The draft is done! Yay! I have a great idea! Let’s grade every single team before any of these players step on the field. Bruce Irvin in the first? Let’s give the Seahawks an F because the pick surprised us even though numerous teams had a top 15-20 grade on him. Yeah, their draft was awful even if Irvin turns out to be the next Von Miller and is a dominating presence on defense for the next decade. Wait, what’s that you say? That doesn’t make sense?
Grading a draft before these players step on the field is a useless exercise because you never know how a player is going to turn out. Obviously based on draft position you can assume that a player taken in the 2nd round is expected to have a bigger impact than a player taken in the 6th, but we all know that isn’t always what happens. Who would you rather have catching passes from your QB? Chad Jackson (36th overall pick) or Marques Colston (252nd overall pick)?
With that said, let’s hesitate to call AJ Jenkins (WR from Illinos taken at 30th by the 49ers) a reach because Stephen Hill and Rueben Randle were still on the board. Give him 2 or 3 years in the league before we judge the pick. Yes, a lot of picks may be based off of projected upside as opposed to previous on field production, but do you think the Giants regret taking Jason Pierre-Paul after only 6.5 career sacks in FBS play? I doubt it. Jenkins is 6’ tall, runs a sub 4.4 40 and has a 38.5 inch vertical jump. Fast, good height, and he can jump? Not bad at all, if he puts it all together the 49ers could have a pretty good WR.
So, instead of grading picks, criticizing them, projecting what these players will produce in the next 2-3 years, etc. I want to show you how useless previous draft grades have been to demonstrate why you shouldn’t judge these picks until some time has passed. We’re all guilty of it, myself included. I laughed at Harrison Smith in the 1st round. You know what else I laughed at? The aforementioned Jason Pierre-Paul. I thought he was a bust waiting to happen after watching him in person. I saw a guy whose athleticism didn’t show up on the football field who got beaten by an athletically inferior OL from Pitt quite soundly. I knew he was an athletic freak once his measurables came out but like Donatri Poe, I didn’t think it would translate to the football field. Oops.
I did a quick google search on 2008 draft grades. The players in that class have had 4 full seasons to demonstrate their worth. I pulled up footballsfuture.com to see what they had to say about some results. For the Chicago Bears, they said:
Best Pick:Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt, Round 1.
Youth and athleticism were needed at tackle, and Williams was one of the best tackles in the draft. Worst Pick:Matt Forte, RB, Tulane, Round 2.
This is not because Forte is a bad player, it is because of how he fits. He is a north/south runner, much like Cedric Benson. Passing on Brian Brohm here could come back to bite the Bears in the rear. 2nd Day Steal:Earl Bennett, WR, Vanderbilt, Round 3.
Bennett is the type of all around threat teams will have to account for. Overall: C-. The Bears added some talent to an offense in need of some fresh faces. The problem is, the offense will go nowhere without a QB. Not selecting a QB at any point in the draft, especially passing on Brohm and Henne in the second round could really hurt the Bears.
Chris Williams has started only 38 games over the past 4 years (maximum of 64) and struggled with injuries. Williams was expected to be their LT for the next decade but has played a lot at OG when healthy. They called their worst pick Matt Forte and that they should have taken Brian Brohm over him. Brohm currently plays for the Las Vegas Locomotives (CHOO! CHOO!) according to his Wikipedia page. Forte has averaged 110 yards from scrimmage per game the past 2 seasons and almost a touchdown every other game. I’ll give them Earl Bennett though, solid contributor. Quite literally, Footballsfuture got it backwards on best and worst.
Another example? Washington Redskins.
Best Pick: Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma Round 2.
Landing the best receiver in the draft in the second round is great value. Ignore his 40 time, he can play and his size is a great compliment to his new teammates at receiver. Worst Pick:Fred Davis, TE, USC, Round 2.
This is nitpicking because Davis is arguably the top TE in the draft. The Skins needed help on the defensive line, and took Devin Thomas just before to help the passing game. This should have been a defensive lineman. 2nd Day Steal: Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii, Round 6. Brennan could be a steal this late in the draft. The Skins have a slew of receiving options, and Brennan’s ability as a gunslinger would be a nice fit if he has to see the field. Overall: C. The Skins did get very good value on Day One. Thomas, Davis, and Kelly were all steals at their draft spots. The Skins needed to address the defensive line and chose not to, which could really hurt when the season rolls around.
Malcolm Kelly struggled to stay healthy in the NFL and was released before the 2011 seasons with an injury settlement. He hasn’t played a down in the NFL since. Colt Brennan? Colt was a preseason superstar that led some draftniks to declare him a future NFL starter. Colt has yet to attempt a pass in regular season game. He’s currently on the Saskatchewan Roughriders after he couldn’t cut it in the UFL.
I don’t do this to pick on Footballsfuture or anyone who does draft grades. I literally did a google search for 2008 draft grades, pulled up their website and read through 3 or 4 before I found those 2 examples. Are the statements glaringly wrong? No. The point is that 4 years later, does anyone think that Colt Brennan was a steal? Would anyone draft Brian Brohm over Matt Forte? Of course not, but those statements were commonly agreed upon by many writers. Nothing that was said was controversial. Heck, I probably agreed with the statements at the time. I know I thought Chris Williams was a great pick for da Bears. Ditka vs. Hurricane…DITKA! What if the hurricane’s name was Ditka? Oh that’s a toughy. The point is that grading a draft before the players set foot on the field doesn’t accomplish anything other than writing some words to fill a column.
Ok, a little off topic, but if you haven’t seen the Superfans sketches from SNL back in the 80s you’re missing out. Tell you want, if the link I post on my twitter gets 50 retweets, I’ll dig up a photo from college where I dressed as Chris Farley from the Superfans sketch, wearing a grass skirt, coconut bra, and an awful fake mustache. I am wearing a shirt under the coconut bra, so the pic won’t permanently burn out your retinas, only temporarily. I also had an awful goatee, don’t judge.
Speaking of mistakes we shouldn’t judge (great transition, right?), one of my favorite draft stories is Mike Adams. Yes, one of my favorite stories is a guy who tested positive for marijuana at the combine and lied about it to NFL teams. Why? His response to the mistake. Adams sent out a letter to NFL teams that states he will forego his signing bonus for 1.5 years in order to protect the team who drafts him from losing $$ if he screws up again. Before this mistake, many analysts had him pegged as a 1st round prospect. Adams specifically sought out the Pittsburgh Steelers in hopes they would give him a second chance.
A little background on Adams. Adams is from Farrell, PA, a small former steel town about an hour or so north of Pittsburgh. Farrell isn’t exactly booming since manufacturing left the area, in fact, it’s a depressed town with a very high crime rate. Living in Pittsburgh and having been to Farrell, I can tell you that the Steelers are something everyone in those little former steel towns look forward to every week and Adams is no exception. He grew up bleeding black and gold (black and yellow black and yellow…sorry if I got that suck in your head now).
When he reached out to the Steelers, they told him he was off of their draft board because he lied to them during the pre-draft process about his marijuana use. Adams asked what he needed to do in order to get back on their board and they outlined specific criteria he would have to follow if he wanted to get back on. Needless to say, whatever that criteria was, he followed it and the Steelers drafted him in the 2nd round.
Even after a whole column bashing the whole concept of judging picks, I’ll admit this is a gamble I think will pay off. NFL teams don’t put a player back on their board this late in the game without a lot of confidence. I think Adams is going to pay off for the Steelers in a big way. Achieving a childhood dream is hopefully something he doesn’t take lightly. This is a neat little story about a player who made a mistake who has been given a huge opportunity to rectify it.
-If NFL Draft analysts were judged solely on hair, Mel Kiper would have been forced into retirement years ago by the competition. Sorry Mayock, hair is just not your strong suit. You’ll have to settle for superior analysis.
-Allow me to be a homer for a minute. If he can stay healthy, Lucas Nix will make the Raiders as an OG after going undrafted.
-I wonder where Colt McCoy will go. He can’t stay in Cleveland. You can’t have a young starter (younger than the guy replacing him in fact), draft his replacement, and expect him to happily stay. A change of scenery will be a good thing for Colt. I like Green Bay, he’ll have no pressure there at all and they need a veteran backup badly.
-The NFL Network is doing another top 100. It’s safe to say Eli Manning, snubbed in 2011, will be one of the biggest jumpers.
-Another childhood dream was fulfilled when Miami RB Lamar Miller was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Miller allegedly has some injury concerns but if he can stay healthy I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting in a year or two. For the record, that’s not a draft grade.
-A few Dolphins fans I know aren’t too happy with the Ryan Tannehill pick. I think this could be a case of pre-draft speculation skewing your opinion. Let’s look at a few facts. First off, Tannehill’s college coach, Mike Sherman, will be his offensive coordinator in Miami. No one in the NFL knows Tannehill better than Sherman. Sherman has been a head coach in the NFL and understands the value of a good QB after some guy named Brett Favre led his team. Finally, the Dolphins have Joe Philbin as their head coach, the same guy who oversaw Aaron Rodgers transition from Brett Favre’s backup to NFL superstar (Discount Doublecheck!).
I’m willing to give the Dolphins the benefit of the doubt here. Dolphins fans, I know you’ve been screwed over by QBs big time since Marino. A lot of pre draft speculation implied the Dolphins coaches didn’t want Tannehill but owner Stephen Ross did. Let that stuff go, rumors before the draft are more likely to be false than true. Let it play out. Trust me, this can’t possibly be worse than Pat White.
Tommy and Matt rule! Other websites drool!
This is my in column kudos to Tommy and Matt for an awesome year scouting the draft. In case you didn’t see it, they placed 2nd in the Huddle Report’s annual top 100 list. The reason the Huddle Report uses top 100 instead of mock drafts is because a mock draft has little to do with your abilities as a scout. Different teams will value players differently and more often than not knowing a team’s drafting tendencies is more important than actual scouting skills. Many Eagles fans who never watched a down of Mississippi State football knew they would want a guy like Fletcher Cox based off of what others wrote in scouting reports. When you make a up a top 100, you’re guessing the 100 players who will be drafted with the first 100 picks. This shows you’re able to value players properly in an overall context.
Tremendous job guys. Also, speaking of Huddle Report, Matt and I stole a fun little game they did. Here’s how it works. Matt and I both got a team and when their pick came up, we also made a pick. Over the course of 5 years, our picks will be put up against their picks to see whether myself and/or Matt got more starts out of our “picks” than the NFL team did. Winner gets to take that NFL GM’s job… I think.
I hope I can avoid getting screwed. The Bengals (who I had) were picking at 17 and 21 in the first round. At 17, I immediately selected Dre Kirkpatrick, CB from ‘Bama. They agreed and took him as well. Matt immediately questioned my pick because I didn’t go David Decastro, an OG from Stanford who ended up on the Steelers. Why? I looked at the board. I surmised that picks 18-20 were more likely to take Kirkpatrick than Decastro (and since Decastro fell past 21, I was right) and that I would take him at 21 and get both…then they traded down to 27 and Decastro went before that. So, I took Cordy Glenn, who ended up on the Bills in the 2nd round. Thankfully, Glenn is penciled in at LT for the Bills already. We’ll see how it goes, but it was a lot of fun and thanks to Huddle Report for letting us steal their idea!
Follow me on twitter, @NFLGimpy and don’t forget to retweet my column link to see if you can get some bona fide blackmail on me.