Saturday, April 28, 2007

The NFL Draft Twilight Zone

So I just got back to my apartment and went online to check the NFL draft thus far. At the moment, I see that Brady Quinn is still undrafted and Miami just took Ted Ginn, Jr. with the 9th overall pick. (For all of you who predicted that the Lions would pass on Ginn but he would still be picked before Quinn, please comment below.)

I think the NFL draft is the most interesting among the major sports. It's deeper than the NBA draft, but not as overwhelming as the MLB draft. (Do the NHL or NASCAR even have drafts?)

Another thing I like about the NFL draft is that one player does not a franchise make, even though some GM's keep acting otherwise. History has repeatedly shown us that when a team starts trading away multiple assets to move up in the draft, it usually backfires:
  • Would you rather have Mike Vick or both Drew Brees AND LaDainlian Tomlinson? (Nice one, Falcons.)
  • How about trading Shawne Merriman and Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? (The Giants essentially did.)
  • Mortgage your franchise's future just for the rights to Ricky Williams? (Da Coach should not have also been Da GM.)
  • Nor is it an historically good idea to trade away multiple draft picks for an established star. (Don't click here, Westy.)
The last point actually brings me to my next point, which is the constant over-valuing of running backs. No matter who you are and no matter which NFL team you root for, if I were to become the general manager of that team then I would NEVER draft a running back in the first round. (Unless, of course, you are the owner of that team and would require that I do so, which in that case I probably would just to keep my job.)

But seriously, at running back you don't need a great player. You just need a player who can do "The 4 Basics":
  • Be durable
  • Follow your blockers
  • Hang onto the football
  • Pick up the blitz
Sure, it might be a nice bonus if they can catch the ball too, but let's not get greedy.

The thing about any one running back is that they don't make that big of a difference in playoff games when they're up against real defenses. And they get hurt. That's why RB's drafted in the first round often hold out for every last dollar during signing bonus money negotiations. History says that it will be the only "big" NFL pay day that they get.

When Reggie Bush started to "go off" last year and put up some big numbers, people started mocking the Houston Texans for passing up on him for defensive end Mario Williams. However, let's see how things play out over a 10-year span. With Williams, the Texans were making a relatively safe pick--getting a guy who was nearly a lock to be an above average DE for a decade. If things go well, he might become a great DE for a decade. With Bush, even if he is the best running back who ever lived, it is unlikely he could consistently remain an "elite" RB for a decade.

Oh well. I'm sure teams will keep taking RB's in the first round and doing other odd things like packaging five draft picks for "that one guy who can change everything." But I really shouldn't complain about this--it makes things interesting.


Chairman said...

You may be right about getting a decent back later in the draft. Denver has made a habit of that. However... look at the all-time lists for running backs.

Jim Brown, Franco Harris, John Riggins, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, OJ Simpson, Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson (originally), and the like all suggest that if you want one of the greats, you need a 1st round RB. Exceptions that come to mind. Thurman Thomas was an early 2nd round pick. Curtis Martin was a 3rd round pick. Further down the list, you find Ricky Watters and Corey Dillon as 2nd round picks.

Perhaps 1st round RB's can be decent. Certainly, there's a pretty large "bust factor" involved, but that's true for any position.

Greg said...


Jim Brown never won a Super Bowl so you just proved my point.

Q.E.D. =)

Westy said...

So not only are you bringing up Herschel again, you're making the case that it's not good to draft a RB the year the Vikings do?
For their fans' sake, let's hope you're wrong.

Greg said...

Westy, I thought this Len Pasquarelli article about Adrian Peterson was interesting:

There remains a small subset of skeptics, scouts who question the advisability of perhaps doling out a $30 million rookie contract to a player at a high-risk position such as tailback, and one who comes complete with a fairly thick medical dossier. According to surveys by the NFL Players Association, running back has the shortest career span of any position in the league. And during his career at Oklahoma, Peterson, 22, dealt with a dislocated left shoulder (2004), a high right ankle sprain (2005) and the broken clavicle (2006).

The article went on to give a little further analysis of the running back position in the modern day NFL.

Westy said...