Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Colbert Report: Examining Kevin Colbert's Draft Trends

Kevin Colbert is entering his 14th season at the helm of the Steelers draft machine. His first draft was in 2000 when he selected Plaxico Burress with the 8th overall pick. To Colbert's credit, that was the last time the Steelers picked in the Top 10 of the draft. The closest they got since then was in 2004 when they selected Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick. Over the last 13 years, trends have emerged in Colbert's drafting philosophy.


In Colbert's 13 drafts, he has selected 104 players. Of those 104, 81 (78%) have come from schools playing in conferences with an automatic bid to the BCS (Big 10, SEC, ACC, Big XII, Pac 10, Big East). In the first three rounds, the disparity is even greater with 92% of selections coming from the six AQ conferences. Only Ben Roethlisberger (Miami OH, 1st round 2004), Ricardo Colclough (Tusculum, 2nd round 2004) and Emmanuel Sanders (SMU, 3rd round 2010) came from schools outside of the big six conferences in the first three rounds. The weight the Steelers place on players from power conferences is so heavy that their selections in the first two rounds have been from the Big Ten, Big XII, SEC, ACC and Pac 10. The earliest the Steelers have selected a Big East player is the third round (Hank Poteat, 3rd round 2000 and Anthony Smith, 3rd round in 2006).

Going B1G

The Big Ten has been a dominant presence in the Steelers draft profile. Colbert has selected twice as many players from the Big Ten (4) in the first round than from any other conference (SEC, ACC, Pac 10, Big XII all 2). In the second round, Colbert has tapped Big Ten talent three times, tied with the ACC with the most picks in the second. Of Colbert's 24 picks in the first two rounds, 7 have come from the Big Ten, 5 from the ACC and 4 from the SEC. This trend continues into the third round where Colbert has taken 3 players from the B1G, ACC and SEC. All told, 21 of Colbert's 104 draft picks have come from the Big Ten. The next closest conference is the SEC with 15 selections, followed by the ACC and Pac 10 (13).

Buckeyes and Sunshine

The Steelers have selected players from 66 different schools over the last 13 years, but have clearly preferred three schools from which to draw their talent. The Ohio State University leads the pack with 6 selections, half of those coming in the first two rounds. Santonio Holmes and Cam Heyward were both first round picks and tackle Mike Adams was a second rounder. Florida and Florida State have accounted for 5 selections each. While Colbert has picked five Gators, none of them have been from the defensive side of the ball. Three of them have been linemen (Pouncey, Gilbert, Starks) and two skill players (Rainey and WR Dallas Baker). Florida State is almost the polar opposite with 4 of the 5 Seminoles picked were defensive players. All five Florida State players were picked within the first three rounds: Lawrence Timmons in the first, Alonzo Jackson and Bryant McFadden in the second, and Willie Reid and Chris Hope in the third.

Winning Breeds Winning

The Steelers have a history of drafting players from winning teams. Both Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been quoted in the past saying that they like players that played on top-tier college teams. This is reflected in their draft strategy as they have selected 52 players (exactly half of their picks) from teams ranked in the final AP poll the previous year. Only Indianapolis (54 of 105, 51%) has selected more players from schools ranked in the final AP poll. Of the Steelers 13 first round picks, only two (Kendall Simmons and Lawrence Timmons) came from unranked teams. In the second round, six of their 11 picks came from ranked teams. However, coming from a ranked team is not necessarily an indicator of success as Marvel Smith, Antwaan Randle El, Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams all came from unranked teams while Limas Sweed, Alonzo Jackson and Jason Worlids came from ranked teams. Of course, LaMarr Woodley and Bryant McFadden played on ranked teams, which goes to prove the second round is more about finding players with talent and work ethic than worrying about where they played in college.

Not So Local

Some general managers use the local knowledge of players from their zip code to their advantage. However, Colbert has drafted only two players from Penn State and one from Pitt. Hank Poteat, drafted in the 3rd round in 2000, was the last Panther drafted by the Steelers. From Penn State, Colbert has only selected TE Matt Kranchick (6th round, 2004) and center AQ Shipley (7th round, 2009). Pitt has produced 34 draftees since 2000 with Poteat being the only one drafted by the Steelers. Given the fact that Pitt has been ranked in the Top 25 in the final AP poll only three times in the past 13 seasons, it is not surprising Colbert has drafted so few Panthers. Penn State, on the other hand, was ranked in the final AP poll 6 times in the last 13 seasons. Two of Colbert's biggest misses came in 2010 when he drafted Jason Worlids in the second round, 3 picks before Sean Lee was chosen by Dallas and passed on Navorro Bowman in the third round. Both Lee and Bowman have gone to the Pro Bowl while Worlids and 5th round pick Stevenson Sylvester have only started a handful of games between them.

No comments: