Bruce Allen just might be a better drafter than Scot McCloughan
January 10, 2018
by Steve Thomas
The existence of team president Bruce Allen as an employee of the Washington Redskins franchise is a continuing source of consternation amongst the fanbase, most of whom are fed up, frustrated, and ready to blame the roughly 25 years of mostly mediocre on anyone who presents himself as a viable metaphorical punching bag. Allen is currently the most obvious punching bag. I can’t say I blame the fans one bit for the current poisonous atmosphere; it’s been an unpleasant ride, to say the least. The principal narrative is that Mr. Allen is a bumbledorf at best when it comes to making football decisions, at a worst a career and franchise saboteur, and that he fired/ran off/slandered/smeared the best talent evaluator this franchise has had since the glory days of Bobby Beathard and Joe Gibbs. Well, around here at The Hog Sty, we like to try and make some objective sense of such a story before we fall head over heels for it (yes, I realize that we’ve preached this very thing on The Hog Sty Podcast many times; don’t burst my bubble – I’m on a roll here).
In that spirit, the principal question presented in this column is this: between Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen, and Scot McCloughan, who had the most success in the annual college draft? To approach this with some sense of organization, I have assigned the credit (or the blame) for each draft class as follows:
- Mike Shanahan: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
- Bruce Allen: 2014, 2017
- Scot McCloughan: 2015, 2016
One problem that immediately jumps to mind with this setup is that it may or may not be entirely fair and/or accurate to give each man credit for these drafts as I’ve set out. After all, we all know that the Redskins themselves have told the public that the drafts are a collaborative effort, and we are also aware that the Redskins have previously subscribed to McCloughan’s draft scouting service. Despite that, the Redskins have definitively gone through the “Shanahan era” with Shanahan as the public face of football operations, the “McCloughan era”, with Scot billed as the principal “football expert”, and then two separate years of Allen flying solo as draft commander, with 2018 right around the corner. I therefore think it’s fair to evaluate these draft classes in this manner. You may like it, not like it, or think this entire exercise is a waste of time for the reasons I cited above. Take it for what you will.
Trust me when I say that I racked my brain trying to come up with a way to mathematically quantify draft success, with the idea that by the end of this exercise, we could have three final numbers that would objectively reveal once and for all who was the best drafter. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t possible, at least in a way that made sense, was accurate, and didn’t come across like one of PFF’s bogus rankings. Therefore, I ended up having to approach this in a more of a qualitative methodology rather than a quantitative methodology. Nevertheless, we can still see some interesting trends in the results.
To get started, I created a spreadsheet with every Redskins draft pick from 2010 through 2017, and listed the following categories: (1) whether the player ever made the active roster, (2) whether the player was cut by the Redskins at any time, (3) whether he was traded, (4) number of games started for the Redskins, (5) number of games played for the Redskins, (6) number of Pro Bowls, (7) number of All-Pro selections (don’t laugh), (8) whether the player was given a second contract by the Redskins after their initial rookie contract period expired (meaning, a player who was on the practice squad but later offered a new active roster contract doesn’t count for these purposes), and (9) whether the player was signed by a new team after he left the Redskins and actually played in games for that team. I won’t drown you in data by publishing this chart here, so you’ll have to trust me.
Without further ado, where’s what I found:
Mike Shanahan Era
Mike Shanahan drafted a total of 33 players for the Redskins in the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 drafts. Of those 33 players, nine will have long and productive careers in the NFL: Trent Williams, (2010), Ryan Kerrigan (2011), Jarvis Jenkins (2011), Niles Paul (2011), Kirk Cousins (2012), Keenan Robinson (2012), Alfred Morris (2012), Jordan Reed (2013), and Chris Thompson (2013). Among that group of 9, Williams, Kerrigan, Paul, Reed, and Thompson all received second contracts from the Redskins and have been long-time contributors, and in the case of Williams and Kerrigan, perennial Pro Bowl-level players. This group has thusfar produced a total of 12 Pro Bowl appearances and 2 All-Pro selections (both being Trent Williams).
In contrast, six draft picks played 5 or fewer games for Washington and are by any measure considered draft misses: Dennis Morris (2010), Selvish Capers (2010), Markus White (2011), Jordan Bernstine (2012), Brandon Jenkins (2013), and Jawan Jamison (2013). I’ll toss Robert Griffin III into this group despite his magical 2012 season and Rookie of the Year award since his time in DC ended in spectacular disaster at a cost of 3 first round picks and 1 second round pick
The remaining 17 players drafted in the Shanahan era ended up somewhere in the middle – productive for a time, to one extent or the other, but were ultimately either cut or not offered a second contract. I view this group as the “middle” group in terms of draft choices – not terrible, somewhat productive for a time, might have gone either way, but ultimately didn’t work out. Neither strong hits nor strong misses.
In total, the Shanahan era draft picks started a total of 632 games for the Redskins, or an average of 158 games per draft class. His clear “hit rate” – meaning, the players who will end up playing long and productive NFL careers divided by the total number of draft picks – was 9 out of 33, or 27%. His “miss rate” – the clear misses identified above divided by the total number of draft picks – was 7 out of 33, or 21%.
Scot McCloughan Era
Scot McCloughan drafted a total of 17 players for the Redskins in the 2015 and 2016 drafts. Of those 17 players, 2 from the 2015 draft (Brandon Scherff and Jamison Crowder) are on track to have long and productive NFL careers and are definitive draft hits. Although the 2016 draft is still fairly recent, Kendall Fuller and Matt Ioannidis appear to be “hits”, with the jury still out on 2016 first round selection Josh Doctson. This group has produced 2 Pro Bowls, both from Brandon Scherff, and no All Pro selections.
Six players drafted by McCloughan in 2015 and 2016 failed to make the Redskins’ active roster at any point, and are thus clear “misses”: Tevin Mitchell, Evan Spencer, Austin Reiter, Nate Sudfeld, Steven Daniels, and Keith Marshall. Sudfeld, of course, seems to be fairly well liked in Philadelphia now, and Marshall has been on IR for the better part of his two year NFL career; nonetheless, in terms of NFL productivity, neither player has worked out thusfar for the Redskins. Kyshoen Jarrett, who showed potential but unfortunately had his career ended by injuries, is also a miss, albeit an unfortunate one. I will subjectively add Matt Jones to the clear “miss” category, despite him earning a number of starts, since he was cut for performance reasons and was a third round pick who generally failed in his shot to become the Redskins’ franchise back. Finally, Su’a Cravens, who somewhat infamously left the team for undisclosed and confusing personal reasons in August, 2017, is currently a miss, although his status could change if he eventually returns to the Redskins and becomes productive (which seems unlikely at this juncture).
Neither of McCloughan’s draft classes have reached the end of their rookie contract period yet, and thus have not yet received offers of a second contract.
McCloughan’s draft picks have started a total of 166 games for the Redskins, or an average of 83 games per draft class. McCloughan’s clear “hit rate” on his draft picks was 4 of 17, or 23.5%. His clear “miss rate” was 9 of 17, or 53%.
Bruce Allen Era
Bruce Allen, while in charge without Shanahan or McCloughan on staff, drafted a total of 18 players for the Redskins in 2014 and 2017. Of those 18, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long, Bashaud Breeland, and Ryan Grant from the 2014 draft class have established themselves as draft “hits’ who should have long and productive NFL careers ahead of them. In addition, although the 2017 class obviously has just 1 season under their belts, at a minimum Jonathan Allen and Chase Roullier appear to already have shown that they are on track to have solid NFL futures. I’ll call those 6 players Allen’s clear draft “hits”.
Morgan Moses has already received a large, multi-year contract extension. No other player has yet to receive a new contract, although to be fair, the 2014 group just reached the end of their rookie contracts this season. By all accounts, head coach Jay Gruden wants to offer Grant a new contract.
Allen had three clear draft “misses” in 2014 in Lache Seastrunk, Ted Bolser, and Zach Hocker, none of whom ever made the active roster and were all cut in 2014. Most unusually, all 10 of the 2017 draft picks saw time on the active roster at some point this season, primarily due to Washington’s catastrophic injury situation, and none have been cut; therefore, none of these picks can be categorized as “draft misses” yet. Certainly some of these players will end up not working out, but it is too early yet to conclude anything about their futures.
Trent Murphy, a second round pick drafted in 2014, is (generously) in the grey area, although given his drug suspension, things do not look promising for his ultimate success. The jury is still out on the rest of the 2017 class beyond Allen and Roullier, 8 players in all.
In total, Allen’s 2014 and 2017 draft classes have produced 206 starts for the Redskins, for an average of 103 per class. His clear “hit rate” on his 2014 and 2017 draft classes was 6 of 17, or 35%. Allen’s clear “miss rate” was 3 of 17, or 17.6%. As stated, I expect the “miss rate” to rise over time given the lack of experience in the 2017 class.
I’ll say up front that neither Allen nor McCloughan have drafted even 20 players for Washington and have therefore not produced a large enough sample size of draft picks for a comparison of the three (including Shanahan) to have any sort of formal scientific or statistical reliability. However, I’m not trying to prove anything to any degree of reliability. All we can do for these purposes is look at the data presented and reach the best possible objective conclusion. Furthermore, as stated above, it might not be completely fair or accurate to simplistically assign the credit and/or blame for draft classes to these three men in the manner I have done. I do, though, stand by the concept of the Shanahan Era, the McCloughan Era, and the Allen Era as a valid comparative construct. In addition, all draft picks can’t be weighted equally; a hit or miss on a top 5 pick isn’t the same as a hit or miss on a 6th round pick. What I’ve done here is to take as simple a look as possible at the draft history for these eight years.
That having been said, by the simplest measures, clear draft “hits” and clear draft “misses”, Allen comes out ahead in both:
- Allen: Clear hit rate: 35%; Clear miss rate: 17.6%
- McCloughan: Clear hit rate: 23.5%; Clear miss rate: 53%
- Shanahan: Clear hit rate: 27%; Clear miss rate: 21%
In a general sense, Shanahan found three players with elite, Pro Bowl-level talent in Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, and Jordan Reed. McCloughan found one who appears to be on that track in Brandon Scherff. Allen’s two classes, while producing the most “hits”, generally, has failed to find an elite-level prospect as did both Shanahan and McCloughan, although it seems likely that 2017 first rounder Jonathan Allen will find himself in a Pro Bowl or two at some point.
The most undeniable fact out of all of this information is that McCloughan’s picks ended up being misses at a much higher rate than either Shanahan or Allen.
So what does this mean for Redskins fans in terms of the draft? At a bare minimum, it seems apparent that Scot McCloughan was not as successful as some fans believe, and that Bruce Allen was not the disaster that his reputation bears, at least in terms of draft success. In fact, a valid argument can be made that Allen produced better draft results than did McCloughan.
The other part to this discussion needs to be free agency success (or lack thereof), which is a whole other topic that is beyond the scope of this column. If enough of you show interest via comments, I might tackle that project as a separate column during this offseason.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.
 Robinson might be a bit of a shaky inclusion, but I’ll go ahead and give it to him. If the Giants cut him and he’s out of the NFL, his status could change.