Data Points: Panthers quickly plug in draft picks

Yesterday we looked at how the Patriots compared with their AFC brethren at successfully drafting starters, with somewhat surprising results. Of New England’s 19 players that started 10 or more games last season, 12 were drafted by Bill Belichick and company, and have never played a down for anyone else. Yet, that 63.2 percent figure only tied for fifth in the AFC.

Today, we investigate the NFC clubs. As could be expected, the Packers reveal themselves to be successful at acquiring starters the old-fashioned way, via the draft. Fourteen of Green Bay’s 18 “regular” starters (10 starts or more) last season were drafted by the team, which translates to a 77.8 percentage … good enough to rank second.

The organization that jumps off the page is Carolina. The Panthers, despite generally being considered the league’s worst team, led the NFC in 10-game starters obtained via the draft. It’s also a huge reason they were the NFL’s youngest squad in 2010. The key will be how many of these young starters – like David Gettis and Sherrod Martin – become premier players.

While most of the teams towards the bottom of the rankings had tough years, like the Redskins and Vikings, the 2010 Bears were an anomaly. One explanation is the success of trades and free-agent acquisitions, which is how the franchise acquired Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers. Another is Chicago’s success at drafting contributors who don’t necessarily start. Either way, the Bears’ championship game appearance shows there is definitely more than one method to having a successful season.

— Elliot Harrison

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