For once, the Browns are in an enviable position. Cleveland holds 11 picks in this year’s draft, including the 1st, 12th, 33rd, 52nd and 65th overall. But the team isn't exactly famous for its drafting prowess. Will they blow it?

By comparing how much value teams should get given their set of picks with how much value they actually get, we can calculate which franchises make the most of their draft selections. Approximate Value (AV), a stat created by Pro Football Reference that measures how well a player performed overall in a season, is useful here. Based on this metric, we find that the Browns draftees have underperformed in the NFL given their draft position, especially when compared to the draftees of a team like, say, the Seahawks.

Select two teams below to see which drafted better against expectations in each season since 1996.

Hover to see details for each draft pick

Some more details on how this works. First, we use AV (which you may remember from our look at the draft from last year) to calculate how much value each team is expected to produce with its picks. AV accumulates for each player as he plays more (regular season only), similar to WAR in baseball or NBA win shares. We’re only looking at the AV that players gained in their first five seasons after their draft, since that's roughly when they’re under their initial contract*, and we’re including the AV they gained for any team within those five years. Defensive end J.J. Watt produced 88 AV in his first five years, the most for any player since 1996. Quarterback Tom Brady produced 51, while running back Bilal Powell — to give an example of a totally fine player — produced 14.

Using the five-year AV of all 5,000+ draftees since 1996, we can calculate an expected value for every pick. (This involves some smoothing, to make sure that higher picks are always expected to produce more value than lower picks). For example, we expect the 2017 Browns’ No. 1 pick to gain 44 AV over five years, and their 65th pick to produce about a third of that, 16 AV. Adding all 11 Browns selections together, it turns out the team has the best set of picks since 1996.

most draft potential?

Expected Approximate Value (AV) of a team’s drafts picks over their first five years in the league; 1996 to present

0 AV

50

100

150

1. CLE 2017

176

2. KC 2008

170

3. CLE 2016

163

4. CLE 2000

160

5. HOU 2002

159

6. SF 2000

159

7. ATL 2008

158

8. CLE 1999

156

9. MIA 1997

155

10. GB 2006

154

Which NFL teams had the most draft potential?

Expected Approximate Value (AV) of a team’s drafts picks over their first five years in the league; 1996 to present

0 AV

50

100

150

1. Cleveland 2017

176 AV

Pick No. 1

12

33

52

65

2. Kansas City 2008

170

5

15

35

73

76

82

3. Cleveland 2016

163

15

32

65

76

93

99

4. Cleveland 2000

160

1

32

63

79

95

5. Houston 2002

159

1

33

50

66

83

99

6. San Francisco 2000

159

16

24

35

48

65

86

7. Atlanta 2008

158

3

21

37

68

84

98

8. Cleveland 1999

156

1

32

45

62

76

9. Miami 1997

155

15

44

73

92

93

96

10. Green Bay 2006

5

47

52

67

75

154

But the Browns were loaded in 1999, 2000 and 2016 as well, and it didn't get them far. In the second step of our analysis, we look at how much AV the drafted players actually produced in their first five years. The top 10 draft classes by this measure are below. The Browns are nowhere to be found.

Which NFL teams drafted

the best players?

Actual Approximate Value (AV) each team’s drafted players accumulated over their first five years in the league; 1996 to present

0 AV

100

200

1. SEA 2012

263

2. SD 2004

236

3. ATL 2008

217

4. DAL 2005

215

208

5. GB 2006

6. NO 1996

195

7. SEA 2011

194

8. MIA 1996

193

9. TB 1997

190

10. CHI 2003

186

Our analysis counts Philip Rivers as a

Chargers draftee and Eli Manning as a Giant.

Which NFL teams drafted the best players?

Actual Approximate Value (AV) each team’s drafted players accumulated over their first five years in the league; 1996 to present

0 AV

100

200

263 AV

1. Seattle 2012

R. Wilson

B. Wagner

B. Irvin

236

2. San Diego 2004

P. Rivers

N. Hardwick

S. Olivea

3. Atlanta 2008

217

C. Lofton

M. Ryan

4. Dallas 2005

215

D. Ware

M. Barber

208

5. Green Bay 2006

G. Jennings

D. Colledge

A. Hawk

195

6. New Orleans 2006

J. Evans

M. Colston

R. Bush

7. Seattle 2011

194

R. Sherman

K. Wright

193

8. Miami 1996

Z. Thomas

190

9. Tampa Bay 1997

W. Dunn

R. Barber

10. Chicago 2003

186

L. Briggs

Our analysis counts Philip Rivers as a Chargers draftee and Eli Manning as a Giant.

The 2012 Seahawks are the best here, and it isn't close. The 10 players they drafted produced a remarkable 263 AV over their first five seasons. The 2004 Chargers are second (since Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were a draft-day swap we’re counting them toward the teams they actually played for), followed by the 2008 Falcons class that included Matt Ryan.

But here's where it gets tricky. Atlanta’s 2008 class produced a ton of value, but, like the 2017 Browns, they were loaded with picks (11 in total, including the 3rd, 21st, 37th and 68th overall). In terms of draft potential the 2008 Falcons had the seventh-best set of picks since 1996, so anything short of producing an outstanding set of players would have been a disappointment.

[Read related: The biggest needs for every AFC team and NFC team.]

A better way to rate how well a team drafts, and the final step of our analysis, is to find the gap between the expected performance of their picks and the actual performance of the players they selected. (ESPN’s Sharon Katz took this approach in her analysis of the 2015 and 2016 drafts.) For example: Matt Ryan produced 73 AV in his first five seasons, while Richard Sherman produced 72 — they were similarly great players. But Ryan had an expected AV of 40 as the third overall selection, while Sherman, taken 154th, was expected to gain just 7. Both were great picks, but Sherman's 65 AV gap makes him a really great pick.

By adding up these gaps for every drafted player since 1996, we can calculate which teams did best and worst against expectations.

Which teams drafted the best against expectations?

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

+0 AV

+50

+100

+150

1. SEA 2012

+152

2. NE 2005

+106

3. DAL 2005

+104

4. SEA 2011

+103

+98

5. SD 2004

6. NO 2006

+94

7. DEN 2006

+92

8. IND 2006

+88

9. NYJ 2007

+74

10. MIA 1996

+73

Our analysis counts Philip Rivers as a

Chargers draftee and Eli Manning as a Giant.

Which NFL teams drafted the best against expectations?

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

+0 AV

+50

+100

+150

+152 AV

1. Seattle 2012

+106

2. New England 2005

3. Dallas 2005

+104

4. Seattle 2011

+103

+98

5. San Diego 2004

+94

6. New Orleans 2006

7. Denver 2006

+92

+88

8. Indianapolis 2006

+74

9. N.Y. Jets 2007

10. Miami 1996

+73

Our analysis counts Philip Rivers as a Chargers draftee and Eli Manning as a Giant.

Once you account for the picks they had, the 2011 and 2012 Seattle draft classes look even better. The 2010 class also beat expectations, and in these three seasons the Seahawks built the league’s best defense with Earl Thomas (14th overall), Bruce Irvin (15th), Bobby Wagner (47th), K.J. Wright (99th), Kam Chancellor (133rd), Richard Sherman (154th) and Malcolm Smith (242nd).

Plus Seattle added quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round of 2012, after lesser QBs like Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler were off the board. Wilson has been selected to three Pro Bowls, and his AV through his first five seasons (84) was better than Peyton Manning’s (76). With an AV gap of +70, Wilson is the single best pick in our data set.

Which teams drafted the worst against expectations?

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

-75

-50

-25

0 AV

1. NE 1998

-87

-84

2. DAL 2009

3. DEN 2009

-82

4. MIN 2005

-82

5. CLE 2000

-80

-77

6. STL 2006

-75

7. DET 1997

-72

8. SD 1998

-66

9. CIN 1999

-66

10. ARI 2002

Which NFL teams drafted the worst against expectations?

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

-75

-50

-25

0 AV

-87 AV

1. New England 1998

-84

2. Dallas 2009

3. Denver 2009

-82

4. Minnesota 2005

-82

-80

5. Cleveland 2000

-77

6. St. Louis 2006

7. Detroit 1997

-75

-72

8. San Diego 1998

-66

9. Cincinnati 1999

10. Arizona 2002

-66

When you think of draft busts, the name “Ryan Leaf” might come to mind. And indeed the Chargers’ second overall selection in 1998 is the worst pick by any team since 1996, producing just one AV against an expected AV of 42. But bad draft classes are a group effort, and we calculate that New England’s 1998 haul was even worse.

The 1998 Patriots had 10 picks, including two first-rounders, two second-rounders and two third-rounders. They used the 18th overall on running back Robert Edwards, who rushed for over 1,000 yards his first year before blowing out his knee playing rookie flag football during Pro Bowl week. Even worse, the team’s 54th, 81st, 115th, 145th, 176th and 211st overall selections barely played, combining for just 3 AV over five years. Only one player, defensive end Greg Spires (83rd overall), exceeded the AV expectations of his pick.

Despite their incredible performance in 2011 and ’12, the Seahawks aren’t the best drafting franchise since 1996, and the Browns aren’t the very worst. Every team is ranked below by their draft performance against expectations, using the percentage difference between the actual and expected AVs of their draftees.

How every NFL team drafts against expectations

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

Overall AV vs. expectations; all seasons

1. IND

+22%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

One season

‘00

‘10

‘00

‘10

3. BAL

+14%

4. SEA

+14%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

6. PIT

+7%

5. DAL

+8%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

7. ATL

+7%

8. PHI

+4%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

9. DEN

+3%

10. TEN

+3%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

11. JAX

+3%

12. HOU

+3%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

13. CAR

+3%

14. CHI

+1%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

15. SD

+1%

16. MIA

+1%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

17. NE

+0%

18. BUF

+0%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

20. NYG

-1%

19. NYJ

-1%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

21. WAS

-3%

22. NO

-3%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

24. TB

-5%

23. KAN

-5%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

26. MIN

-6%

25. SF

-5%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

27. ARI

-6%

28. CIN

-6%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

29. OAK

-11%

30. RAMS

-12%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

31. CLE

-16%

32. DET

-19%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

‘00

‘10

‘00

‘10

How every NFL team has drafted against expectations

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

1. IND

+22%

3. BAL

+14%

4. SEA

+14%

+150 AV

+100

+50

0

−50

6. PIT

+7%

7. ATL

+7%

5. DAL

+8%

8. PHI

+4%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

9. DEN

+3%

10. TEN

+3%

11. JAX

+3%

12. HOU

+3%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

15. SD

+1%

13. CAR

+3%

14. CHI

+1%

16. MIA

+1%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

20. NYG

-1%

17. NE

+0%

18. BUF

+0%

19. NYJ

-1%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

24. TB

-5%

21. WAS

-3%

22. NO

-3%

23. KAN

-5%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

26. MIN

-6%

25. SF

-5%

27. ARI

-6%

28. CIN

-6%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

30. STL/LA

-12%

32. DET

-19%

29. OAK

-11%

31. CLE

-16%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

‘00

‘10

‘00

‘10

‘00

‘10

‘00

‘10

How every NFL team has drafted against expectations

Approximate Value (AV) accumulated by a team’s drafted players in their first five seasons minus the expected value of their picks; 1996 to present

6. PIT

+7%

1. IND

+22%

3. BAL

+14%

4. SEA

+14%

7. ATL

+7%

5. DAL

+8%

8. PHI

+4%

+150 AV

+100

+50

0

−50

15. SD

+1%

9. DEN

+3%

10. TEN

+3%

11. JAX

+3%

12. HOU

+3%

13. CAR

+3%

14. CHI

+1%

16. MIA

+1%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

20. NYG

-1%

24. TB

-5%

17. NE

+0%

18. BUF

+0%

19. NYJ

-1%

21. WAS

-3%

22. NO

-3%

23. KAN

-5%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

26. MIN

-6%

25. SF

-5%

27. ARI

-6%

28. CIN

-6%

29. OAK

-11%

30. STL/LA

-12%

31. CLE

-16%

32. DET

-19%

+150

+100

+50

0

−50

2000

2010

2000

2010

2000

2010

2000

2010

2000

2010

2000

2010

2000

2010

2000

2010

Some caveats apply here. For one, we’re not accounting for what teams gave up to get their picks. The 1999 New Orleans Saints used their only selection (No. 5 overall) on running back Ricky Williams, who gained 59 AV in his first five years. We expect the the No. 5 pick to gain 37 AV, so the Saints come out ahead. But the team famously traded the 12th, 71st, 107th, 144th, 179th and 218th picks (plus what became the 2nd and 64th picks in 2000) to move up to No. 5. Taken together, those picks had an expected AV of 133, an insane value that Williams (or any other single player) couldn’t live up to.

It’s also impossible for any metric, AV included, to completely separate individual performance from team performance in the NFL. So you have a chicken/egg problem: Do the Browns have a lot of low AV players because they drafted bad players, or do those players have a low AV because they played for the Browns?

Nevertheless these rankings do pass the smell test. The Colts come in at No. 1, and while the team hasn't found a Richard Sherman-like sleeper, they've used first round picks on Marvin Harrison, Tarik Glenn, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, and, more recently Andrew Luck. The Packers, second overall, were one of the best teams of the last decade thanks primarily to homegrown talent. The Raiders, with their predilection for fast, unproductive wide receivers, come in fourth worst, while the Lions rank dead last thanks largely to the infamous drafting failures of the Matt Millen era.

So, will the 2017 Browns blow it? If we apply each team’s historical draft performance to the expected values of their 2017 picks, we can make a very, very rough estimate of which teams are going to add the most talent this year.

Which NFL teams will have the best 2017 haul?

Expected five-year Approximate Value (AV) of each team’s 2017 draft picks, adjusted for the team’s performance in picking players since 1996

Expected AV

based on picks

75 AV

100

125

150

1. CLE

2. SF

3. TEN

Expected AV based on picks AND drafting peformance since 1996

4. IND

5. CHI

6. CAR

7. CIN

8. BAL

9. JAX

10. PHI

11. WAS

12. DEN

13. NYJ

14. LAC

15. SEA

16. GB

17. KC

18. PIT

19. ARI

20. NE

21. BUF

22. NO

23. MIA

24. HOU

25. TB

26. DAL

27. NYG

28. MIN

29. ATL

30. OAK

31. DET

32. LAR

Which NFL teams will have the best 2017 haul?

Expected five-year Approximate Value (AV) of each team’s 2017 draft picks, adjusted for the team’s performance in picking players since 1996

75 AV

100

125

150

1. Cleveland

2. San Francisco

3. Tennessee

4. Indianapolis

5. Chicago

6. Carolina

7. Cincinnati

8. Baltimore

9. Jacksonville

11. Washington

12. Denver

13. N.Y. Jets

14. L.A. Chargers

15. Seattle

16. Green Bay

17. Kansas City

18. Pittsburgh

19. Arizona

20. New England

21. Buffalo

22. New Orleans

23. Miami

24. Houston

25. Tampa Bay

26. Dallas

27. N.Y. Giants

28. Minnesota

29. Atlanta

30. Oakland

31. Detroit

32. L.A. Rams

So there’s some good news for Cleveland fans after all. In 2017, the team has some wiggle room. The Browns are so loaded with picks that they can screw up the draft pretty badly, as badly as their historical average, and still produce a great class of players.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com.

*We're discounting for players drafted since 2013, who couldn't have played for five years yet. Specifically, we calculated an age curve based on how much AV every player in the data set produced in each of their first five seasons. We expect players to produce 15 percent of their five-year AV through Year 1, 37 percent through Year 2, 59 percent through Year 3 and 80 percent through Year 4. Note that production slows down in this curve, accounting for players who don’t make it to these later seasons.

Additional contributions from Denise Lu and Neil Greenberg.