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Five different teams from last year's DVOA top eight rank in the bottom half of the league through four weeks of 2014. What can we learn from other teams with similar starts in the past?

08 May 2006

Four Downs: NFC West

Best player available analysis by Sean McCormick
Remainder of Four Downs by Doug Farrar

(Ed. note: For the next round of Four Downs, we're pleased to present Sean McCormick's "Best Player Available" analysis for each division, along with the usual gang commenting on other moves by each team before and since the draft.)

Every year dozens of mock drafts project players to teams on the basis of need. And every year NFL general managers do post-draft interviews where they swear up and down that the guys they took were on the top of their board and that they couldn't believe their luck that the guys were still there. Everyone drafts for need but no one seems to want to admit it. There's good reason for that — no general manager has to apologize for taking the best guy on the board if it didn't work out, but if he passed over a player with a higher grade and that player turns into Anquan Boldin or Terrell Owens or (gulp) Tom Brady, then that GM has a lot to answer for. So teams will massage their boards to ensure that their picks will end up on top.

Fortunately, thanks to the Internet it is possible for fans to independently verify the quality of their team's draft choices. A virtual cottage industry has sprung up around the draft, and ex-scouts and professional (and amateur) draftniks have flooded the web with scouting reports, mock drafts and player rankings. While there are always disagreements, there is a surprising degree of consensus that builds up about many of the prospects, so that examining these boards can provide a good impression of what the general perception was about these players on the eve of the draft.

We are going to examine every team's draft to see how it stacks up against a collection of major draft site boards. A player will be considered a steal if he was taken at or beyond the point in the draft that he was projected to go, and a reach if he was taken before that point. He will be considered a major reach or steal if he came off the board more than a round before or after he was slotted. We will also put up the best available player who was available at the time of the selection according to the independent draft boards. The four boards used for this exercise are The Huddle Report, Great Blue North, Scouts Inc. (ESPN), and NFLDraftscout.com (FOX).

Arizona Cardinals

Pick Player Big
Steal
Steal Reach Big
Reach
Best Player Available
10 Matt Leinart - 4 - - Matt Leinart (4)
41 Deuce Lutui - 1 2 1 Eric Winston (1), Ashton Yobouty (1), Lendale White (2)
72 Leonard Pope 3 1 - - Leonard Pope (1), Gabe Watson (1) Darnell Bing (1), Ko Simpson (1)
107 Gabe Watson 4 - - - Gabe Watson (4)
142 Brandon Johnson - 1 - 3 Brandon Johnson (1), Greg Eslinger (1), DeMario Minter (1), Mark Anderson (1)
177 Jon Lewis 2 - - 2 Jon Lewis (1), Greg Eslinger (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (2)
218 Todd Watkins 4 - - - Anwar Philips (1), Stanley McClover (1), Roderique Wright (1), Dee Webb (1)

Not every draft has a defining moment, a decision or sequence of decisions that profoundly alters the course of two franchises, but one such moment took place at the 9-10 junction of the 2006 draft. Detroit and Arizona were in some ways mirror images of each other. Both teams had invested heavily in their receiving corps. In recent years, Detroit drafted three wide receivers in the first round, while Arizona drafted two in the first and one in the second. Both teams spent the off-season throwing money at the quarterback position in an attempt to lock in at least competent play after years of below-average starters. Both teams had need of an impact defensive player. Both drafts were directed by men on the hot seat who could ill-afford to whiff on the pick. When Detroit was on the clock they opted for need, while the Cardinals took the best player on the board. When Lions fans are watching Matt Leinart hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2008, all of Matt Millen's wide receiver picks will seem positively benign next to this one.

Denny Green has been drafting BPA since he arrived in Arizona; his first three drafts are textbook examples of how to infuse a team with a base of young talent in a short period of time. By ignoring the composition of his roster and drafting based simply on player grades, he has netted quality young talent like Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett, Antrel Rolle, Eric Green, Elton Brown and Darryl Blackstock. This year Green followed the same approach, and it's highly likely that this draft class will bear similar fruit. Leonard Pope and Gabe Watson were both considered late first round possibilities, but Green landed them in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Both players have some issues—Pope is a poor blocker for a man of his size and does not run crisp routes, while Watson is notorious for taking plays off—but each one will step into the starting lineup and provide a tremendous upgrade in size and athleticism. (That Pope plays a position where Arizona had a huge hole is just an added bonus.) Jonathan Lewis and Todd Watkins could have come off the board in the fourth or fifth round, yet Green was able to nab them both at the back end of the draft. In all five of his seven selections were considered the best available player by at least one of the draft boards, and two of them were unanimously considered to be so.

But it is the Leinart selection that will define this draft. Not unlike Carson Palmer before him, Leinart will be dropped into an offensive unit that is stacked at the skill positions. He is going to a quarterback-friendly system that suits his skill set, and will be playing for a coach who has shown himself willing to give young quarterbacks playing time if they earn it. He won't have to worry about inclement weather in any of his home games or any divisional away games. There has never been a rookie quarterback who has come into the league with the sort of on-the-job training Leinart has received—three years of excelling in a pro-style offense run by NFL coaches—and there have been few who have been put into as advantageous a situation. Arizona was on the rise anyway thanks to Green's astute eye for talent, but thanks to their draft class of 2006, they are poised to put their reputation as a laughingstock franchise to bed in much the way that Tony Dungy's Tampa Bay teams did in the late 90's.

Recent Free Agent Moves

Arizona signed LB Mark Brown and P Fred Capshaw on May 4th. Brown, who played for the Jets over the last three seasons, had a career-high 65 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble last season. The former Auburn UDFA will bring much-needed depth to the Cardinals' linebacker corps. Capshaw was cut by the 49ers in their 2003 training camp.

Remaining Team Needs

Although Lutui was a good pickup, serious questions still abound as to the potential effectiveness of the Cardinal o-line. Leinart, in particular, will not be used to such a porous front five. That's the downside of the pro-level training he received at USC—he was also the beneficiary of a series of great offensive lines. Edgerrin James will also presumably feel the effects of running without Indy's line, ranked first by Football Outsiders in 2005 in Adjusted Line Yards. Arizona's success will be dependent, first and foremost, on this underachieving unit. Defensively, the secondary requires Antrel Rolle's return—but the 2005 first-rounder may need arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. This is the same knee that required meniscus surgery and forced Rolle to miss nine games in his rookie season.

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

Arizona agreed to terms with ten undrafted free agents on May 4th. Perhaps the most interesting talent is Georgia Tech receiver Damarius Bilbo. Bilbo played three seasons at wideout for the Yellowjackets, and enjoyed a career-high 40 receptions for 591 yards in 2005. He's also a lock for induction into anyone's NFL All-Name Team. Another receiver, Pitt's Greg Lee, will be reunited with former teammate Larry Fitzgerald, at least in the short term. Princeton CB Jay McCareins is the younger brother of Jets receiver Justin McCareins, and led Division I-AA with 9 interceptions, 20 passes defended, two interceptions for touchdowns and 236 interception return yards during the 2005 season.

St. Louis Rams

Pick Player Big
Steal
Steal Reach Big
Reach
Best Player Available
15 Tye Hill - - 4 - Jimmy Williams (1), Winston Justice (3)
46 Joe Klopfenstein - 1 3 - Eric Winston (2), Ashton Yobouty (2), Leonard Pope (1)
68 Claude Wroten - 3 - 1 Ashton Yobouty (2), Darnell Bing (1), Leonard Pope (1)
77 Jon Alston - - 1 3 Gabe Watson (2), Darnell Bing (1), Ashton Yobouty (1)
93 Dominique Byrd 2 - 2 - Max Jean-Giles (1), Gabe Watson (3)
113 Victor Adeyanju 3 - - 1 Mark
Anderson (1), DeMario Minter (1), Ryan O'Callaghan (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (1)
144 Marques Hagans - - - 4 Mark
Anderson (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (3)
221 Tim McGarigle 1 1 - 2 Anwar Phillips (1), Roderique Wright (2), Stanley McClover (1)
242 Mark Setterstrom 1 1 - 2 Anwar Phillips (4)
243 Tony Palmer - - - 4 Anwar Phillips (4)

The Rams draft is a good example of a team drafting with an eye towards both its current roster construction and its offensive and defensive systems rather than simply grabbing the top rated player each time out. As a result, their draft does not grade out well on the draft boards, even though the players taken may well be effective in their roles. Only one of the Rams' ten selections graded out as a steal on a majority of the boards, and four of them were universally graded as major reaches. Tye Hill does not have the size of Jimmy Williams or Jason Allen, but he has none of the red flags that accompany those two players. Moreover, he has the natural size and skill set to contribute immediately as a nickel back, thus addressing a need. It's possible that in three years the team would be better off with a bigger corner on the outside, or someone with the skill set to match up with Vernon Davis, but in the short term Hill figures to see the field a lot in nickel and dime packages.

The Rams decision to repeatedly attack the tight end position was a direct result of a change in offensive philosophy. Mike Martz did not utilize the position much, but the tight end is a major part of Scott Linehan's offense, so the team felt it was necessary to radically upgrade the unit's playmaking ability. Klopfenstein and Byrd are not the all-around prospects that Leonard Pope is, but each is a superior short-area receiver. Jermaine Wiggins caught 80 balls in the Linehan offense two years ago, and the tight ends St. Louis ultimately chose fit that profile. It's entirely understandable that teams target players to fit their systems, but in order for the strategy to pay off long-term, you need to have coaching stability; otherwise, a new coach with a new system will come in and find a roster that is less talented than it could be, and the process of rebuilding will take longer.

According to the draft board, the Rams did a better job of attaining value on the second day of the draft than they did on the first. Dominique Byrd and Victor Adeyanju were both considered major steals by at least two draft boards, and Tim McGarigle and Mark Setterstrom were considered good value as well. At a point in the draft when many teams are taking players who grade out as unrestricted free agents, the Rams were signing guys who were considered draftable. Look for both players to make the final roster or to end up on the team's practice squad.

Recent Free Agent Moves

On April 30, St. Louis traded TE Brandon Manumaleuna to the Chargers for a fourth-round pick, using that selection to draft Victor Adeyanju.

Remaining Team Needs

Hill, a potential first-year playmaker, makes the paucity of talent in the secondary a far less pressing issue. The Rams are hoping that Wroten's off-field problems will a.) Allow them, in retrospect, to have grabbed a first-round talent in the third; and b.) Disappear with his ascent into the big leagues. History is not on Wroten's side – the NFL tends to make you more of what you were before – but if he bucks the odds, he has the kind of explosion off the snap needed by St. Louis in their interior line.

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

Among the Rams' UDFAs are UConn basketball player Ed Nelson, who aspires to join the ever-increasing number of hardwood-to-gridiron TE converts, and Morehouse College grad John David Washington. Washington is his school's all-time leading rusher, but that's not why he's getting a remarkable amount of press for a Division II player – his father is actor Denzel Washington. The elder Washington played one season at Fordham before moving on to far greener pastures.

San Francisco 49ers

Pick Player Big
Steal
Steal Reach Big
Reach
Best Player Available
6 Vernon Davis - 4 - - Vernon Davis (4)
22 Manny Lawson - 3 1 - Jimmy Williams (2), Winston Justice (2)
84 Brandon Williams - - 1 3 Gabe Watson (3), Darnell Bing (1)
100 Michael Robinson 1 - 1 2 Gabe Watson (3), Darnell Bing (1)
140 Parys Haralson 2 1 - 1 Mark Anderson (1), DeMario Minter (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (2)
175 Delanie Walker - - 1 3 Greg Eslinger (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (3)
192 Marcus Hudson 2 - - 2 Greg Eslinger (1), Stanley McClover (1), Roderique Wright (2)
197 Melvin Oliver - - - 4 Greg Eslinger (1), Stanley McClover (1), Roderique Wright (2)
254 Vickiel Vaughn - - - 4 Anwar Phillips (4)

The 49ers entered this draft with unquestionably the least talented roster in the league. In such a situation, there is really no excuse for taking anything other than a BPA approach, as you need to give yourself the best possible chance of upgrading your talent all across the board. But the 49ers did not consistently stick to that approach, and their decisions were at least in part dictated by a desire to fill needs with only a few first-day picks to work with.

There is no question that the 49ers did well with their first selection; Vernon Davis was universally considered to be the best player on the board when they chose him. He will step immediately into the starting lineup and provide the only semblance of a matchup problem for opposing defenses. The 49ers traded away their second- and third-round selections to Denver for the 22nd pick overall, and it seems likely they did so with the specific idea of grabbing Lawson to replace the departed Julian Peterson. With more teams switching to the 3-4, the supply of edge rushers isn't as plentiful as it was even a few years ago, and so half the reason for employing the defense to begin with—the ability to find players that will fit the system at various points in the draft—has largely evaporated. While the draft boards largely agreed that Lawson was taken at good value, none of them felt that Lawson represented the top player on the board at the time of the 22nd pick. And because the 49ers were short on first-day picks, they felt compelled to grab receiver prospects with three of their next four selections simply to fill out their depth chart, and in all three instances there were players with significantly higher grades available. In effect, the decision to fill an immediate vacancy had a cascading effect that degraded the overall quality of the players the 49ers were able to select.

The 49ers did score some points with a few of their second day picks. Parys Haralson, the hustling defensive tackle from Tennessee who projects to end in the 3-4, was widely considered a good selection, and Marcus Hudson came off the board a round later than he was projected by two of the draft boards. The opinions were split on Michael Robinson, the Penn State quarterback who will try to convince Mike Nolan that he really is better than Alex Smith, even as Nolan refers to him as “Robinson El.� The Robinson pick is a perfect example of the copycat mentality that permeates the league. Many of the college quarterbacks who have been projected into other positions have not panned out, but everyone was watching the Super Bowl and couldn't help but notice the versatility that Randle El brought to the Steelers attack. By all accounts Robinson is a good athlete, but the high risk that goes along with projecting a player to a different position than the one he played in college pushes him down on three of the draft boards.

Recent Free Agent Moves

San Francisco added a mentor for Alex Smith in the form of Trent Dilfer, trading Ken Dorsey and a low 2006 pick to Cleveland for his services. Dilfer could be classified as this generation's Steve DeBerg – an always unheralded player whose ability to assist young quarterbacks on their way to greater things will likely mark his career more than the Super Bowl he won with Baltimore. If Smith wants to retain a bit of optimism after his horrible rookie campaign, he should ask former sixth-round draft pick Matt Hasselbeck how much Dilfer had to do with the maturation of the NFC's current best signal-caller.

Remaining Team Needs

The additions of Antonio Bryant and Vernon Davis will be enough to bolster the passing game – or at least allow it to rise somewhere above comatose. The 49ers are hoping that Lawson and Haralson can replicate the rookie successes of Lofa Tatupu and LeRoy Hill in Seattle, but asking two rookies to anchor a formerly depleted group isn't generally an instant total success scenario. The most obvious need for San Francisco remains the secondary, and the team has done remarkably little to address this issue. San Francisco's 2006 season could turn out to be an object lesson in the value of defensive backs versus wide receivers on draft day – especially when creating positional depth in the later rounds. Having said that, it's hard to criticize personnel maven Scot McCloughan too harshly. His mission is to rebuild a team with debits at just about every position, and under those circumstances, you could second-guess any direction he chooses.

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

USC's Tom Malone was one of the nation's top punters in 2005. Long Beach State power forward Onye Ibekwe, a 6'5�, 256-pound monster, will join St. Louis' Ed Nelson and the Giants' Jai Lewis as undrafted free agents who played no football at the collegiate level. All three players are being asked to follow in the footsteps of Antonio Gates by transferring their athletic skills to the tight end position. San Francisco also picked up two tackle prospects – Mississippi's Bobby Harris can play guard as well, and was on quite a few top 40 lists at his position. Florida's Tavares Washington is a JuCo transfer who started 10 games for the Gators last season. He is also quite probably the only professional football player named after a group who sang on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Seattle Seahawks

Pick Player Big
Steal
Steal Reach Big
Reach
Best Player Available
31 Kelly Jennings - 1 - 3 Jimmy Williams (2), Winston Justice (2)
63 Darryl Tapp - 3 - 1 Eric Winston (1), Leonard Pope (1), Darnell Bing (1), Ashton Yobouty (1)
128 Rob Sims 2 - - 2 Mark Anderson (1), DeMario Minter (1), Ryan O'Callaghan (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (1)
163 David Kirtman - - - 4 Stanley McClover (1), Babatunde Oshinowo (3)
239 Ryan Plackemeier - - - 4 Anwar Phillips (4)
249 Ben Obomanu 1 - 1 2 Anwar Phillips (4)

When you have a 13-3 team with ostensibly only a few open roster spots, the question of whether or not you are better off focusing on need is an interesting one. The very paucity of job openings accentuates each argument; you need to draft for need because a player will only have a good shot of sticking at a position where the team is weak, or you need to draft BPA because it maximizes your chance of grabbing a player who is good enough to win a spot when on a team where the level of competition is very high.

Each of the Seahawks' six selections, save Darryl Tapp at pick 63, were considered to be major reaches by at least two of the draft boards. When you are drafting punters and fullbacks, that's inevitably going to happen. (This was, believe it or not, the third draft in the last five where Seattle drafted a punter.) But the top half of Seattle's draft doesn't grade out much better. Opinions were divided on OSU guard Rob Sims; he was either a major reach or a major steal, depending on which board you are looking at. Tapp was considered a solid second rounder. The most interesting Seattle decision took place in the first round. Kelly Jennings is a poor man's Fabian Washington, a corner who has top end speed but who didn't play like a first round pick in college. Jimmy Williams, who was projected as a top 10 selection based on his play at Virginia Tech before being pushed down the board for character concerns, was still available. When a team takes a lesser prospect at the same position as the best available player, they are admitting that they are making a football decision based on something other than the player's ability. Sometimes an emphasis on character means you do things like take Kevin Dyson ahead of Randy Moss. Sometimes a failure to emphasize character means you draft Lawrence Phillips ahead of Eddie George. Either way a front office is in danger of getting egg on its face, and in this case the Seahawks chose the safer route.

The Seattle draft provides an interesting example of how decisions to address needs can backfire and ultimately result in a lesser collection of talent at the same position groups than would have been possible through a BPA approach. Seattle used their first-day picks to select a cornerback, a defensive end and an offensive lineman. Even assuming that Williams was a character red flag and not on the Seahawks' board, they could have come away with Eric Winston or Winston Justice for the offensive line, Ashton Yobouty or DeMario Minter at corner, and Mark Anderson or Stanley McClover at defensive end. In each case, the players who the Seahawks had to pass over in later rounds because they'd already addressed the positions carried higher grades than the players the Seahawks actually selected.

Recent Free Agent Moves

The Seahawks traded their sixth-round pick to the Chicago Bears for safety Mike Green, who had fallen out favor in the Windy City. Green fell victim to a rash of pass interference penalties last season, but he's a good special teams player who can back up at both safety spots. Green was also the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2000 draft class – picked 254th overall out of Northwestern State (Louisiana). He re-signed with Chicago in 2003, receiving a five-year, $10 million contract. The Seahawks are also hoping for the full return of FS Ken Hamlin, who is participating in the team's current non-contact minicamps after suffering a serious head injury in an off-field incident last October.

Remaining Team Needs

The reigning NFC champs took care of their two most pressing needs with Jennings and Tapp. The latter will find a place as a dedicated edge-rusher, a “luxury� position more easily manned by a rookie. Jennings will be in the crosshairs from the word go – Seattle's interest in Ty Law seems to be dwindling daily, and the former Hurricane will compete to start over nickel corner Kelly Herndon right away. Should Hamlin's return to the field prove unsuccessful, Seattle will have a hole at the starting free safety position. Hutchinson's infamous move to Minnesota leaves the Seahawks bare from an elite guard standpoint, but the team's impressive o-line depth allows them to plug multiple options in next to Walter Jones through training camp and the preseason until the right replacement is found.

Undrafted Free Agents of Note

Auburn CB Kevin Hobbs impressed at his Pro Day with a 4.37-40, but he's shown more athleticism than true coverage ability throughout his career. Florida State TE Matt Henshaw is a hard-working blocker who father George coaches tight ends for the Titans. Boston College center Pat Ross could surprise – he's a cerebral, smallish player who can fold in a bull rush, but uses technique to overcome. At least one national draft expert ranks him as the top center not selected.

Perhaps the most interesting talent on Seattle's UDFA roster, Montana State QB Travis Lulay put up some crazy numbers in Division 1-AA ball (10,746 yards, 58 touchdown passes, 23 rushing touchdowns) and was renowned for pulling his team through several fourth-quarter comebacks.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 08 May 2006

117 comments, Last at 07 Jul 2006, 4:21pm by FAN

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 4:49pm

And because the 49ers were short on first-day picks, they felt compelled to grab receiver prospects with three of their next four selections simply to fill out their depth chart

Robinson is a QB converting to a running back, not receiver. He was introduced as a running back. At the mini-camp, he practiced at QB, running back, and running back split a bit wide.

All the coach interviews during mini-camp, after the draft, etc. all talk about Robinson at running back, not receiver. Williams and Walker are WR prospects, but Robinson is not.

How effective he'll be at running back is another question, although I have to think that the conversion from a QB whose primary threat was running to a running back is a heckuva lot simpler than switching to wide receiver.

2
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 4:59pm

Nicely done, Sean and Doug. I'm intrigued by the Cardinals, but not as enthusiastic about them as most people are. Although I like Leinart, there have been plenty of players I've liked coming out of college who didn't pan out. He's certainly not a sure thing. And I wasn't a big fan of the Edgerrin James signing; I think he's wearing down and will really struggle if the Cardinals' passing game doesn't keep opposing nickel packages on the field as much as the Colts' passing game did.

It looks like everyone thinks the Saints added a very good undrafted free agent in Anwar Phillips.

3
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 5:04pm

Phillips always seemed to hold his own fine. He got targeted more often than Zemaitis - as in, over three times more often - so naturally his numbers look a bit worse - but given the number of passes he had to defend, he did fine.

Doesn't have the recognition skills that Zemaitis has, but might have slightly better physical skills.

4
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 5:14pm

Thanks, MDS. I wasn't a huge fan of the Edgerrin James signing at the time, either, but I think it looks better on the other side of the draft. The Cardinals now have quality depth at quarterback, they have an offensive line that should be better at run blocking, particularly along the interior, and they added a tight end with good size who can attack the middle of the field. It remains to be seen how well James manages to run behind that line, but he'll be valuable as a pass blocker and as a receiver. And it's hard to believe he won't have a lot more success than JJ Arrington did. The additions of James and Pope may have resulted in the offense hitting a critical mass- they now have a ton of guys who present matchup problems, and they figure to have really improved their ability to score down around the goal line.

5
by yeehaw (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 5:17pm

I'm still not sure I agree with this BPA theory. I don't really think it makes any sense. If teams were to strictly follow the BPA theory, then San Francisco would have probably taken Matt Leinart. He was the best player available in the draft at that point. Obviously the _hope_ they don't have a need at quarterback, so they didn't. I think BPA is pretty silly.

The only way to look at it is value to your team. A good receiver has a pretty high value, but only if he sees the field. If you've already got three good receivers, then adding another one doesn't add much value to your team because he won't see the field ever.

In conclusion, everyone should stop talking about BPA...it doesn't make any sense, and no one actually drafts like that (ok, so maybe Millen does...).

6
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 5:33pm

BPA makes sense as long as it's limited. Obviously, if you have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, with competent backups, you don't take a top rated QB in round 1, because you'll never see the value of that pick. But drafting purely for need can be dumb, too.

In my opinion, it seems like the smartest GM's make a list of positions that could use an upgrade, although they don't necessarily rank them according to greatest need, and then draft the BPA who plays one of those positions. For example, if you need both an OT and a DB, and if there's a run on DB's at the top of the draft and you're facing taking the second overall rated OT or the sixth overall rated DB, I think you take the OT, even if you decide you maybe needed a new DB a little more.

This works because good players at one position can mask weaker players at others. If you draft purely on need, unless you get lucky, you'll end up with average or even sub-average players at every position (in other words, you'll be the 49ers). If you take the BPA (as long as you don't overstack a position you're already all set on--and change your name to Matt Millen), then you'll have some holes, but be very very good at other positions, and you can gameplan to cover your weaknesses with your strengths.

7
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 5:42pm

Your explanation of talent vs. character in a team's selection criteria proves to me that you don't truly understand the approach that Tim Ruskell has taken in regard to draft picks.
While some GM's salivate over talent and hope the character issues work themselves out, The Seahawks draft team guys to build the character of the team--then they coach them to their potential. Sure, they take talent into account in their grading system, but team-first, high motor guys who want to be on winning teams are what theu are looking for first and foremost.
That is how you build an NFC Championship team...hire excellent coaches and draft coachable players.

8
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:00pm

Why does "good character" = "high motor"? Seems like a guy's motor is part of his talent (ie, what he does on the field), so high motor guys are talent picks, not "character" picks.

9
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:02pm

I’m still not sure I agree with this BPA theory. I don’t really think it makes any sense. If teams were to strictly follow the BPA theory, then San Francisco would have probably taken Matt Leinart.

What makes you say that? All the draft boards that were looked at in this article had Vernon Davis above Matt Leinart.

10
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:05pm

And sorry for the double post, but what player doesn't want to be on a winning team? I'm sure that Ruskell is quite good at talent acquisition (or they wouldn't have made it to the Super Bowl), but that post is so homeric it makes my head hurt.

11
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:17pm

Re 5: Davis was universally considered to be the top prospect on the board when the 49ers selected.

That said, would a Leinart selection have been off-the-wall? Maybe, maybe not. Consider the Lions. They drafted Joey Harrington in 2002. As a result, they considered their quarterback situation was all locked up. The next year they passed on Byron Leftwich when he was at least on some draft boards the top player available. The year after that, the Lions passed on Ben Roethlisberger, who was the top player available on a great many draft boards. Last year they passed on Aaron Rodgers, again at least arguably the top player on the board. The only problem is that Harrington was bad from the start, and that he never showed any signs that he was going to develop. This year the team had to overcompensate by throwing money at Josh McCown and Jon Kitna, and the net result is almost certainly not going to be top level quarterbacking. One way or another, the Lions are going to have to eat Harrington's contract, and one way or another they are going to have to address the quarterback position again in the very near future. When they do so, are they going to have a player as good as Leftwich or Roethlisberger to plug in? Probably not. The opportunity cost of passing on those players will end up being greater than the benefits (drafting Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams, and eating a few years of Harrington's contract).

Re 7: The best players on last year's Seattle team were Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander and Steve Hutchinson. Hasselbeck was acquired in a trade and the other three guys were taken at points in the draft when they represented BPA. Jones was the sixth player taken in what was considered an elite six, and both Alexander and Hutchinson were considered to be easily the best players available.

The Seahawks can afford to draft high-motor fullbacks and character CBs only because they laid the foundation of their team the proper way- by drafting for talent.

12
by Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:25pm

The complete failure in evaluating Ruskell's approach is evident in the assessment of Arizona's "BPA" drafts. Antre Rolle (3 games played), Darryl Blackstock (12 tackles), and Darnell Dockett (29 tackles/0.5 sacks) are all runaway evidence of Green's wildly successful BPA approach?

In the mean time, would the writer make the same evaluation of Seattle's draft last year...as a team that reaches? With players like Tatupu (104 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 ints) and Leroy Hill (72 tackles, 7.5 sacks), both of whom were considered ROY candidates, it would seem more appropriate to view their draft history, not Arizona's, as a means of evaluating the current draft.

It is important to note that to analyze football, one should look at production on the field...not what "could be" in Madden 2007.

Has Pete Prisco adopted the pen name Sean McCormick?

13
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:30pm

I don't think the 49ers could have realistically drafted (and kept) Leinart. You simply can't have a winning team and dedicate that much money to a backup QB. That's a place where rosters have to win over BPA: cost. You've only got 1 QB. Getting two means one's gotta be a backup, and backup QBs should cost $1M/year, not the $3-4M/year that Davis will cost.

This is especially true for the Texans at 1: if Leinart had been the top pick, you can't pick Leinart with the intention of keeping him. You can't pay a backup QB $10M/year and expect to survive for multiple years - you'll be hiring your defense from the 7-11 for a buck and a quarter. At least Brees was nearly done with his contract when the Chargers picked up Rivers.

If it's impossible to drop down, there are some times where drafting BPA is simply not economical. That's only for the top 5, maybe the top 10 picks, though.

14
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:31pm

To be honest I am still not sold on the Pickup of Vernon Davis for the 49ers. The have Johnson (a very good TE) coming back this year afetr an injury last year. I still think that they could have gone with Huff and still get a decent grade out of BPA and get a person that almost immediately fills a huge hole(The one where they can't defend the pass). But other than that I think they did fine.

Arizona? well we will see... If Kurt and Edge can both stay healthy the I think they will do pretty good. I am glad to hear that they will have sellout crowds down there though. Will be good for football to have all of the teams in the NFC north come down there to remeber what the sun looks like in December. :-)

15
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:32pm

It is important to note that to analyze football, one should look at production on the field…not what “could be� in Madden 2007.

One good year does not a good draft make. You can't evaluate a draft until 5 years down the line.

Don't try to suggest that Seattle's draft was better than Arizona's last year because their rookies played better. They're off to a faster start, but need I remind you of the story of the tortoise and the hare?

16
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:34pm

RE 11

you never know...

they may get a shot a Brady Quinn next year> ;-)

17
by Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:43pm

"One good year does not a good draft make. You can’t evaluate a draft until 5 years down the line.

Don’t try to suggest that Seattle’s draft was better than Arizona’s last year because their rookies played better. They’re off to a faster start, but need I remind you of the story of the tortoise and the hare?"

I should have added a ;) at the end of my post...I meant it more in jest.

My point is that it's a bit unfair to pat Arizona so heartily on the back for their BPA approach and cite some below mediocre evidence...and not take the same approach with Seattle and their pursuit of collegiate production and character. If anything, Ruskell and Seattle should have been given the benefit of the doubt on this year's class based on last year's similar common perception of reaching for players.

And, of course, Fitzgerald is one BPA I'd love to have on my team!

18
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:43pm

There were a couple of articles written here on FO on approaches to salary cap management. I grasped the general opposing ideas, but I still don't understand why the 49ers have such a bare cupboard. It seems, at least superficially, that the Titans had an equally bad cap situation and they were able to retain folks like McNair and Bulluck, and are already active in free agency again--Mawae, Vanden Bosch and such. So, why do the 49ers have practically nobody left? The simple answer is that their cap situation was worse, but it seems unwise to reconstruct a roster with few to no talented veterans around.

19
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:44pm

I’m still not sure I agree with this BPA theory. I don’t really think it makes any sense. If teams were to strictly follow the BPA theory, then San Francisco would have probably taken Matt Leinart. He was the best player available in the draft at that point. Obviously the _hope_ they don’t have a need at quarterback, so they didn’t. I think BPA is pretty silly.

I think they should have taken Leinart.

20
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:50pm

Re 13: Pat, I don't disagree with you. While I think Leinart would have been a viable pick for Green Bay or Buffalo, I can understand the 49ers feeling like they are locked into Smith...although it should be mentioned that no one thought Smith was the best player in the draft last year, and had San Francisco drafted BPA and taken Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown or Braylon Edwards, they wouldn't be in a position where they had to pass on a better quarterback prospect because they're committed to a lesser one. Just as there is an opportunity cost to passing on better players for lesser ones, there is an opportunity cost in selecting lesser players at positions of need and thereby preventing yourself from taking better players at those spots the following year.

I wouldn't necessarily advise a team to use multiple first round picks on quarterbacks. But I would challenge the idea that it should never be a consideration. The only thing that the Lions got from passing on Byron Leftwich was Charles Rogers. Would they be better off paying Harrington and Rogers or Harrington and Leftwich? You have to hit on your picks and you particularly have to hit on your quarterback picks, otherwise you're going to be in a tough situation.

21
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:51pm

RE 18

Your talking about a team that has owership that is worse than the Fords in Detroit. The Yorks have absolutley no clue on how to run a football franchise. Why is it that they let thier Cap Genius go to Clevland (Carmen Policy) and then when he is let go by them he decides to go back to Napa and start a winery? I just think they have people in there that have no clue on how to balance a Salary Cap, even with it going up a projected 5-10 million a year.

22
by Bart (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:53pm

Re #14:

Only problem is that Johnson gets hurt all the time. The 82 catch season is pretty much the only year that he hadn't missed time with injuries. Also, even when healthy, Johnson isn't likely to break out for a huge gain, whereas davis seems a bit more of a candidate for that.

Frankly, you could defend almost any draft decision the 49ers made though. QB is about the only position they could have drafted that you could make a 'what the hell were they thinking' argument...and even that is only based on the salary impact and not on what Smith showed on the field last year.

23
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 6:58pm

Re 17: It may well turn out that the Seahawks had a better draft class than Arizona last year. There are no guarantees when it comes to the draft, and year after year there are players who radically outperform (and underperform) their draft position. If you re-drafted the 2000 draft, as various people have done, the #1 pick in the draft would be a sixth round pick. Only a third of the guys who actually were taken in the first round would still get that sort of treatment. All that said, if you look at drafts historically, more often than not, the players who are highly considered do better than the ones who are not. The theory behind BPA drafting is that the draft is hard and that most of the players are not going to pan out, so you need to give yourself the best possible chance of acquiring players who will stick. That means taking the guy who projects as the best pro prospect every time up. If you do that over a period of years, the odds are in your favor that you'll put together a stronger collection of players than if you take lesser players that fill holes.

Denny Green has been very good at that approach. It hasn't paid dividends yet, but if you come back in several years and look at how his drafts turned out over a 3-4 year period, it's more likely than not that he'll have more good players than a team that takes the approach that Seattle took this year.

24
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 7:00pm

re 22

But that is the one (Alex Smith) even as a Green Bay fan that had me slapping myself in the forehead and going "DOH!" like Homer Simpson.

25
by yeehaw (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 7:40pm

Re 9,11: See, that's crazy, even if Vernon Davis turns out to be the best tight end EVER, he'll still have less value than a top 10 level quarterback. The fact is that even a very good tight end is far far less valuable than a very good quarterback.

26
by DD (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 7:40pm

I like the format of this article, showing what picks were considered reaches or steals......but I think we are getting carried away discussing who drafts need or BPA. We just don't know what was on someone's draft board. We sit around and say that Vernon Davis was a better prospect than Matt Leinart, but we are just repeating what we heard from some article or from some 'guru'. I'm willing to bet that each GM had a different BPA listed on their draft board after Reggie Bush was drafted. The Texans may have even had a BPA listed ahead of Bush if you believe them.

My point is that we are discussing how teams draft without knowing who they thought were the BPA, and these teams probably didn't just agree in lockstep with Mel Kiper and the other 'gurus'.
The Patriots and Eagles have had some unexpected draft picks which panned out, because these teams don't subscribe to drafting services to make their draft boards. They have some lists of BPA which are different from other teams, I would think.
I'm sure Arizona, Hawks, 49ers and Rams all had a different list of BPA on their draft boards. I think Sean tried to make this point in suggesting that teams massage their boards to some degree to meet their needs. I don't agree with the reasons that Sean gave, which was to cover their ass, because teams would pick the Boldin or Brady pick if they really knew the pick would pan out.

27
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 7:44pm

I think Detroit was kind of hosed in that Harrington wasn't clearly the problem until last year. His first year he had a decent rookie season, at least by standard NFL measuring. His second year he improved reasonably, and while he didn't do great he had a fair TD/int ratio. Same with his third season. Last year things just went to hell and back, and a lot of that was the horrible situation in Detroit. In that second year, no one knew he was a bust - so why not improve in the places that are needed (and the Lions did need a receiver then). Third year, he still isn't a bust and showed improvement from the prior year. A receiver isn't the best option ever, but they took both a receiver and what was viewed as a good RB that season. And they improved, and Harrington had his best year. Would Ben have been the same quality in Detroit with a horrible line and no running game? Doubtful. Is Roy Williams a fairly good pick? He certainly looked it in his rookie season, as did Kevin Jones. A lot of it was BPA at that point; Roy Williams appeared to most people to be BPA at the time and far better than Ben. Same with Jones. That was a pretty good draft, all things being equal.

Last year they could have taken a QB - but do they want Rodgers, another Tedford QB, instead of Harrington? Very doubtful. Picking a receiver was idiotic, but picking Rodgers at that point would have been even worse.

This year they had no excuse; it's not like Kitna and McNown are going to fight for that job if Leinart comes in, and they do need a good young QB. That's clearly a big mistake.

That all being said, I can't see Arizona doing that well this season despite all their weapons just because they still don't have a proven good OLine. Pope isn't a good blocking TE, Lutui is just a guard, and nothing else has really changed.

28
by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 7:55pm

Kal,

I don't disagree with you that Harrington has been a problematic situation. In fact one of the primary reasons for teams to skip on quarterbacks after they've drafted one is that the position takes time to learn how to play, and you don't want to find yourself in a position like San Diego where they gave up on a quarterback just as he was ready to turn the corner (and you really don't want to be in that situation when you are paying more than one person big money). But if you're going to be too patient, you can end up getting burned, as Detroit has.

What is interesting about the Harrington situation is that it shows how one draft decision can really impact future decisions, for better or for worse. I know there was a lot of rumbling that Millen wanted to take Jammer and was overruled. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but the net result had a tangible impact on how the team approached the draft in future years.

29
by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 8:02pm

Regarding the Harrington/Jammer rumors, Millen has always said Harrington was his choice, and friends of Millen have said that Millen told them before the draft that he loved Harrington. Anyway, the reason I've never given much thought to those rumors is that if the Lions had passed on Harrington to take Jammer, they would have had Mike McMahon, an even worse quarterback, at the helm instead of Harrington. The Harrington pick isn't the reason the Lions have sucked all these years.

30
by Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 8:06pm

Re 26: I think that's a fair comment. Every team is going to have a different draft (BPA) board. Further, I imagine that BPAs aren't in absolutes. If a team has eight prospects graded at a 7.4 (or however that works), they might be best served picking the 7.4 that addresses a need.

31
by Kirk (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 8:17pm

Re 23: Sean, I don't disagree with you at all. I think the BPA, to a large degree, is absolutely the best way to build a roster. Across the board, you want talented players on your team...and taking the BPA is a solid way to give yourself a chance at that. That's the philosophy that landed Chris Spencer and Ray Willis last year (not obvious need picks). I'm just willing to give Ruskell the benefit of the doubt that his draft board might not coincide with others.

32
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 8:48pm

Damarius Bilbo IS a great name! He'll have lots of competition at the WR position on the all-name team if you go all-time, though, having to beat out Fair Hooker and Jubilee Dunbar.

33
by mattman (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 8:56pm

Question about the BPA study - "He will be considered a major reach or steal if he came off the board more than a round before or after he was slotted."

By a round do you mean 32 picks, or just round by number? I.E. was Kelly Jennings, listed as a Big Reach because he was projected to go later than #63, or later than #32?

(Also, I just checked the McShay and Foxsports drafts, and both had Jennings going to the Seahawks in their final mocks.)

34
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 9:06pm

this is a really good article. I hope someone takes a similar approach with the teams in other divisions, because I pay almost no attention to the NFC west and found this to be interesting and informative nonetheless. Thanks.

35
by centrifuge (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 9:23pm

Looking at the Rams table, something strikes me -- between #68 and #77, Ashton Youboty lost a BPA vote. How could two sources have him as the best available at #68, but only one still think so nine picks later?

36
by putnamp (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 9:30pm

Denny Green has been very good at that approach. It hasn’t paid dividends yet, but if you come back in several years and look at how his drafts turned out over a 3-4 year period, it’s more likely than not that he’ll have more good players than a team that takes the approach that Seattle took this year.

You're taking into account that Arizona has had substantially higher picks than Seattle over the last few years, and probaby will for the next year or two, as well, right?

37
by michael (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 10:15pm

re: 14 your not sold on vernon davis you need to open your eyes i know im always critical of your comments about the niners but this one blows my mind. vernon davis ive seen on espn many of the analyst predict him to be the rookie of the year. to pick michael huff would be stupid becuase the 49ers have tony parrish who in my opinion is the most underrated saftey in the league. hes been consistant his whole career but never gets any respect.

38
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 10:51pm

i'm just digging the Tavares reference. Can you name-drop the Love Unlimited Orchestra in the NFC East article?

39
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 11:08pm

Does anybody else get the impression with Denny Green's drafts that he simply wanders into the war room on draft day with a couple of printouts of mock drafts from websites and picks whoever the highest guy still available? I don't mean 'BPA', he just seems to end up with the kind of prospect that pundits have been talking about because there's a story to tell and the journos are too damn lazy to bother watching film.

40
by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Mon, 05/08/2006 - 11:19pm

Re: 38...I was hoping that there had been a Walter Murphy or David Shire who had played in the NFL somewhere along the way. No such luck.

In addition to Bilbo, I assembled the 2006 UDFA All-Name Team:

Baltimore: Landon Schrage, LS, Iowa State

Carolina: Albert Toeiana, T, Tennessee

Carolina: Seppo Evwaraye, G, Nebraska

Chicago: Travis Leffew, G, Louisville (Gesundheit!)

Chicago: Moses Osemwegie, LB, Vanderbilt

Detroit: Cole Downer, TE, Clemson

Jacksonville: Brian Iwuh, LB, Colorado

New Orleans: McKinley Boykin, DT, University of Mississippi

New Orleans: Bobby Iwuchukwu, LB, Purdue (does he know Brian Iwuh?)

Philadelphia: J.J. Outlaw, WR, Villanova

Washington Redskins: Buck Ortega, TE, Miami (sounds like one of the porn pseudonyms in "Boogie Nights"...)

As far as Seattle's draft, I have to say that I'm not entirely on board with Sean's take. Especially on the Jennings pick - they had him rated highly for their needs specifically because he had started 41 games at Miami (out of 49 total). Of all the first-round corners, they had him rated as the most likely to come in and be able to compete as more than a nickel corner right away. Character was one issue, but readiness was the key.

41
by SJM (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:44am

I haven't read through all the comments yet, but I just want to point out that the premise of the "Best player available" theory might be wrong. Without doing any research, I suspect that many "steals" actually turn out to be busts and many "reaches" turn out to be successful players. GM's often have access to inside information which mockers don't have, and so players often slide for legitimate reasons, even if nobody knows what they are before the draft.

42
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 1:01am

Would they be better off paying Harrington and Rogers or Harrington and Leftwich?

Harrington and Leftwich means you need to pay a WR as well. A #1 WR is $5M/year money. Now you've got your #1 QB slot taken (at $5M/year) your #2 QB slot taken (also at ~$5M/year) and your #1 WR slot taken at $5M/year.

I really agree with BPA after the middle first round: in the early first round, money concerns kill you. I don't care if some punter is clearly the best player available, able to pin the opposing offense at the 1 every single time. You simply can't pay $10M/year to a punter. You'll end up with a defense bought from the 7-11.

43
by Kuato (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 1:01am

Request for future 4 Downs articles in this series.

Could you please include the postion of each player in the table? After about round 3-4, these names mean nothing to me if I don't even know where they play on the field.

Thank you and great article.

Peace

44
by Kuato (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 1:08am

I would pay a punter $10/Mil a year if he could pin the other team at the One every single time.

My 7-11 defense would look awesome.

Peace

45
by SJM (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 1:26am

Addition to #41

I'm not questioning BPA as a viable draft ideology. I'm questioning using mock drafts and non-NFL-team player rankings as a viable way of determining player value. I think those may be flawed for the reasons in 41.

46
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 2:56am

Re 33: I'm going by rounds. Jennings was considered a high second round prospect by three of the four boards. The boards I was looking at had him at 34, 37, 41 and 26. You're going to get a little distortion at the back end of a round, but it was ultimately easier to break down the picks by round; Kelly should properly be considered a minor reach.

Re 41: There is no question that there are going to be many instances where the team picks right and the draft boards have it wrong. But again, over an extended period of time, the boards may well generate more talent. Here is a look at the first two picks made by each of the NFC West teams over the last five years, and what two different draft boards would have suggested as the pick:

Arizona:
01- Leonard Davis (LaDanian Tomlinson/David Terrell), Kyle Van Den Bosch (Fred Smoot/Fred Smoot)
02- Wendall Bryant (Philip Buchanon), Levar Fisher (Keyou Craver)
03- Bryant Johnson (Kyle Boller/Kyle Boller), Calvin Pace (Eric Steinbach/Boss Bailey)
04- Larry Fitzgerald (Kellen Winslow/Larry Fitzgerald), Karlos Dansby (Ben Troupe/Ben Troupe)
05- Antrel Rolle (Antrel Rolle/Aaron Rodgers), JJ Arrington (Khalif Barnes/Khalif Barnes)

St. Louis (We'll do all three first round picks in 01)
01- Damione Lewis (Deuce McAllister/Kenyatta Walker), Adam Archuleta (Fred Smoot/Deuce McAllister), Ryan Pickett (Drew Brees/Fred Smoot)
02- Robert Thomas (Kalimba Edwards/Kalimba Edwards), Travis Fisher (Derek Ross/Keyuo Craver)
03- Jimmy Kennedy (Jimmy Kennedy/Jimmy Kennedy), Pisa Tiniosamoa (Taylor Jacobs/Chris Kelsay)
04- Steven Jackson (Steven Jackson), Tony Hargrove (Will Poole)
05- Alex Barron (Aaron Rodgers/Aaron Rodgers), Ronald Bartell (Khalif Barnes)

San Francisco
01- Andre Carter (David Terrell/David Terrell), Jamie Winborn (Chris Chambers/Shaun Rogers)
02- Mike Rumph (Kalimba Edwards/Kalimba Edwards), Saleem Rasheed (Derek Ross/Keyuo Craver)
03-Kwame Harris (Boss Bailey/Eric Steinbach), Anthony Adams (Jason Witten/Chris Simms)
04- Rashaun Woods (Rashaun Woods/Ben Troupe), Justin Smiley (Greg Jones/Justin Smiley)
05- Alex Smith (Alex Smith/Ronnie Brown), David Baas (Khalif Barnes/Khalif Barnes)

Seattle
01- Koren Robinson (Koren Robinson/Koren Robinson), Steve Hutchinson (Deuce McAllister/Steve Hutchinson)
02- Jerramy Stevens (Kalimba Edwards/Kalimba Edwards), Maurice Morris (Antonio Bryant/ Keyuo Craver)
03- Marcus Trufant (Marcus Trufant/Marcus Trufant), Ken Hamlin (Taylor Jacobs/Chris Kelsay)
04- Marcus Tubbs (Steven Jackson/Steven Jackson), Michael Boulware (Greg Jones/Darnell Dockett)
05- Chris Spencer (Heath Miller/Heath Miller), Lofa Tatupu (Khalif Barnes/Khalif Barnes)

There are multiple instances where the team did better than the board, or where the boards unanimously agreed with a player that ended up busting. But I think even here, with a limited number of picks and with only the top players being looked at, you can start to see the boards do a better job of accumulating talent. When you continue the approach in rounds 3-7 over those five years, you should get a more pronounced effect.

47
by mattman (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 4:37am

Re: 46 The boards I was looking at had him at 34, 37, 41 and 26...Kelly should properly be considered a minor reach.

But your system lists him as a Big Reach, not a minor one. Only one of the sites had Jennings listed even a half-round later, and one had him a whopping three slots off. I think an adjusted scale would work better, at least for the first round. A player sliding ten spots in the first round is a bigger deal than a third-rounder still being available in the fourth.

48
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 4:52am

Mattman,

I don't disagree. I'll tweak it for the next set of teams. That said, there were not one but two players on the board who were in the 12-15 range, so taking Jennings over those players would still be a somewhat questionable decision.

49
by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 9:32am

I can't believe that there are people who disagree with Sean when he says the Lions would have been better off drafting Leftwich than Rogers. Yes, Pat, you're right: Paying Leftwich would have meant the Lions would have had to sign a replacement-level receiver to take up the roster spot Rogers took up. But you know what? A replacement-level receiver would have been better than Rogers.

50
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 9:52am

re:46- Keyou Craver rears his ugly BPA head again! In an earlier analysis you did here, I remember Craver being the choice for nearly every team in the second and third rounds in 2002. Somebody in the NFL knew something the mockers didn't on this eventual fourth-rounder now (maybe?) Edmonton Eskimo. I suspect Gabe Watson will be this year's Keyou Craver.

While I generally support the idea of drafting BPA, this small sampling from the NFL West really isn't a ringing endorsement. I see very few instances of the mock BPA being better than the actual choice and pretty much the same amount having gone the right way; obviously LdT over Leonard Davis, but I don't see any other clear BPA winners for AZ. Steinbach and maybe Boss Bailey over Pace is one. Fitzgerald to date is a win over Winslow, more washes than anything.

St. Louis whiffed in 01; others have defended them elsewhere so I won't. Nothing else for StL seems egregious one way or the other.

SanFran probably did the worst, especially in 03 but even in 04, their picks were at least half justified by BPA, and Seattle did quite well for themselves, with no bad picks (I guess I'll say Tubbs over Jackson was a miss strictly speaking, but Seattle would've been excoriated for picking a back) and a few better-than-BPA choices (Stevens, Hamlin, Tatupu, maybe even Boulware).

Anyway, great work as always Sean. And Doug.

51
by pawnking (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 9:56am

Very nice way of analyzing the draft. Best draft analysis I've seen yet. Well done.

52
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 10:26am

Re: 39

I've wondered the same thing. Given the reported tightness of Cardinals ownership I sometimes question if they even have their own scouts. Until the Cards start winning, I'll be skeptical of their wonderful 'talent acquisition'.

Of course, if they ever do start winning the rest of the league may decide they can save of bunch of cash by simply subscribing to a few scouting services on the internet.

53
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 10:35am

Yes, Pat, you’re right: Paying Leftwich would have meant the Lions would have had to sign a replacement-level receiver to take up the roster spot Rogers took up. But you know what? A replacement-level receiver would have been better than Rogers.

Yeah, in the specific case of the Lions, they would've been better off. But that has more to do with the fact that the Lions front office is incompetent at player evaluation. BPA or need-based drafting isn't the main problem: it's the fact that they can't evaluate talent.

54
by bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 10:42am

50. I wouldn't say Tatupu is clearly better than Khalif Barnes - I'd think a starting left tackle > really good MLB, due to position scarcity. You can argue that SEA didn't need another tackle, but that's not BPA philosophy...

55
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 10:43am

I would pay a punter $10/Mil a year if he could pin the other team at the One every single time.

My 7-11 defense would look awesome.

Ah ha, but I never said that said punter could in fact kick off. Nor does every change of possession end in a punt or a score, mind you. Your $10M/year punter would look pretty silly on the sidelines as the team's losing badly (almost as bad as Peyton Manning on the sidelines as the Colts near-7/11 defense couldn't get the Patriots off the field).

Certain positions simply aren't worth a top half of the first round pick, no matter how good they are. That's the point at which you have to trade down, but unfortunately, trading out of the top half is sometimes impossible.

56
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 11:22am

re:54, I guess that's (obviously I guess) open for debate and I'm not real passionate either way, but based on one season Seattle has done the right thing by passing on a nondescript (albeit starting) left tackle that slid down plenty of draft boards. Hell, for all I know Seattle could've drafted Barnes & Tatupu, especially based on the pre-draft rankings...

57
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 11:33am

but based on one season

That's why above I said you can't judge a draft based on one season. Based on one season, Chad Pennington is the savior of the Jets franchise and the best quarterback in the NFL.

Based on four seasons, however, he might be the biggest mistake that the Jets have made in a long time.

58
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 11:56am

That’s why above I said you can’t judge a draft based on one season. Based on one season, Chad Pennington is the savior of the Jets franchise and the best quarterback in the NFL.

Based on four seasons, however, he might be the biggest mistake that the Jets have made in a long time.

Yes, his contract was ridiculous, but in no way can Chad Pennington be the biggest mistake the Jets have made in a long time. Consider that he did QB them to 2 playoff appearances and the fact that we are talking about the Jets. An incomplete list of poor Jets decisions since 1998:

1. Assembling a championship-caliber team, but forgetting to include a backup QB in 1999.

2. After Testaverde is injured in Week 1, sticking with Rick Mirer for far too long.

3. Botching the Parcells-Belichick transition, leading to Belichick winning 3 Super Bowls with a division rival and the 1-year tenure of Al Groh.

4. Trading up for combine wonder Dewayne Robertson in 2003 and giving him a ridiculous contract.

5. Countless head-scratching gameday decisions by Herm Edwards, culminating with twice setting up for long field goals in the playoff game in Pittsburgh.

6. Drafting a kicker in the second round in 2005.

7. Botching the Edwards negotiations with Kansas City, getting only a fourth-round pick.

59
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 11:57am

I think that people need to accept that there is no one true theory of successful drafting. Drafting well requires weighing BPA with need to make the best decision in any situation.

A few posts have already indicated that there are times when BPA does not make sense, e.g., drafting a top QB prospect when you already have a young QB prospect and a solid veteran on your roster. Drafting this QB, even if he would become the best of the lot, ties up a lot of money and ensures that a highly paid player rides the bench.

On the other hand drafting purely on need would cause a lot of inferior talent to be selected, so I don't think anyone actually advocates this strategy.

I think the choice should be governed by a formula like this:

value = Q + Q / R

where Q is the quality of the player considered, and R is the quality of the players on the roster at that position. Using this formula a once in a lifetime talent will almost always be chosen (hello Reggie Bush), but if two players grade out more equally then a difference in the quality of their respective roster positions becomes the deciding factor.

While BPA may give the best results in the long term, I think it is unwise to completely ignore the short term, especially since long term needs are tougher to predict. It's easier to fill short term needs than to guess what long term needs will exist, and the formula I've given should do a decent job addressing big short term needs while still stocking fairly high overall talent for the future.

60
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 11:59am

Re the Lions and Leinart, Kitna, McCown

I see it as a positive development in DET that they did NOT take a qb high in the draft. I said somewhere before the draft that you don't sign an OC with a proven track record of developing late round/UFA unknowns into good or better NFL qbs (Green, Warner, Bulger) and then use a 1st rd pick on a qb. Before Martz coached those guys, most would have assessed them as worse than Kitna and McCown, so I'm taking a wait and see attitude on the DET qb situation. This is a case where your coaching talent affects your team's evaluation of player talent when assessing BPA.

And although obviously from the above I agree in substance with the idea that each team has (or should have) their own notion of BPA, since Sean didn't have those (unpolished for post-draft PR purposes) numbers, it's a little unfair to criticize what he did by using an example of what he couldn't do. And he didn't use Kiper, so citing Kiper as a "guru" that you dislike to attack the analysis is also unwarranted. If there is a public draft analysis service that you think is better than the 4 chosen, please suggest it.

Great work Sean. No post-draft analysis is going to be 100% accurate, at least this is a hype-free attempt at grading the draft that is different from what can be read in every major sports outlet. Kudos to FO for bringing Sean's work "above the fold" this year.

61
by bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:05pm

59 That is why a true BPA philosophy includes trading to fit the pick with the need. Assuming willing trading partners (more likely in later rounds than in top of round 1), if you need a safety, and you targeted somebody, than you trade up/down until your need matches your draft board.

62
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:18pm

Yes, his contract was ridiculous, but in no way can Chad Pennington be the biggest mistake the Jets have made in a long time.

I think that's the first post I've ever seen in which someone tries to defend a team by saying "he's not the worst mistake they've made... look, they've made plenty of dumber mistakes than that!"

That was hilarious. I give, I give.

Arkaein:

It should be noted that really, in my mind, cost only dominates over BPA for picks 1-15 or so - maybe through round 1 for some of the lesser positions.

Part of the reason that I say this is that the draft boards already kinda take this into account - they simply don't rate fullbacks, kickers, or punters as first-round selections, for instance. Why? Because "you don't pick those positions in the first round." Well, the reason that you don't is because it's too expensive to do so.

Once you get past the first round, though, it just doesn't matter. Draft picks are so cheap that honestly, you could end up with a situation like Matt Schaub and the Falcons, where you get a fantastic backup for a few years, and then (well, if the Falcons actually believed in Vick) trade him away for a high draft pick. And even if you end up losing him completely to free agency, you still got a very cheap, very good backup for less than a veteran would've cost you.

I don't even think the Jets drafting Nugent in the second round was a bad draft last year (Mother of God, could he kick at OSU). I'm hoping that it was just jitters last year.

63
by Erik (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:24pm

One of the great things about this site is that whatever analysis tools people use, they are always being improved. The Kelly Jennings pick shows one place where the method used in this analysis can be improved. The mean of the mock drafts has Jennings at 34.5. Since he was taken at 31, it does seem a little harsh to conclude that he was a big reach. He almost fits a middle category between reach and steal - the just right pick.

64
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:31pm

re 37 (Michael)

I don't like the pick becuase nowhere in thier draft and free angency did they adress thier pressing need of either

A.) a proven starter at CB/Safety

b.) draft for depth in those positions.

What signals do you think they are sending Alex Smith by getting Dilfer?

Dilfer was better last year than any of the 3 QB's that SF had.

To mentor Alex Smith means that as a team SF is going to have to let Trent go out and start the first part of the season so he can show Alex what to do, how to throw, how to scan a defnse, etc.

Alex Smith was regared last year as a Big Reach. and if he does not improve then he will be proven to be a reach. I just don't see why a team that has holes in thier secondary does not go after a DB that could help right away and fill a hole and need.

Don't get me wrong Veron Davis was the BEST available player on the board at that time IMO. But he will not be able to make those athletic and quick catches if his QB can not get him the ball. Alex Smith has alot to learn and a short time in wich to learn it. How many more years do you think the Bay Area can go without a team on either side of the bay being competitive?

65
by jebmak (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:43pm

re:21 re:18
"Your talking about a team that has owership that is worse than the Fords in Detroit."

I take offense at that.

66
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 12:51pm

re 65

Just my opinion. I may be a Green Bay fan but I live out here in California. I have seen the 49ers in thier glory days under the old owners. Sorry I just don't think the Yorks deserve to run a football franchise. they need to sell it for the team to improve IMO.

67
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 1:45pm

re:57 Am I judging a draft on one season? Partially. I'm judging a specific pick a season after it happened based on said season, in a thread dedicated to judging a draft two weeks old.

Sean quotes sources saying that Barnes would have been a more valuable pick than Tatupu; I claim otherwise based on the info we have on hand, one season. bowman claims Sean's sources are right, which is a reasonable arguement based on LT position scarcity. I reiterate my belief that, based on the one season we have at our disposal, Tatupu was a better pick.

I'm failing to see where Pennington and the Jets fit into the equation...

68
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 2:27pm

I reiterate my belief that, based on the one season we have at our disposal, Tatupu was a better pick.

And my point is that you shouldn't really have a belief based on one season. There's not enough information available to judge.

If you look back at older drafts (where you do have more information) the BPA analysis often does end up looking much better. Sometimes it looks a lot worse, but that's usually due to one or two people who fell far for reasons not taken into account in the rankings which ended up being important.

69
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 2:40pm

RE 67

because for one season Chad Pennington looked like a god throwing the football. now he has been injured more often than Dan Marino in his last few years. what he is asking you to do is hold out on the jury of good and bad picks from a draft (especially the top two rounds) until all of the players have some more time in the NFL under thier belt. Don't get me wrong if Tatupu can continue to put up numbers like he did last season I will agree with you that he was the better pick, but lets just wait a couple of more seasons to put the 2005 Draft into perspective.

70
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 4:18pm

as opposed to the 2 weeks used to put the 2006 draft in perspective? In an article outlining reaches and steals based on predraft information before any of the players have played a single game, I think its fair to have an opinion on whether a specific pick from a year ago may or may not be the right one.

I'm not talking about the right choice five years from now, I'm not talking about Chad Pennington. This article provides analysis on a draft two weeks ago; surely the analysis gets better the further we get the event being analyzed. If this article states Tye Hill, for example, is a reach before he ever plays a game, I feel OK saying Tatupu is a better pick than Barnes one year after the fact.

If Tatupu is the hare, and Barnes the tortoise, so be it. I'm not claiming Tatupu will be the better player five years from now, only that right now Tatupu is a better pick than BPA. This is neither a condemnation of BPA on the whole nor an exultation of the Seahawks 04 draft, because of course, its too early to tell.

71
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 4:50pm

50: You suspect that Gabe Watson has problems with drugs? That's pretty serious.

58: In your support, no other team has a montage of their worst 1st round moments. Think about that. The Saints, who have drafted Shawn Knight, Alex Molden, Russell Erxlaben, et al. in the first round don't get that treatment. Don't get me started on who they have passed on in the past.

72
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 4:59pm

I think its fair to have an opinion on whether a specific pick from a year ago may or may not be the right one.

But you're assuming that teams draft picks to start right away, like Tatupu did. I don't think that's a fair assumption. A lot of draft picks are actually expected to take time.

The draft rankings use college production and combine numbers to guess at future total NFL production, not first-year NFL production.

If this article states Tye Hill, for example, is a reach before he ever plays a game, I feel OK saying Tatupu is a better pick than Barnes one year after the fact.

Well, that presumes that first-year NFL production is a better predictor of future NFL success than the draft rankings are. I don't know if that's true. I know in certain cases it certainly is - Carson Palmer, for an idiotic example, or Eli Manning for a more realistic one.

only that right now Tatupu is a better pick than BPA.

Wouldn't most need picks end up being better than BPA early on?

They fill a need, obviously - so they're going to end up playing the next year. Other picks - like Leinart to the Cardinals, for instance - won't pan out for a few years.

73
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 5:04pm

I know in certain cases it certainly is

Isn't, not is.

74
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 5:36pm

58: In your support, no other team has a montage of their worst 1st round moments. Think about that. The Saints, who have drafted Shawn Knight, Alex Molden, Russell Erxlaben, et al. in the first round don’t get that treatment. Don’t get me started on who they have passed on in the past.

Keep in mind that I stuck to recent Jet history in my list of horrible decisions. The previous 15 years might have been even worse:

1. Firing Walt Michaels after the 1982 AFC Championship game.

2. Ken O'Brien over Dan Marino.

3. Moving away from the Long Island fanbase to Giants Stadium in 1984, thus ensuring second-class status.

4. Al Toon over Jerry Rice.

5. Failing to have a general manager for much of the 1980s.

6. Blair Thomas at #2.

7. Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp.

8. Hiring Rich Kotite.

75
by Ken Alejandro (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 5:46pm

The best example of a major drafting mistake when drafting for need vs. BPA . . the 1984 NBA draft. Portland picked Sam Bowie before Jordan was drafted by the Bulls, and I believe Houston selected Akeem Olajuwon before Bowie was selected.

It is always a plus if the BPA fills a major need, but if your "need" pick is ranked 30th at his position, than I think a BPA ranked in the top-10 at their position is the smarter pick for the same spot in the draft.

76
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 5:49pm

You people are scary. For the record, I got the Pennington quote from a Jets fan after they recently redid his contract ("god, if he ends up still sucking, he's going to be one of the biggest mistakes in Jets history") but apparently there are people with much bigger issues. :)

77
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 5:58pm

Ah. Serves you right for using an unattributed quote. :)

Any Jet fan with a sense of team history knows that that history is 45 years of failure, with one brief, shining moment.

78
by dave (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 6:06pm

re.64

I don't think the Niners could go wrong either way by picking Davis or a CB/safety you suggested like Michael Huff, who was picked right after by the Raiders. If Alex Smith is going to have a chance to become at least a decent starter, he's going to need help around him, so the Davis pick makes a lot of sense. Only time will tell whether the Niners made the right pick. Good luck with McCarthy by the way, a lot of Niners fans are shocked he got a head coaching job, they thought he was absolutely terrible. As bad as the Niners are, the Pack aren't looking so hot either.

79
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 6:28pm

Re 68:

Pat, that's an excellent point. Sometimes particular players can drop because NFL teams have access to information that outside sources don't, or that outside sources underemphasize, and that can have a distorting effect on things. If you were to open things up a bit and show three or four of the top graded players available at any given moment, that would help matters quite a bit (but make for a lot, and I do mean a lot more work for me).

Re 50: Keyuo Craver indeed. Honestly, just about everyone did a bad job with that 2002 draft all around. But that's understandable with the benefit of hindsight, as it's been a really disappointing class.

80
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 6:41pm

RE 78

Don't remind me. I am still shaking my finger (Ted Thompson I am staring at you) and my head at the decision of McCarthy as Head Coach. Don't get me wrong I have seen a couple of interviews with him and he is preaching toughness, which I like but it is yet to be seen if his way of doing things will take hold in Green Bay. On the plus side at least he does not seem as likely to fall and fawn over Brett, which may give him pause to actually go out with a bang this year as opposed to whimper.

81
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 6:52pm

#77 - especially when you consider that the one shining moment happened while the other team's HoF quarterback was injured.

82
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 6:52pm

RE 76

OK fine that is the last time that I try and help explain an argument from an eagles fan! ;-)

83
by Kearly (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 8:37pm

In regards to Tatupu vs. Khalif Barnes-

Tatupu was a projected 4th or 5th rounder, lower than Khalif Barnes and about 90 other players.

Why? Becuase it was believed he would not be able to transition to the NFL level. Certainly, if teams could have seen the way he played during the 2005 season ahead of time, he would have been projected much, much, much higher.

So by saying that Khalif Barnes will probably end up the more valuable player over the next 4 years because he was the BPA, we are ignoring the fact that Tatupu was mis-evaluated in the first place.

Every year the draft is loaded with mis-evaluations. Its the players like Lofa Tatupu and Tom Brady that prove this better than anything else.

84
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Tue, 05/09/2006 - 10:06pm

I applaud the effort at taking a draft this way, but it just seems like there are a few too many holes in it at the moment.

I'd really like to see the analysis in #46 expanded to something approaching a statistically significant pool of picks -- like, all drafts for all teams for a decade, something like that to really get arms around the question (being batted about here) of whether these "expert boards" really are any better at evaluating talent. (I'd also like to see if they're better at evaluating some positions -- if you want to listen to the consensus BPA if it's a quarterback but not so much a linebacker, or vice versa.) That's a really interesting question. I just haven't heard a non-speculative answer.

Meanwhile, the answer to that question is the premise for a fair portion of the content of the article -- that a few of these boards justify a reach/steal classification. At a certain point, you've got someone who thinks Jimmy Williams will be great, and is banging both St. Louis and Seattle for taking corners other than Jimmy Williams.* Obviously, the clubs in question didn't share that evaluation. That's a numerological presentation of a difference of opinion, but it's still just a difference of opinion.

Which is also really true of "BPA" generally, a neat concept that seems really hard to operationalize.

Meanwhile, I'm flabbergasted to read that Lofa Tatupu is still a reach. There's no reason at all, in these long dog days of of the diamond, that one can't do this exact same graph for last year's picks but based on the evidence of their year's worth of play. Lofa would be a clear first-rounder if teams could do the '05 draft over today, and that makes him a steal. If you want to argue that you get better long-term value from the aggregate of BPA consensus, that's fine, but you do that knowing there'll be plenty of counterexamples. You just gotta total the ledger honestly.

*Incidentally, one vote seems to have switched from Winston Justice as BPA to Jimmy Williams between the Rams' and Seahawks' picks, even though both were still on the board ...

(lest it be lost in the sauce, I still give thumbs up and any critique is entirely friendly. I'm hoping to see version 2.0...)

85
by Martin (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 12:17am

I think that the draft is no exact science. So when someone throw grades and stuff like that a week or so after the draft, you gotta evaluate it with the information you have. Last year, everyone thought Tatupu was the reach of the draft, but he panned out and he is a good player. The same might be said of Kelly Jennings next year, but when you analyze further, Tatupu was a guy that didn't have the physical attributes but he has such a high motor that he compensated for lack of size. Maybe Jennings will be the same, only time will tell.

86
by max (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 8:03am

This is probably the weakest article I have ever read on this site. The charts are good for little more than novelty, and the analysis is sophomoric. How valuable is a chart when it shows every team has "reached" in the later rounds? As if the draft guru's actually have more knowledge than professional scouts and can better separate players at that level.
-

Sloppy stuff like: "According to the draft board, the Rams did a better job of attaining value on the second day of the draft than they did on the first. Dominique Byrd and Victor Adeyanju were both considered major steals by at least two draft boards."
-

Byrd was a first day pick.
-
And you want to be my latex salesman?

87
by jimmo (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 9:38am

re: 71- "Now, you tell me who this sounds like?... Slow moving,... inattentive, ... dull, ... constantly snacking, ... shows a lack of motivation...."

88
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 10:05am

Re 87: Well, except for the constantly snacking part, it sounds kinda like me on a lot of mornings!

89
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 11:36am

#88 --

When did the Saints draft George Costanza?

90
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 12:52pm

Travis, you're team's one brief, shining moment was winning a Super Bowl.

My team's one brief, shining moment was Az-Hakim's fumble.

91
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 1:23pm

Travis, you’re team’s one brief, shining moment was winning a Super Bowl.

My team’s one brief, shining moment was Az-Hakim’s fumble.

Absolutely true. (Side question: should fans be comforted by championships won before they were born? I don't know the answer.)

However, when it comes to spectacular mistakes that almost everyone knew were wrong at the time, I don't think any team comes close to the Jets. (Feel free to respond with a litany of comparable mistakes by other teams.)

92
by DMJ (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 2:19pm

"When Lions fans are watching Matt Leinart hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2008..."

It won't happen. You two need to get leinart's privates out of your hands and type realistic assessments; not this dreamy, over-hyped, nonsense. Leinart is NOT, I repeat, NOT prepared (nor equipped) to combat full-speed NFL defenses. You've been sucking on and hyping him all through college...now it's time to face reality. Just watch.

93
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 2:40pm

92

and he is playing for the Cardnals

94
by sippican (not verified) :: Wed, 05/10/2006 - 4:47pm

I don't understand draft analysis. If you're expecting to get nfl caliber play from your rookies on day one, your team must be terrible.

Good teams are hiring for years down the road, and to have physically competent back ups for their real players in case of injury.

The odd rookie has outstanding years, but depending on them to do more than hold their own in the nfl on day one is generally wishful thinking.

Priest Holmes gets croaked, his back-up makes you forget he was ever there. That's competetent personnel decisions. The next guy is ready and waiting.

If you can get someone like Logan Mankins, playing right out of the gate, it's a bonus. But making a habit of trying to plug inexperienced players right in is no way to run a railroad.

I wonder how many guys who could have made it big in the nfl in the right situation, and were blown out of the league or injured before they ever got a real chance?

95
by Moses (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 10:51am

You guys are really starting to depress me. The quality of your articles has really dropped since you linked to FOX. In the past, you'd take your time and get it right. Now...

Let's look at this article. It presumes to "rank" drafts based on the a BPA analysis which is, unfortunately, based on the opinions of incompetents, most of whom have never scouted a player in their lives and freely offer opinons to which, if they were held accountable years later, would cause them to be drummed out of any NFL scouting department.

Just speaking to the 49ers portion of the article we can see the "garbage-in, garbage-out" problems:

1. Manny Lawson. Lawson was one of two players the 49ers had targeted as locks-to-be-selected-if-available back in FEBRUARY, 2006. (Vernon Davis was the other one.) Not during the combine and the pre-draft hype run-up. But in FEBRUARY. But the draftniks don't know this.

To get Lawson, the 49ers had four Day 1 selections and traded two of them (prior to the draft) to move up to get Lawson, whom they knew wouldn't last the round. Which seriously calls into question the criticism of "reaching due to a lack of picks..."

As a prospect, Lawson has the hips to play coverage and even has some LB experience having played OLB in his career, being moved to DE in his junior year. He was one of the most explosive pass-rushers in the draft. Additionally, the 49ers got a lot of first-hand experience with Lawson as they were one of the coaching staffs during the Senior Bowl to help solidify their scouting.

All-in-all, it was a very well scouted and conceived pick and shows the shallowness of the draftnik punditry.

2. Three WRs. The 49ers drafted ONE WR. This erros shows the lack of familiarity the author had with the 49ers draft in conjunction with his reliance on incompetents.

Williams was drafted to be a KR/PR/#3 WR. Not a starter. But a slot guy who can upgrade the 49ers K & PR units and create mis-matches against safety coverage due to his quickness.

As many of the fellow-traveller geeks here can read, the 49ers played very good ST defense. But sucked on ST returns. A good return man can make a 5-yard difference 6-10 times a game and score an extra TD or two a year through his superior ability. A good WR can make a 5 yard difference 6-10 times a game and score an extra TD or two a year through his superior ability. That most people vastly discount the importance of a top return man mystifies me. Most of you would jump up and down for joy to drop a Top-10 pick on a WR that might 5 more yards a reception, but ignore a return man that can do the same until Round 7.

Also, Williams is much more than a return man. He's a very accomplished WR prospect who came up 5/8" short of ideal height and paid the price for it during the draft.

Robinsonwas drafted as a runningback. One of the three positions he played in college (Option-QB, RB, WR). He's 6' 1" and 218lbs. He has very soft hands, runs with toughness and decisiveness and possesses the strength (and attitude) to pick-up the blitz. If he puts on 10-lbs (which he might do) we're talking a Roger Craig rev. 2 light fullback type.

Once again, this article is failing because it's relying on 3rd party errors and incompetencies. Sure, the draftniks projected him as a WR, but a cursory look at the 49ers website has him listed at #35, runningback.

Walker wasn't drafted as a WR either. He was drafted as an "F-back" (fullback/H-back hybrid) conversion project. He's very strong and thickly built (6' 1", 241lbs) and is built like a fullback and may end up as a full-time fullback; though right now he's working out with the TEs/H-backs on the roster.

As a WR, he's not much of a canidate because he's just not an NFL pass-catcher. That Walker wasn't going to be playing WR was easlily available knowledge that even a cursory search would have uncovered.

3. Another serious error is Harralson was not a DT at UT. He was a DE who was converted from OLB by the Vols due to their needs. He does NOT project to a 3-4 DE, but a rush-backer who can spot drop. How could anyone possibly praise/criticize a draft when they don't even know the players being selected. I mean, we're talking a guy 6' 0" and 248lbs! Who in their right mind thinks he's got the size or frame to be a 3-4 DE or a college DT!

Anyway, pretty much everything substantive written about the 49ers draft (on this site) is wrong.

96
by Moses (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 11:03am

Regarding #50:

SanFran probably did the worst, especially in 03 but even in 04, their picks were at least half justified by BPA, and Seattle did quite well for themselves, with no bad picks (I guess I’ll say Tubbs over Jackson was a miss strictly speaking, but Seattle would’ve been excoriated for picking a back) and a few better-than-BPA choices (Stevens, Hamlin, Tatupu, maybe even Boulware).

I find this claim to be interesting.

Kwame Harris was rated at #12. Anthony Adams was reputed to be better than Kennedy, but short, and a steal in the draft. Lloyd was rated, by the draftniks (including Mel Kiper), as a low ROUND 1 prospect. Ken Dorsey was ranked as a Round 3/4 prospect.

We, frankly, got nothing but A's and A-'s for this draft. Yet, we've gotten little worth.
Harris is a below-average RT because he lacks focus and competitive desire. Adams is a solid wave NT but can't do more than 30-snaps with effectiveness. Lloyd is vastly over-rated and the 49ers are still dancing for fleecing the Redskins. Dorsey is a joke.

Yet the BPA analysis based on the draftniks say we had a great draft...

Ironically, Donahue was fired after running the 49ers into the ground because his drafting stratagy was like a draftniks. He relied too much on BPA and computer numbers and less on scouting and finding football players instead of beauty queens.

97
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 1:28pm

If he puts on 10-lbs (which he might do) we’re talking a Roger Craig rev. 2 light fullback type.

... except that Nolan's already said they don't plan on using him as a fullback.

98
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 2:58pm

Re:95 et.al.
For all those complaining about the methodology here for making a claim about the players, I didn't get as worked up about it.

The article explicitly states its methodology, how it got its grades, and the theory behind it (which I think needs a more in-depth study). This sort of systematic analysis is perfectly in line with my expectations of this site...

I can evaluate the article's conclusions a lot better than I can evaluate claims like "he's a football player, not a beauty queen"... no one is saying that draftniks aren't generally full of it, but until we actually see these guys play some NFL ball, it is all we got.

Now, that doesn't mean that I don't think the theory needs a little validation... Namely, the theory behind this analysis is that the higher ranked players tend to be better than the lower ranked players, so GMs who pick up that guys fall beyond draftnik expectations (ie. Pope, Leinert, etc.) in general turn out to be better picks than the "reaches". A great guest article would be to actually look at this theory, by looking at a comprehensive analysis (or at least representative sample) of the "reaches" and "steals" over the past 10-15 years. A great addition to this would be which coaches/GMs tended to do better with their "reaches", and perhaps which ones should just listen to the draftniks (Sorry Mr. Millen)...

99
by Colin (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 9:00pm

91: I wouldn't say such a thing to a Seahawks fan. If you didn't know, instant replay was renewed because A JET, Vinny T., somehow scored a touchdown after diving to the 1 yard line against Seattle. Believe me, I have a list, one that doesn't include the Super Bowl.

100
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 10:00pm

I wouldn’t say such a thing to a Seahawks fan. If you didn’t know, instant replay was renewed because A JET, Vinny T., somehow scored a touchdown after diving to the 1 yard line against Seattle. Believe me, I have a list, one that doesn’t include the Super Bowl.

If you read my posts, you would understand that I was talking about spectacularly bad coaching and managing decisions made by teams, not concerning those teams.

101
by DD (not verified) :: Thu, 05/11/2006 - 11:22pm

To the people who didn't like this article:

I still like the idea of seeing what the draftniks think of each team's draft, because it represents a sort of consensus opinion. Of course, we will watch it all turn out to be wrong but we still want to know what the 'experts' are thinking now, so we can watch history unfold, and see which picks live up to, or below, the hype of the moment.
This article does not need to be accurate in a real, objective sense as an absolute predictor of the future. This article is a good snapshot of what the 'experts' think right now. How else are we going to know how wrong these guys were in a few years?
I still like this article and format, regardless of shortcomings. Please do it for each division!

102
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 11:40am

RE: 101

But if it turns out to be wrong, then aren't we calling the wrong people the experts?

Maybe the teams do know a little more than the "experts." I'd like to know what kind of cross-consultation the draftniks engage in, IE how does movement on one board affect the other boards. I have a feeling that they are not as independent as we think, and so talk about their group consensus means little.

103
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 2:14pm

RE 102

How often has Mel Kyper Jr been dead on about some of the picks. IIRC Kyper said Palmer, when drafted, did not have the arm to be a NFL QB, he also did not like Philly picking Donavan McNabb. so in both these cases and many more for just Kyper he has been wrong. some of the picks he has been dead on about. But that is because he like all of us out here that salvaite at the NFL Draft, (include me into that group, I wish football was a 12 month season), and with the creation of the Multiple headed monster that is now ESPN, we still classify him as an "expert". But just like those of us out here that try and figure out which way a team wants to go in the draft soemtimes we get it wrong.

Personally I think this article was about as good as you can get for a review of a draft that happened less than two weeks ago. Please keep them comimg, I don't want to have to go back to talking about the latest random thing that TO has to say! :-)

104
by brasilbear (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 2:57pm

RE 103

I enjoyed the article, I just still don't/can't accept the notion that the draftniks know better than the teams who is going to pan out. I can't wait to read about the Bears.

105
by Green Bay for Life (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 3:30pm

RE 104

That was my point! Draftniks can't know whats better. No matter how much they poke, prod, and interview the possible Draftee, they (the Draftniks) are not privy to the information that an Owner/GM/Head Coach is privy to. I have always felt that these draftniks just try and "seem" intelligent. Personally i think I may have "hit" on one or two good choices for teams this year. and that was based on "need" not "best available player". But once again I do not have access to what the Teams do.

For a team like the Bears/Seattle/Pittsburgh/Denver and a few others out there, these teams had very few holes to fill by the time the first wave of FA was over so who and how do they draft? The Draftniks out there complained that the bears went after a few people on defense. Me? I applauded it because it shows that the Coach/GM are trying to bolster a strong point on thier team with "Depth" so they can still have a good defense if an injury occurs to any one of those spots.

106
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 5:11pm

No matter how much they poke, prod, and interview the possible Draftee, they (the Draftniks) are not privy to the information that an Owner/GM/Head Coach is privy to.

Eh. There's quite a bit of information out there that's public - what you're really missing are the private interviews.

I think people are usually too critical about the 'consensus draft value boards'. As Sean & Doug say above, there's a surprising amount of consensus there. Far too often people just think along the lines of "look, this person said this, and the person was a complete bust! therefore they're an idiot, and the coaches really know what's best!" The problem there is you're not looking at the successes they have as well. Maurice Clarett, for instance, should not have been a third round pick, and virtually everyone knew that the instant he was picked.

107
by Why not? (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 9:55pm

Michael Vick vs. Jake Delhomme...who do you think the draft gurus would take then and now? BPA is not an end all be all and grading on it is a waste of time.

This was analysis based on "talent" percieved. Not drafting some players that you need is a fool's game. EVERYONE is talented in the NFL! Teams draft to get a player that fits a system that lessens or negates talent of opposing teams. Seattle drafts a DB that stays healthy and smart because they play 3 teams twice that love to air the ball out. St. Louis drafts depth because their team is getting old, they can't take chances on BPA. Arizona went by BPA, but have huge holes in the OL that you see if you watch the replay of the SF-ARI game in Mexico...SF tore them up!

This isn't the NBA. You have to draft for your system. Comparisons to the NBA like the Bush-Williams-Young "missed out on the next Michael Jordan" stuff is a joke. The NFL stops Michael Jordans (Vick, Moss, even LT)...no one player can push you over the top. The system can beat talent as most people in New England know and Pittsburgh showed in the playoffs.

108
by Hector (not verified) :: Fri, 05/12/2006 - 10:15pm

I love the idea of this article, but you should really refine the analysis a bit more. The Jennings case is a perfect example of why: how can he be deemed a reach when he was taken two or three spots ahead of where most of the experts had him ranked?

Instead of focusing on what round a player was taken in, you should focus on his overall draft position -- 31st overall, 127th overall, etc. -- and compare that to where the experts have him slotted. Otherwise, the teams drafting near the top of each round will generally be overrated, and those near the bottom underrated.

109
by NextCoast Winos (not verified) :: Sat, 05/13/2006 - 7:53am

Nice work. I'm in line with Hector (108). The only flaw I see in your methodolgy is choosing a round by round vs a pick by pick comparison system. The gap between, say, Pittsburgh's pick at 32 and Houston's at 33 shouldn't be so great. The good news is that this seems to be easily fixable. Keep it up.

110
by DD (not verified) :: Sat, 05/13/2006 - 3:38pm

RE-101-105:

Somehow Brasilbear missed my point, which was that the consensus agreement amoung phony 'experts' (Thus experts is in quote marks, to denote sarcasm), is going to be wrong.
What we get from this article is simply predictions sure to go wrong, and that is what we want to see, the annual train wreck of predictions from the Mel Kiper's of the world.
Most of us don't expect them to be right, the joy is watching how badly wrong they get it each year!
In other words, I agree with Brasilbear.....

111
by roberto rojo (not verified) :: Sun, 05/14/2006 - 2:26pm

Nice article, though I'd like to see mathematical analysis that proves the assertion BPA trends out as better.

One point-- some teams are really good at developing certain kinds of players and not so good at developing others. As such, they might value certain characteristics more than other teams, such as NE's weighting of player intelligence.

While the argument holds that a team should trade down and still get their player, there are no guarentees of the player still being available on draft day, only in Monday Morning Quarterback discussions about the draft.

112
by DD (not verified) :: Sun, 05/14/2006 - 9:48pm

RE: 111:

I think after the first couple of rounds when teams are expected to get a very talented player, some teams switch over to players that they can develop in their system. These players may have less outright 'talent' and more intangibles that benefit the specific team, like the example of NE taking players with football smarts over absolute talent. This creates a team faster than taking 'talented' guys who might take longer to develop in a specific team's system.
It used to be easy for the Steelers and Patriots and other 3-4 defenses to get players late in the draft who don't really stand out in a 4-3 defense. This really has changed because probably ten or more teams are going to the 3-4. But it is a perfect example of taking players who don't fit a mold to be coveted by most teams in the drafting process.

113
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 05/15/2006 - 7:13pm

Parys Haralson does not project to a 3-4 DE. If anything, he projects to a 3-4 OLB.

114
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 05/15/2006 - 8:08pm

My question is:

Jennings and Hobbs were both known more for their 40 times than for their coverage ability. So what was the huge difference that made one a first rounder and one a UDFA?

115
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 05/15/2006 - 8:25pm

Speaking of the Lions and QBs, passing on Leinart in favor of Sims made no sense. If Huff was there, I'd understand it. But Sims? Over Leinart? C'mon.

116
by Xian (not verified) :: Thu, 05/25/2006 - 4:11pm

Sid, this lack of "sense" you cite...it differs from Matt Millen's previous draft stragegies in what manner?

117
by FAN (not verified) :: Fri, 07/07/2006 - 4:21pm

Chris, nobody wants an NFC Championship team. You draft to win Superbowls and you do that with talent.The Seahawks lost the Superbowl with all those "high motor" guys. Farve talent, Rice talent, Elway talent, Brady talent, Bucc defense talent, Ravens defense talent. Simply put talent wins.