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First-round draft hit rates: Tracking rates from the best (centers) to the worst (WRs)

When an NFL team selects a player in the first round of a draft, they’re banking on finding a long-term cornerstone building block for the franchise. It’s a hopeful investment in a player who is expected to be one of the top players on the team for years and years to come.

It doesn’t always work out that way, of course. And for some positions, it doesn’t even come close to working out that well in the long term for prospects selected in the first round.

An insightful study from ESPN producer Paul Hembekides tracked the hit rate of first-round picks by position group over a 20-year period. From 2000 through the 2019 NFL drafts, Hembekides tracked which first-round players signed a second contract with the team that drafted them. Those are considered hits; players who didn’t re-up with their drafting team are misses.

It’s an arbitrary designation, one with some variables (injuries, trades, coaching changes, free agency), but it’s an interesting look at the positions that provide long-term staying power for teams.

The highest hit rates all involve the offensive line. Centers are the most likely position to re-sign, with 11 of the 12 first-rounders in the 20 drafts earning second contracts with their drafting team. Tackles were the only other group over 50 percent, with 38 of 64 hitting. Guards were at 50 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, drafting a wide receiver in the first round is seldom a long-term proposition. Just 21 of the 77 first-round wideouts signed second deals with the team that drafted them, a 27 percent hit rate. Tight ends weren’t much better, with just 33 percent.

Via ESPN
Via ESPN

Via ESPNQuarterbacks were in the middle of the pack at 46 percent, with 26 of 56 hitting.

Story originally appeared on Draft Wire