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The Detroit Lions Are Probably No Better at Drafting Players That Get Arrested Than Anyone Else

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Ronnell Lewis was arrested for a bar fight Saturday that resulted in him being tasered twice, before officers could pull him off the man he was assaulted. He was a fourth round pick of the Detroit Lions last year, and played exactly one defensive snap all season. Still, it was the Detroit Lions, a team that now has 9 arrests since the start of 2012, the most in the NFL over that time period.

Despite their recent proficiency in the arrest arena, I’m here to say that Detroit is likely no better at drafting arrested players than any other teams. Some teams appear to be better at it, but that may be nothing more than rare events and specific circumstances.

On Monday, Chase Stuart wrote about teams drafting, and said, after comparing every draft class since the merger for each organization, that “there is essentially no relationship between how well a team does relative to expectation in the draft this year to how they did the prior year.”

The correlation coefficient was +0.07 when Stuart compared draft class value versus expectation from year to year–basically no relationship. When I did something similar by just looking at arrests per calendar year for each franchise (as listed in the arrest database here), and seeing the relationship between arrests in one year and the following year, I got a correlation coefficient of +0.16.

That shows a very slight direct relationship between arrests the year before and the next year. To illustrate that another way, here are the arrests the following year, based on the number of team arrests in one year.

  • 0 arrests in year N: 1.4 arrests next year
  • 1 arrest in year N: 1.4 arrests next year
  • 2 arrests in year N: 1.7 arrests next year
  • 3 arrests in year N: 1.2 arrests next year
  • 4 arrests in year N: 2.1 arrests next year
  • 5 arrests in year N: 2.7 arrests next year

So, we see a lot of regression the next year, but some relationship between the most extreme cases (there were 21 occasions where a team had 5+ arrests since 2000) and slightly increased arrests the next year. Of course, a lot of that is due to the most extreme individuals–a Top Ten Most Wanted if you will. Unlike the draft performance from year to year, where brand new names are added each time, one individual can have multiple arrests over several years. If we just remove Pacman Jones and his brief reign of terror in Tennessee, the correlation coefficient drops to +0.14 and 2.4 arrests for the highest group. Take out the five worst repeat individual offenders, and the already weak relationship on the team level in year to year arrests virtually disappears.

Add in that there is an arrest bias based on team city size and location, where players in the largest metropolitan cities and in the Northeast get arrested less frequently than players in the Midwest and South, which continues over time, and what are we left with? A lot of randomness, where arrests are not generally related from year to year.

Let’s take Ronnell Lewis and his tasering spree. Did the fact that he had some teammates with marijuana issues last year lead him to go crazy in a bar fight? Did lining up in practice near Ndamukong Suh cause him to adopt behaviors that did not previously exist? Okay, we are investigating that one.

Still, Ronnell Lewis doesn’t appear to me to have had any major “character” concerns coming into the league. I can’t find any reference to any issues (though I haven’t checked Nolan Nawrocki’s look into his soul yet). Looking at last year’s incidents, I can’t find anything but positive character references to Aaron Berry during college at Pittsburgh, there were some maturity concerns over Fairley, but no legal issues. Mikel Leshoure was involved in a fight with a teammate at Illinois as a freshman; I’ll leave it to you to debate the relationship between that and two marijuana arrests five years later.

I’m making up the percentages here, but let’s say you have something like 10% bad citizens/repeat character issues, 80% normal dudes for the same age and demographic, and 10% choir boys. Some teams gamble on those that appear like “bad citizens” and it works out because it was just immaturity that is left behind; others don’t work out. Then, plenty of the other 90% never get arrested while others do. The result is, in the end, pretty random across the team level. Detroit had no arrests between 2009 and 2011. Now, they appear to be an organization with an epidemic.

A couple of years from now, it will probably be some other team where Detroit is today, and it will mostly be, just like with trying to draft motor and athletic development, highly related to luck in the drafting process.

 

 

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