Here’s an understatement: In recent years, the Indianapolis Colts haven’t been the best team at drafting.
This year’s draft saw the Colts have their third GM in the last seven drafts, as the Polians were fired after some questionable drafts late in that regime and then Ryan Grigson was fired earlier this offseason after some questionable drafts as well.
Of course, evaluating a draft class can be a very subjective venture, but one way to determine how successful a class was is to look at how many players are retained. The best way to build a team is to draft talent and then spend to keep those guys around, and that’s what Chris Ballard wants to do with the Colts. But over the last several years, that hasn’t been the case in Indianapolis.
Jeff Hunter from Buffalo Rumblings tweeted out a chart yesterday (h/t Arrowhead Pride) that shows draft pick retention for teams over the last six drafts (excluding 2017), from the 2011 draft through the 2016 draft. Basically, Hunter just looked at how many players were still with the team from those six draft classes. The results for the Colts weren’t great.
Draft pick retention by NFL teams, 2011-16 pic.twitter.com/HeO5ueAFPB— Jeff Hunter (@MrJeffHunter) May 24, 2017
Here’s how it’s broken down for the Colts by year: they have 20% of their draft picks from 2011 remaining on the roster (1/5), 20% from 2012 (2/10), 0% from 2013 (0/7), 40% from 2014 (2/5), 62.5% from 2015 (5/8), and 75% from 2016 (6/8). They have just five players total remaining from the 2011-2014 drafts (18.5%): Anthony Castonzo, Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Jack Mewhort, and Donte Moncrief.
Over the six drafts included (2011-2016), the Colts have the second-lowest percentage of players still around, as their 37.2% is better than only the Bills (34.8%). Only five teams total, including the Colts, have lower than 40% of their picks from that span still around.
You’d expect less players to be around from draft classes several years ago, and that’s the case: the Colts have just 13.6% of players still around from their 2011-2013 classes. But that’s not really out of line with the rest of the NFL, as the Colts have just the 12th-lowest percentage in that span - so there are eleven teams who are worse, including two division opponents (the Jaguars and the Titans).
So what really hurts the Colts isn’t that so much as it is the fact that their recent drafts haven’t kept as many players around either, as they have the third-lowest retention percentage from 2014-2016 with 61.9% of their picks still around. What is very interesting, however, is that the only two teams lower are the Patriots (58.6%) and the Seahawks (59.3%).
What do we make of all of this? Well, I think there are a few things to point out. Firstly, the Colts haven’t been great at drafting and they haven’t retained as many of their picks recently as most teams have. But we already knew that. Secondly, I think it’s worth pointing out that this is an area where Chris Ballard wants to get better at - growing and keeping their own talent. So it’s an emphasis that they’re already working toward. And third, poor drafting or poor retention of draft picks doesn’t have a direct correlation to losing, since the Patriots and Seahawks are the lowest in the area of retention over the last three years. There are other factors in play that also contribute to losing, but for a team looking to rebuild like the Colts, this isn’t encouraging.
Overall, I think the best way to interpret this is simply as a numerical representation of why the Colts’ emphasis on growing their own talent is so well-placed: because recently, the Colts haven’t been very good at it.