The NFL draft starts today at 5 p.m., which puts the league’s general managers — who do most of their work behind the scenes — directly in the spotlight … and sometimes the crosshairs.
There is great scrutiny of every team’s draft. Succeed consistently and you can build a perennial contender. Fail and, well, you won’t get to repeat your mistakes for long.
One way to separate the executives who help their team in the draft from those who make questionable decisions is by comparing how much value teams should get given their set of picks with how much value they actually get over the first five years of a career, using Approximate Value (AV), a stat created by Pro Football Reference that measures how well a player performed overall in a season.
By this method, John Schneider, the general manager for the Seattle Seahawks, is the best talent evaluator of the past 21 years.
In 2010, Schneider’s picks of safeties Earl Thomas (first round) and Kam Chancellor (fifth round) started the foundation of a defensive powerhouse. Last season, those two ranked No. 20 and No. 3, respectively, at their position, according to the game charters at Pro Football Focus.
In 2011 Schneider added two stalwarts in cornerbacks Richard Sherman (fifth round) and Byron Maxwell (sixth round) along with linebacker K.J. Wright (fourth round). Sherman has held opposing quarterbacks to a 51.1 passer rating since he entered the NFL (league average is 87.1). Maxwell is now with Miami, but when he played for Seattle he never allowed a passer rating higher than 78.5 in any one season. Wright got to the quarterback 19 times last season with 50 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage.
In the 2012 draft Schneider got a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson (third round, No. 75 overall), defensive end Bruce Irvin (first round) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (second round). In fact, Wilson’s production (76 AV) is 70 points higher than a player typically drafted in his slot, making him, and this draft class, the best of the last 21 years.
If you sum up all the actual value from Schneider’s tenure compared to the expected value based on draft picks used, only former Indianapolis Colts President and General Manager Bill Polian, a Hall of Fame inductee in 2015, comes close. No wonder the Seahawks have the third-most wins (including the playoffs) and a Super Bowl ring since Schneider’s first year as general manager in 2010.
Schneider’s average return on a draft is more than two times better than any other general manager on the job for at least five of the past seven NFL drafts, and it more than triples the value Jerry Jones, owner, president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, and Bill Belichick, head coach and de facto general manager of the New England Patriots, get from their selections.
In this light it seems ludicrous Schneider has never been named NFL Executive of the Year (he had a third-place finish in 2012), but there is no doubt he has been the best general manager the league has seen — at least when it comes to drafting — in the past two decades.
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