After three NFL seasons of kicking off from the 35-yard line, what has been the impact on touchbacks, returns, field position, scoring and injuries? Also, is this rule responsible for a record number of big comebacks?
26 Apr 2004
by Michael David Smith
If you had asked me before the draft which team would be the best fit for a quarterback with lots of potential but not enough experience to play right away, I wouldn't have hesitated before telling you the Bills would be the perfect team for that player. The Bills have Drew Bledsoe now, so a rookie quarterback won't have to play immediately, and they have the best coaching staff in the league for a young quarterback, with Mike Mularkey as the new head coach and Sam Wyche coaching the quarterbacks.
Yes, Sam Wyche -- that guy who coached the Bengals back when they consistently resembled a professional football franchise -- is now the quarterbacks coach in Buffalo. He's known for his innovative offenses and his ability to get quarterbacks to maximize their talents. So when the Bills traded their first-round pick next year and two picks this year to grab quarterback J.P. Losman, it was the perfect fit for the immature but talented quarterback. ESPN's Ron Jaworski analyzed the plentiful problems with Losman's throwing technique, and if there's anyone who can fix those problems, it's Wyche.
By drafting Losman and a future starting receiver in Lee Evans, the Bills became one of the teams that filled their needs on Saturday. But below we'll take a look at five franchises that had obvious needs and didn't fill them. We're focusing on the first day of the draft because Saturday generally provides players who can step in and fill a need right away, while Sunday is usually used for players who will take some time to develop.
When Philadelphia traded up with San Francisco, the ESPN announcers agreed that the Eagles would take running back Steven Jackson to replace the departed Duce Staley, or perhaps take a cornerback to replace starting cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. But when the Eagles instead selected offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, it was something of a head-scratcher. The Eagles did take a cornerback, UCLA's Matt Ware, in the third round, but using their first- and second-round picks on Andrews is a surprise. Coach Andy Reid and personnel man Tom Heckert like to trade up in the first round (they did it last year, too), but Andrews isn't the player the Eagles need to take the next step and get to the Super Bowl.
Bill Parcells is best known as a coach who can turn his teams around immediately, but instead of drafting players who will help the team this year, the Cowboys used this year's draft to build for the future. They traded their first-round pick and got two picks this year plus the Bills' first-round pick next year, which probably will help the team in the long term but doesn't do much for this year's team, which showed remarkable improvement in its first year with Parcells. Running back Julius Jones will help, as will linemen Jacob Rogers and Stephen Peterman, but Parcells and owner Jerry Jones wanted a cornerback on the first day and didn't get one. As a result, opposing teams will get to choose between throwing at rookie standout Terence Newman or 2002 fifth-rounder Pete Hunter. Ooo, tough choice.
One could argue that every position except wide receiver was a position of need for the Cardinals. So the Cardinals drafted a wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, with the first pick. The Cardinals already have last year's rookie of the year, Anquan Boldin, and last year's first pick, Bryant Johnson, at wide receiver. Everyone knows that coach Dennis Green has known and liked Fitzgerald for years, but it's strange that a team going into the season with the unproven Josh McCown as its starter didn't even consider taking one of the three top quarterbacks. The Cardinals desperately need help in their secondary, and they didn't address that need at all on Saturday.
Jerry Rice will turn 42 during the coming season. Tim Brown will turn 38 before training camp opens. This draft was full of young, fast receivers who can help a team right away. The Raiders didn't take one on Saturday. Instead, they used their first-round pick on tackle Robert Gallery (admittedly a great player) and their only other first-day pick, a third-rounder, on safety Stuart Schweigert. Jerry Rice will still be able to catch eight-yard passes when he's using a walker, but Al Davis loves fast receivers who can catch the long ball, and it's surprising that he didn't take one. (The Raiders did snag two receivers with their first two picks on Sunday, Carlos Francis of Texas Tech and Johnnie "don't call me Morton" Morant of Syracuse.)
Browns coach Butch Davis was willing to pay a huge price (his second-round pick) to move up one spot and get tight end Kellen Winslow. According to the chart many teams use to assign value to draft picks, the Lions secured a net gain of 430 points by trading the sixth pick for the seventh and 37th picks. ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who studies trades as closely as anyone, was visibly stunned when Chris Berman announced what the Browns had given up to get Winslow. Davis recruited Winslow when Winslow was in high school, so there's obviously a long-term connection between the two, but the Browns' maneuvering left them with only Winslow and safety Sean Jones from the first day of the draft, and a trade with the Colts to move up for Jones cost Cleveland fifth- and sixth-round picks. The Browns have holes to fill on both lines, and all their wheeling and dealing on Saturday left those holes unfilled.
* * * * *
Congratulations to Richard Prew of London, the winner of the first annual Football Outsiders Draft Contest. Richard, who correctly predicted 26 of the 32 players selected in the first round and nine players in their exact slot, informs us that it's possible to watch the draft live on ESPN even in the UK. What a wonderful world we live in.
Unfortunately, no Football Outsiders reader was able to put together a mock draft better than that of Mel Kiper Jr., who correctly predicted 29 of the 32 first-round picks, including 13 in the right slot. If you know of a mock draft that out-performed Kiper's, please post a link to it in the comments section.
Below we give the results of several mock drafts. Many sources do multiple mock drafts, so we'll provide the date of the mock draft to avoid confusion and as a reminder that predictions get easier as the draft gets closer:
|Name/Source||Date of Mock||Correct
|Mel Kiper Jr./ESPN||April 23||29||13|
|Paul Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated||April 19||29||5|
|ESPN Scouts Inc.||April 24||29||5|
|Ira Miller/SFGate.com||April 24||27||11|
|Mike O'Hara/Detroit News||April 23||27||8|
|NFL Draft Blitz||April 22||26||7|
|Nolan Nawrocki/Pro Football Weekly||April 23||26||7|
|Pete Prisco/Sportsline||April 20||26||6|
|Curt Sylvester/Detroit Free Press||April 23||26||5|
|B. Duane Cross/SI.com||April 20||25||3|
|San Diego Union-Tribune||April 24||25||3|
|Dennis Dodd/Sportsline||April 20||23||1|