Evaluating Tim Ruskell


How would you grade Tim Ruskell’s ability to draft up to this point? Next month’s draft will be Ruskell’s fifth as general manager of the Seahawks, so there is enough information to effectively evaluate his performance thus far.

Every fan has their own way of judging draft success; it may be judged by individual achievements (Pro Bowls, etc.), overall team success, or possibly even player popularity. I’ve decided to try and evaluate Ruskell and his draft classes by a different technique: contribution.

It isn’t a perfect formula for draft success because there may be a lot of ambiguity and room for error, but I think that measuring player contribution is a decent method for determining draft savvy. Contribution is somewhat difficult to measure, but it will be defined by two statistics: games played, and games started.

I’m going to assume that a player is at least somewhat talented if they’re playing and/or starting games in the National Football League. However, a marginal player may start the same amount of games as an All-Pro player, so it isn’t a perfect method by any means.

So in order to measure draft success by player contribution, I’ve tracked each one of Ruskell’s drafts by round. Although this is an efficient way of showing where Ruskell has had success in the NFL Draft, some of the results from rounds with multiple choices may be skewed. For example, in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, the Seahawks selected linebacker Leroy Hill and quarterback David Greene. Hill has had a successful career with Seattle and has contributed since his rookie season, but Greene never took a regular season snap and is out of the league. So while the chart I created may show relative success in that particular round, it won’t illustrate the individual contribution of Leroy Hill.

This chart reflects the contribution percent of each round that Ruskell has drafted since 2005. Each round has two columns: percent played and percent started. Percent played is determined by dividing the amount of games the players selected in that round have played in by the amount of games they could have potentially played in. If players from that round have played in every game since their rookie season, the column will be at 100%. The calculation for percent started is the same, except it shows the percentage of games the player has started since they’ve been in the NFL.

Does this prove Ruskell is a great general manager? No. Does it confirm Ruskell’s exceptional ability to find good players in the draft? No. Does this mean the Seahawks are going to win the Super Bowl? Absolutely not. But it does offer an interesting evaluation of Seattle’s drafts since Tim Ruskell has been general manager. Notice the contribution from his early picks is extremely high, which confirms that players drafted by Ruskell in the first three rounds are at least active and contributing at some level in the NFL. As expected, the level of contribution dips in the later rounds, but the front office has been able to find a few good players late in the draft.

So, if anything, this method shows us that Ruskell is not prone to drafting busts, and the front office has been successful in drafting players who can come in a find a spot on the roster. This doesn’t mean that they’re all Pro Bowl-caliber players, but they’re at least on the field on Sundays.

To make this evaluation a little more interesting, I’ve charted two other teams since 2005 for comparison. The two teams are complete opposites, and represent both success and failure in the NFL Draft.

The first team is the Detroit Lions. The Lions have been at the bottom of the league for more than a few years now, and have suffered from several terrible draft classes over the years (Matt Millen). Here is what Detroit’s chart looks like:

The second team is the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are Super Bowl champions, and are known for drafting well each year, especially in later rounds. Front offices around the league are envious of Pittsburgh’s ability to maintain success and build through the draft. Here is what Pittsburgh’s chart looks like:

So what does this all mean? Well, I guess that is for you to decide. It purely measures contribution, which doesn’t always translate into success. There are a lot of different ways to measure draft success, but winning is the bottom line. 12th Man, how would you grade Seattle’s drafts with Tim Ruskell in the front office?