Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Mar 2008

Why Jerry Jones Won't Draft Darren McFadden

My most recent post at the New York Times' Fifth Down blog examines Jerry Jones' comments that he doesn't want a Top 5 draft pick. I also wrote this week about Bill Polian, Glenn Dorsey, the 49ers' tampering penalty and the draft's most intriguing player.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 29 Mar 2008

67 comments, Last at 02 Apr 2008, 5:28pm by lionbob

Comments

1
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 1:00pm

If I was Jerry Jones, I wouldn't want a top 5 pick either, because the only players in this draft who are clearly worth one are pass-rushers and he already has DeMarcus Ware.

Count me firmly in the camp of those who believe that a high first round pick only looks like a bad thing because such a high proportion of them are exercised by clowns.

Also, can anyone tell me why football journalists (though not on FO, as far as I've noticed) talk passim about the draft value chart as though it were mandated from on high? The following example (one of many) is from Florio's discussion of the MDS article in question:

"teams like the Miami Dolphins who would love to trade down won’t find a partner, unless if [sic]the Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart is relaxed to reflect the financial undesirability of the high-end picks"

Um, so they should probably relax it, then. If teams were really keen to move down, they would lower the asking price until they could - unless it is really the case that teams think a top 5 pick is less valuable not only than what the chart says they should get for it but than a single, lower pick. Considering the rumoured rejected offers for #1 and #2 last year, I don't believe that is so. Does anyone really think the Patriots wouldn't give up #7 and a 6th rounder to move up to #2 and draft Gholston or Chris Long?

The really interesting question is why the market has yet to set a new value for top draft picks. Surely there must be cases where a top #5 pick has more value to some team that doesn't have it than to the team that does? So why does no trade happen. I don't think NFL GMs are as keen to trade out of the top of the draft as one might suppose.

2
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 1:12pm

"Count me firmly in the camp of those who believe that a high first round pick only looks like a bad thing because such a high proportion of them are exercised by clowns."

That's a fair point. Matt Millen has had a Top 10 pick in each of the last six drafts because his teams are always bad because Matt Millen is the one assembling them. It's entirely possible that the players at the top of Bill Polian's and Bill Belichick's draft boards are consistently worth No. 1 pick money, but we don't find that out because those guys' teams don't often pick in the Top 10.

3
by bubqr (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 1:49pm

Josh Johnson a WR ?? I think that you're way off on this analysis. The guy was crazy good passing the ball, amazing numbers, even with this kind of level lof competition. We're not talking Stanback, Matt Jones or M.Robinson. This guys was a great QB, and when he is going to get picked during the first day, it won't be to play WR. trust me.

4
by James, London (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 2:03pm

I'm with Mr Shush. IF you can't trade away a high pick according to 'the chart', then the chart is wrong. What was a decent guide to relative value pre-free agency is now almost 20 years old and almost obsolete. The first GM that accepts "below market value", is going to get slaughtered in the media, but is that a valid reason to not do it?

5
by PaulH (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 2:26pm

I think #1 and #2 make dang good points. Don't get me wrong, picking at the very top of the NFL Draft is going to be a very risky proposition regardless of who is doing it -- simply because of the sheer amount of money involved -- but I think if you had the top organizations picking at the top year in and year out, you would see a lot fewer busts.

After all, all of these organizations that continuously pick near the top -- the Lions, etc. -- can't seemingly do anything else right, so why should we expect them to be able to properly evaluate the top end of the collegiate talent pool? I think a lot of the busts you see is not so much an inherent riskiness in selecting prospects, but to a large degree just a sign of the incompetence of the teams that so frequently make those picks. I think it's a valid point.

The first GM that accepts “below market value”, is going to get slaughtered in the media, but is that a valid reason to not do it?

That shouldn't make a difference, but you can rest assured that it does. Ideally it wouldn't impact decisions, but realistically some GMs -- particularly those who don't have a lot of job security to begin with -- are going to take into consideration things that will cause a big backlash not only in the media but also in their fan base as well. That shouldn't make a difference, but I'm sure in a real world scenario it often does.

6
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 2:31pm

I'm with bubqr. Look at guys like Jeff Garcia and Steve McNair. Or Rich Gannon. Sure, there aren't a lot of QBs from lower levels who get to the pros, but that's also because of the flawed thought process of "look who he played against". This flawed belief system extends to BCS vs. non-BCS athletes and teams, and I would expect someplace like FO to look a bit deeper than that.

Look, if I run a 10.3 100m dash against a bunch of guys who run 10.9, and you run a 10.5 against a bunch of guys who run in the 10.6s, I'm still faster than you despite my level of competition.

And why are people so high on one I-AA QB from the East Coast and not as high as the one from the West Coast, esp. when the West Coast guy put up superior numbers?

7
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 2:54pm

From what I understand, Delaware is like a Boston College of 1-AA, while San Diego was a Utah State. San Diego played in a conference that had a bunch of teams that did not give out scholarships to their players.

8
by Doug Farrar :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 3:58pm

Johnson will get picked at quarterback for sure; maybe third or fourth round. Doug Williams, who still works with the Bucs as their pro personnel assistant, has kept a very close eye on him through his Pro Day, which went a lot better than his Combine. The main problem with his Combine performance wasn't that so many of his throws were off -- it was that, to my knowledge, the fact that he took part in the quarterback drills despite suffering from back spasms wasn't reported until a month later.

He's an interesting quarterback prospect -- probably more of a project at this point -- but there's enough there to prompt some NFL team to take a shot.

9
by MatMan (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 4:22pm

why doesn't the NFL simply adopt the same first- and second-year salary rules as the NBA? Yeah, I say "simply," knowing it wouldn't be simple, but its worked very well in basketball. Your first 2 years' pay in the NBA are rigidly determined by your draft position, and even high picks don't break the bank. The NFL union, of course, would never let that happen.

10
by Dales (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 4:25pm

Here's a radical idea.

Since we have a salary cap, why not completely do away with the draft? Just make every player who nowadays declares for the draft become an unrestricted free agent.

The teams that want to spend the big bucks will, and the ones that don't, won't.

11
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 4:40pm

#10: As a Lions fan, I shudder at the thought of 50% of Detroit's salary cap being tied up in rookie WRs.

12
by Jerry (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 4:51pm

Look, if I run a 10.3 100m dash against a bunch of guys who run 10.9, and you run a 10.5 against a bunch of guys who run in the 10.6s, I’m still faster than you despite my level of competition.

Yeah, but if you run your 10.3 against a bunch of guys who run 10.4, while I run a 10.5 against a bunch of 11.1s, spectators without stopwatches will probably think I'm faster.

13
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 5:02pm

But Jerry, the point is that unless you and I are allowed to race, no one really knows.

That's why these guys should be given the chance, just like there should be a playoff in I-A.

14
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 5:13pm

To the people who think Johnson is going to be an NFL quarterback, can you name a current NFL quarterback he compares to? When was the last time a quarterback who played against competition as weak as Johnson's ended up becoming a good quarterback for the NFL team that drafted him?

15
by Jerry (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 5:29pm

Re #13:

I think that the NFL at least looks at everybody who is conceivably a prospect, and, as you mention, many players from non-elite programs end up in the league. My concern is more with the Norman Chad-type overreaction to Hawaii QBs who put up huge numbers in lesser circumstances, many of whom don't make it the NFL.

16
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 5:36pm

re: 14

While I can't compare the relative strength of Alcorn State and San Diego State's conferences (in fact, I'm too lazy to look it up), Air McNair has to be considered a comp, right?

17
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 5:44pm

I can buy the McNair comparison in terms of the quality of competition, but McNair was far more advanced as a quarterback than Johnson. I don't see them as very similar at all.

18
by JKL (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 6:50pm

Re:14

I think you would probably have to go back to Neil Lomax (Portland State) or Ken O'Brien (UC-Davis). But they were both drafted in the late first/early second and were not seen as projects.

19
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 7:30pm

Good point, JKL. Lomax and O'Brien are good comparisons; both had other-worldly numbers against inferior competition, like Johnson. But, as you note, neither was seen as a project. Both were drafted by teams that expected them to become starters quickly. Obviously, the Patriots aren't looking at Johnson because they think he's going to start in the next year or two.

20
by langsty (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 7:39pm

I've had the feeling for a while now that the whole Cowboys/McFadden thing was one of those media narratives, like McNabb and Chad Johnson being on the trade block, that originated with a writer saying "hey, wouldn't that be an interesting storyline."

regarding rookie salaries, I heard an idea from a scout a while back that I really liked - make all rookie contracts no longer than 2 years in length. it would make it easier for teams to sever ties with expensive first-rounders who didn't work out, and also gives an opportunity to guys like, say, maurice jones-drew, who have already proven their worth, to get the pay day they deserve.

21
by PaulH (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 7:40pm

I can buy the McNair comparison in terms of the quality of competition, but McNair was far more advanced as a quarterback than Johnson. I don’t see them as very similar at all.

I'm not even sure I buy that in terms of competition. San Jose State plays in the WAC, and while that's nothing special, that's still probably a fairly decent step over Division 1-AA Alcorn State. I think there's a fairly big difference between those two.

Even so, let's say the McNair comparison is legitimate, so what? That means we're looking at one of these guys turning into a good starter for the team that drafted them about once every fifteen years? That's not exactly making me want to run up to the podium and pick this guy.

He seems like a decent prospect, but one that will need a whole lot of work. He's probably not a bad idea for a late pick -- those are pretty much all crapshoots anyway -- but I wouldn't expect much more out of him than you get out of the typical late round pick.

22
by PaulH (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 7:44pm

I’m not even sure I buy that in terms of competition. San Jose State plays in the WAC, and while that’s nothing special, that’s still probably a fairly decent step over Division 1-AA Alcorn State. I think there’s a fairly big difference between those two.

Disregard that whole load of garb. Somehow I got San Jose State in my head, and somehow that morphed into San Diego State, which is far different from the University of San Diego. Again, disregard. Total brainfart on my part.

23
by jebmak (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 7:45pm

Re: the question of high picks bad vs teams with high picks incompetant

It would be subjective, but couldn't we compare the teams who are constantly bad and teams who get an occasional high pick? Look at the teams' years leading up to that draft and whether that draft pick turned out well. You wouldn't want to look after because that pick would make the team better or worse.

I haven't really thought this through, and maybe it is circular logic, and the sample size is very small, but if the ten or so teams that only have had a couple high picks in the last ten years tended to get good players, then that might point toward incompetance (and if half of them busted like the teams that pick up there a lot, then that would point to high draft is bad).

24
by jebmak (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 7:49pm

Also, and I'm sorry that this isn't on topic, but does anyone know of an MMA website that is similar to FO with actual intelligent conversation? I go to other sites sometimes, and although they aren't as bad as foxsports comments, they can be pretty worthless (without the comedy).

25
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 8:03pm

Count me firmly in the camp of those who believe that a high first round pick only looks like a bad thing because such a high proportion of them are exercised by clowns.

Same here. When non-idiots make high first round picks, they usually turn out just fine. Bill Polian picked in the top 5 two years in a row, and he got Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James. Not surprisingly, he hasn't picked in the top 5 since then. Of course, when he did get a relatively high 1st rounder in 2002, he took Dwight Freeney 11th overall. Three high first round picks, three hits.

On the other hand, while everyone rightly criticizes Matt Millen for drafting poorly in the first round, he also drafts poorly in other rounds. And even Matt Millen occasionally picks a quality player in the first round. I mean, Ernie Sims and Roy Williams both turned out to be good players, and Calvin Johnson looks pretty good so far, too. Meanwhile, how many of Millen's second round picks have been any good? Boss Bailey? Drew Stanton might be good if he ever sees the field. So Millen's second round picks have been even more devoid of talent than his first rounders. Which is what you'd expect: if the quality of the GM is constant, then first round picks should be better, on average, than second round picks.

“teams like the Miami Dolphins who would love to trade down won’t find a partner, unless if [sic]the Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart is relaxed to reflect the financial undesirability of the high-end picks”

Um, so they should probably relax it, then.

Exactly. There's nothing stopping teams from making trades that are not "Jimmy Johnson draft trade chart" equivalent, and in fact, some teams make trades like that. If Miami really wanted to get out of the 1st overall pick, and didn't mind only getting another 1st round pick in exchange, they could.

Surely there must be cases where a top #5 pick has more value to some team that doesn’t have it than to the team that does? So why does no trade happen.

Trades do happen, occasionally. I mean, in 2004, the Giants traded up to for the 1st overall pick, so it's not like teams never trade. After all, how many teams trade draft picks in the rest of the first round? A few every year, maybe? It's not like the teams with picks 11-32 are just wheeling and dealing left and right, while the teams with the top 10 picks never move.

26
by Erik (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 9:03pm

While teams can't trade the picks, they would be smart (on a cash basis) to sit and wait for the price/value point to get reasonable or for a trade to appear.

Would fans get angry? Possibly. But it would start to send a message.

Last year I was hoping Al Davis would make a point and have Russell sit for a year making nothing. Would have done the league a lot of good.

27
by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 03/29/2008 - 9:13pm

regarding rookie salaries, I heard an idea from a scout a while back that I really liked - make all rookie contracts no longer than 2 years in length. it would make it easier for teams to sever ties with expensive first-rounders who didn’t work out, and also gives an opportunity to guys like, say, maurice jones-drew, who have already proven their worth, to get the pay day they deserve.

Trouble is, teams don't want to give first rounders 2 year contracts, and most players picked in the first round don't want a 2 year contract. If they only have 2 year contracts, then teams wouldn't be able to keep their players long enough to evaluate them fully, much less benefit from their high level of play, before losing them to free agency. And players wouldn't get as much guaranteed money on their rookie contracts, because teams wouldn't be able to spread the cap hit of signing bonuses across a 5 or 6 year period, as they do now.

Sure, busts would be easier to cut quickly, but by the time you can tell they're a bust, they're not usually that hard to cut anyway. It's not like Houston would've cut David Carr earlier if he'd only had a 2 year contract - they signed him to an extension after his first contract was over!

The problem with first round draft busts isn't that you can't cut them without ruining your cap, it's that you haven't gotten a good player with your first round pick, while your opponents generally have.

28
by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 12:03am

Tony Romo tore up his competition on D-IAA ball and wasn't drafted to the Cowboys' surprise so they signed him and years later he became a star. Other than that, the only other QB I think that fits Johnson's bill is Steve McNair. The thing with Johnson is that he may need 3 years of sitting on the bench to develop correctly. Then again, with so many college teams going to spread option offenses, that may not be a bad idea to do with every QB.

29
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 1:09am

It seems a tutorial on "colleges in San Diego County" might be educational at this time. There is San Diego State, a full-fledged FBS (Division I-A) team playing in the Mountain West Conference getting the full complement of 85 athletic scholarships. There is the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). They do not have a football team. Then there is the University of San Diego (USD), a small Catholic school that has Division I athletics (the hoops team that just beat UConn in the tournament), BUT the football team does not offer any athletic scholarships.

Most FCS (Division I-AA) schools can offer 63 athletic scholarships for football, including the SWAC (Alcorn State's conference). I wouldn't agree that an appropriate comparison for Johnson's competition is the SWAC. This isn't to say USD couldn't compete against the SWAC teams. They've been very competitive with UC-Davis (a team making the transition to FCS from Division II and that beat Stanford in 2006) the past two years. But I don't think the teams USD plays (Pioneer League) would be nearly as competitive week-in and week-out.

There is, however, a conference that everyone is familiar with that also plays non-scholarship Division I athletics, including football--the Ivy League. San Diego went 1-1 against them in 2005 and beat pretty badly eventual champion Yale in 2006. The USD program as a whole is comparable to a top-notch Ivy squad and for the past two years has probably been markedly better than that.

If I had to hazard a guess, the Ivies would be a rough estimate of the level of competition faced by Johnson. The last Ivy QB to make a mark on the league would probably be Jay Fiedler (Dartmouth).

30
by Reinahrd (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 2:13am

Click name for Johnson highlights.
Some things I see I like:
- looks to pass
- throws to the proper location on the receivers body, allowing them to run after the catch
- touch on short throws for good yards after catch

31
by bubqr (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 6:16am

So J.Johnson led the nation in passing efficiency and total offense, sets a new record with 1 interception out of 301 pass attemps(43 TDs), played in a pro system, a West Coast offense, coached by J.Harbaugh, but is still not a legit QB prospect ? This kid will definitly have a shot to play QB. And you said it, T.Brady is never injured, and the reigning MVP. So your conclusion is : They won't draft him as a QB. My one is : They have time to develop him, while Brady's still there. I uess we'll see.

32
by Sebastian the Ibis (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 10:42am

MDS, I see the statistical connection, however you have the cause and effect backwards. Bad teams cause bad picks not visa-versa.

The Lions stay at the bottom of the league because Matt Millen is picking players. The same goes for Oakland and Al Davis. Most other teams with dismal GM's & Coaches replace them eventually - Arizona, Atlanta, Miami etc.

When a poorly managed team gets a good GM or a well run team has an off year and gets a shot at a top 5 player they come away with: AJ Hawk, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Terrence Newman, or even Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, Edgerin James or Ladanian Tomlinson.

Good teams can spot talent and don't regularly blow picks, Bad teams do. That is why they are perpetually bad!!!

p.s. For a similar statistical comparison take a look the FO piece on the kneel down being the most successful play in the NFL- every team that runs that play more than twice wins the game!!!

33
by Harris (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 11:58am

"Those players will then join teams where the vast majority of their veteran teammates have never received close to an eight-figure guarantee on a contract. That can breed resentment in locker rooms . . ."

I hear this a lot, but I doubt it's true. The union has so far expressed no interest in a rookie salary cap. It may breed resentment in the guy who has a super-rich rookie angling for his job, but if that sentiment was widespread the players would be arguing for a change in the system.

34
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 1:08pm

15: The same arguments were used by SEC types when they downplayed LaDanian Tomlinson's production at TCU. These same folks downplayed Marshall Faulk's production at San Diego State. True, analyzing running backs is very different from analyzing quarterbacks, but the "level of competition" argument doesn't hold water for either.

The majority of the criticism that I've seen about Johnson has been his level of competition. If people were criticizing his arm strength, mobility, ability to make reads, etc, then that would be valid. But when your chief concern is who he played against, then I think that your analysis is too shallow.

For what it's worth, he was the MVP of an All Star game after the bowl season, and that game featured several players from "big name" schools.

35
by Dave (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 1:28pm

#34, The thing is that TCU with Tomlison (and SDSU with Faulk, I think) were pretty good non-BCS, but still I-A/FBS schools. The drop-off in competition level to scholarship I-AA teams (Apalachain State vs. Michigan nonwitstanding) is much larger, and to non-scholarship I-AA schools (like USD or the Ivies), it's larger still.

36
by PaulH (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 2:23pm

The same arguments were used by SEC types when they downplayed LaDanian Tomlinson’s production at TCU. These same folks downplayed Marshall Faulk’s production at San Diego State.

Those two are very different than what we see with Josh Johnson.

LaDainian was at TCU, which was a Division 1-A school. I know he wasn't exactly playing a murderer's row, but it was Division 1-A talent, and he did help lead them to bowl wins over USC, East Carolina, and Southern Miss. Considering the massive stats he put up -- 2,000+ yard per year -- that says a lot.

Marshall Faulk had even tougher competition, probably. He was playing Division 1-A ball in the Mountain West, and had several games against top teams from future BCS conferences. He played against Miami (twice), UCLA (three times), Oregon, USC, Cal, and Minnesota. Despite all of that, he still had one of the best freshman campaigns ever, and was always one of the best players in the country.

I'm not saying Josh Johnson is a bad player, mind you, I'm just saying that you can't really compare the level of competition that he has faced to the competition to the competition that LaDainian and Faulk faced.

37
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 4:18pm

I do criticize his reads... on one of his real highlight runs I see a receiver open right down the middle of the field, but Johnson felt the pocket collapsing (although it wasn't) and ran. I would summarive that he seems to have all the tools, but drafting him too early is too big of a risk since he was playing against bad teams. I mean, they were definitely bad.
But he put up much much better passing numbers than running numbers, apparently because harbaugh trusted him to throw. I'm sure that they could have won consitently with a more running based attack also, but he was more effective as a passer, and I think that's a good sign.

38
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 5:34pm

35, 36:

The LDT and Marshall Faulk comparisons were more about the comment that someone made about WAC QBs and reporters gushing about them.

39
by Jerry (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 5:54pm

Re #34:

The same arguments were used by SEC types when they downplayed LaDanian Tomlinson’s production at TCU....

Is that why he lasted all the way until the fifth pick?

We all know that the draft isn't an exact science, but NFL teams are all doing their best to evaluate every prospect, whether he played in the SEC or a Div III conference in Alaska. In Josh Johnson's case, this discussion is evidence that he's not being ignored; we'll see where the NFL in its collective wisdom chooses to draft him, and eventually how good a pro he is (or isn't). That's also true of every other player coming out this year.

40
by MarkV (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 7:36pm

RE 32:
There is a whole complicated mess that goes into draft analysis and who makes a team good, that I think you are shortsighting.

AJ Hawk, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Terrence Newman, or even Donovan McNabb, Peyton Manning, Edgerin James or LdT.

Of those players you cited, Eli hasnt played above average for a starter yet, Rivers has one great year and one very good year, Hawk I dont know of good stats to single him out but he has looked impressive, Newman is consistantly overrated and puts up numbers that are charted as average at FO, and thats with a d-line that is decidedly elite at generating pressure.

The other 4 I would consider very good players who have made their teams substantially better. The point is that its easy to see Newman as a good player because Dallas is good, or Manning as a good player because Giants are sort of good, but that is not true.

Roy Williams is substantially better than Eli Manning, but each is frequently viewed in the context of their teams (and thats on offense where statistics are much better at describing reality).

Anyways I also always wonder if teams really hate the top 5 or just say that. They are the ones who choose to not trade for below value, they are the ones who choose to sign picks for ridiculous contracts, and they are the ones who choose to not just let the time pass and give the mess to someone else. I think its all kinda a fake out to some extent.

41
by Pete (not verified) :: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 10:17pm

I am continually surprised that so many teams give into the demands to pay the Top 5 or so players more than almost any player already on the team (in guaranteed money). I know it would probably be foolish business move (fans might not appreciate a cheapskate not putting the best team on the field when they pay $100 for a nosebleed seat). However, I still think a couple teams might eventually consider drafting a player and playing hardball. The player could sign a contract of their choosing or not play that year.

Of course, if they actually did that the NFLPA would probably try to push for something in the court. Personally, I think that many of the top first round picks are so overpaid that they are likely to be a drain on the team's financial situation.

I think most agree that many of the best financial decisions (other than QB?) come in the end of the first round through the beginning of the third round. It looks like Jones is in a great position. I saw one mock draft that had him getting a WR (Glenn and TO are not going to be top receivers for long, if they are now) and a CB. These sound like positions (and positions in the draft) that could be good value for him. The only real trade I could see happening would be to pick up Chad Johnson and I doubt that would happen before the draft.

42
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 8:56am

re 6, 12, 13: but when running you don't interact directly with your competition, so the level of competition isn't as relevant.

A better analogy is this: you run a 10.3 100m on a calm day on a great track; I run a 10.5 on a muddy track with a strong wind in my face. In other words, you put up the better numbers, but under more favorable conditions.

Maybe when we're running in the same race under the same conditions I'm going to beat you handily.

43
by justme (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 10:11am

42) They were just using the race as an analogy for smaller school quarterbacks, not for combine times.

41)I know it would probably be foolish business move (fans might not appreciate a cheapskate not putting the best team on the field when they pay $100 for a nosebleed seat). However, I still think a couple teams might eventually consider drafting a player and playing hardball. The player could sign a contract of their choosing or not play that year.

It's hard to call someone in the NFL a cheapskate just because they don't sign a player. Everything is decided by the cap room. Your statement only applies if they have cap room - you're stuck if you have no room unless you're Dan Snyder.

39) In Josh Johnson’s case, this discussion is evidence that he’s not being ignored; we’ll see where the NFL in its collective wisdom chooses to draft him, and eventually how good a pro he is (or isn’t). That’s also true of every other player coming out this year.

They don't draft out of collective wisdom - every pick reveals only one team's wisdom. As an extreme case, if every team has him graded 7th round except one that has him graded 1st, he might not last very long. And that is essentially what this thread is discussing - how much this principle has an effect on choosing the top picks vs. the resulting salary cap situations.

44
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 10:45am

The thing about the Lions is not only their crappy top 10 picks, its the fact that they do not hit any other pick either in Millen's tenure.

The 2nd round has been a wasteland of college LBers who are hurt or can't tackle.
Best pick? Probably Gerald Alexander (perhaps Daniel Bullocks if he is healthy).

The 3rd round is where Millen picks bad corners.
Best pick: Cory Redding

4th round: Lions fans usually too excited about top 10 star player to remember who they picked..Actually Lions had very little 4th rounders-usually trade them away
Best player? Artose Pinner

5th round: Time for the dart board!
Best player? Terrence Holt

6th round: Do you love small college DEs or just oft-injured college players? Well Millen does here..
Best player? Chris Cash

7th round: Too busy trying to figure out how to place 6 WRs on the field at once, Yappy the weather predicting dog makes the picks instead.
Best player? Anthony Cannon

45
by Erik (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 12:44pm

Last Year, JaMarcus Russell got a $30M guaranteed, $54M total deal for 6 years. That is $9M a year, $5M of which is guaranteed.

Let us look at the 2008 Exclusive Franchise prices for players:

Quarterback $10.730 million
Offensive Linemen $7.455 million
Defensive End $8.879 million
Wide Receiver $7.848 million
Cornerback $9.465 million
Safety $4.396 million
Linebacker $8.065 million
Running Back $6.538 million
Defensive Tackle $6.363 million
Tight end $4.522 million
Punter or Kicker $2.514 million

How about the 2007 prices? (these are non-exclusive)

Quarterback $8,789,000
Offensive Linemen $6,983,000
Defensive End $8,332,000
Wide Receiver $6,172,000
Cornerback $5,893,000
Linebacker $7,169,000
Running Back $6,085,000
Defensive Tackle $5,656,000
Safety $4,109,000
Tight end $3,327,000
Punter or Kicker $2,468,000

So, was JaMarcus Russell the kind of QB that would get a franchise player tag? The type of player to get the average of the top 5, for 6 years?

No. Until the clubs stop paying through the nose for top-of-the first, they will suffer. Me, I'd rather have Drew Brees or Carson Palmer (e.g. pick QBs just short of Brady or Manning) than JaMarcus Russell. I cannot imagine those players being traded 1:1 for JaMarcus Russell.

I just want to know why the owners sign them, instead of making them sit out? Anti-trust lawsuit? Fan reaction? Maybe we need mail campaigns to tell owners of bad teams: "Just don't do it!"

46
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 12:49pm

Re 25: Bill Polian also picked Kerry Collins, Tim Biakabatuka and Rae Carruth in the first round. Needless to say, the team that he did that for was not as successful as the one he took Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James for.

Good personnel guys are more likely to overcome bad high picks by making good selections elsewhere, while bad personnel people are likely to compound the error by drafting poorly elsewhere, but I don't think people give nearly enough credence to the idea that bad luck has a significant role in many of these draft busts. Charles Rogers was universally considered a top three player. Robert Gallery was widely considered the best player in the country, and he was taken by a team that had been in the Super Bowl two years earlier. These things happen, and they're crippling when they do.

47
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 1:59pm

I love the way some fans solutions to percieved problems always involve screwing the players. In fact, there never IS a problem until a player is perceived as being payed too much, as there are never calls for a system overhaul if a group of players is underpaid.

The proposal in Post #10 seems reasonable for all parties involved...so reasonable that no one will consider it.

48
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 3:12pm

Yah, I've always been for doing away the draft.

But with the new CBA that's changed. Killing the draft only works with a vital free agency, and it hasn't been the past couple years.

49
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 4:09pm

46: Kerry Collins is one of the top 20 most prolific passers of all time, and the second of the two legitimate starting quarterbacks taken in that draft. Polian traded down for Collins, acquiring a second-round pick. Biakabatuka and Carruth both busted for extremely bizarre, unforseeable reasons, unlike, say, Mike Williams.

Despite those unlucky busts, Polian got the Panthers to the Conference Championship in their second year because he was so sharp with later-round investments and he was so clever at picking up veteran pass-rushers.

Bringing up Polian's busted picks does show that luck is involved in the draft, which we all know, but it doesn't prove that first round pick luck is a major determinant of team success. Polian succeeded in spite of multiple unlucky high first-round busts. In other words, the whining about getting stuck with high first-rounders isn't justified, and the whining about Matt Millen is.

50
by Herm? (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 4:27pm

If there is no draft and a cap, the best teams get first pick at the free agents, and the bad teams are only getting players if they open their wallets...that phenomenon is already quite present in today's free agent market: the Raiders are forced to overpay for risky players, while a more desirable team like the Eagles can land a hot free agent cornerback like Asante Samuel. There's a formula of franchise success, location, GM pursuit/the feeling of being needed and dollars that draws most free agents. I don't think you can remove the draft and have the perceived parity that the league seems to covet.

51
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 5:46pm

#49

and Charles Rogers busted for completely unforeseen reasons as well (2 broken collar bones in back to back seasons, then generally dumbassery). And Mike Williams was foreseen as a bust that much? Mel Kiper was drooling over the dude-it was a completely stupid pick by the Lions, but it was not like he had bust written all over him.

The other bust is Joey Harrington-who is at least able to start for 2 other teams...though he is just not that good either.

Other than that-Roy and Backus and Sims and CJ appear to be solid picks. Kevin Jones again-completely unforeseen injuries, not a bad pick.

but again, its not the 1st round that sucks for Millen, its everything else.

52
by Tom D (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 6:24pm

Re 51:

"And Mike Williams was foreseen as a bust that much? Mel Kiper was drooling over the dude-it was a completely stupid pick by the Lions, but it was not like he had bust written all over him."

I actually think Mike Williams was the worst pick of the Millen era. He projected to got high in the 1st only because of Mel Kiper hype. He was a player who hadn't played in a year, had concerns about speed and work ethic. Plus it was the third 1st round pick in row used on a receiver. When there are questions about a player's work ethic and he hasn't played in a year, it's probably a bad idea to draft him. A lot of the teams that drafted high that year needed offensive help too, the first 5 picks were all offense, and Minnesota took Williamson at 7. All those teams passed on BMW, despite Kiper's drool. You could have had Ware, Merriman or Jamaal Brown (the next 3 picks).

53
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 7:08pm

oh I agree. That draft absolutely set the Lions back 2 or 3 years. They had Backus-a completely average LT as a free agent coming up and Kelly Butler as the starting RT. The pick should have been Brown. Instead they had to overpay Backus to continue to be an average LT and have a revolving door at RT.

Then they trade up with the Titans to grab a Millen favorite: the Tweener Defensive Lineman-in Shaun Cody. The Titans use the 2 picks they get from the Lions to draft Michael Roos (starting LT) and David Stewart (starting RT).

The 3rd round went to Stanley Wilson, the round where Millen drafts his corners. Wilson is probably on the cusp of being released.

rest of draft: Dan Orvolsky-3rd string QB, and 2 undersized DEs no longer on the team.

54
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 7:49pm

I actually think Mike Williams was the worst pick of the Millen era. He projected to got high in the 1st only because of Mel Kiper hype.

Mike Williams was phenomenal during his final season as a sophomore at USC. He would have been a strong Heisman Candidate if he had stayed another season, and was looked at as a potential #1 overall pick.

There was a lot more than Kiperhype fueling Williams ascent to the top of the draft.

55
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 9:32pm

On Williams: Yea, he looked dominant in college, etc. etc. Guess what: so do pretty much all of the other players in the first round, and many of them aren't overweight, out of football for a year, and at a position where you've already spent your last two first-rounders.

But let's examine for a moment, that the Lions just get screwed by bad luck picking in the first round, and Polian has just had really good luck in the first round.

Admittedly, the first round is a small sample size, but there are 6 other rounds in the draft, and each team has made around 50 picks in those rounds since 2001. Here are the serviceable starters that Millen's drafts have yielded:

Corey Redding
Terrence Holt
Shaun Rogers
Dominic Raiola
Gerald Alexander(?)

Here are the serviceable starters that Bill Polian has yielded in rounds 2 through 7.

Tony Ugoh
Antoine Bethea
Freddie Keiaho
Marlin Jackson
Kelvin Hayden
Bob Sanders
Jason David
Jake Scott
Mike Doss
Robert Mathis
Cato June
Larry Tripplett
David Thornton
Ryan Diem
Rick DeMulling

What's amazing about it is that rounds 2 through 7 aren't even Polian's alleged strength. He's actually supposed to be best at 1st rounders and UFAs. I'm betting if you found a team like New England, with a weaker record on first rounders and UFAs and a stronger record in rounds 2-7, the contrast would be even starker.

The Lions haven't been screwed over by their high firsts sometimes busting. They are screwed over because everything else they pick busts.

56
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 9:40pm

On Williams: Yea, he looked dominant in college, etc. etc. Guess what: so do pretty much all of the other players in the first round, and many of them aren’t overweight, out of football for a year, and at a position where you’ve already spent your last two first-rounders.

Known.

There's a concept called "risk assessment".

Guess what: using extreme examples, sometimes you get a Warren Sapp, sometimes you get a Lawrence Phillips.

57
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 9:40pm

I have been saying that all along. The Millen drafts have the embarrassment of the 1st round failures, but its the lack of getting anything else that hurts them most of all. Failing to find cheap talent late, leads to paying out money for the Dwight Smith's of the world-instead of picking the Tanard Jackson's.

Perhaps things will change, but I am not sure-I have some hopes for a 2nd rounder they picked last season in Ikaika Alama-Francis. But other than that, who knows.

58
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 03/31/2008 - 11:29pm

lionsbob, I think you're right on, and I really admire fans like you who stick to your guns even though you know that your team's management is incompetent.

59
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 12:03am

Its difficult at times, but its the blind hope that it cannot be this bad forever...of course I am sure Bengals fans were saying that in the 90s, Bucs fans were saying that before Dungy, and Cardinals fans saying it as well.

60
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 9:21am

re 43: "42) They were just using the race as an analogy for smaller school quarterbacks, not for combine times. "

I know...wow, you missed my point completely.

Their point was great performance (big numbers) by small school QBs is still great performance.

My point was performance under favorable conditions (weak opponents) needs to be very carefully compared to performance under less favorable conditions (strong opponents).

They used the race to say that a good time is still a good time no matter how lousy your opponents were. I didn't think that was a good analogy because in a race your opponents don't directly influence your own performance (by tackling you, for example)

Apologies if the point was unclear. Seemed obvious to me when I made it.

61
by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 10:08am

The point was not unclear at all, Ryan. It's utterly ridiculous to suggest that evaluating a sprinter who runs against weak competition is in any way similar to evaluating a quarterback who plays against weak competition.

62
by witless chum (not verified) :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 12:07pm

Re: BMW:
"Plus it was the third 1st round pick in row used on a receiver."

I've somewhat defended the pick in concept in the past, because the Lions had Roy they felt they could count on, but Charles Rogers was then coming off two straight collarbone breaks and, I would think Millen would have known he was in the substance abuse program and maybe knew he was soon to be suspended. The Lions ended up, due to injuries to Roy and Kevin Johnson, with the immortal Scottie Vines starting opposite BMW that year.

But none of that makes the BMW pick smart, just slightly less crackheaded.

I've even turned against the Calvin Johnson pick, because I think Joe Thomas at tackle and a weak schedule could have put the 2007 Lions in the playoffs.

63
by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 04/01/2008 - 1:11pm

"I’ve even turned against the Calvin Johnson pick, because I think Joe Thomas at tackle and a weak schedule could have put the 2007 Lions in the playoffs."

Excellent point. Millen wants to act as though he made a great pick when he took Backus, so he passes up opportunities to upgrade at tackle.

64
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 7:55am

I find it hard to knock the Johnson pick, because he was such an outstanding prospect, and he still very likely will turn into an elite NFL receiver. If we had a do-over on the 2007 draft tomorrow, Thomas would undoubtedly go first overall. Well, I say undoubtedly - it would presumably still be Al Davis exercising the pick . . . In any case, the point is that there was no way of knowing that Thomas would turn out to be as good as he seems to be (and of course it may well yet be that Johnson turns out to be the better player in the long run). LT was a position of greater need, but most people, myself included, saw Johnson as the BPA. It wasn't a horrible pick.

65
by justme (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 10:28am

re: 60)and 61)

yea, sorry... I had a point to pick but I worded it amazingly wrong and can't figure out what I was trying to say now.

Good thing MDS is a better writer to show you how "utterly ridiculous" you are.

66
by mrparker (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 11:58am

I like the 100m dash comparison but its missing something.

Johnson is the guy who runs a 10.4 with the wind at his back, handtimed, on the worlds best synthetic material, and the worlds best designed shoes.

D1 qb's are the guys who run 10.7 electronically with wind in their face in sneakers on a cinder track.

Until you get them on a similar track you can't be sure who will be faster

67
by lionbob (not verified) :: Wed, 04/02/2008 - 5:28pm

Calvin Johnson was a good pick by the Lions, Joe Thomas playing so well (with Eric Steinbach right next to him) stinks.

But what is bad is the Lions 2nd round picks. They moved around to get 3 of them.

They selected with those 3 picks: A project back-up QB who never really impressed that much in college (Drew Stanton)
A project DE, who was brand new to the game and played the 3-4 for Hawai'i in Ikaika Alama-Francis
And a DB who moved from CB to S that no one saw coming in Gerald Alexander. Alexander started at safety after Bullocks got hurt-I think his role would have been a little different with that did not happen.

Why was it bad...well they traded down with the Bills (Bills selected Paul Posluszny)..and the picks after Stanton included David Harris and Justin Durant.
The Lions knew that Bailey and Lehman were free agents after the season. They thought that Lenon would be a solid MLB. Now the Lions are thin at LBer and have to depend on this draft to rebuild (after the screw up in trying to cut 5th rounder Baldwin to try to get him to the practice squad...Chiefs pounced on him).
The Lions obviously felt that the OL needed no help-now they are stuck with Foster on a year deal and hoping that Scott is healthy.

Stanton, IAF, and Alexander can all be Pro Bowlers though as well, but when you are a bad team you do not spend 3 2nd rounders on 3 guys who were primed to be back-ups....especially after you spend a 1st rounder on a position that was not a pressing need.