Kelce (twice) and undrafted free agents Andrew Norwell and Jason Peters (twice). These are the role models Paul Adams should be seeking out, seeing as how he’s ticketed in the Round 6-7 range.

— All 10 tight ends, too, came off the board in the first 95 picks, and Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark were first-rounders. Not great for Kendall Blanton, though he could always fashion himself into a valuable special teamer like Sean Culkin did.

— At linebacker, where Terez Hall is looking like he could fall in the same late-round range as Adams, only four of 38 All-Pros came from outside the top 100 picks: Elvis Dumervil (twice), Robert Mathis and undrafted free agent James Harrison.

— There’s this, too: the only two Missouri All-Pros from the past decade — Smiths, Justin and Aldon — were top-seven picks.