2024 NFL Draft preview: What is the hit rate on positions selected in first round?

2024 NFL Draft preview: What is the hit rate on positions selected in first round?


With the 2024 NFL Draft so close, it’s that time of year where fans start wondering who their favorite team is going to select. Will they choose the best player available, or draft for team needs? No matter the answer, the immediate reaction to whoever’s name is called will be “Awesome! But how likely are they to succeed in the NFL?”

That’s the billion dollar question, isn’t it? While some players like Caleb Williams, Marvin Harrison Jr., Joe Alt, and Dallas Turner are all considered “can’t-bust” prospects and the best at their position in this year’s class, no one is immune from busting. There is no way of knowing for certain which players will or won’t succeed, but there are some patterns that can help us determine how well a player will perform. Most notably, their position.

While not every position gets drafted at the same rate in the first round, the expectations for first-round draftees are always the same: be a game-changer that takes your team to the next level. That’s easier said than done though. However, some positions must be easier to scout, because there is a vast difference in levels of success between some positions in the league. So, which position produces the most/least serviceable NFL talent? Quarterbacks? Receivers? Offensive linemen? Defensive backs?

Here are the hit rates for every position in the NFL over the last twenty years based on various measurements of success.

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Which positions earn a second contract or extension?

One way to determine NFL success is whether or not the team that drafted you wants to keep you around. Obviously, there are some instances where a team can’t afford to keep someone coming off their rookie deal around, and that can really damage certain positions’ percentages as markets in the NFL fluctuate.

For example, wide receivers are becoming more and more valuable by the day and their market keeps getting driven up. However, as they become more expensive, more and more teams will be unable to afford them, making it more likely they join a different team by the end of their rookie contracts. Running backs, on the other hand, keep seeing their value drop. Even though a great one can be an incredible weapon, their price tags make it more likely that teams will retain their star tailbacks.

At the same time though, a lot of halfbacks drafted in the first round are driven into the ground by the team that drafts them. Since they’re so highly touted, they’re often expected to be workhorses right away, and oftentimes, that can lead to regression by their fourth years. Many teams will refuse to re-sign their tailbacks in those cases because they’ve seen the regression first hand and don’t want to pay for someone who isn’t as good as they once were.

As you can see, offensive linemen have been pretty good bets to remain on their teams through their rookie contracts, whereas skill position players and DBs tend to be near the bottom. With that in mind, perhaps the best course of action for teams looking to rebuild would be to build the offensive line first, because they are the most likely players to stick around when their team eventually drafts a quarterback and weapons that can win them a Super Bowl while still only making rookie contract money.

Which positions create the most All-Pros?

Another measure of success could be first team All-Pro appearances. While the Pro Bowl is great, many skeptics believe the game to be a popularity contest that doesn’t always put the league’s best players on the proper pedestals. All-Pro selections are more or less concrete, although not bulletproof.

Some positions barely get any recognition in the All-Pro department. For example, quarterbacks only get one first team All-Pro every year. Players like Josh Allen, who are by no means a bust would not register on this metric since he’s never been named first-team All-Pro.

Still, it’s hard to argue against an All-Pro being a bust, so here is every first-round position ranked by how many First Team All-Pro selections they had between 2010 and 2019.

Surprisingly, a running back drafted in the first round is the most likely position to become an All-Pro at some point in the future. It makes sense. Given the way the NFL is headed in regards to running backs, it would take a truly incredible talent to warrant a first-round pick.

Of the 16 running backs drafted in the first round in the 2010s, five of them ended up first team All-Pros at one point or another in their careers (31%) – Josh Jacobs, Todd Gurley, Doug Martin, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey.

After running backs, the next most likely positions to produce first team All-Pros are center (29%), guard (27%), and defensive back (23%). The least likely positions to produce first teamers are tight end (0%), quarterback (10%), and wide receiver (12%).

Will this year’s heavy quarterback class produce any stars?

The 2024 draft class is very quarterback-heavy, with some experts predicting as many as six quarterbacks being selected in the first round this year – Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix, and Bo Nix. Many believe that each of the first three picks of the draft will be quarterbacks.

The last time that happened was 2021 when Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville), Zach Wilson (New York Jets), and Trey Lance (San Francisco) were taken with the first three picks. Although Trevor Lawrence was considered a generational prospect, he hasn’t lived up to the hype quite yet. While he has led his team to the playoffs and even has a playoff win under his belt, he has not shown MVP-caliber talent like most people expected.

This year, a similar situation is upon us. USC’s Caleb Williams is considered a generational talent at quarterback by some people, and he will likely be taken first overall. Clearly though, that doesn’t guarantee he will be great in the NFL. Frankly, every other quarterback taken in the first round of that 2021 class wound up underwhelming in the NFL (with Justin Fields being an exception, as the court of public opinion is still undecided on him).

Of course, that doesn’t mean the 2024 quarterback class is doomed to fail. It’s just that although there are many chances for one of them to become a star, that is not a guarantee.

Since 1999, 74 quarterbacks have been taken in the first-round of the NFL Draft. USA Today’s Jim Sergent lists that only 28 of those picks (38%) wound up being franchise stalwarts, while 39 would up being disappointments.

The hit rate on quarterbacks isn’t spectacular in the first-round, but unless you’re the 49ers and happen to stumble into a Pro Bowler with the last pick in the draft, there isn’t much hope you’ll find a franchise guy outside of the first round.

How to watch the 2024 NFL Draft:

  • When: April 25-27, 2024
  • Where: Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT
  • TV: ESPN; ABC; NFL Network
  • Stream: NFL+; ESPN+; Hulu+ Live TV; fuboTV

Watch the draft: Stream the 2024 NFL Draft with a Fubo subscription

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