“I’ve always been real interested in the draft. Player acquisition really intrigues me. I always wanted to be a general manager, although I wouldn’t want to be one now during a lockout. I worked in business but sports was my real interest,” Villiotti said.
Villiotti is the creator of draftmetrics.com, a website for fans of the NFL draft that share Villiotti’s fascination for and obsession with all things draft-related. It’s a good read and it’s free, so it has that going for it, which is nice.
Once upon a time, he wanted to be a Mel Kiper type. Villiotti evaluated draft prospects and offered his reviews for purchase, but he quickly saw Kiper and the late, great Joel Buchsbaum had already cornered the market. Villiotti didn’t want to leave the draftnik arena but he needed a new schtick, and then it hit him: Instead of evaluating the prospects, he’d evaluate the picks.
“I got to go to the draft a couple of times. There ends up being so many guys doing that, the Mel Kipers, that I gave it up,” Villiotti said.
So Villiotti changed his target audience from the fans to the teams. He had long given up on the money part of it. His job as a finance officer had already taken care of the money part. He was retired now. He just wanted to have fun. He wanted to live, eat and breathe the draft.
“I did a soft-cover book on results of the draft that sold to half of the NFL teams: “The NFL Draft; an Historical Perspective,” he said of his book.
Last year, Villiotti published a book entitled, “Draft Metrics.” He sold it to the Colts, Saints and Browns.
Why would NFL teams buy information from a former finance officer? Because everybody involved in the draft is frantic to acquire any crumb of information that might make the difference between a hit and a miss.
Villiotti decided the book version of his statistical studies was too static, so he moved the information to his latest creation, draftmetrics.com. Now he can cut and paste and update all day and all night.
“That kind of wetted my appetite to get into this thing whole hog,” he said. “I’m doing it for fun. At this stage of my life, I’m not looking for a new career. If I didn’t do this, my wife would find things for me to do around the house.”
OK, so what interesting trends has Villiotti detected in evaluating the last 20 years of the NFL draft?
“To me, the most interesting thing is where the cut offs are. Picks 1-13 look like they’re of equal value. Picks 14-28 are another grouping,” Villiotti said.
In other words, the 13th overall pick is as good as the first overall pick, except it’s a lot less expensive, and good players tend to last to the 28th overall selection, at which point there’s another significant drop in talent level.
Another fact of interest Villiotti uncovered concerns the hit/miss ratio according to position. Villiotti quickly detected “how much riskier the skilled positions were, as compared to the offensive and defensive lines. I also looked at where starters come from,” he said.
“The best value I would say is about late second through mid-fourth,” Villiotti said.
Which teams are the best drafters?
“The Steelers are definitely number one over a 20-year period. The Titans have done well. Then there’s a pack of about four teams, the Packers being one of them: the Packers, the Bills, the Cowboys and the Patriots,” Villiotti said.
“The Packers have been, maybe, the most successful team in drafting from the middle of the second round to the middle of the fourth. In the first round, I don’t think the good teams are that much better. It’s in the mid to late rounds that the good teams shine, and they don’t give up their picks.”
His site is currently boasting an exhaustive study on the value of trading up. He comes to the opinion the home runs and strikeouts cancel each other out and that there’s no evidence of a trend that supports trading up or resisting the temptation.
“I’d say Emmitt Smith, Polamalu and Clay Matthews,” Villiotti said when asked of home-run trade-ups. He also added the Bucs trading up for Derek Brooks in 1995, the Titans trading up for Eddie George in ’96 and the Chiefs trading up for Tony Gonzalez in ’97.”
The bad trade-ups?
“The worst was the Chiefs traded up to number six for Ryan Sims; the Chargers for Ryan Leaf in ’98, the Colts for Trev Alberts in ’94 and the Bengals for Ki-Jana Carter in ’95,” Villiotti said.
It’s draft time and those who share Villiotti’s obsession for all things draft just can’t get enough information to satisfy their appetite. His website helps.
Visit Draftmetrics website: CLICK HERE
Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.