Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Dec 2005

2005 Draft Day Redux

I apologize to Don Banks for the harsh words I'm about to lay down, but this article is an example of why I started Football Outsiders. The idea behind it is a lot of fun -- had we known then what we know now, how would the 2005 draft had played out? But Banks' choices and comments are filled with every bad kind of football analysis, ignorant of economics and worshipping flash over substance.

Start at the beginning, where Banks has the 49ers taking Shawne Merriman instead of Alex Smith. Banks claims that the 49ers "could have saved money" by taking Merriman and then Ryan Fitzpatrick in the middle rounds. But if the 49ers had taken Merriman number one, he wouldn't be making Merriman money. He'd be making Alex Smith money. The number one pick always makes number one pick money. So the 49ers would have saved nothing.

At number four, he gives Chicago Matt Jones. For the moment, let's put aside the fact that nobody could have predicted the injury to Cedric Benson, as well as the fact that this injury doesn't mean Benson won't be excellent in future seasons. Instead, let me ask you: is Matt Jones really the third-best offensive player of the past draft? And is he really more valuable than a middle linebacker like Lofa Tatupu or Odell Thurman?

At number eight, he has Arizona taking Samkon Gado. Seriously, just drill a hole in my head to stop the pain. Gado is a great story, but he has done nothing to prove that he is going to be a top running back in this league for years to come. The Cardinals are supposed to want Gado instead of Antrel Rolle because Rolle was injured for part of his rookie year? Would anyone want Gado over Thurman or Derrick Johnson or Demarcus Ware?

Oh, but wait until page two. It's not so bad until you get to the end. Raise your hand if you think that, in retrospect, it made sense for the Jets to take Mike Nugent in the second round. Think that was too early? Well, Banks thinks Dallas should have taken Nugent in the first round. Yes, Nugent has missed fewer field goals than Jose Cortez or Billy Cundiff. So has Rob Bironas, and he cost the Tennessee Titans nothing. How could anyone come away from this season with the idea that Mike Nugent was not drafted high enough?

On page three, let's see ... we've got the Jaguars at 21 taking Jerome Mathis since, as we know, a good kick returner is worth more than a starting receiver like Mark Clayton or a starting cornerback like Carlos Rogers. Banks doesn't like Seattle's original pick of center Chris Spencer; he gives them Troy Williamson instead because "with the lightning-fast Williamson still on my board, I'm not worried about the offensive line down the road." Congratulations, Don, you're the new general manager of the Houston Texans. Who needs offensive linemen? Your super-fast receivers will look great in the end zone while your quarterback is eating the turf and the other team's defensive tackle is lumbering towards the end zone with the football.

We're not done yet. Banks has the Falcons at 27 taking Chris Henry instead of Roddy White because Henry has six more catches and four more touchdowns. Has it occurred to anyone that perhaps Henry has a few more touchdowns because he has CARSON FRIGGIN' PALMER as his quarterback? Finally, this look back suggests the Steelers and Eagles should have taken Brandon Jacobs and Marion Barber at 30 and 31. Yes, situational running backs aren't usually available in the third or fourth round, so you should take them over the guys Banks leaves out of his first round like Rolle and Spencer and Mike Peterson and David Pollack and Erasmus James and Kirk Morrison.

Phew. Longest XP ever, but I had to get that off my chest.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 30 Dec 2005

39 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2005, 3:48am by Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Person


by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:29am

This might have passed the Whitlock column as the dumbest piece I've ever read on a big time website (non-Dan Shanoff division)

by Ryguy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:36am

I think this describes it best...

(from Billy Madison)
"Principal: Mr. Madison (or in this case Don Banks), what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened (or read) to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:38am

Amen, Bro. I think it IS a fun concept, but a lot of the thinking behind it is... near-sighted.

In all fairness, Chicago needs another MLB (as you suggested) like I need a third arm, but Banks's Nugent pick struck me as pretty dumb and uninformed.

Always looking out for my Colts, I think he really whiffed. Yes, they need a boost in the return game, and yes Jones is fast, but their priority was ass-kicking hard-hitters in the Sanders/Doss mold, and they seem to have them in Jackson and Hayden (their top two picks), who haven't cracked the starting lineup yet. The Colts wanted someone to lay down the wood across WRs' backsides, not just run fast.

So Banks is, in effect, saying he knows better what a specific D scheme needs than its creator, because I don't think we learned anything new about Jones (Banks's pick) or Marlin Jackson (the Colts' actual pick) in the past 8 months that we didn't already know.....

But it's hard for me to get exorcised about this type of article. I think it's like the annual "top colleges" articles in the major news magazines that HAVE TO shake up their ranking from last year or they won't sell anything. If Banks wrote an article that in effect stated every team made pretty much the right choice, not only would we bash him for that, he'd be out of work, too.

As Bill Simmons might say, quoting an eminent philosopher, "It's just business, Fredo."

by admin :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:43am

At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.

No, no, he moved Darrant Williams up. That was a rational thought.

by Bill (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:53am

Yes, but in all fairness, you are a geek.

The other great thing about this article - how often do players show their true potential after ONE year in the NFL? Of COURSE Troy Williamson hasn't shown that he's been worth the eighth overall selection; rookie WRs almost ALWAYS struggle! Goof.

In all fairness, he did write a mea culpa column with his worst decisions of '05 linked on my name. Try getting Joe Morgan to write one of those.

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:10am

No, the Lions did not need another good LB. They already had decent ones. Heck, it's not like the Lions weren't okay on defense.

What they needed, clearly, was an offensive lineman.

On a flip side, I'm starting to believe that the most important indicator of a team's offensive success is the strength of the offensive line. Hell, the strength of an offensive tackle alone can do it, as witnessed by the running success and passing success behind Roaf and Jones. I'd really love to see the relative successes of teams and the importance of an OLine.

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:13am

Also, it's awesomely funny that he has the Vikings drafting YET ANOTHER RB. Because clearly, having as many RBs on their roster as humanly possible would be the right answer for the Vikings.

Now that I think about it, that's probably what the Vikings front office would do.

by Slippery Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:27am

To give Banks some credit, he is smarter than at least one NFL GM. He didn't draft a WR in the top 10 for the third straight year.

by Tally (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:32am

Just goes to show how far SI has fallen in recent years. I can't read a single article without flinching, and I'm not even talking about content; I'm talking about the quality of writing.

For example: "The 49ers used four QBs this year, and could have saved money and made due by taking Ryan Fitzpatrick in the middle rounds."

Shouldn't that be "made do"? Is it too much to ask for a writer of a major magazine to pass elementary English? This isn't even a typo, though the editors should probably have caught it just the same. I'm not too sure how much editing goes into online articles, however.

And no, I'm not an English teacher, though my wife is an elementary school teacher, but I don't think that has anything to do with my reaction to opening up a magazine or website and seeing such egregiously bad diction.

Oh, and I didn't bother to more than skim the rest of the article through my bleeding eyes, but it looked pretty sorry.

by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 6:42am

The mea culpa column linked in comment #5 has a great quote by Banks:

"Sometimes, folks, I out-think myself."

Um...yeah...I doubt that.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 7:24am

Aaron, you going to be okay there?

by Steve Z (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 7:35am

I’m not sure of the reason the Steelers would take a (situational!) running back with their first pick when they already have three quality running backs on their roster. The Steelers have such an embarrassment of riches at running back that they don’t even bother to dress their best overall back — Duce Staley — most Sundays.

Perhaps Banks did not know enough about the Steelers to have made an informed guess of who they would have picked if Heath Miller had not been available. Perhaps his deadline cramped his thought processes. Perhaps Banks should read FO!

by dryheat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 10:17am

So Mike Nugent was drafted too late?

by Craig B (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 11:07am

He has the Bengals selecting Thomas Davis instead of David Pollack because "he's an upgrade for the Bengals over strong safety Ifeanyi Ohalete." Since when do you draft players in the first round to be better than your 4th best safety? Ohalete has played only because Kim Herring and Madieu Williams are on IR. Don't you think a writer for SI should know this when writing this type of article?

by ElAngelo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 11:26am

You knew that this article had no shot from the minute that you opened the link, but putting Matt Jones at #4 is one of the dumbest things I've read this year. Is there a single person not named Donald Rufus Banks that honestly thinks that Matt Jones (a) would have filled the Bears needs better than Benson or anyone else on the board for that matter, or (b) is the 4th best player in the draft?

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 12:13pm

I agree on the Colts comment. Why would you want to choose a corner with more speed who has bad coverage skills over one with good coverage skills? It's kind of like what Belichick said before the draft, about how he thought the combine was silly. You're not interested in players that can run a 40 yard dash in shorts--you want players that can play football.

Banks obviously was on a deadline, though. Notice there are one or two teams he says nothing about and just gives their original pick (e.g. the Patriots). I don't think that's because he thinks they did a better job at evaluating talent than everyone else; I just think it shows he doesn't know them as well.

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 12:27pm

Re 12:

The Steelers have such an embarrassment of riches at running back that they don’t even bother to dress their best overall back — Duce Staley — most Sundays.

I'm a Philly fan. You have no idea how annoyed this makes me.

by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 12:35pm

From the "mea culpa" article:

"In retrospect: Who needs Brad Johnson, Kurt Warner or Jay Fiedler when you've got Kyle Orton?"

I can think of at least 31 NFL franchises that would be raising their hands in that situation, Mr. Banks.

Okay, at least 30. Millen is probably scheming of a way to trade away his second through seventh round draft picks to Chicago for good ol' Kyle as I speak. He'll keep the first round, though. I hear there's another nice WR prospect he's got his eyes on...

by A. Diggity Dawg (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 12:54pm

As one of the resident Panther's fans, I'll go ahead and add to the list of dumb picks in this article one Heath Miller to Carolina. Heath Miller is a very good TE in the Steeler's offense, but in Carolina's where he'd be asked to run block about 90% of the time, he'd be dreadful. Anybody with any knowledge of Dan Henning's offensive system would know that.

by Bob (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 1:23pm

Well Miller is getting a lot of attention for his pass catching skills, but his best value to the Steelers has been his excellent blocking so I think he'd have been fine in the Panthers' system.

by someone (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 1:34pm

Yet another thread slagging off every other NFL reportage/analysis under the sun. Apart from TMQ because it shills FO, and Dr Z because he's the pioneer of making impressive statements about proprietary charts and stats in an attempt to gain some form of credibility.

Why don't you stop parasiting off other content by linking to it and continually presenting yourself as superior to it, and concentrate on providing more of your own content. I'm sure even the yellow fingernail brigade will get used to it eventually.

by Paytonrules (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 1:43pm

Trading Kyle Orton- that's a pretty darn good idea.

He's young - he's got potential - and he's wildly overrated in some circles.

Let's be honest - while the Bears may take over a weak NFC this year for the right to get pasted by the Patriots they are likely to regress next year if they don't actively try to get better. Defenses don't typically stay at this high of a level, so they need to look at offense. Therefore they need to probably:
Improve Wide Recieving Core,
Get younger on the offensive line,
Make sure that they have a quality backup for Grossman next year (and maybe a young guy waiting in case Grossman isn't the guy), improve depth defensively.

That's a lot of holes - more than the say the Colts have. Unfortunately what I expect to happen is:
1) Bears struggle out of gate against tougher schedule.
2) People call for Orton cause he's a "winner"
3) Bears panic and fire everybody.
4) Wait 4 years to contend again.

k...that's too much as it is this isn't a Bears website after all.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 1:50pm

Re: (#19, #20 )--

It's not like the Steelers pass to Miller all the time -- he's averaging 2.4 receptions a game. Contrast this to over 4 a game for Jermaine Wiggins or Jason Witten, who are much bigger parts of their teams' passing offense.

I'm guessing here, that he might be doing something or other, during all those rushing attempts the Steelers rack up.

by Paytonrules (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 2:08pm

I meant pasted by the Colts.

Just call me Peter King.

by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:21pm

As a Bears fans, there are normally guys I really wished the Bears had taken instead of who they actually took. However, this year, I don't know. If the draft played out as the idiot presented it, Ronnie Brown wouldn't have been a bad choice. Jamaal Brown or Alex Barron? Odell Thurman? There wasn't really anyone out there that at a position we remotely needed.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:24pm

Ware to the Lions is a silly pick. The least he could have done would have been to suggest (via his thinking) OT Brown; it would shore up the struggling line and meet Mr. Millen's secondary qualification for draft picks - a major BCS school as an alma mater. It's all about the college, you know.

by jeff t (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 3:39pm

Heath Miller has been universally praised for his blocking. Mike Ditka called him the best blocking TE in the league (for whatever that's worth). Some Steelers fans are worried that he blocks too well and the Cowher will turn him into another Mark Bruener (basically a third tackle).

by Kachunk (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:31pm

re #19 we're talking the steelers. Do you think the guy would EVER get in the game if he couldn't block? His receiving skills weren't THE reason he was drafted according to Cowher, they were just a bonus.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:33pm

RE 22 and 24

Thanks, Paytonrules, I was worried for a minute. I mean, it could happen, but the Pats have a long roadtrip ahead of them to get there.

Rodney Harrison told me to get miffed because you weren't showing my Colts the proper respect. Everything's cool now, though. I won't call a press conference to whine about how they get no respect.

by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 4:59pm

What in Sam Hill is the "yellow fingernail brigade"?

by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 5:10pm

What I'd prefer to see is a few transcripts of draft commentary made during the draft itself, followed by an MST3K-style of "running" commentary.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 6:15pm

Re #16: I dunno, Denver got along pretty well this last offseason by focusing on speed and then assuming they could coach up any deficiencies. After all, Darrent Williams and Dominique Foxworth fell to the 2nd and 3rd rounds for a REASON- people thought their coverage skills were lacking. But Denver liked their speed, which you can't coach, and fixed their coverage, which you can, and according to MDS they've been two of the top 3 rookie CBs this season.

Which brings me to my next point- Denver's secondary coach did a FANTASTIC job this last offseason. Guess who he is? The immortal Bob Slowik, defensive coordinator for the 2004 GB Packers. I always *love* seeing my team get guys who are moving one rung down the coaching ladder, because I figure the reason they moved up in the first place was because they were fantastic at what they did. Nobody makes better position coaches than failed D-coordinators, and nobody makes better coordinators than failed head coaches (just look at Greg Williams in Washington).

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 7:16pm


Good Observation of the Peter Principal (a person rises to his level of incompetence) in action. I agree. If a guy is a super position coach, try to move him up and see how he does as a coordinator. If he fails, he's still a good position coach. The tastefully named Gregg Williams being a great example. Dick LeBeau as the DC in Pitt, too, no?

I wonder what role ego plays, because I suspect Martz would make a good OC again, but would he ever take a step down? If he did, it might be a contentious, back-stabbing environment that benefits nobody but the opponents.

Regarding coaching speed, I suspect it is also difficult but not impossible to coach hitting. Some guys seem to be big hitters and some don't and coaches tend to accept that because they each have offsetting skills (be it speed or instinct or whatever) like Deion Sanders.

My unscientific cases in point, are my 5- and 3-year-old sons. The elder tackles by running next to you, putting an arm around you, and falling down to drag you down too. I assume that's standard because nobody wants to get their bell rung tackling a dad who outweighs them by 125 lbs.

But the 3 year-old hits like a freakin' ton of bricks! He positons his head, shoulders, and back so well and nails me just above the knee. He doesn't really use his legs (explode into the impact) yet, but when he does, watch out. Don't know where it came from, but it actually hurts when he hits.

It might be relatiation for his big brother always knocking him down passive-aggressive style, but maybe some guys are hardwired (Adam Archuleta, Bob Sanders) for serious hitting, just like others are for speed. Let's find a measurement for THAT at the combine!

by NF (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 7:28pm

I have not read the article, but from your description, I was guessing this was something from some small amateur sports website, and wondered if they really deserved the criticism even given the piece being as stupid as you write. Then I looked at the link.

Yep, if he works for SI and writes something that stupid, he deserves it.

Also, you can somewhat accurately do a what-if analysis of drafts 5 years after they happened based on accomplishment of the players, and the emerging needs of the team. Things that are difficult to do, even then, are analyze the draft choices based on the financial constraints of the team in the salary-cap era. Also, its hard to predict that players like Ki-Jana Carter will have a career with much potential worn down by many injuries that cause long-term damage to the players athletic ability.

Analyzing players based on their rookie year tells you almost nothing. A few first-rounders will make an immediate impact in every year. Various higher-round picks fill in on teams because of injuries or talent gaps and occasionally get noticed on a national level. But Carson Palmer was awful to replacement-level in his first two years, and this year he is playing on the same level as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. McNabb wasn't an adequate passer until 2002, and he didn't have a great season until 2004.

by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 7:52pm

Troy Williamson for the Seahawks?

I will now eat my own head.

by Steve Z (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 9:19pm

I’m a Philly fan. You have no idea how annoyed this makes me.
Well, being a Pirates fan, I’d bet I do know!

by A. Diggity Dawg (not verified) :: Fri, 12/30/2005 - 10:09pm

Re: #19:

If Heath Miller is a better blocker now, my apologies. I watched him in almost every game he played at Virginia, and he just wasn't very good at finishing off his blocks. I'll be sure to watch him play for the Steelers.

by andrew (not verified) :: Sat, 12/31/2005 - 3:36am

Ye gods... every casual glance is painful...

by Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Person (not verified) :: Sat, 12/31/2005 - 3:48am

I think every team should have drafted Alex Smith. He can play QB, TE, and I'm sure many other positions if you needed him to. Coach him up!