NFL Moneyball: The Math Says To Draft Players With Criminal Records

It's our old friend Science, back to drop some NFL draft knowledge on us. Today's lesson: if you're looking to maximize the value of your draft position, you might be better off going with the guys with character issues. And in this case, "character issues" isn't code for asshole, it's code for guy who's been arrested and charged with at least one crime.

The revelation comes from a senior thesis from Hamilton College economics student Kendall Weir, who, as a Steeler fan, might be predisposed to guys who are dirty on the field and relatively clean off of it. But his data shows that the best bang for a war room's buck comes from drafting players who have a rap sheet. In true Moneyball fashion, it's not that these players outperform the upstanding citizens, but that they perform equally, and their records scare off most teams, making them true value picks.

Weir sorted every player taken in the 2005-2009 drafts into four categories: 1) Players with no legal problems; 2) Players arrested but never charged; 3) Players arrested and charged; 4) Players suspended at least one game for violating team rules.

The players who were suspended underperformed in their NFL careers, getting fewer starts and having shorter careers. But the players who were arrested and charged tended to perform just as well as the clean players, and could be had in the draft an average of 15 spots later. (Players who were arrested but not charged actually outperformed every other group, but couldn't be drafted at a discount.)

There are questions of sample size, and number of starts isn't necessarily the most accurate reflection of a player's performance. But it's intriguing to see that in this day and age GMs are still scared off by character concerns, even though it takes a very special Sam Hurd or Mike Vick for legal issues to actually affect a football career.

Undecided who to draft? Scan his rap sheet [AP]
h/t Disco Choo