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Still the Third Round 33% Rule

A general rule of thumb I've suggested is that only approximately 1 out of 3 players drafted in the 3rd round ultimately become "starters" during their rookie contracts. To test whether that concept held true for the 2019 draft class (those players are currently in their 4th seasons, the final year on their rookie deals), I went through each of the 3rd round picks to see how they turned out. I did not include any of the compensatory 3rd round picks (so, Bobby Evans isn't included in this study) but I did include the player the New York Giants took in the 2018 supplemental draft, because it cost them their 2019 third round selection.

Out of those 32 players, I categorized only 11 players as being starters. Hendo for the Rams is part of this group. That results in a "success rate" of 34%. Receiver Terry McLaurin, linebacker Bobby Okereke and guard Nate Davis are examples of the 3rd round players who have paid dividends to their clubs. As I've done in past studies, I generally did not attempt to distinguish between "good starters" and "bad starters". One guy could be a Pro Bowler and the other one a starter who performs only like a backup player, but for purposes of the study they both counted as "starters".

Some notable players include the following (listed in descending draft order):

Jalen Hurd (67th overall, Niners): The next WR taken after DK Metcalf, he had knee and back injuries and never appeared in a single regular season game in his pro career. He is a street FA out of the NFL.

Jachai Polite (68th overall): Briefly with the Rams at one point, he played in Canada this year, but recorded zero sacks in the CFL and wasn't able to maintain a roster spot there, getting waived.

Josh Oliver: A talented TE, he landed on IR multiple times and had a total of 3 catches for 15 yards for the Jaguars. He was traded for a conditional 7th round pick after two seasons and that 7th round slot eventually ended up in the hands of the Rams and was used to take Daniel Hardy. Tight end has been a position the Jaguars have struggled to fill in recent years.

Dre'Mont Jones (71st overall): Is an example of the medium outcome, because he's not a bust, but he hasn't started enough games to satisfy the criteria to qualify as a "starter". This year is the first time he's been a full time starter. He's a 3-4 DE and has 20 career sacks, but only has a 54.1 PFF grade. Greg Gaines, who the Rams drafted late in the 4th round, is arguably as good an all around player as Jones, even though GG doesn't get as many sacks.

Germaine Pratt (72nd overall): Is one of the 11 starters, even though he only has PFF season grades of 51.0, 41.5, 47.0 and 58.9. Troy Reeder was an UDFA in the same 2019 draft and had grades of 60.4 and 46.7 in 2020 and 2021, so arguably Reeder is just as good a player as Pratt, but as a performer I would only call Reeder a backup level player.

Jace Sternberger is a street FA, out of the NFL. He was suspended for substance abuse and waived early his 3rd season, with brief stints on 2 other clubs. He had a total of 12 catches for the Packers.

Chase Winovich progressively got shuffled down the edge rusher depth chart with the Patriots, then got traded in March for Mack Wilson, a 5th round LB in the same 2019 draft. Winovich went on IR and Wilson is a backup LB for the Pats. In this case, you could say there literally was zero difference between the 3rd round guy and the 5th round guy.

Michael Deiter has started about 1.5 seasons in his career, but not enough games to count as a starter. He had a miserable 42.5 PFF grade as a rookie and essentially wasn't trusted enough by the Fins, leading them to get former Dallas Cowboy, Connor Williams in free agency to play center. So far in 2022, Williams has played very well and Deiter is a backup.

Justin Layne was the next CB taken after the Rams took David Long. He didn't play much for the Steelers and the only year he had notable defensive snaps he had a poor 48.3 PFF grade. After getting waived this year, he was claimed by the Giants.

Khalen Saunders was one of the small school (Western Illinois) draft darlings that several draft experts loved. A rotational backup DT for the Chiefs, he has 1.5 career sacks. Another player who probably isn't better than Greg Gaines.

Jaylon Ferguson was a polarizing prospect. His playing time declined each year with the Ravens and he was a healthy inactive for much of 2021. Tragically, Ferguson died in 2022, his death ruled accidental, caused by fentanyl and cocaine.

Kahale Warring was one of my favorite 3rd round prospects. He's a street FA, out of the NFL. On IR multiple times, he had a total of 3 catches for 35 yards in the NFL, waived after 2 seasons.

Cody Barton has been a backup linebacker for most of his career with the Seahawks. A starter this season, he has a 50.1 PFF grade.

Connor McGovern for Dallas has struggled to get and stay healthy. Finally able to play, he has a 45.1 PFF grade.

Miles Boykin was waived by the Ravens this year and claimed by the Steelers. He's never had at least 20 catches in any single season.

Oshane Ximines only had 4.5 sacks in the first 3 seasons of his career. A backup DE for the Giants, this year he seems to be having the best season of his NFL career, with a 77.8 PFF grade and 2 sacks, playing about 50% of their defensive snaps.

Conclusion

The Rams don't have a 1st round pick in 2023. If they somehow manage to turn their season around and make the playoffs, then the 2nd and 3rd round picks they hold for 2023 will be in the lower half of those rounds. Typically what happens around the NFL is fans have unreasonable expectations for their own GM, expecting the team to hit home runs at an extraordinarily high rate.

Over an extended number of drafts, if a GM has a success rate in the 3rd round of between 40 to 50%, I'd say that is very good, even though by definition that means the team statistically will have more "misses" than "hits". If the league wide success rate is typically closer to around 35%, then if you are around 45% you are doing 10% better than your peers.

Henderson, David Long, Bobby Evans, that wasn't a spectacular 3rd round draft haul by Snead. On the other hand, all those players are still on the roster, which is more than can be said about multiple other 3rd round picks from 2019 (some not even in the NFL at all.) In fact, the only player the Rams drafted in 2019 who isn't currently on the roster is Dakota Allen, a compensatory 7th rounder taken near the very end of the draft.

To this day, I still believe that trading up to take Hendo was a mistake (the Rams used 3 late 3rd round picks to move up to that slot), but all things considered things have worked out okay. The production the Rams have gotten from players like David Edwards and Nick Scott have somewhat cancelled out not getting more from players like Bobby Evans and David Long.

This time next year, things might not look pretty for the 2020 class. Cam Akers (2nd rd) presumably won't be on the team anymore. Will Van Jefferson (2nd), Terrell Lewis (3rd), Terrell Burgess(3rd) and Brycen Hopkins(4th) be good players? If none of those players emerge and become quality starters, it could result in substantial problems for the Rams in 2023.