Analysis The Clarkson Rebuild Model - A Reason For Optimism

Carl Spackler

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I have been taking a a look at draft data recently so thought I'd share a few observations. I think when most people think about the draft, we tend to think of getting elite talent at the top end of the draft. I thought I'd examine the data to see how much draft position matters in the long run using data relating to the top 50 picks. I haven't bothered to filter out active players from the data so bare that in mind.

1. We can see that the expected outcome in terms of games played is flat after the first round. Only the first 3 picks in the draft have a median games played of greater than 100 games.
View attachment 709773

2. I know what you are thinking...you need top picks to get the best players....well....you get a slightly better chance of it but there is a huge opportunity all through the top 50. This one is for AA players (not necessarily at their original club). You certainly see more in the top 20 but from about 35-50 there has also been great opportunity. The picks from 20-35 appear to be a bit of a dead zone for AA players. 1 = AA player.
View attachment 709634

3. Almost an identical spread for B&F winners (not necessarily at their original club). 1 = B&F winner.
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4. Premiership players (not necessarily at their original club) show an even more even spread. If you didn't know this was ordered by picks you would probably find it hard to see the very slight higher density of B&F winners to the left of the chart. 1 = premiership player. A standard OLS regression (controlling for Hawthorn) showed only the tiniest decrease in your chances of getting a premiership player as you go deeper into the draft. The thing to note is that premiership players taken earlier in the draft tend to play more games than premiership players taken later in the draft. Thi is likely a reflection of the readiness of players taken early in the draft compared to those later. Also, clubs that can identify and develop talent into premiership standard players probably win a few premierships :)
View attachment 709636

5. Premiership players drafted by Hawthorn are also found pretty much anywhere. Amazingly there are only 30 players drafted by Hawthorn in the top 50 to ever play in a premiership. I'll have to do some digging to see how many players we didn't't draft or drafted later. Note, this would include Josh Kennedy who won a premiership with Sydney. Premiership player drafted by Hawthorn = 1.
View attachment 709646

I think you can see why we are generally willing to chance our arm in the middle of the draft. Lately we have gone almost out of the draft so I'll next focus on building a database of picks after the top 50 to examine those. got a lot of plans for this little bit of analysis but little time to do it...
In your first graph it looks to me like only the first three rounds have picks that distribute normally. After that it looks like each round's picks form a Pareto distribution. In fact you can see that the average games played for each pick round forms a Pareto distribution. This leads me to believe that the top end talent is being picked correctly because their longevity in the game distributes as you would expect with one end of the data bound to a fixed value (round 0, the start).

Perhaps the likelihood of winning a premiership has more do with factors other than draft round, which aren't modelled, which is what you're arguing in effect. Maybe something like core group longevity regardless of round picked - perhaps the number of years the core of the team has played together is the determining factor. Draft could possibly influence that as we see the first three rounds gives you the best chance of picking long lasting players. Or maybe something seemingly unrelated to on-field performance is the driving factor, like board stability.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see something external to the football department providing just that clue. Anecdotally, the Hawks dominated the premiership the last 55 years and since the draft was introduced in '86 the Hawks have been the undisputed kings. But everyone has drafted under the same rules so you would expect more even distribution of results. In fact, some clubs have been utterly, consistently abysmal year after year despite a very heavy finger on the draft scale.

The draft is undoubtedly the primary tool to drive player parity between clubs, but talent parity is not the only factor which affects performance, and perhaps not even near the top. All things being equal, the longevity distribution in the first graph would balance performance over time between clubs. But all things aren't equal and the draft appears to be the last lever of parity, not the first. I guess this is why the AFL introduces success taxes and hands out failure bonuses to clubs, but money is a tool not an influencer.

So, there you go. Does this help? I don't know. But factors like board or football department turnover would be interesting to explore for a correlation to premierships. Got any spare time?
 

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Gene Simmons

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My optimism sways week to week :drunk:

But i have to admit I'm loving what we've seen from Lewis & TOB the last couple of weeks... Yes midfielders are important but KPP who can clunk them (and kick goals) are equally if not more damaging!
 

Carl Spackler

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I also wanted to mention that the normal distributions in the first three rounds indicates a good eye for talent which overcomes the bound bottom of zero games. That bottom comes increasingly into play as the average games played trends toward zero after the third round. But since the premiership distribution is essentially an even spread and doesn't mirror the average games distribution it's obvious that premierships are driven by something other than drafting.

I also think it's unlikely that some clubs are just better at picking the needles from the haystacks and beating the draft odds for talent. Instead I think that the physical talent is likely quite even across the draft (some freaks the exception) and the difference in longevity between the early picks and late picks is around maturity and the ability to play in the high-pressure big leagues off your own natural or self-developed mental/emotional attributes and support networks. If that guess is accurate, then I think there is a reasonable chance that club culture is far more likely to be a big factor in success than the draft pick. In other words, do some sliding doors outside the top three picks and give Hawthorn different players and I believe they would be just about the same in terms of premiership success.

Don't know how to chase data to investigate that but I reckon it's a solid hypothesis.
 

ahhhhhh

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Another observation on value. Looking at aa and bnf players, very few play less than 100 games for their career. Almost all the 300+ game players have an AA and most also have a bnf. Premiership players don’t follow the same pattern. A lot more play fewer than 100 career games. And 300 games is no longer a guarantee of success. So maybe building a premiership list is in part a matter of finding the right player at the right time rather than the best players.
Brishawk what period is this data over? Would the results be different if you looked at 2014-2019 compared to say 2009-2014, with the advancements in recruiting and profiling?

I'd love to believe that draft pick position has no correlation to success as a player, but wonder if it is becoming increasingly relevant as list management teams develop.

NOTE: Sorry if you've mentioned this somewhere and I missed it
 
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Brishawk

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Brishawk what period is this data over? Would the results be different if you looked at 2014-2019 compared to say 2009-2014, with the advancements in recruiting and profiling?

I'd love to believe that draft pick position has no correlation to success as a player, but wonder if it is becoming increasingly relevant as list management teams develop.

NOTE: Sorry if you've mentioned this somewhere and I missed it
It’s the whole history of the draft. The challenge looking at more recent periods is that, for example, someone recruited in the last three seasons hasn’t had an opportunity to play 100 games and unlikely to have won a bnf or AA in that time. So it will distort the results heavily. No matter how talented or good you are there is only a maximum of 26 games you can play per year and most of the benchmarks I can design from the data relate to games played. If I had season data for each player I might be able to created expectations around a player drafted at pick x in season n.
 

Brishawk

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Brishawk Is this from all drafts ever undertaken? It seems that draft selection is improving as time goes on, with the better clubs having higher success across all picks.
Yep, all drafts ever. The peak number of AA players selected in a given draft was 15 in 1999 and again in 2001. AA production has generally been fairly stable since then though apart from the odd year. I have mentioned above but you can benchmark players against games played or even AA or bnf if they were only drafted a short time ago. So it’s not really easy to look at recent drafts.

I am building some models that will focus in on the period from 1999 to 2011 under the assumption that AA production is indicative of superior drafting performance by clubs. But to be honest I don’t see any dramatic improvement in draft performance. You still get shockers/flops in the top ten. Seriously, McGrath was never the best kid in the draft!

Matthew KreuzerCarltonNorthern U182007
1Jack WattsMelbourneSandringham U182008
1Tom ScullyMelbourneDandenong U182009
1David SwallowGold CoastEast Fremantle2010
1Jonathon PattonGreater Western SydneyEastern U182011
1Lachie WhitfieldGreater Western SydneyDandenong U182012
1Tom BoydGreater Western SydneyEastern U182013
1Patrick McCartinSt KildaGeelong U182014
1Jacob WeiteringCarltonMount Eliza2015
1Andrew McGrathEssendonSandringham U182016
1Cameron RaynerBrisbane LionsWestern Jets2017
1Samuel Walsh


There is also a lot of distortions that were not present in the draft before (not in present form anyway) such as father son and academies. Not easy to control for all of that. Early days but games played is a great predictor of AA and bnf outcomes. Also Brownlow votes.
 

Brishawk

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Sorry can’t seem to edit that post above. But the table in the middle shows the past 12 number one picks. Quite frankly they couldn’t hold a candle many of the others tacken before that!
 

Brishawk

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That's awesome Brishawk

Can you do one for Brownlow Votes, or is that maybe too many variables?

What would be the best measure for 'value'?

Games played is fine, but I'd rather our 3x years of Brian Lake than the 22-odd years Carltank have got out of Kade Simpson.
AFL Points (or Supercoach etc.)? Or are they heavily weighted to favour midfielders?
I took a quick look at Brownlow votes last night. Almost no impact of pick on votes. Games played the important variable.
 

Brishawk

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Wonder what our plan is if we miss out on Cogs and Whitfield.

Does that mean the club changes strategy and mini rebuild?
Well we would have to change strategy but to what is a mystery. We can’t go all in on a draft strategy like saints or Carlton. Would take years. My guess is we try to trade into this draft and target players next season.
 

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MrPremiership

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Well we would have to change strategy but to what is a mystery. We can’t go all in on a draft strategy like saints or Carlton. Would take years. My guess is we try to trade into this draft and target players next season.
Thats the doomsday scenario in my view. Missing an A-grader this year. Wonder what we do. Don't want the Carlton full rebuild, but we couldn't just top up in 12 months time.
 

rogiebear93

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Thats the doomsday scenario in my view. Missing an A-grader this year. Wonder what we do. Don't want the Carlton full rebuild, but we couldn't just top up in 12 months time.
Just get an A Grader back in Tom Mitchell and still be in the mix, injuries permitting.

Everyone drastically overestimates what is required to compete in the AFL at the moment and drastically underestimates what we have.
 

HODGEYROAD

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We're not far off, but we'll need more than just Mitchell back.
Correct all getting Mitchell back does ( assuming he's still as good as he was pre broken leg also) gets us to a ceiling of what we achieved in 2018, good side but not a legit premiership threat.
 

Wandering Hawk

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The development of our younger forwards means that next year we're fine forward, even without a great star recruit this off season. Patton would be nice as a value get, but we're OK. We won't win the flag but we'll compete very well and continue to get games into our kids. Lewis is very exciting and Hanrahan has come from nowhere, whilst Nash and Moore are developing well, and Ross and Walker look the goods in the magoos. Even a moneyball pick here would be great.

Midfield we will be a bit thin if we don't get Cogs or a similar A grader. Mitchell back is nice, but our list needs to grow here, we have insufficient depth, and Jones's pcl adds to our issues, especially if Smith leaves. Would hope to get Hill if all else fails, huge get that lets us then choose to either have better depth or move Smith on for value. I hope we at least add Finn and a few draft kids as well because sooner or later we'll lose Smith and Henderson.

Defensively TOB has been a good find, and Scrimshaw too, but it was very disappointing that Morrison really went backwards this year and no longer seems like the future. We need some more depth here to cover the aging of Frawley, Birchall, Stratton, and need to recruit a younger key defender in the next 2 years.

It's hardly the end if we don't get an A grader. Top picks plus some moneyball players could do well, and we only need the A graders over the next 2-3 years and not necessarily next year.
 

Bugs1977

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The development of our younger forwards means that next year we're fine forward, even without a great star recruit this off season. Patton would be nice as a value get, but we're OK. We won't win the flag but we'll compete very well and continue to get games into our kids. Lewis is very exciting and Hanrahan has come from nowhere, whilst Nash and Moore are developing well, and Ross and Walker look the goods in the magoos. Even a moneyball pick here would be great.

Midfield we will be a bit thin if we don't get Cogs or a similar A grader. Mitchell back is nice, but our list needs to grow here, we have insufficient depth, and Jones's pcl adds to our issues, especially if Smith leaves. Would hope to get Hill if all else fails, huge get that lets us then choose to either have better depth or move Smith on for value. I hope we at least add Finn and a few draft kids as well because sooner or later we'll lose Smith and Henderson.

Defensively TOB has been a good find, and Scrimshaw too, but it was very disappointing that Morrison really went backwards this year and no longer seems like the future. We need some more depth here to cover the aging of Frawley, Birchall, Stratton, and need to recruit a younger key defender in the next 2 years.

It's hardly the end if we don't get an A grader. Top picks plus some moneyball players could do well, and we only need the A graders over the next 2-3 years and not necessarily next year.
What we need first and foremost is a free hit at an A grader (Coniglio) combined with not giving up any 1st rounder/s. The free hit allows us to kill two birds with one stone by essentially adding an A grader (Coniglio) and hopefully drafting another one in the draft. Missing out on Coniglio this offseason would be a disaster because if we trade for Whitfield we'll likely have to do so by trading at bare minimum our 2019 1st rounder and more than likely more than that. Going that route means we'll add one A grader rather than two.

We need this free hit like a fat kid needs cake.
 

PenAndPaperJosh

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Correct all getting Mitchell back does ( assuming he's still as good as he was pre broken leg also) gets us to a ceiling of what we achieved in 2018, good side but not a legit premiership threat.
That's not taking into account the development of our blokes. Worpel, Lewis, Scrimshaw, Impey, Omeara, Scully, Henderson are all improved/ new compared to last year.

I think we are a lot better off than most give us credit for.
 

HODGEYROAD

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That's not taking into account the development of our blokes. Worpel, Lewis, Scrimshaw, Impey, Omeara, Scully, Henderson are all improved/ new compared to last year.

I think we are a lot better off than most give us credit for.
You can't just include the improvement of younger blokes though, without talking about drop offs from Gunston, Bruest, Stratton and Smith since 2018.
 

SuperSic

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Yep, all drafts ever. The peak number of AA players selected in a given draft was 15 in 1999 and again in 2001. AA production has generally been fairly stable since then though apart from the odd year. I have mentioned above but you can benchmark players against games played or even AA or bnf if they were only drafted a short time ago. So it’s not really easy to look at recent drafts.

I am building some models that will focus in on the period from 1999 to 2011 under the assumption that AA production is indicative of superior drafting performance by clubs. But to be honest I don’t see any dramatic improvement in draft performance. You still get shockers/flops in the top ten. Seriously, McGrath was never the best kid in the draft!

Matthew KreuzerCarltonNorthern U182007
1Jack WattsMelbourneSandringham U182008
1Tom ScullyMelbourneDandenong U182009
1David SwallowGold CoastEast Fremantle2010
1Jonathon PattonGreater Western SydneyEastern U182011
1Lachie WhitfieldGreater Western SydneyDandenong U182012
1Tom BoydGreater Western SydneyEastern U182013
1Patrick McCartinSt KildaGeelong U182014
1Jacob WeiteringCarltonMount Eliza2015
1Andrew McGrathEssendonSandringham U182016
1Cameron RaynerBrisbane LionsWestern Jets2017
1Samuel Walsh


There is also a lot of distortions that were not present in the draft before (not in present form anyway) such as father son and academies. Not easy to control for all of that. Early days but games played is a great predictor of AA and bnf outcomes. Also Brownlow votes.
Really appreciate all the analysis Bris.

What this data really confirms for me is that the clubs recent strategy of trading high draft picks for known quantities is completely ingenious. How many of the number one picks in that table could you say are deserving of that pick upon reflection? I would say only 2 look likely - Whitfield and Walsh (although very early days he does look like a star). So that's a strike rate of 1 in 6 for the most valuable draft pick in the entire league... Not exactly inspiring figures.

The data you posted the other night really highlighted to me that there is an unwarranted discrepancy in the value placed in first round picks as opposed to later round picks. For instance, at the trade table pick 14 will get you Tom Mitchell, while pick 62 will get you a player like Ryan Clarke. The difference in the value of these picks at the trade table is clearly enormous, on one hand you have a Brownlow Medallist and on the other hand you have a player who struggles to get a game with the 14th team on the ladder.

But when you compare the value of similar picks based on who you can draft with these two picks the discrepencyin talent is not even remotely as large. In recent years, Hawthorn have drafted:
Picks 10-25: Billy Hartung, Ryan Burton and Kieran Lovell
Picks 45-60: Alex Woodward, James Sicily, John Ceglar, Teia Miles, Marc Pittonet, James Worpel and Jacob Koschitzke (Hardwick at 44 too)

Based on the difference in the value of a draft pick between the draft and the trade table, our recent strategy of trading early picks appears to be a highly calculated and effective one. We are essentially taking advantage of the over-valuation of high draft picks within the industry to bring in players who already have a proven track record (O'meara, Mitchell, Wingard), and backing our recruiters to find good young talent deep in the draft. I think that our exceptional development program at the club also allows us to bank on turning later picks into good players.

Recently I have seen many posters freak out at the idea of trading our 2019 & 2020 first round picks for Lachie Whitfield, but I am sure they have not looked at it from this perspective. What are the odds of two 18 year old kids taken between pick 5 and 20, ever reaching the level of Lachie Whitfield? I would suggest that the probability of this happening is less than 5%, given that I rate Whitfield as a top 10-20 player in the league. In fact the odds of these kids even making it to 100 games is stacked against them based on the data that Bris has shown us. So in my view, this trade makes a lot of sense once you weigh this aspect up, and this is also before taking into account other consideraions such as the age profile you need to win flags. Based on our recent trade periods I would say that the club has a similar view to me

I'm keen to see what else you can dig up Bris, but what you've found so far is actually giving me a great deal of confidence that our club well ahead of everyone else and that our list strategy is based on bold yet calculated analysis of the data.
 

Wandering Hawk

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You can't just include the improvement of younger blokes though, without talking about drop offs from Gunston, Bruest, Stratton and Smith since 2018.
Sure. But the improvement is far greater than the drop off. And we've cut a tonne of dead wood.

Look at the midfield, where Cogs would come. It's far better in 2020, without Cogs, than it was in 2018.

2018 midfield by games
Shiels 23
Smith 24
Henderson 22
Mitchell 24
JOM 21
Howe 17
Worpel 11 (debut)
Langford 7
Whitecross 5
Cousins 4
O'Rourke 3
Lovell 0
Willsmore 0
Jones 0

so many list cloggers!

2019 midfield by games ... so far
Shiels 13
Smith 13
Henderson 16
Scully 15
JOM 15
Worpel 16
Howe 7
Cousins 11
Mitchell 0 (injured)
Jones 0
Golds 0

We gained Scully, and Worpel and Cousins (and JOM and Henderson) have greatly developed.

We've cut Whitecross, JOR, Langford, Lovell, Willsmore from our list, and gained Golds as a project.

With Mitchell back, and drafting father son Finn McGuinness, we're a much stronger trimmer list with a better future even before we get picks or Cogs.

The forward line is even more drastic, 2020 will be very dissimilar to 2018 with an even greater future.

2018 forward line
Burgoyne 17
Roughead 22
Breust 24
Gunston 23
Puopolo 20
TOB 12
Ceglar 11
Schoenmakers 9
Nash 5 - debut
Rioli 4
Lewis 2 - debut
Hanrahan 0
Ross 0

so much deadwood, so many placeholders getting games.

2019 forward line... so far
Breust 16
Gunston 15
Burgoyne 12
Puopolo 16
Ceglar 11
Roughead 7
Wingard 8
Nash 8
Lewis 8
Moore 7
Hanrahan 3
Schoenmakers 0
Mitchington 0
Ross 0
Walker 0

coming into 2020
Breust and Gunston were down last year, albeit with different structures and roles.
Wingard is a great gain vs 2018.
Mitchington will return from injury to be depth.
Lewis has hugely improved and will replace a cooked Roughead.
Nash is improving, and Hanrahan and Moore go well. Ross and Walker are developing well.

There's a tonne of deadwood cut with no longer running Schoenmakers, TOB forward, Roughead, or Langford forward... let alone baby Nash. No disrespect intended but they were stopgap at best.

We'll lose Puopolo and Burgoyne and Roughead. The first two will hurt, but our list is clearly better with Lewis and Wingard and all the developing kids. Having a young pack marking KPF kicking goals is a huge upgrade on the (brave) post chemo Roughead that hugely alters our forward dynamics. Swapping a slowing Puopolo for a fit and far younger Wingard is similarly a big upgrade that takes us far closer to a flag.

Hanrahan Moore Nash with Ross Walker Mitchington as soon to debut depth simply murder our old depth crew of Schoenmakers, Langford, TOB forward, and playing baby Nash and baby Lewis because there was no other depth.

It's far from merely returning to 2018 again.
 
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HODGEYROAD

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cousins will go to a new level in 2020, showing good signs but still green, will help bridge the midfield depth
Yeah I'm not so sure on his ceiling tbh, don't mind the kid and he tries hard but personally think his scope is pretty limited.

My personal opinion on the regeneration approach we've taken since the end of 2016 is that it's imperative we land an A grade free agent or 2 along the way, I've seen nothing that's made me deter from that line of thinking.
 

CHUBBSS

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Love the data Brishawk and thanks for the reply. I probably would not use Brownlow votes as an indicator as its a popularity and stats vote from the umpires. There are so many variables to account for as you may draft well but players could be injury prone and effect games played/stats. Is it possible to define a 'successful' draft pick as a player who has played 50 games? Or maybe it would be easier to define by coaches vote rankings as that can highlight good players, playing their role that may not be highlighted through AA votes.

I would imagine the good clubs are a step ahead and have a player model they base draft picks on, particularly (hawks/geelong/collingwood/eagles/etc) Drafting is an art but data helps to minimise the old school trusting your gut approach
 

CHUBBSS

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Also to add, Wright is known to have one of the longest running and most developed player lists in the AFL on all picks and player development and career progression. Over time that data is only going to become stronger to help make predictions that find diamond in the rough players from what is considered a low value pick but really pick 40-80 is the same value as most clubs do not have the same data/experience.
 
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