Narrative Street: How often do top-10 draft picks bust?

When a player drafted in the top 10 busts in fantasy, it sticks in the memory. Tyler Loechner looks at if it happens that often.

| 6 days ago
(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Narrative Street: How often do top-10 draft picks bust?


We saw three wide receivers go in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft last weekend. Scratch that. We saw three receivers go within the first 10 picks of the draft, including Corey Davis (No. 5), Mike Williams (No. 7), and John Ross (No. 9).

That hadn’t happened since 2005, when Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson, and (a different) Mike Williams all went in the top 10.

We also saw two running backs go in the first 10 picks of the draft — Leonard Fournette at No. 4 and Christian McCaffrey and No. 8. That hadn’t happened since … also 2005, when Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Cadillac Williams were all gone by pick No. 5.

Whew. Let’s hope the top wideouts and running backs from 2017 turn out better than 2005’s “elite” group of skill-position players.

The narrative: Skill players taken in the top 10 of the draft are risky bets with high miss rates.

I find it odd — even if completely irrelevant — that the last time so many receivers went in the top 10 happened in 2005, which also happens to be the last time so many running backs went in the top 10. But given the terrible outcome of that 2005 group, it begs the question: Are top-10 picks overrated for fantasy?

At the wideout position, in recent years, we’ve been blessed with Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones as top-10 draft picks. But we’ve also been subjected to Justin Blackmon, Tavon Austin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Ted Ginn Jr.

Running backs, meanwhile, have given us Ezekiel Elliott and two-faced Todd Gurley, but we’ve also had Trent Richardson and others.

As we learned last week, we can undoubtedly expect more out of first-round picks. But we also learned that where they go within each round is a little less important. We (naturally) expect more out of top-10 picks at the skill positions, but we have also grown wary of busts and don’t want to get burned.

So which is it? Can you trust top-10 picks, or not?

The findings

Obviously, only 10 players go in the top 10 of each draft — and not many of them are skill position players (WR, RB, and TE). So to get enough data, we went back to 2000 (again, thanks, PFR) and found all top-10 skill-position picks.

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Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

  • evo34

    What about QB?