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13 Sep 2006

Every Play Counts: Mario Williams

by Michael David Smith

Mario Williams, the defensive end the Houston Texans chose with the first overall pick in the April draft, didn't have a sack in his NFL debut against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. That's not a problem – Oakland's Derrick Burgess, who led the league in sacks last season, failed to get one in the Raiders' opener. But what is a problem is that an analysis of Williams on every play of Houston's loss showed that he rarely even came close to getting a sack, and on several plays he looked ill-prepared for reading the complex offenses he'll face each week in the NFL.

The scouting report on Williams at North Carolina State was that he was a great athlete and pure pass rusher, but not a well-rounded player. Houston's coaches made it clear in the way they used Williams Sunday that they want him to do more than just rush the passer. Williams started the game at right defensive end, the primary pass-rushing position for a defensive player playing against a right-handed quarterback like Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb, and there's not much to say about his pass rushes, which all looked pretty much the same -- he'd rush to the outside and the Eagles' tackles, William Thomas and Jon Runyan, would have very little trouble controlling him.

But Williams did more than just line up at right end and rush the passer. He moved around throughout the game, sometimes lining up at the left end and other times lining up at tackle, especially in long-yardage passing situations. On one play, a second-and-11 on Philadelphia's first drive, the Texans even dropped Williams back into pass coverage at the snap, although the Eagles called a handoff to Brian Westbrook, so Williams essentially took himself out of that play.

Taking himself out of plays was a common theme for Williams throughout the game because he falls for too many fakes. You've seen the highlight of Donovan McNabb's 42-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Donte' Stallworth. That play worked because the Texans' secondary fell for a play-action fake, but the defensive backs weren't the only ones who fell for it. Williams started down the line of scrimmage on an inside rush that might have pressured McNabb, but he reversed course when he saw the fake handoff to Westbrook, following Westbrook to the outside. That gave McNabb time to throw the touchdown pass.

On McNabb's other touchdown pass, a 31-yard catch-and-run screen to Westbrook, Williams failed to recognize the screen, tried to rush McNabb, and didn't get to him in time. Westbrook caught the ball right where Williams would have been if he had stayed back for the screen and made a beeline for the end zone. According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, the Texans' defense faced screen passes more than any other team in the league last season. Having Williams on the field won't do anything to change that.

On a third-and-2 early in the third quarter, Williams lined up in a sprinter's stance at right defensive end. He rushed directly into the middle of the line, thinking the Eagles were running up the middle and looking to make a big hit. But the Eagles ran a pitch to the outside. If Williams had stayed at home he would have been in position to make the tackle. Instead Westbrook got past him for 17 yards. On a misdirection outside handoff to Westbrook in the middle of the third quarter, Williams again fell for the fake handoff up the middle, and Westbrook ran around the left tackle, right to where Williams initially lined up.

The biggest knock on Williams coming out of college was that when the opposition ran directly at him, he struggled. On first-and-10 late in the third quarter, that's exactly what happened: Thomas overpowered Williams and Westbrook ran right past him for a gain of five. But on another first-and-10 later in that series, the Eagles ran directly at Williams again, and this time, with tight end Matt Schobel blocking Williams one-on-one, Williams had no trouble pushing Schobel aside and tackling Correll Buckhalter after a gain of three yards.

One of Williams' most promising plays – one in which he showed the athleticism that made him the first overall pick in the draft -- was a missed tackle. On a second-and-12 in the first quarter, Philadelphia handed off to Buckhalter up the middle. The play called for right tackle Jon Runyan to brush block Williams, then move on and block a linebacker. In that type of blocking scheme, the Eagles figure that Runyan does not need to hold his block on a run up the middle because no defensive end is fast enough to line up on the outside and still get to the running back before the running back goes through the hole. But in this case the thinking was wrong. Williams exploded into the middle of the line and got his hands on Buckhalter before Buckhalter got through the line. It was an athletic play, showing that Williams can cover five yards as fast as any 290-pounder you'll ever see. Unfortunately, Buckhalter ran through Williams' arms for an eight-yard gain. On a similar play later in the game -- a first-and-10 inside handoff to Westbrook -- the Eagles again only brushed Williams, and again he got into the middle of the line faster than they expected him to. He still didn't make the perfect tackle the Texans would have liked from him, but he did assist on the tackle after a four-yard gain.

But if Williams showed an impressive ability to get into the middle of the line, he didn't show much at all when he started plays in the middle. On a third-and-7 in the second quarter, Williams lined up as a nose tackle, directly opposite center Jamaal Jackson. He tried to rush straight ahead but didn't get close to McNabb. On the Eagles' last possession of the first half, Williams lined up at tackle, rather than at end, on every play of the drive, and was never able to get any pressure as the Eagles ran their two-minute offense. Several times Williams provided evidence that when he engages an offensive lineman, he can't overpower him. On a first-and-10 at the beginning of the second quarter, Williams ran directly into Philadelphia left tackle William Thomas and got nowhere. Thomas stonewalled him as Brian Westbrook ran up the middle for five yards.

It must be noted that Texans rookie middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans looked very, very good. He nailed Brian Westbrook for a loss or a short gain on several runs up the middle. If you didn't know, you'd assume Ryans was the first overall pick and Williams was the second-rounder.

Eventually Williams might become the kind of versatile player who can handle being an end on one play and a tackle on the next, and pass rushing on one play and pass coverage on the next. But right now he looks confused out there, like he's being asked to do things he doesn't fully understand. The Texans ought to pick one position – probably right defensive end – and let Williams master that before they have him moving up and down the line.

Only a fool would claim to know after one game whether Williams was the right choice for the Texans with the first overall pick. He's only 21 years old. He's a good athlete. All indications are that he's a hard worker and a smart person. He'll get better at reading offenses. But all we have to go on so far is one game, and that one game wasn't a good one.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 13 Sep 2006

154 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2007, 2:34pm by The Spirit of Bill Oliver


by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 3:50pm

This is all well and good, but Williams wasn't drafted purely for his defensive abilities. See link for details.

by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 3:55pm

First off - Every Play Counts continues to be one of the best football columns anywhere. I love this kind of analysis.

That said - ouch. This is about as harsh an assessment of a player as I've ever seen in an EPC. When MDS doesn't have much to say about your pass rushes, that's not a good sign.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:09pm

It really does sound like poor coaching to have an guy with great athletic talent, but needing work on technique, to be moving up and down the line. Let the guy become proficient with two or three pass rushing moves at right end before putting more on his plate.

I am dubious about using the number one pick on a guy with a reputation of having trouble with straight-ahead run blocking.

by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:12pm

Oh yeah? Well...how many sacks did Reggie Bush have, huh? HUH?

Curious - I've thought that DEs should have a fairly easy time transitioning to the NFL, and would tend to be early good performers. Is that a reasonable view?

by sull (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:23pm

Great article. Love Every Play counts articles. Too early to say but I'm going to ask, even if MW turns into an elite pass rusher, if he can't tackle and play the run, would he still be worth of the 1st overall pick? My inclination is to say no.

by Barnas (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:36pm

Would Dwight Freeney be worth the 1st overall selection? I'd probably say no.

So Mario Williams likely won't be, either.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:40pm

Haven't most of the top DEs of the past few drafts taken a year or so to become effective? I'm thinking of Will Smith, Udeze, McDougle, and Umenyiora. I'm just going by my sketchy memory though. I'd guess that pro tackles are so much more skilled than their college counterparts that rookie DEs take a season to develop moves that work in the NFL.

Maybe I'm wrong though- I thought kickers would have the easiest transition but Mike Nugent sucks.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:46pm

Re 5:
Well, let's look at DEs in the league right now and consider who would be the first pick in any draft.
Richard Seymour
Dwight Freeney
Simeon Rice
Micheal Strahan
Osi Umeniyora
Adewale Ogunleye
Jason Taylor

I'm sure there are others that I'm not thinking of right now. On this list are four guys I would say are known just as pass rushers and the rest of them have reputations as sack machines who also play the run well. I'm going to assume that guys like Bryan Robinson and Philip Daniels (is he still around?) who are known as run stuffers who could occasionally get a sack would never be worth it.

by Phil (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 4:48pm

Uh-oh. I feel a certain thread about to re-emerge. Let's say you have the greatest . . .

by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:02pm


I'd love to have another robo-punter thread!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:05pm

Off hand, I'd say Strahan and Seymour are the guys who would definitely warrant a number one selection, with the caveat that it is dependent on what other players at other positions are available, especially at quarterback.

by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:06pm

What is the development rate of an End?
Like runningbacks can be good in year 1, WRs take a year, QBs not named Roethlisberger seem to suck in their rookie year too. Safeties can be good rookies, as do linebackers... corners take a year. TE's take 2 years to become good.

Defensive Ends? 2 years?

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:08pm

I'd think that the Texans would be happy if Williams develops into any of those guys (or Peppers). So by that thinking they're prob all worth a #1 pick.

by NY JETS FAN (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:27pm

Hey guys what about the rumor that Mario williams and reggie bush might be traded for each other

by Jeff (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:28pm

That rumor is most likely not coming true. i heard it on sports talk radio today also. but none of those rumors come true

by Kordos (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:29pm

That play worked because the Texans’ secondary fell for a play-action fake, but the defensive backs weren’t the only ones who fell for it. Williams started down the line of scrimmage on an inside rush that might have pressured McNabb, but he reversed course when he saw the fake handoff to Westbrook, following Westbrook to the outside.

I wonder if Williams biting on the fake made the DBs more likely to bite as well -- with their limited lines of sight, they may subconciously use the cues of the front seven to try to interpret what's going on in the backfield.

by Joe (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:35pm

Hey MDS, Bills fan here: if you're looking for an Every Play Counts, can you check out the Bills rookie safety situation versus Miami next week?

You all maligned the Bills for taking Donte Whitner No.8, well now, he and rookie Ko Simpson are the team's two starting safeties.

There hasn't been a lot of good analysis out there about how they played against the Pats - but conventional wisdom says that they actually held their own against Brady.

I'd be interested what you had to say about them against the much-heralded, the Great, Daunte Culpepper. If The Dolphins are actually going to compete for the AFC East, Daunte needs to expose them as a weakness next week.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:41pm

There's a better chance of Payton Manning and Tom Brady being traded for each other than Bush and Williams. Why in Lombardi's name would New Orleans trade Reggie?

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:45pm

17. Joe, I wouldnt take too much stock in Brady not putting up great numbers passing, and use it to say the safties did a good job.

1)They were awful against the Run, from what I could see.

2) Brady's passing issues seemed to stem more from offensive line issues than anything else. Most of the time he was getting hit before recievers could reach the safeties.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:51pm

My impression is that rookie DEs generally make a splash only if they're ridiculously fast outside pass rushers. (I'm thinking of Freeney, Peppers, and KGB.) Even so, it usually takes a year or so before they become consistent every-down players. The best ones improve their run support gradually, and develop additional moves to compliment their speed rush.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 5:58pm

Freeney still just spins and spins and spins....

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:10pm


I watched the Buffalo game, and my impression was that Brady's struggles were more a function of the Bills rush being much better than expected, and the Pats O-line being worse. That made it really hard to judge the secondary.

I think that the Pats recievers were getting open--just not quick enough for Brady to find them before being pressured. Also, keep in mind that the Pats were playing a slow and aging (albeit good route running) WR along with a practice squad player and an unproven Reche Caldwell. So I wouldn't put too much stock in how impressive the safeties were covering this group. It's worth noting that Buffalo has had very good CB's of late, which can mask weak safety play. Also, the few passes that I recall Brady really gashing the Bills on were down the center, in the medium to deep range (there was one or two of these to Watson, and one to Graham). This is generally the safeties responsibility. So, even though it's hard to judge, my impression was that the safeties were the weakest part of the Buffalo defense in that game, except for maybe the run defense in the 1st and 3th quarters.

I'm not saying they're bad. One game where your front seven play very well makes it difficult to judge the safeties. We'll see.

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:11pm

Seymour took a year to develop. He was good his rookie year, but not quite Make-Borges-Look-Completely-Stupid good.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:15pm

heres the rumor i heard on sports-talk houston

Dervey Henderson
Reggie Bush
mike mckenzie


mario williams
2nd round pick

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:29pm

MJK, Seymour's improvement curve his rookie year was ridiculously steep. It may be quibbling, but I'd say that by the time the Super Bowl rolled around Borges had been certified a dunce.

by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:51pm

Sorry to intrude on what looks like an inside conversation, but are you talking about Globe writer Ron Borges? Could you please explain the "Borges" reference regarding Seymour?

by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:54pm

Freeney really was a lot better before the stupid spin move. He was almost unblockable when he used a speed rush around the tackle. He ran himself out of plays if a tackle could just get one good shove on him though.

Then he developed a counter move to his speed rush, the spin move inside. He set up tackles with a bunch of outside moves, then once the tackles were practically running away from the line at the snap, Freeney would pull the spin to come inside underneath the tackle.

Then he got on ESPN and did an piece where they were telling everyone how unstoppable the spin was. ESPN put it on Sportscenter. Now he thinks he's got this great rush move, but has forgotten that it should be his counter move.

Now he just runs straight into a tackle, spins around, and they shove him in the back to stop his momentum. Moron.

by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:55pm

Oh yeah, the Texans are morons for drafting Williams over Bush. Even if Bush did want a few million more.

by Nate (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:56pm

The trade can't happen. No team can take the 15-18 million dollar cap hit of trading one of those guys.

by Adam H. (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 6:58pm

RE 17 Don't listen to "conventional wisdom".
RE 26 Yes they are talking about "Bad News Borges". If Robert Kraft donated his fortune to the ophanages of the world, good ole' Ron would be right there to flame him like creme-brulee.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:21pm


I'm not sure, and as far as salary cap goes, my experience in this sort of thing only comes from madden.

But IIRC, if you trade away a guy who has a large prorated signing bonus, you're still responsible for the bonus, capwise, but the team recieving him isnt.

So basically, if that did happen, Houston would still be responsible for Williams bonus, but not Bush's, and New Orleans would be paying Bush's bonus and not williams. Where they both have large, comparable signing bonuses (IIRC) its a wash.

IE houston would have 15 million worth of dead cap space, but they'd only owe reggie like 30 million (instead of 50)

by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:26pm

Strahan was a 2nd round pick who took a couple years to develop. The interesting thing is that he was originally viewed as a run-stuffing end; his pass-rushing skills were a bit of a surprise. Strahan has said many times that he only has two moves: the bull rush, and the fake bull rush. I suspect the scouts saw this, and just didn't expect it to work against the bigger, stronger tackles in the NFL. The nice thing about the bull rush is that it works just as well against the run as it does against the pass.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:28pm

More specifically, I believe Borges ridiculed the Patriots' selection of Seymour in the first round, and continued to do so well (at least that is what others have informed me) after Seymour had established himself. If true, that is a special kind of cretinism.

by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:28pm

Great analysis BTW! Too bad you didn't include R. Bush.
Anyone who gives me a better one, let me know.
Next week Reggie Bush.

by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:39pm

Re 33: Thanks -- that's what I thought. Borges always seems to rip the Patriots, which is a strange attitude to have for a major writer on the biggest newspaper in their home state. His analysis of the Branch situation was unabashedly biased (and wrong). I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in these thoughts.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:43pm

Re #20
That's my impression, too. I think maybe the most dominant rookie DE lately was Jevon Kearse for the Titans in '99. He was strictly a speed rusher, but was so effective at that Dr. Z named him to his All-Pro team despite being "wildly unsound against the run."

by Fat Tony (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:45pm

Here's Borges on Seymour immediately after the 2001 draft (immortalized thanks to Boston Sports Media Watch):

On a day when they could have had impact players David Terrell or Koren Robinson or the second-best tackle in the draft in Kenyatta Walker, they took Georgia defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who had 1 sacks last season in the pass-happy SEC and is too tall to play tackle at 6-6 and too slow to play defensive end. This genius move was followed by trading out of a spot where they could have gotten the last decent receiver in Robert Ferguson and settled for tackle Matt Light, who will not help any time soon. - Ron Borges, MSNBC after 2001 Draft.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:57pm

Thanks, Fat Tony, that is hilarious. It is amazing that guys who know as much about football as they do about the
topography of the back side of the moon, and spend as much time educating themselves about the former as they do the latter, get paid to yammer confidently about the former. I may as well pay my dog for his opinion regarding the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf.

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 7:58pm

Wow, how amazingly wrong on every level.

by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:03pm

Huh. So, from what I'm seeing DEs don't continue immediately at their college level (like RBs mostly tend to do) but are able to contribute reasonably quickly and are expected to start from the getgo (unlike corners or QBs or WRs). Cool.

Also, Borges...wow, in hindsight that looks so, so wrong.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:14pm

Wow, I never quite appreciated the Pats fans ridicule of "Wrong Borges." I got the gist over the past few years, but ... what can I say that comments 37 doesn't say better?

Thanks Fat Tony.

Of course Borges only got the chance to work in Boston after he was run out of Indianapolis for ridiculing the Colts for taking Manning over Leaf, and before that, he was kicked out of Motown for asking why anybody would draft a pipsqueak like Barry "Thurman Thomas's backup" Sanders. And before him, his father, "Waywrong Borges" just pilloried Baltimore for picking this Unitas guy....

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:21pm

Well, being wrong is not remarkable. What is remarkable is being wrong on every level, while ridiculing those who have spent many, many, more magnitudes of hours in educating themselves as to the topic at hand, while also being graceless enough, and possibly too stupid, to acknowledge one's misjudgements once the results are in.

Borges may not be the dumbest sportswriter in America, which is akin to being the fattest sumo wrestler in Japan, but he is certainly among the finalists.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:26pm

And before him, his father, “Waywrong Borges� just pilloried Baltimore for picking this Unitas guy….

Except Unitas was drafted and then cut by Pittsburgh. Then 2 years later they drafted Len Dawson and gave up on him after 3 years and 17 pass attempts.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:31pm

What should the career expectation of a #1 overall draft pick be? Hall of Fame?

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:39pm

Since the merger, the number of #1 overall picks that each NFL team has had (after trades):

Buccaneers - 5
Colts - 4
Patriots - 4
Bengals - 3
Bills - 3
Cowboys - 3
Falcons - 3
Browns - 2
Oilers - 2
Texans - 2
49ers - 1
Chargers - 1
Jets - 1
Lions - 1
Rams - 1
Saints - 1
Steelers - 1

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:42pm

9 Schools have had more than 1 player taken #1 overall since the merger.

Ohio State and USC have each had 3.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:45pm

Just off the top of my head, Richie, I'd say that a number one selection in the draft who does not get selected for at least five Pro Bowls is a bit of a underperformer. It's important to recognize the problematic nature of Pro Bowl selections as an arbiter of the quality of a career, but a number one selection probably has an easier time getting selected, since they are well-known form the get-go. I think that there are more than a few guys who have gone to at least five Pro Bowls and not made the HOF, but I could be wrong.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 8:46pm

As I understand it, it's not so much that Borges is wrong so often (that comes with the territory for any journalist), but the complete lack of humility or self-awareness that accompanies it. In evaluating the draft, Borges writes as though he were the greatest GM in the history of the NFL.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:25pm

OK, so you made me look up Pro Bowl appearances by #1 picks. I am surprised that Jim Plunkett never made a Pro Bowl.

Since the 1970 merger (Terry Bradshaw through Alex Smith) there have been 36 #1 picks:

- 16 never made a Pro Bowl (Eli Manning should make one eventually, and who knows about Alex Smith. David Carr seems unlikely.)
- 3 made one Pro Bowl (Carson Palmer will surely make more)
- 3 made two Pro Bowls
- 5 made three Pro Bowls (Mike Vick seems like the only one who might make more)
- Drew Bledsoe made four Pro Bowls
- 2 made five Pro Bowls
- 3 made six Pro Bowls (I'm sure Peyton Manning will get more)
- Orlando Pace made seven Pro Bowls
- John Elway made nine Pro Bowls
- Bruce Smith made eleven Pro Bowls

The median is 1 Pro Bowl per #1 pick.
The average is 2.3 Pro Bowls per #1 pick.

by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:28pm

Will Allen: Five pro bowls is a pretty high standard. Since the merger, taking number one picks that have been in the league 6 years or more, more have been selected to 0 pro bowls (12) than have been selected to 5 or more (10). See link under my name. That trend seems likely to continue with more recent picks. Given the history of number 1 picks, I'd say a successful pick is one that was a starter for 8 years or more and was selected to at least one pro bowl (with a special exemption for Bo Jackson).

by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:30pm

Richie beat me to it. Note that I went back to 1967, which is actually before the merger. My bad.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:33pm

I'm too lazy to find out myself, but i wonder how many guys selected 2-5 have made five or more Pro Bowls. I guess I'd restate things as, "Since a number one pick is slotted so much money, and the median number of Pro Bowls for number one picks has been so low, it really sucks to have the number one pick."

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:39pm

OK, so of the players who made fewer than 5 Pro Bowls (28 of 36 qualify), I would say that Bledsoe (4 Pro Bowls), Vick (3), Keyshawn (3), Billy Sims (3 - injury), Too Tall Jones (3), Bradshaw (3), Testaverde (2), George Rogers (2), Bartkowski (2), Palmer (1), Bo Jackson (1 - injury), Eli Manning (0), Jeff George (0) and Jim Plunkett (0) were still worthy of the #1 overall pick. So that's half of the 28. Russell Maryland is borderline, but I figure he's not worth that pick, even though he lasted in the NFL for 10 seasons.

So I guess I'm saying that in the past 36 years, 12 #1 picks have not performed to the pick, with 3 still undecided (Mario Williams, Alex Smith & David Carr).

by cjfarls (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:40pm

For the amount of salary cap you sink into a #1, I think you'd have to hope for a Pro-bowler... an HoFer is probably too much to ask, but if their not one of the top 5 - 10 at their position, they're probably a bust.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:40pm

Richie beat me to it. Note that I went back to 1967, which is actually before the merger. My bad.

Nice! I did it manuall from www.profootballreference.com I didn't realize NFL.com already had the info handY!

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 9:54pm

The fact that Bledsoe got more Pro Bowl selections than Bradshaw is revealing of the worth of Pro Bowl selections in evaluating careers.

I'd have to differ pretty strenuously as to the worthiness of Jeff George for a number one selection. The fact that he was pretty universally despised by teammates and coaches alike is an indicator as to his worthiness, no matter that he had few statistically great seasons. Also, I'd say the bar has been raised pretty significantly higher for number one selection worthiness in the salary cap era, given how much of the total cap gets assigned to a number one slection.

by Liam (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:17pm

Will - a lot of No.1 picks don't even go to one Pro Bowl. See link.

Most of these guys are going to really bad teams, so even if they are good players they're going to struggle to look good early on in their careers.

Also, no 1's generally play in a position where you are very much dependent on a good supporting cast (i.e. "skill" positions).

Looking at this list just reiterates the fact that top draft picks are massively overpaid. Those agents are sure earning their money.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:31pm

Yeah, I know, Liam; I saw Richie's research above. I guess my point is that teams are really cursed by the number one selection; they have to guarantee too much money without enough evidence that they will get performance in return. The agents really don't do all that much for their pay, either. The money is pretty much determined ahead of time, although I suppose a good agent may succeed in getting his guy moved up a notch or two.

by Wally (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:42pm

WAIT!!!! did reggie bush get traded!!!!!!

by Ross (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:51pm

Typicial rookie. Jason taylor of the Dolphins wasn't half the player that he became as a rookie

by Vash (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 11:14pm

So if there were a ROBO-defensive end that stopped every running play to his side for no gain, and batted down every pass on his side of the field, how much would he be worth?

by Fan Without a Team (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 11:49pm

61, roughly 1/4 of the total salary cap. He would literally stop half of the defensive plays--i.e. about 1/4 of the total plays, he would be absolutely effective against. Of course, that raises the question of how coaches would adjust, but its safe to say that such a defensive presence would significantly raise the overall ability of any defense, such that you could put him on one side of the field and the other 10 guys on the other side.
The real question is, how awesome of a team would it be if you had ROBOPunter to pin the opponent at their one and ROBO-DE to improve the defense enough to almost cause an instant safety on every play? Who needs an offense?

by Ruben (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 11:59pm

Please...make it stop...

Great article, MDS. I'll be interested to see how Williams pans out, and whether these were "rookie mistakes," or fundamental deficiencies in his development...

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:25am

Looking at this list just reiterates the fact that top draft picks are massively overpaid.

Really not as much as you think. Probably only a factor of 2 or 3. For certain positions, it's probably perfectly fine, too: Carson Palmer, for instance, is still ridiculously cheap for the Bengals, especially considering performance, and will still be cheap next year, too.

It's the busts who are really overpaid. And that really just tells you one thing: if you get the first overall pick, you should fire your entire scouting staff, and spend a bunch of money on a competent scouting crew, because if you choose correctly, you'll probably get value. If you choose wrong, though, you're in deep trouble.
Why fire your scouting staff, though? Because that's probably the reason you have the first overall pick.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:25am


Not quite. The bonus for Williams, for instance, is spread out over the several years his contract entails. If traded, Williams' bonus would be accelerated in its entirety into the following season. It would be the entire bonus worth of dead cap space in one season, which would pretty much kill any offseason activity to continue rebuilding the team next year.

Furthermore, if the Texans were going to trade for Bush, Dominic Davis injury or not, don't you think they simply would have...you know...drafted him initially to begin with? Bush is too big in New Orleans, and is a huge crowd draw, which means more money for the franchise. Williams is not exactly on the same level as a name draw the way that guys like (rightfully or wrongfully) Bush, Vick, and Favre are.

Also, though Madden is an incredibly fun game, the cap rules in the NFL are so complex that there's no way Madden could institute them and still make ownership mode fun. Teams have cap gurus who are paid very highly each year to pretty much handle the salary cap. Madden offers up way too much space, doesn't have the sort of five-year-contract that is really a three-year-contract complexity and often lets players sign for way less than they would in real life. When I play in franchise mode, I always use slightly different rules, like I can't re-sign a player with an overall rating over 90 to anything less than a deal that would entirely fill up his signing morale meter, and I have to pay first round draft picks twice the minimum I could sign them for, that sort of thing. Makes it harder and - in my mind - a tad more realistic. Enough little additional money rules you give yourself and you can't maintain Super Bowl-caliber teams for fifteen straight years the way you can otherwise. Still, Madden handles this sort of thing better than any other game, but it's really not a good teacher for the way these things usually work. Teams in Madden usually maintain much higher percentage of cap space and a greater signing ability than teams can in real life.

by Peter (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:40am

I don't think you need to handicap yourself on rookies... my policy has been to sign my early picks to 1-year deals and then re-sign them for enormously less money. The rookie contracts in that game, like in real life, tend to be absurd.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:48am

For the amount of salary cap you sink into a #1, I think you’d have to hope for a Pro-bowler… an HoFer is probably too much to ask, but if their not one of the top 5 - 10 at their position, they’re probably a bust.

As I mentioned above, it really depends on the position. Which is why you get screwed when there's not really a person deserving of the #1 overall pick at the high-money positions. QB, DE, CB, definitely. There you really only have to be one of the top 10 or so at your position. Julius Peppers is just ridiculously free to the Panthers, and he would've still been very cheap at Carr's salary (the #1 pick his year).

OT, WR, probably top 5.

It really is surprising how few #1 picks end up not being worth the money, honestly. The ones who do end up not being worth the money are the ones drafted by inept franchises - i.e., ones that got the first overall draft pick multiple years in a row (Browns, Bengals).

by jbindc35 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 1:36am

The real question is, how awesome of a team would it be if you had ROBOPunter to pin the opponent at their one and ROBO-DE to improve the defense enough to almost cause an instant safety on every play? Who needs an offense?

This sounds like Buddy Ryan's dream.

by Peter (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 1:57am

#61: The real question before you evaluate robo-DE is how good he is at sacking the QB on pass plays. Does he just wait over on the left side, blocking passes, or will he sack the QB after 3 seconds or so if he stays in the pocket? If he does that, I'd say he's worth about half the salary cap, to politely disagree with #62, and risk making this the new most hated thread.
Working around him (even if he never sacks) would be basically impossible; it's unimaginable that a defense of ten complete scrubs could not defend half the field with an absurd success rate.

I think a more reasonable/interesting (relatively, of course) ROBO-DE would be someone who got the sack after 3 seconds no matter what, batted down, say, 1/4 of passes to his side, and stopped about half of run plays to his side. Someone like THAT would probably be worth a little less than a quarter of the salary cap, because his unerring efficiency would pretty much ruin the offense's chances. All passing plays would either have to be short drops or rollouts to the opposite direction of the DE (presumably the defense would force this to be against their body), running to the right would be hopelessly worthless even without a 100% stop rate, and your only real options in passing to the right would be RB swings or deep bombs. It seems to me that a blitz overloaded from the non-ROBO side plus jamming at the line would render any offense moot.

by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:29am

This idea of a ROBO-player is interesting. If you had a ROBO-player at certain positions, the Platonic( if you will :-) ) ideal of a player at their position, how much would they be worth? How does that compare to how they actually are paid? Is that because the players are further from the platonic ideal at certain positions, or something else?

For instance, here are my guesses(just for the sake of argument) at how much of the salary cap the Platonic ideal of a player at his given position would be worth and what he could do.

QB or RB - 75% of salary cap. You'd score a TD on every drive. You could essentially be paying your defense minimum salaries.
WR - 25% of salary cap. No matter how awesome a WR, the QB can't get him the ball on every play. Seems like half of all offensive plays is about all a WR could be involved in.
OT - 25% of salary cap(or more?). Just run behind him all the time.
OG - 10% of salary cap.
C - 12%
TE- 15%

For defensive players, the 25% estimate in #61 seems to be a reasonable starting place. CB might be worth 20%, DTs 15%, and LBs and safeties 10%.

So here is how much of the salary cap some random players are taking up right now(figures based off a $102M cap):

QB Tom Brady - 13.5%
DE Jevon Kearse - 6%
DT John Henderson - 7%
WR Andre Johnson - 7.6%
RB Clinton Portis - 3%(but his cap hit more than doubles next year)
CB Charles Woodson - 6.5%
OT Tra Thomas - 5%
C Jeff Hartings - 6%

I guess Tom Brady is pretty far from the Platonic ideal of a QB after all.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:29am

Stop it already with ROBO-PUNTER (genuflect) and ROBO-DE! I had my gallbladder out 6 days ago and laughing really freakin' hurts. Trying to stop laughing hurts even more. So stop it for a few days!


by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:47am

I’d have to differ pretty strenuously as to the worthiness of Jeff George for a number one selection.

Jeff George can be a lightning rod topic. But he was able to play in the NFL for quite a few years and put up some good numbers. He wasn't the best teammate, but then he never really had the greatest supporting cast, either. Given the number of QB's who are completely inept, Jeff George was still a competent at worst NFL QB.

I suppose saying whether a player deserved being drafted #1 should be looked at by more than just career success, and should be compared to the rest of the talent in his draft.

I forget which year, but I think it may have been the 1994 draft, that was historically bad. Just not many quality players at all. So it would be easier to be worth the #1 pick in that year, than to have been the #1 pick in 1983, for instance.

If my team was otherwise solid and just needed a QB, I'd be willing to give Jeff George in his prime the job. (We could call him ROBO JEFF.)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:40am

George was drafted in 1990. Here are the players drafted after him in the 1st round:

21(21) Pittsburgh ERIC GREEN TE LIBERTY
22(22) Philadelphia BEN SMITH DB GEORGIA
25(25) San Francisco DEXTER CARTER

Was George better than Andre Ware? Yes, but so what?

by sam_acw (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:41am

Number one picks are incredibly over rated. It is all well and good saying that they should make 5 pro bowls but at the end of the day would you trade a 5 pro bowl player for the number 1 pick?

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 6:06am

This article is pure drivel.

The Texans selected Mario Williams to get sacks and pressure.

He didn't do any of that.


The Saints drafted Reggie Bush to score points.

Reggie didn't do any of that this week. (and against a much worse team than the Eagles)

Whats the point of this article?

Just seems like another chance to bash the Texans and Williams.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 7:04am

72, I'd say 1992 was the worst draft ever. Troy Vincent and Jimmy Smith were the best two players in the draft. The third best was maybe Robert Porcher, who was a solid pass rusher in Detroit.

by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 8:20am

I'm in agreement with MDS, Will Allen and the rest. It seems foolish to ask a rookie to learn to play an number of possitions before he master his primary one.

I remember reading interviews with Jason Taylor last year where he said it was challenging for him to learn to play as as a LB in some of Sabans' 3-4 formations. If one of the top-10 DEs in league found switching to a new position tricky, is any wonder that Mario Williams was ineffective doing so?
If nothing else, if he plays exclusively at DE and gets a few sacks or stuffs, it can only improve his confidence, and it will help to mitigate the Reggie Bush comparisons.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 8:52am

#23 & #25 -- Don't forget that as a rookie Seymour played NT out of necessity. He wasn't moved to the outside until the next year.

And the problem with Borges isn't that he ridiculed the Seymour over Terrell pick. Lots of people did that. The problem with Borges is that to this day he insists that he was right and Belichick was wrong.

The "Man" is a Raiders fan who happens to cover the Patriots. He has several axes to grind.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 10:16am

Basilicus et al - The real thing Madden does to make maintaining a dynasty preposterously easy is the progression it awards to backup offensive linemen. My approach to drafting is to trade away every first day pick I get for players who are already good, and pick up additional 6th and 7th round picks, all of which I spend on technically woeful combine freak OLs, who I sign to 7 year deals. Sit them on the bench through three seasons, and you have an all 99 overall offensive line playing for minimum salary, and another one growing up behind it so that you can trade them all for studs at other positions in a year or two. Like you say, fun, but dumb.

by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 10:24am

Mr Shush,

I bet your linemen still go tearing upfield to flatten the safeties while ignoring the D linemen who about the crush your RB for a 3yd loss every third play.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 10:26am

75: When the Reggie Bush EPC article comes out, I'm certain that one aspect that will be brought out will be how he causes defenses to key on him, thus allowing for other players like Horn and McAllister to draw single coverage, etc.

Regarding the trade "rumor": Guys, don't confuse a radio talk show host tossing out a topic like, "What would it take for the Texans to rectify their mistake and acquire Reggie Bush," with, "Sources within both organizations are discussing a trade". One is just a "what if", while the second is a legitimate rumor, if such a thing exists.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 10:59am

#80 - James, you need to put yourself in their shoes. I mean, wouldn't you prefer flattening tiny defensive backs to grappling with another 300 lb. lineman? I'm surprised they even bother going through the motions against the D-line.

What irks me is when I call a power run with a 2 TE set against a 2-6 nickel defense, and my RB still gets flattened in the backfield.

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 11:50am

#75, I think you meant...

This article is clearly ranked too high because Reggie Bush didn't score a TD. Giving credit to the eagles O-line is way better than this. Why U alwayz bash Texans and Mario!!?

by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:09pm

re 82:
But it's so sweet when they seal off the edge and there's nothing but green in front of the RB.

by Shalimar (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:14pm

#72-I suppose saying whether a player deserved being drafted #1 should be looked at by more than just career success, and should be compared to the rest of the talent in his draft.

This is the approach that I like. I would say as a rough estimate that if you get what turns out to be one of the top 5 players to come from that particular draft, the number 1 pick was a success. Maybe not as much of a success as fans would like if they preferred someone else who has a better career, but still a successful pick for the team.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:23pm

That's about right, Shalimar, and since just the first round in 1990 had about six players more valuable than George, it's safe to say George was not a good first overall pick.

by Sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:28pm

"This article is pure drivel.
The Texans selected Mario Williams to get sacks and pressure.
He didn’t do any of that.
The Saints drafted Reggie Bush to score points.
Reggie didn’t do any of that this week. (and against a much worse team than the Eagles)
Whats the point of this article?
Just seems like another chance to bash the Texans and Williams."

The Saints drafted Reggie Bush to resurrect their franchise (and, in a very real way, their entire city). And, so far he's doing a pretty good job of both. It appears he clearly can play in the NFL--and play well. And, the fans absolutely love him, based on a variety of community efforts he's already involved in, even at this incredibly early stage of his career.

If you want to watch the tape and refute the comments about Williams (on this one play he actually did pressure McNabb...) go ahead. But don't kill the messenger for pointing out the obvious.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:36pm

Re: 85

I would probably amend that to the top 3rd so picks in the first round. You can't fault a team with the #1 overall pick for not using that pick to draft a surprise gem who came out of the later rounds (or even later in round 1). I mean, I don't really think you can fault Cleveland for not taking Shaun Alexander (who went 19th) with the #1 pick back in 2000 instead of Courtney Brown. You can fault them all you want for taking Brown, but I just don't see how it's fair to fault them for not taking someone who almost 2/3rds of the league also passed on.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:38pm

Actually, if you look closely, you'll notice that Reggie Bush is not mentioned once in the entire article. Shockingly, we have an article about Mario Williams was focused entirely on... Mario Williams.

You call that journalism?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:42pm

Make that seven; I forgot Richmond Webb went to about seven Pro Bowls.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 12:49pm

That's a fair point also, wanker, and just to pound home my dislike for Jeff George as a football player (I really, really, really do not like him, if you were wondering), let me note that there were two other guys taken in the top five in 1990 who were far, far, superior to Jeff George, and if we go to the top six picks, I'd rather have Mark Carrier as well.

by Peter (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 1:43pm

Really I think it has to go a little deeper than just the top 1/3 of the draft, and into the more complex and difficult to analyze section of 'team needs.' For instance, Aaron Rodgers was not taken until the mid/end of the first round, but the discussion going up until the draft was that it was a two man race between he and Alex Smith. So if he turns out to be Joe Montana, and Alex Smith is only decent, it will have been a very bad #1 pick, because the two were both considered possible top 5 selections. Similarly, if Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers fail, but the 49ers needed (well, the 49ers needed everything) an OLB/DE, they'll have made a terrible mistake not taking Ware or Merriman.

So for George, what players were better than George AND were at a position that the team needed, among the people generally considered worthy of the #1?

Even if you find some, that doesn't necessarily degrade the pick. Everyone discusses the Bowie over Michael Jordan pick, but Hakeem Olajuwon went first, and no one has any trouble with this because he's also a hall of famer. So while that's an extreme example, the #1 pick doesn't necessarily have to be the best player out of the players of need/worthy of early pick, he just has to be among them. (If Rodgers is Montana, Alex Smith just has to be, say, Steve McNair)

by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 1:58pm

Why shouldn't the first pick of the draft be a likely HOFer?

255 guys get drafted every year, and 5 guys get inducted into the Hall. If the #1 pick is the general consensus #1 player in the country, he should definitely have a good shot at ending up in the HOF.

As to ROBO-DE. Would Reggie White be the closest thing to ROBO-DE that we've ever seen? Playing in the 46 Defense in Philly, White had only a CB on his side of the field to accompany him. Everyone else was crowded into the box or was on the other side of the formation.

by Peter (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:14pm

Well, because not all drafts are created equal. Some drafts have many, many HOF players, some have almost none, and even if talent evaluation were a lot better than it is now, picking the HOF players out of the class is unlikely. There's also the trouble of injury, which further reduces the available first round-HOF talent pool.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:23pm

#1 picks who became HOFers since 1982:

John Elway - 1983
Troy Aikman - 1989

Likely but not yet eligible:

Bruce Smith - 1985

Jury is still out:

Irving Fryar - 1984

Still playing but have potential:

Drew Bledsoe - 1993 (if he takes Dallas to a Super Bowl)
Orlando Pace - 1997
Peyton Manning - 1998

So in 19 years, we've got 2 guys in, one guy likely to go in but not yet eligible, 2 guys who'll probably go in, and 2 borderline cases who may or may not make it - say 6 in 19 years. If we go from 1976 to 2000, we've got to add Lee Roy Selmon and Earl Campbell, so probably 8 guys in 25 years who are in or likely to get in.

Can any other position in the draft come close to such productivity (1 in 3) of HOF credentials?

The #2 spot produces 3 actual HOFers over the same period (Tony Dorsett, LT, and Eric Dickerson), 1 likely HOF not yet eligible (Marshall Faulk), and 1 current player with good potential (Donovan McNabb) - that would be 5 in 25 years.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:25pm

Why shouldn’t the first pick of the draft be a likely HOFer?

Since 1970, five #1 overall picks have made the Hall of Fame (Bradshaw, Lee Roy Selmon, Earl Campbell, John Elway and Troy Aikman). Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Orlando Pace and Peyton Manning will probably join them. So that's 8 out of 37 picks becoming HOFers.

(From 1936 - 1969, seven #1 picks became HOFers.)

So expecting a #1 to be a HOFer when less than 25% actually do is expecting too much.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:29pm

BTW, the problem with ROBO-QB and RB is they score too fast and the defense is exhausted 20 minutes into the game, because they're always on the field.

Sure, your team gets 8 TDs in 8 possessions, but your patchwork D better be made up of bulky marathoners, because your time of possession is only about 5:00. By the end of the game, the other guys score a TD on every possession too. Unless they're the Raiders.

Finally, what would a ROBO-long snapper or ROBO-holder (for kicks) be worth?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:39pm

Now, Richie, you shouldn't try to provoke me like that........

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:40pm

Some ideas for judging if a #1 was worth it or not:

If a player played in 3+ Pro Bowls OR
if a player makes the HOF OR
if a player plays for the team that drafted him for 8+ seasons (exception being a player who was traded before ever playing an NFL game for the team that drafted him, or a player who was traded for another Pro Bowl level player)

Based on this criteria, the following players (since 1970) were worth the #1 pick:
Vinny Testaverde, qb
Bruce Smith, de
*John Elway, qb
Jim Plunkett, qb
Ed 'Too Tall' Jones, de
Irving Fryar, wr
*Terry Bradshaw, qb
Drew Bledsoe, qb
Steve Bartkowski, qb
Troy Aikman, qb
Keyshawn Johnson, wr
John Matuszak, de
*Lee Roy Selmon, de
Orlando Pace, ot
*Earl Campbell, rb
Kenneth Sims, dt
Peyton Manning, qb
Billy Sims, rb
Michael Vick, qb

These guys were not worth the #1 pick:
Jeff George, qb
Dan Wilkinson, dt
Aundray Bruce, lb
Russell Maryland, dt
Steve Emtman, dt
Ki-Jana Carter, rb
George Rogers, rb
Ricky Bell, rb
Tom Cousineau, lb
Tim Couch, qb
Courtney Brown, de
Walt Patulski, dt
Bo Jackson, rb
David Carr, qb
Carson Palmer, qb
Eli Manning, qb
Alex Smith, qb

by Fan Without a Team (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:52pm

Count me (I guess) in the minority, but I actually think the idea of ROBO players is interesting; it helps to highlight how important any given position can be. I like 70's chart, but I disagree with the specifics. For instance, ROBO-WR would absolutely suck without an offensive line (unless he was open the second the ball was snapped, in which case an offensive line would be superfluous), or a QB capable of delivering the ball accurately. I guess ROBO-Punter is easier to identify (in terms of what he does) because punting is essentially only dependent on the punter (and the line not suffering a total breakdown, but even then, ROBO-Punter can simply kick the ball through the punt-blocker, like the unfortunate nickelback).
ROBO-RB would be excellent for a ball control offense, because presumably if instructed he could simply take 2.51 yards per carry then drop. With this capability, none of the other offense would matter, and the defense could rest plenty; once you had the lead at halftime, for instance, down the kick at your one and watch the ROBO-RB take a quarter off the clock. ROBO-RB would be unstoppable.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:53pm

Now, Richie, you shouldn’t try to provoke me like that……..


I don't really know about Jeff George personally. I do know that he was a talented player. Most people who make it to the level of QB in the NFL are incredibly competitive people, who hate to lose. Jeff George had the misfortune of playing most of his career on bad teams (maybe partially his fault), so that is going to turn him into an angry guy who yells at teammates. Jeff George played for two playoff teams. 1995 Atlanta and 1999 Minnesota.

How responsible was he for all those losing seasons? We'll never know.

How much more successful would his career have been if he slipped down to seventh in the draft and gone to the Detroit Lions to be matched up with Barry Sanders and Herman Moore? We'll never know of course.

Does anybody know why the first round of the 1990 draft only lasted 25 rounds?

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:55pm

Where is the original ROBO PUNTER thread?

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 2:59pm

I think these types of debates/discussions are awesome, and I hate they way they slip down the pages of Football Outsiders and go away. I wish there was some way to subscribe to discussion topics so I know when a new reply is posted.

by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:13pm

I'm sorry, but "Jury is still out" on Irving Fryar's HoF credentials? Was that jury even ever convened? I looked at his numbers, and his all-time totals surprised me. He racked up some big #s in a 17-year career. But he was never a dominant player in any of those years. He tied for 4th in TD catches in 1996. He had the 5th most receptions in the leage in 1997. A long and very nice career, yes; but HoF?

by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:29pm

Also -- not that anyone is still reading these threads anymore by the time I stumble into them -- lest Patriots fans think they have a monopoly on dumb sports writers.

Excerpts from Mark Madden's column in the Pittburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Steelers made history Sunday. They made their worst draft pick ever.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I like a good bad draft choice. I derived as much enjoyment from the reigns of error provided by Troy Edwards, Jamain Stephens and Deon Figures as I did from the Super Bowl years. Being indescribably bad is often more intriguing than being incomparably good.

Which brings us to Ike Taylor, the Steelers' fourth-round pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette.

. . .

Taylor was a tailback at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2001, making the team as a walk-on. Taylor's draft profile on NFL.com says he did not play in 2000 because he "concentrated on academics." Before that, he was a Prop 48. Before that, he was dumb. Probably still is.

Probably not dumb enough to pick himself in the fourth round, though. This pick makes no sense. On a scale of one to 10, Ourlads Scouting Service gave Taylor a one. They projected him to be drafted when hell froze over.

But Taylor is a Steeler. I guarantee he will make the team. Taylor could lose a leg at rookie camp, have a lobotomy at minicamp and develop a heroin habit at training camp, and he would make the Steelers. When a team makes a bad draft choice, cutting him right away fairly screams the club's stupidity in all-too-short order.

At 6-foot, 197 pounds with 4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash, Taylor could turn out to be the latter-day Mel Blount. Or the black Scott Shields. I'm betting on the latter.

. . .

With all those marvelous physical attributes, how did Taylor wind up at Louisiana-Lafayette? Why wasn't he at Southern California with Troy Polamalu? Wouldn't a big-time school take a Prop 48 recruit that projected as a fourth-round NFL draft pick? Absolutely. But while you can't teach anyone to be 6 feet, 197 pounds and run a 4.3, you probably can't teach Taylor to play football.

Taylor played four different positions in high school, two in college. You say that's because he's versatile. I say it's because he couldn't figure out any one position.

Taylor will be a total bust for the Steelers. The only person he hurts will be me after he reads this column.

. . .

Other than that, I liked the Steelers draft. Seriously. As bad as the choices of Taylor, St. Pierre and what's-his-name are, the selections of Polamalu and Alonzo Jackson fit like hand in glove.

The Steelers needed a safety. Polamalu was the top safety in the draft.

. . . Given that, and given the need, you can't fault taking Polamalu.

Jackson was a slight reach in the second round. But he's a true pass-rushing specialist. The Steelers' defense hasn't been the same since Kevin Greene left town. Greene was far from a complete player. But he gave the Steelers an extra dimension that struck fear in foes and gave the opposing quarterback less time to make decisions.

. . .

Of course, I'm hardly infallible when it comes to judging this sort of thing.

. . .

But I stand by my condemnation of Ike Taylor. Ike Turner would have been a better choice. Talk about a big hitter.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:32pm

Yeah, I can't see Irving Fryar in the HOF. I'm guessing his career is similar to Art Monk's, without the records.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:34pm

Yeah, Richie but George was despised on the few good teams, or non-awful teams, he played for as well. He was the anti-Montana; he displayed no toughness at all when things weren't going well, melted at the first whiff of pressure, and thus was held in contempt by his teammates. A quarterback simply cannot afford to be viewed in this manner by his teammates. Compare him to Archie Manning, who played for even worse teams, and was every bit as competitive as George. The difference was that Manning had no quit in him under even the worst circumstances, circumstances that George was not exposed to with any similar frequency.

Tarkenton, pre 1972, is another good counter-example. He was an extremely competitive guy saddled with terrible teammates, yet revered by them as well, because he had the courage of a cornered wolverine. If you ever get a chance to read Dr. Z's account of a game he watched between one of Tarkenton's terrible Giants teams, and the championship caliber Cowboys, around 1970 or 1971, do so. It is one of the first games I remember watching as a child, and I wasn't a fan of either team, but I recall it for the same reason Zimmerman does. Tarkenton was 100% committed to willing his wholly inferior teammates to victory, no matter what the cost, and he damned near pulled it off. It remains for me perhaps the greatest quarterback performance I've ever seen. George never displayed 1% of the quality that Tarkenton allowed us to see that night.

Football is an extraordinarily tough game played, for the most part, by extraordinarily tough men, who despise guys, especially quarterbacks, who they sense will fold their tents under adverse conditions. George sucked, plain and simple. Did I mention yet how much I disliked him as a football player?

by Andy S. (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:47pm

104, I think the jury is only out to see if Fryar actually cut himself with the bread knife, while crashing his Mercedes.

Steve Grogan, should be in the HOF before Irving, and I know that's not going to happen.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 3:53pm

Jeff George as hall of famer? Would somebody tell Jason Whitlock to stop posting on these boards?

by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 4:54pm

As long as June Jones gets to present him, I am all in favor of a Jeff George enshrinement.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 5:16pm

Re: 99

I actually like those criteria alot. Although I probably wouldn't limit to guys who play more than 8 years on the team that drafted them. I'd probably just include guys who played for 8 years or more for the same team (regardless of where they started their career). If a guy is good enough the one team starts him for 8 straight years, that's probably good enough for me (there could be a whole host of reasons he didn't work out for the team that actually drafted him).

And there should obviously be a big asterisk next to Bo Jackson. And I'd call the jury still out on Carr, Palmer, Lil' Manning, and Smith.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 5:18pm

Re: 97

Finally, what would...ROBO-holder (for kicks) be worth?

Apparently not very much since Koy Detmer was just release by the Eagles.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 7:23pm

Although I probably wouldn’t limit to guys who play more than 8 years on the team that drafted them.

I was trying to think about that. What situations could you imagine where a player was drafted #1 overall and was either released or traded for garbage early in his career and yet go on to play 8+ seasons with some other team?

Russell Maryland is one of the real borderline guys I keep coming across. He played 5 years with Dallas and then 4 years with Oakland. I don't recall what the circumstances were on him leaving Dallas (traded, released, etc.). Had Maryland hung on and played 4 more mediocre seasons in Oakland, should he be considered "worth it" as a #1 pick?

Dan Wilkinson is a similar case. No Pro Bowls, but he's hung on for 13 seasons. He started with 4 in Cincinnati then 5 in Washington. Cincinnati basically gave up on him after 4 seasons, but he's still been decent after leaving. Is he "worth it" as a #1 pick?

by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 7:49pm


I am not an expert, but I'm somewhat of the opinion that Ike Taylor is overpaid and overhyped. He missed several crucial tackles in the Miami game this year and dropped a certain interception. The announcers thought it was his doing that Chambers didn't catch any passes in the first half, but I ascribe that to Miami's fault not Taylor's excellence. Am I alone in this thinking?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 9:12pm

I believe Maryland's rookie contract expired, and as the salary cap/free agency era was now in full bloom, the Cowboys did not attempt to resign him.

by Wally (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 9:36pm


by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 9:57pm

unless he is ROBO-FB. then he goes up the middle for six every time, and flattens any and all blitzing linebackers.
it was an offseason four downs. you can find it on the fo 3rd b-day page.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Thu, 09/14/2006 - 11:53pm

Re #105:

Thanks, Matt. It's always nice to see Mr. Bluster exhibit his "knowledge".

And, Jason, Taylor's hands are terrible, but he's been a good cover corner.

by Blotto Graham (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 12:01am

OK, since Dan Wilkinson was mentioned, I gotta see if anyone else remembers this.

Sometime in Wilkinson's rookie season, I recall James Brown on Fox saying, "It's not too soon to start calling him 'Big Cruddy'."

Because JB NEVER knocks a guy like that, and delivered the line deadpan, I shot beer snot. Unfortunately, I can find no one else who remembers that line, and I have begun to think I hallucinated it.

Can I get any help here?

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 4:22am

Sure, Vick wasn't the best player in the 2001 draft, but of the top ten guys selected, he was probably in the top three. Richard Seymour and LaDainian Tomlinson are clearly better players. Justin Smith and Andre Carter were OK top-ten selections.

Seymour was considered a reach at #6. He was not a contender for #1 overall in the least. The Falcons shouldn't have taken Vick over Tomlinson, of course, but give them some credit for avoiding Gerard Warren, Leonard Davis, and David Terrell. In a world of imperfect scouting, Vick was a solid choice.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 10:23am

Re: 116 & 120

I've gotta agree with Yaguar. As much as I like to kill QB Mike Vick, I have a hard time killing #1 pick Mike Vick. Like Yaguar said, there were certainly guy in that draft that should have been taken ahead of him. But if you can land a guy that your franchise has a chance to build around, that's still a good pick.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 11:58am

120 & 121 make a good point. The best way to judge if a player is worhty of a #1 pick is to compare him to the other players drafted that year, at least the ones drafted in the first round. I think the number one pick should be either the best guy drafted in the first round, or far and away the best player at his position drafted. Also, some positions are nevery worhty of a #1 pick. Not even Robo-Punter or Robo-kicker should be taken first in the draft.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 12:38pm

I think the number one pick should be either the best guy drafted in the first round, or far and away the best player at his position drafted.

In 2001, the first day QBs were Vick (Rd1,#1), Drew Brees (Rd2,#1), Quincy Carter (Rd2,#22), Marques Tuiasosopo (Rd2,#26). Sweet Jesus, that's a pathetic QB class. Looking at the other options, I think it's fairly clear that, even as mediocre of a QB he is, Vick was clearly deserving of the #1 overall pick.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 12:57pm

You realize that every drive would be worth three points with ROBO-KICKER. Then, ROBO-KICKER would kick the ball out of the endzone resulting in an automatic start of the 20 yard line for every opposing teams' drives. One or the other is worth it but both make it the easiest #1 overall pick ever.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 12:57pm

122. Seriously??
ROBO-kicker would be awesome! I am, of course, assuming he makes every field goal from anywhere on the field, in which case, all you would need is a decent line to block for the holder, and then just kick on every 4th down.
I say that because if you just kick on every 1st down, you D would get really tired, but of course, you would have 42 defensive players to rotate through, so maybe you could make that work.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 1:32pm


I'm not a big Vick fan myself, but I'm sure the Falcons don't regret the selection. Vick still has time to become a better player, too.

And, on a non-football level, Michael Vick has changed the football atmosphere in Atlanta.

From 1997-2000, the Falcons averaged about 53,000 fans per game. From 2001 (Vick's first year)-2004, the Falcons averaged about 65,000 fans. In 2001 they only averaged 53,000 because Vick didn't play much. By 2002, the fans were excited about him and from 2002-2004 the Falcons had 67,000, 70,000 and 70,000 per game. This was a franchise that was an NFL afterthought. (They are still looking for consecutive winning seasons.) But Vick is a major reason why fans care. Their Super Bowl season only averaged 57,000 fans.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 1:34pm

Not even Robo-Punter or Robo-kicker should be taken first in the draft.

Are you sure about that. I think Robo-Punter would be worth the #1 pick.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 1:38pm

I should have known the original robo-punter thread came from an AFC South preview...

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 1:51pm

In 2001, the first day QBs were Vick (Rd1,#1), Drew Brees (Rd2,#1), Quincy Carter (Rd2,#22), Marques Tuiasosopo (Rd2,#26). Sweet Jesus, that’s a pathetic QB class. Looking at the other options, I think it’s fairly clear that, even as mediocre of a QB he is, Vick was clearly deserving of the #1 overall pick.

Interesting. If you needed a QB in 2001 and had the first pick in the draft and knew what you know now about Brees and Vick, which QB would you take?

I'd probably take Brees because I'm partial to the classic pocket-passer.

by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 1:54pm

Irving Fryar in the HOF? Look, I don't make the selections, but the man has been considered by those who do. Ergo, the jury is still out.

by cdd (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 2:06pm

#125, 127, that really depends on who else is in the draft. I mean, if the rest of the class is composed of the force-aged clones of Joe Montana and Barry Sanders, then yeah, go ahead and take ROBO-PUNTER first. But if ROBO-RB or ROBO-CENTER, who snaps the ball with laser precision and comes with detachable bulldozer blade, is available in that draft...

by PackMan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 2:33pm

I actually like ROBO-QB the best. He would be far superior to ROBO-RB. Since there is always a chance that a non-ROBO-QB could fumble the ball before giving it to ROBO-RB, whereas, ROBO-QB could just scramble for the 2.51 yards every play.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 2:40pm

129 - The sales point is important in thinking about this. If I'm the Redskins, or the Cowboys, or the Texans, and I know I can sell out my stadium for home games no matter what, I probably take Brees. But if I'm the Cards or the Jags or the Falcons . . . Vick starts to look a whole lot more attractive.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 2:56pm

Re: 129

This little tangential discussion is about whether or not Mike Vick was deserving of a #1 overall selection (and not who you'd rather have Brees/Vick). And the simple fact that there would be reasonable debate between Brees and Vick validates Vick's selection at #1 overall. Drew Brees was taken 32 picks after Vick. There's no way you could argue that Atlanta was wrong for not taking Brees at #1 overall.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 3:54pm

There’s no way you could argue that Atlanta was wrong for not taking Brees at #1 overall.

Since no NFL teams were talking about Brees in the top of the first round, you are probably right.

Now, if Brees were 6'3" with his identical college stats, where would he have been drafted? I know he was a player downgraded because of his height - a mistake that many teams make and probably regret.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 4:11pm

I am the last one to defend Vick, but what if he was 6'3" and 225?

by Peter (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 4:55pm

I think that would make him Vince Young.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 4:58pm

ROBO-KICKER would absolutely be worth the #1 pick overall. Janikowski was already picked in the first round. It's not that much of a step to believe that the ultimate kicker would be #1 overall.

That's why I chose punter originally, though in hindsight, I probably should've chosen ROBO-LONGSNAPPER or ROBO-HOLDER for the obvious point.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 5:19pm

I am the last one to defend Vick, but what if he was 6′3″ and 225?

He'd still complete just 51% of his passes?

by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 5:27pm

Can ROBO-HOLDER fake the field goal and run for a TD every time? (It worked in Joe Montana Football; that and the fake punt were pretty much the only good offensive plays.) If so, he'd definitely be worth the first pick.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 5:42pm

Is Robo-QB a modified howitzer, like PitchoMat 9000?

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 5:45pm

Actually, I suppose Robo-kicker would be the modified howitzer. Also, if you had robo-kicker, could you attempt an on-sides kick and recover it every time, or would you need robo-hands in addition for that to work? If so, that would be the ultimate team. Kick a field goal on first down, then recover the onside kick and get another field-goal. Infinite points.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 5:52pm

The only problem with the Robo-player strategies is they don't work on Robamadan or Robanzza or Robannakuh.

by Travis (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 6:30pm

Re: 142

I would guess that ROBO-KICKER could blast a kickoff at the nearest opposing player, causing it to rebound somewhere where ROBO-KICKER could recover it. The return team would have no defense; if they moved their players away, ROBO-KICKER could just kick the ball 10 yards and recover it there.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 7:53pm

Then Robokicker makes all other players irrelevant. In which case he's worth the #1 pick, and 100% of your salary cap minus enough for a good long snapper and the minimum for 9 other players.

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 09/15/2006 - 9:58pm

Wouldn't ROBO-KICKER make onsides kicks perfectly as well? I mean, kickoffs into the 20 are well and good, but I'd much rather just get the ball back 100% of the time. Even getting it back 50% of the time would be ridiculous.

How much would a kicker that gave you FGs from anywhere on the field AND gave 50% onside kick recoveries be worth? To me, that'd assuredly be worth a #1 pick; getting about 4 possessions per game with a guaranteed 3 points per possession?

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sat, 09/16/2006 - 12:43pm

Brees was not nearly as good a draft pick as he is made out to be, because people have short memories.

First of all, both Vick and Brees began starting full time in 2002. Vick had 24 total touchdowns and eight interceptions. Brees had six fewer touchdowns and twice as many interceptions.

Vick got injured in 2003, but while Vick was out, Brees was absolutely terrible. So terrible that the Chargers nabbed the worst record in the league and were able to draft an elite quarterback to replace him.

Brees has been a better player for the past two years, but he was painfully slow to develop. Most good quarterbacks become good in either their 2nd year or their 2nd year as a starter. Brees took four years. Also, I really wonder how well he'll be able to do without ROBO-TIGHT END. If his first couple of years in San Diego are any indication, he will struggle.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 09/16/2006 - 1:08pm

Getting 3 points per possession would be an upgrade for virtually every NFL team. If a kicker ever came along who could reliably make 70 yard field goals, he'd be the #1 overall pick - probably pretty much guaranteed.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 09/16/2006 - 1:10pm

Can ROBO-HOLDER fake the field goal and run for a TD every time?

Nope. He just absolutely puts the ball in exactly the same spot (to the nanometer) every time. Best holder ever. (ROBO-KOYDETMER).

You want something more like ROBO-JAKEPLUMMER. But then you have to deal with all the annoying bugs that come with.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Sat, 09/16/2006 - 2:19pm

Can we ease up on the ROBO jokes for a bit? ROBO-PUNTER was hilarious because, well, we're talking about building a football team around a punter. ROBO-DE, or ROBO-QB, on the other hand, is just kind of lame; nobody's ever questioned the importance of those positions. Heck, it's not even that hard anymore to imagine a safety or TE going first overall. There's just no joke there.

ROBO-LONGSNAPPER and ROBO-HOLDER are more appropriate, but it's starting to feel a lot like the Naked Gun sequels. The original will always be a classic, and sly references are always welcome ('Look! It's Enrico Palazzo!'), but trying to duplicate it serves only to remind us that the magic is gone.

So please, dear commenters: if you truly love ROBO-PUNTER, then let him go.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/18/2006 - 10:32am

Best holder ever. (ROBO-KOYDETMER).

I beat you to it. (Re:112)


by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/18/2006 - 7:38pm

Brees has been a better player for the past two years, but he was painfully slow to develop. Most good quarterbacks become good in either their 2nd year or their 2nd year as a starter. Brees took four years. Also, I really wonder how well he’ll be able to do without ROBO-TIGHT END. If his first couple of years in San Diego are any indication, he will struggle.

Well, Brees played 1 game his rookie season. Then his next 2 seasons were mediocre-poor. Then his 4th season he broke out as one of the top 10 or 15 QB's in the league. At the QB position if you could be gauranteed a Pro Bowl caliber player in the 4th season, I think most teams would be willing to suffer through 3 rough seasons for 10+ years of good ones.

by Jade (not verified) :: Thu, 09/21/2006 - 1:13pm

With all this ROBO talk why not settle it once and for all
Isn't this what video games are for?
Use Madden - sim the 2006 season 10 times - build the perfect player and sim 2006 again 10 times but with the perfect player playing on every team - do this at every position - QB, RB, FB, WR, TE, T, G, C, DE, DT, LB, CB, S, K, P, and the all important holder - that would only require about 5000 sims
what else do ya got ta do?!!

by The Spirit of Bill Oliver (not verified) :: Sun, 01/14/2007 - 2:34pm

Wow, I never quite appreciated the Pats fans ridicule of “Wrong Borges.� I got the gist over the past few years, but … what can I say that comments 37 doesn’t say better?

Thanks Fat Tony.

Of course Borges only got the chance to work in Boston after he was run out of Indianapolis for ridiculing the Colts for taking Manning over Leaf, and before that, he was kicked out of Motown for asking why anybody would draft a pipsqueak like Barry “Thurman Thomas’s backup� Sanders. And before him, his father, “Waywrong Borges� just pilloried Baltimore for picking this Unitas guy….

They fail to realize Football like all fast contact sports is mental...you have to think and be tough...in addition to that, Seymou lost some weight, became a run stuffing pass rushing athlete at DE....and Light ain't he pro bowling again?