What would you do?
You’re facing a defining situation. Whatever player you draft, has to be a star. Anything less than a star player will be a bust as the number one selection. This pick should define the look of a pitiful franchise and keep you from drafting in the top-5 next season, hopefully keep you out of the top-10. If you are one of the people with heavy input on this pick, then it could cost you your job in 3 years. This pick could turn out to be Jamarcus Russel. You can’t have that. You better not pass up on that player drafted late in the first that ends up better than everyone else (Ray Lewis, pick 26-1996), even though a Lb will probably never go first overall.
How does your Big Board shake out?
Is it strictly based off talent or is affected by need? Are you going to draft the B.A.P. (Best Available Player), regardless of need? Will you put a premium on positions that have less depth in this draft? Will you reach for that “Franchise QB” that could put your career and your team in motion for the next 10-12 years? He could also cost you your job. It’s a lot of money for some 22 year old that’s never played a down in the NFL. Maybe you draft the guy that agrees to the cheapest contract because your owner forced you. We’ll ignore that for this article.
Let’s go through some scenarios.
The Best Available Player route should do fine for anyone. You’ve spent months pouring over film and you’ve made your Big Board in order of talent. You know for a fact that this guy is the best single talent in the draft. If he doesn’t fit your scheme, you change your scheme. He’s that good. Take the guy with #1 next to his name on your board. That simple.
Least Likely to Fail. This is understandable. You see your Big Board and maybe their is a quarterback at the top, but you have a terrible offensive line. This new quarterback wouldn’t last behind that line. No one would. So you draft a Left Tackle, even though the LT was 3rd on the Big Board that you made based off of talent, the line took priority. This is a smart move, but you maybe could’ve traded back and recouped draft picks.
In the even that you were not able to trade back, well you did what you could. You got a guy that you and your scouting department have determined to be a 8-10 year starter at a pivotal position in football. Unfortunately, the draft is about acquiring value and you left some on the table for your opponent to get. What if that was Peyton Manning? I hope you drafted Johnathon Ogden.
Oh, this one’s fun. The QB, the one that will save us all. Does this certain QB have “it”? This is one of the hardest decisions in sports: Determining if the young, college kid that has all the tools can transition into an elite player at the most important position in sports. Peyton Manning had all the tools but lacked elite arm strength. The Colts drafted him over Ryan Leaf, who had the strength. I think they did it because of Peyton’s mind for the game and willingness to compete. He is elite in both of those areas. You are thinking about taking a QB first overall. He will be thrown into the game week 1. There’s at least a 90% chance of that happening. Will he take too much of a beating behind your line? Can he make your WR’s better? Chances are that you drafting first overall means your WR’s aren’t the best. Can this kid handle the media pressure? He’ll be on Sports Illustrated. He’ll be expected to resurrect this team within a year (not my expectations, but fans are impatient on average). Has he ever failed before? Can he bounce back from these failures? It’s a big decision. Does QB take precedence over all-out talent? The Rams face that decision this year. QB or Ndamukong Suh (DT from Nebraska)?
I take talent. I would never want to see the talent I passed on be superior to the talent I drafted. That makes me a BAP guy.
If you’re smart, you draft lineman before WR’s. Inside the lines to the outside the lines. Put a premium on hard to find line positions such as LT and RE (right end). Draft a top-notch C over a slot WR. Patriots Pro-Bowl WR Wes Welker went undrafted to the Dolphins. Speed is available later but the truly good lineman aren’t.
On another note, the truly elite RB’s are almost always first rounders, but if you have an elite line and a pretty good RB-you are praised for your drafting skills. The Jets line in 2009 was amazing and 3rd round rookie Shonn Greene looked every bit amazing running behind it in the playoffs. Point proven.
This is how former Lions GM Matt Millen drafted, and probably still would. Calvin Johnson was drafted in the top-5. He has top-5 talent. I’m a big fan of him. I think he can have Randy Moss type impact. The problem is that when you’re drafting in the top 10 for consecutive years in a row, you are doing something wrong.
2005: Lions select WR Mike Williams of USC at 10th overall
2006: Lions select LB Ernie Sims of Florida State at 9th overall
2007: Lions select WR Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech at 2nd overall
2008: Lions select RT Gosder Cherilus of Boston College at 17th overall(original pick was 15th, before trades)
2009: Lions select QB Matt Stafford of Georgia at 1st overall
Four out of five years, the Lions found themselves drafting in the top-10. They didn’t draft the premium guys that could turn the franchise around. Draft Linemen or the QB you really believe in. Draft “Inside-Out”.