Bronco Beat

For Boise State draftees, is it better to be selected early or late?

Cincinnati Bengals free safety George Iloka (43) intercepts a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Tavarres King (15) during the fourth quarter Nov. 14, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J.
Cincinnati Bengals free safety George Iloka (43) intercepts a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Tavarres King (15) during the fourth quarter Nov. 14, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. AP

In this past weekend’s draft, Boise State had two selections — running back Jeremy McNichols and linebacker Tanner Vallejo — in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, to the Buccaneers and Bills.

Recent history says that Tampa Bay and Buffalo might have found some pretty good value in the later rounds.

Using Pro Football Reference’s weighted Career Approximate Value methodology, we’ll take a look at how Boise State’s draftees have fared, going back to the furthest draft in which there are still active players. The metric (here) is not perfect, of course, and for some, the number will continue to go up as they play and are productive — George Iloka, for example, will be 27 this season and is a stalwart for the Bengals, Jay Ajayi is coming off a Pro Bowl season and Matt Paradis and Charles Leno are starters in Denver and Chicago. Those two were among the 34 NFL players to play every snap on their side of the ball in 2016.

2016

Kamalei Correa, DE/LB, 2nd round (42nd overall), Ravens: 1

Darian Thompson, S, 3rd round (71st overall), Giants: 0

Rees Odhiambo, OL, 3rd round (97th overall), Seahawks: 1

2015

Jay Ajayi, RB, 5th round (149th overall), Dolphins: 12

2014

DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, 2nd round (34th), Cowboys: 10

Matt Paradis, C, 6th round (207th), Broncos: 12

Charles Leno Jr., OL, 7th round (246th), Bears: 16

2013

Jamar Taylor, CB, 2nd round (54th), Dolphins: 9

2012

Shea McClellin, DE/LB, 1st round (19th), Bears: 17

Doug Martin, RB, 1st round (31st), Buccaneers: 33

Tyrone Crawford, DE, 3rd round (81st), Cowboys: 20

George Iloka, S, 5th round (167th), Bengals: 22

Billy Winn, DT, 6th round (205th), Browns: 15

Nate Potter, OL, 7th round (221st), Cardinals: 3

2011

Titus Young, WR, 2nd round (44th), Lions: 8

Austin Pettis, WR, 3rd round (78th), Rams: 8

Brandyn Thompson, CB, 7th round (213th), Redskins: 1

2010

Kyle Wilson, CB, 1st round (29th), Jets: 15

2008

Ryan Clady, OT, 1st round (12th), Broncos: 65

Orlando Scandrick, 5th round (143rd), Cowboys: 22

...

Since Boise State has not had a fourth round pick since 1982 (strangely), the division works out evenly: for players taken in the first three rounds (not including 2016), they have a weighted career AV average of 20.6, while those taken in the last three rounds have a weighted career AV average of 12.9. If Clady and his two Pro Bowls are taken out, the average for the early picks is 15, just above the late picks. The metric also doesn’t factor in when a player was drafted, so production being similar between late and early picks makes the fifth, sixth and seventh rounders quite valuable.

The late picks’ careers should continue to look better, as mentioned above, while the jury is still out on many of the early picks. Correa played in just four games and had nine tackles last season as a rookie, but is expected to compete to start this season. Thompson played well with seven tackles in the first two weeks, but suffered a season-ending foot injury.

An interesting note on the Broncos’ early picks is the amount of off-field issues: Pettis was suspended four games in 2011 for performance-enhancing drugs; Young has been sentenced to four years in prison for assault and the Lions never played him after a Nov. 18, 2012 game in which he allegedly lined up in the wrong spots and got in a confrontation with a coach; Lawrence was suspended the first four games of last season for failing a drug test; Martin was suspended for a game last season and the first three of 2017 for violating the NFL’s drug policy.

If going back even further, using Pro Football Reference, some of the Broncos’ best have been late picks: Kimo von Oelhoffen (sixth round), John Rade (eighth round), Quintin Mikell (undrafted) are three of the six most productive Boise State players.

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