Data Visualisation – Draft picks and career games

Just how important is the draft order?

We all know of the classic story of a superstar who is over-looked only to be picked up at an unlikely low pick in the national draft, (Hird (79), Goodes (43), Grant (105)) but overall what does a young draftee’s number suggest to their likely career success?

In a bit of data visualisation, I’ve plotted out the every single draft pick since 1986 and how many games they were able to play throughout their entire career.

What we are about see is how the draft has increased in importance, and higher draft picks are certainly making a large impact in today’s competition.

More importantly though, I think what is shows is that lower picks can definitely achieve a successful football career, and career games aren’t always linked to the number at which a prospect in taken in the draft.

Much of it seems to be random, some years (1997) being a lot more successful than others (1996).

Real footy geniuses can play a game and try to guess some of the players in the map – let me know how you go!

This project took me quite a long time, so I’d appreciate some feedback or thoughts on what this data suggests.


Click through to my blog for full view


Draft Picks and Games Played2




About Jake "Cobba" Stevens

Cobba Stevens works in sports social media and content. A keen middle-distance runner in both the ammos and the pros, he's also one of the youngest 'old bloods' supporters in Melbourne.


  1. That is a fair effort Cobba – I can imagine that it took you some time. Not sure I am smart enough to decipher the info too quickly other than to see that from around 1994/95 there seemed to be much better improvement in getting better depth out of the draft. The number 6 pick certainly has been cursed.

  2. Great stuff Cobba.

    I think it does show the random nature of success as a player vis-a-vis the draft. It makes me wonder though if those picked at the top of the draft, have more time invested in them, and more chances to prove their worth in the face of mediocre performance.

    There are some names that come to mind, such as Tambling and Watts who played more games than say a pick 59 would get because the Club needs to save face to prove their intelligence in picking the player was correct.

    I guess we will never know but it just a theory.

    Thanks for the work in putting this together.

  3. Great stuff Cobba. I will mine your data for meaning and omens.
    On a lighter note the AFL newsletter email was headlined “Phantom Draft”. I thought Christ I know they’ve lost Chappy but the Cats are scraping the bottom of the barrel drafting Phantom 30 years too late.
    Maybe its his son. He can play a bit. The best Geelong footballer out of Wynyard since Scratcher Neal??

  4. mickey randall says

    Painstaking stuff Cobba. The draft may be more reliable now, but I love the underlying unpredictability of it. I am sure that there will continue to be players of the calibre of Hird, McLeod etc who bob up as late draft picks. This is vital to the romance of our game.

  5. Ripping stuff Cobba, boy that pick 6 is a bit of a curse. Also notice pick 47 got great service in 95/96 with Brent Harvey and Brett Montgomery

  6. Fantastic work. It all makes sense now. Only suggestion I have is that you might add a notation re father/son selections as the variables could skew the big picture.
    Some picks are obvious [ie 93 pick 11 should be Brad Johnson].
    Deserves a bigger audience maybe.

Leave a Comment