As the 2021 NFL Draft approaches (and with the Buffalo Bills now absent a J.J. Watt signing since it was announced today he will be joining the Arizona Cardinals), the focus to improve the Defensive End position now shifts to the NFL Draft. The Bills sit near the bottom of the first round, holding selection number 30, but to find value at the position, will they need to move up or down?
When holding the 30th selection, value has to be king. A player might fall right into your lap, you might not like anyone available and look to trade back, or you might seize an opportunity to trade up to snag a player on your board. The further down in the round you are, the harder it is to move up and with Buffalo holding the 3rd last pick in the round, climbing the ladder can be pretty costly.
With that being said, will the Buffalo Bills be able to find value at the Defensive End position in this draft by remaining at the 30th overall selection? Well thanks to DraftHistory.com, we can go an look at every Defensive End drafted by selection number and it wasn't hard to find if value really does exist outside of a top 10 selection. We broke down production of every Defensive End within the first 50 selections from the 2020-2016 NFL Drafts and compared their first two seasons of stats in 3 different categories; Sacks, Solo Tackles, QB Hits. We understand that players drafted in 2020 do not yet have a second year of statistics but leave that aside for now.
For those looking for the quick answer, before we get to the nerdy-stuff below, the results are simple. You get what you pay for. Top picks at Defensive End in the last 5 drafts have had significantly more production both on the season and per game than players drafted in the same position at a later time. The data is REALLY clear as you can see below
In those 5 years (2020-2016), the number of players selected can be simplified like this:
Picks 1-10: 8 players
Picks 11-20: 6 Players
Picks 21-35: 6 Players
Picks 36-50: 7 Players
Overall Production on Per Player Average was as follows:
Picks 1-10: Per Player Average - 7 Sacks, 31.75 Solo Tackles, 16.75 QB Hits
Picks 11-20: Per Player Average - 2.5 Sacks, 10.8 Solo Tackles, 8.1 QB Hits
Picks 21-35: Per Player Average - 3.5 Sacks, 16 Solo Tackles, 8 QB Hits
Picks 36-50: Per Player Average - 1.8 Sacks, 10.85 Solo Tackles, 6 QB Hits
We then broke down the stats by games played, to account for players who might have missed time due to injury, again, only focusing on the the 3 categories mentioned earlier. Here is what we found:
Picks 1-10: Per Player Average - 2.4 Sacks, 10.4 Solo Tackles, 5.49 QB Hits
Picks 11-20: Per Player Average - .68 Sacks, 2.86 Solo Tackles, 2.16 QB Hits
Picks 21-35: Per Player Average - .83 Sacks, 3.57 Solo Tackles, 1.78 QB Hits
Picks 36-50: Per Player Average - .73 Sacks, 4.47 Solo Tackles, 2.47 QB Hits
Yes, that's right. On a per-game level, a top 10 selection will sack more quarterbacks than all the other pick selections combined. Near the same with Solo Tackles. QB Hits a first round pick will have more than double his next closest competition.
The results are simple. If you draft a Defensive End after the 10th selection, whether it's 15th overall or 49th, the results are basically the same. So Buffalo, if you want that young impact Defensive End, you have to trade up...and I mean ALL the way up.