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Economists: Redskins are doomed!

Here comes the American Enterprise Institute. Er, again.

The scoop is Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research doesn't think much of the Redskins personnel strategy, and isn't afraid to say so. The Redskins finished last according to his Draft day ranking. Let's get metrics out of the way:

To come to this conclusion, I relied again upon a model developed by economists Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago and Cade Massey of Yale University. A year ago, I used their study to evaluate the NFL draft, and the results were amazingly on target.

On average, the teams that the model indicated had succeeded most in last year's draft won 2.25 more games in the 2006-2007 season than they had in the previous year. And the draft's losers on average lost 3.5 more games than they had the year before...

Thaler and Massey found in their research that NFL teams make systematic errors in their valuations of players in the draft. They place too high a value on picks near the top of the first round and too low a premium on players in the lower rounds.

Well duh, he's talking about the Redskins. The most valued position to draft is in the 2nd round per their research, which is based on historical performances of players taken in that round.
The six biggest losers contain some familiar faces, and one big surprise. They were, in order, Washington, New England, Houston, Seattle, Dallas and the New York Jets.

The Washington Redskins repeat as the worst loser of the draft. They squandered valuable later picks and left themselves with only one selection, a relatively low-value choice near the top of the first round. If they keep this sorry performance up, the model is going to end up implying a negative number of wins for the Redskins. Even they, as incompetently managed as they are, will be unable to accomplish that.

I wouldn't brag that my brilliant economic model produces absurd results, but whatever. I do need to give Kevin all the credit in the world for predicting a Redskins collapse in 2006, though it had more to do with unpredictable injuries than it did with our draft.

I wouldn't worry too much about it, as Kevin's dire prediction for the Saints after last year's draft proved to be hot air. He blamed it on Drew Brees, which also exposes the largest flaw in his prediction; there's a lot more happening on a football team than merely who they draft. Offseason acquisitions can play an enormous role in turning a team from slops to studs. And while I agree that the Redskins have not used their draft resources wisely, they likely would have received a failing grade in the 2005 draft. We picked high in the 1st round for Carlos Rogers and later for Jason Campbell, but lacked a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounder for it. That would qualify as a "systematic errors in their valuations of players in the draft". Thus the model would have had a difficult time explaining the Redskins improvement from a 6 win bum in '04 to a post season, 10 win team in '05.

I am not trying to repudiate Hassett or economists in general. I think they have much to tell us about the sport and value their judgments on team building. Their method had predictive power in 2006 and could very well have it heading into 2007. I think additional data is needed to prove their case and would be interested to see how it carries through a few additional years. Even granting it authority, exceptions persist and the AEI's draft analysis doesn't constitute certainty towards failure.

What it also suggests is that properly utilizing your draft resources can shift fate in your favor over a short period of time. An average 2+ wins per season would be welcomed by most franchises. If we decide to keep our picks through 2008 we could turn things around in relatively short order. All it takes is a little patience.