How Difficult is it to Have a Successful Draft?

I went through every NFL draft since 2000 and tallied up the number of Pro Bowlers by round:

Now, it looks like talent is dropping off in recent years, but it’s just because the players drafted from about 2017 on just haven’t been in the league long enough to realize their full potential. You can especially see this with the 2019 class: clearly more than 10 guys from that class will make a Pro Bowl when all is said and done. They just need time to get there.

What we see, though, is that from 2000-2019, there were 580 Pro Bowlers drafted. This includes special teams players, too. Some years are better than others (for instance, 2002 only produced 20 total Pro Bowler, while 2006 and 2010 produced 39 apiece).

But on average, unsurprisingly, you’re going to find the most Pro Bowlers in the first round. The first round averages 13.2 Pro Bowlers per year, and that number is slightly reduced by the inclusion of 2018 and 2019 in the average.

If we omit 2018 & 2019, the averages go up:

So with an average of 13.7 Pro Bowlers in the first round each year, you have about a 42.8% chance of drafting a future Pro Bowler with your first round pick. Of course, the odds go even higher close to the top, so this is not really a useful number.

Looking at these numbers, it feels like the first round is a hot-bed of star talent, while in rounds 2-7, drafting a star player is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Interestingly, the years 2015-2017 were all below-average in terms of first round Pro Bowlers. Maybe this is because those guys still have not had time to fully realize their potential.

We’ve only had 3 Pro Bowlers drafted in the 7th round in the past 10 years. However, from 2000-2009, there were 12 Pro Bowlers drafted in the 7th round.


I updated the chart to include some more data. It has first round Pro Bowlers broken down by top 10, 11-20 and 21-32. It also shows the percent of picks in each round that have been Pro Bowlers, your likelihood of drafting a Pro Bowler by round, and each round’s share of total Pro Bowlers:

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