Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Oct 2005

MMQB: Top Picks Don't Always Pan Out

Peter King today explores the way teams often pay huge money to high first-round picks, only to find that they're not worth the salary cap space. This won't exactly come as news to regular Football Outsiders readers, but King does a good job of exploring how much the Redskins are paying LaVar Arrington and how little they're getting out of him, and examining the way the second round of the draft in 2000 was almost as good as the first round, and at a fraction of the price.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 17 Oct 2005

71 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2005, 1:04pm by mactbone


by Theo (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 11:35am

I just gave a Charles Rogers appreciation party.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 11:39am

One of the things a new CBA could do, to really improve the product, is to increase the revenue percentage to veterans, in return for scaling back 1st round round rookie contracts.

by Old James (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 11:48am

King's point about the overvaluing of first-rounders is a good one, but his choice of Arrington as an illustration is curious. The guy's been to three Pro Bowls (a blount instrument for measuring value, I know), and his stats are comparable to those of other decent linebackers.

Arrington's current situation is more the result of an organizational sea change than of his own shortcomings as a player. He's a freelancer, a point King makes, playing in a conservative, highly structured system.

I just don't see how you look at a draft with guys like Courtney Brown, Travis Taylor and Peter Warrick near the top and conclude that Arrington is the poster boy for hype trumping value.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 11:58am

Well, he did mention FO favorite Ron Dayne...

by noahpoah (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:00pm

...and at a fraction of the price.

Yes, but which fraction? 7/8? 99/100? 1/23?

This is not to pick on you, MDS, but I'm feeling feisty, so I wanted to point out how much I love expressions like this one (and how they illustrate how irrational language can be).

by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:01pm

Also, Arrington isn't even on his rookie contract any more. This article is stoopid.

Also, to those few who are paying attention, Thomas Jones is a fine running back. We have no passing game, but averaged 4 ypc yesterday on a bum knee, after not practicing all week.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:06pm

Memo to Mr. King:

Corey Simon has started every single game for the Colts this year.

by Brad (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:08pm

All I can say to Mr. King is --- Duh!

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:09pm

…and at a fraction of the price.

Yes, but which fraction? 7/8? 99/100? 1/23?

it should also be pointed out that King's analysis is a bit of a circularity, i.e. you can only BE a monumental bust if you're a high draft pick

by Ned (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:10pm

Also, counting Ian Gold as with his original team is a little disingenusous.

by david mazzotta (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:19pm

2. San Diego (3-3). Fit me for the white coat. That's what you're saying, with me calling a .500 squad the second-best team in football. Well, for the new readers of this column, I remind you of two things: One, I love the Chargers. Two, I have this theory called the neutral-field-in-Wichita theory. Which is, if Team A met Team B on a neutral field in Wichita, who would win? And right now, in my mind, the Colts would beat the Chargers on a neutral field in Wichita. (Domed, Indy would hope.) And the Chargers would beat anyone else on said neutral field.

Wow. Just wow.

The Witchita theory might be relevent if the NFL scheduled games on nuetral fields in Wichita. But the I-love-the-Chargers theory raises (or lowers) the bar for inanity. King has truly outdone himself.

And people complain about the Fox power rankings.

by TMK (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:20pm

I think it's obvious that Peter King hasn't seen many Bear games this yer, or he wouldn't be saying things like Thomas Jones is keeping the seat warm for Cedric Benson.

Jones was not the answer in Arizona, but he was solidly productive last year, and has been one of the most productive backs in the league this year. Benson is this year's leading candidate for the Philip Rivers award -- throwing away a starting spot with a holdout, then finding you can't get the slot back because the "placeholder" is playing like the high draft pick he was a few years back.

How hard is it going to be for Benson to take the spot that Jones is "keeping warm" for him? Well, right now, the Bears are more willing to play Jones with a tender knee than they are Benson.

by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:20pm

Actually, noahpoah, I dislike that phrase in most contexts, too, but as I was writing this I thought it worked here because the point is sort of a broad generalization. However, I remember when I took one of those standardized tests you take in high school (I think it was the PSAT), the official instructions for the test included the words, "A correct answer will be worth one point. A question left blank will not affect your score. An incorrect answer will deduct a fraction of a point." I was outraged and demanded to know what the fraction was, and no one could tell me. How stupid. If the fraction is one-fifth, and there are four choices, you should guess even if you have no idea. If the fraction is nine-tenths, you should leave it blank if you have no idea. Being given idiotic instructions like that is one of the many reasons that it really sucks to be a high school student.

by Vash (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:21pm

Reporter: The thin air -- does that have any effect at all on players who haven't played there before?
Belichick: "I think it will be the same thickness on our side of the field as on theirs.''

And that is Bill Belichick in a nutshell.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:26pm

Re: #5

…and at a fraction of the price.

Yes, but which fraction? 7/8? 99/100? 1/23?

Reminds me of the Simpsons, when the school went to visit the Springfield Shopper newspaper.

Tour Guide: "And because we care about Mother Earth, each issue of the Springfield Shopper contains a certain percentage of recycled paper."

Lisa: "And what percentage is that?"

Tour Guide: "Zero. Zero's a percent!"


by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:30pm

SD is 3rd in DVOA after Week 6, so Peter is not so nuts. They did this last year, too: they were 7th in DVOA after Week 6 even though they were 3-3.

by Pal (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:35pm

Re: #13

I believe the fraction taken off was 1/3, so if you could eliminate one or two options, you should guess. But otherwise just leave it alone.

With regards to the article, I believe him, but using only half the rounds makes me suspicious. Was the second half of the rounds not good for his point?

by noahpoah (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:39pm

SD is 3rd in DVOA after Week 6, so Peter is not so nuts. They did this last year, too: they were 7th in DVOA after Week 6 even though they were 3-3.

Not so quick there, Aaron. Now, I won't argue that SD is indeed among the best teams in the NFL. I will, however, argue that SD's 3rd best DVOA has nothing to do with Peter King's reasons for thinking that SD is among the best teams in the NFL, at least according to his own account.

by noahpoah (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:40pm

I should have said "I won’t argue that SD isn't indeed among the best teams in the NFL."

by Clod (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:41pm

Clods NFL Indicator of the week.

SD's worst loss: 4 pts
SD's closest win: 13 pts

If anyone figures out what this means please let me know.

by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:51pm

Looking at the 2000 draft only is a little bit fishy, considering that it was one of the weakest first rounds in history, even though it did produce some studs. These teams had to pick someone. Also, I don't think passing on a pick is an option because it would really upset the fans. I'm also surprised King didn't point out that Tom Brady was drafted in the 6th round of that draft.

by Aaron N (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 12:52pm

And yet, for all the people on here bitching and moaning about Peter King, you are here on Monday morning reading and discussing him.

Enough with the haters already...

by Joon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:03pm

Re: #13 and #17

actually i'm pretty sure the fraction is 1/4 (when there are 5 choices) and 1/3 (when there are 4 choices), so that guessing randomly will not affect your score one way or the other in the long run. if you can (correctly!) eliminate one or more choices, then guessing rates to improve your score.

at least, this was the way it was back when i last concerned myself about these things, around 1995 or so.

by Murr (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:14pm

Re: #22

Actually, I no longer read MMQB or TMQ at all. I simply come to FO, and read the comment threads about them. Much more entertaining, and takes a fraction of the time.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:16pm

Joon is correct - on the SAT, the penalty for a wrong answer was 1/4 point, if there were 5 choices, and 1/3 point, if there were 4.

However, they've been rebalancing the SAT for so many years to try and raise the otherwise-declining scores that I don't know anymore. I remember that not long ago a kid would get in the newspaper for getting a 1600, and there'd be maybe one or two in the nation. Now there's well over a hundred 1600s a year, and you can now accomplish that feat while still getting answers wrong, which was not possible before.

Given that most questions had at least one completely nonsensical answer that could be eliminated, you often were better off (or equal) guessing as long as you could eliminate at least that one.


by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:27pm


What a sad commentary that Corey Simon has started all 5 games for the Colts and yet has only played like a substitution.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:31pm

Re #25: They added a writing part to the SAT so now a perfect score is 2400.

by Playit (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:33pm

Apparently all starters at all positions are worth the same as well. So that FS you grabbed in the second round and is holding down a starting spot should be paid the same as your number one pick QB or the LT that keeps him alive.

Peter glossed over so many issues its hard to take any of this seriously.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:33pm

Ok, I don't normally jump on the "Trash PK" bandwagon, but...

Its MEDLEY Peter. Unless, of course, the majority of Beatles' songs had the same melody. But then we'd be calling it Punk Rock.

by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:34pm

RE: #24

"Much more entertaining, and takes a fraction of the time."

That right there is why I love this place. That's gold, Murr. Gold!

By the way, I don't read MMQB either, just the comments.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:39pm

Wait... so even PK's *own wife* thinks he hasn't been doing a good job lately?!?

"It's like [my wife] Deanna says to me sometimes. 'I hate to see you go out this way, if this is it.' But 10 years from now, even if this year doesn't go well, people are not going to think of one bad year when they think of me.''

by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:40pm

Alright, this thing has only been up a couple of hours and we already have a Simpsons reference and a Seinfeld reference. Thanks, Tarrant and Parker.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:43pm

Okay, at the risk of sounding like a pre-compilation version of Carl:

You like listening to Peyton, do you PK? Try *processing* what you hear... It might work better than praying to find out what Mike Mularkey's determing factor with his starting QB is...

by Phil (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:50pm

Did anyone else find it odd that PK took $2 from a woman who, I think we all can agree, makes significantly less money than him? Then boasts about it?

by Clod (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:53pm

Unless, of course, the majority of Beatles’ songs had the same melody. But then we’d be calling it Punk Rock.

Punk rock has melody??

by Astro Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:55pm

Either you made a glaring reading comprehension error on #31, or you see an editing error when there really isn't one. Carl at least had something substantive to say in his run-on posts.

by MDS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 1:55pm

Yeah, it would be one thing if he were stuck in the middle of nowhere and desperately needed the $2, but when his wife has just told him she'll go to the ATM, it seems a little odd that he wouldn't just tell her that. Nice lady, though. I don't think I'd just volunteer to hand someone cash in a situation like that.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:02pm

It would have taken an extra 30 seconds, but King could have based his column around Chris Samuels and been fine.

by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:10pm


Wait… so even PK’s *own wife* thinks he hasn’t been doing a good job lately?!?

"It’s like [my wife] Deanna says to me sometimes. ‘I hate to see you go out this way, if this is it.’ But 10 years from now, even if this year doesn’t go well, people are not going to think of one bad year when they think of me.'’

Deanna is Mrs. Favre. PK was quoting Favre. Apparently Deanna thinks Favre is playing poorly.

by Glenn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:12pm

That woman was Brett Favre in drag.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:23pm

Wives are great in articles. Usually they're just brought in for the "incredibly obvious" angle or, in Dr. Z's case, a stand-in for all the people who complain about his columns that never get printed in the mailbags.

by david mazzotta (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:27pm

Aaron, the pick of SD as #3 was not so much my concern and the astounding reasoning behind it.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:29pm

Oops, my bad. I've been staring at various tax forms for the last 18 hours or so, which has apparently limited my reading comprehension. Though in my defense, that IS why I asked the question in the first place.

But I do disagree that Carl's points were *always* substantive. ;)

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:36pm

Re: #11 & 42

1 Thing I Think I Think about PK's Thinking while he Thinks about what he Thinks people Think the Rankings should be:

1. "I love the Chargers" is shorthand for:
a. They have LT, he's a monster!
b. That Brees kid ain't too bad.
c. Or that Gates guy.
d. #2 offense + decent defense = damn good team.
e. etc.
f. They sound like a fancy new espresso drink. "I'll take a Triple Grande Hazelnut Charger, please!"

by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:46pm


I dunno, with his posting frequency, I would say they're more procedural.

(Sorry, lawyer joke. Please don't hurt me.)

by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 2:49pm

King said 2 things that I can't believe nobody has brought up:

* "Warrick Dunn. He slipped and fell on a third-quarter carry at the Alamodome, got up, and bulled for six yards. Overall, I can't name three backs in football better than Dunn, try as I do almost every week."

-Hmmm: He must not know about Tomlinson, Alexander, Westbrook, Holmes, Barber, etc.

"Anybody else think JakePlummer's 1-yard right-rollout TD pass to KyleJohnson in the second quarter against New England looked eerily similar to "The Catch" from Montana to Clark?"

-Not once did I think that. Jones catch was on 4th Down and was basically a jumping catch going along the back of the Endzone. The catch in the Pats game was on 2nd down and the receiver was more diving than jumping straight up

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:01pm

Pittsburghs depth or lack thereof?

The only player that didn't step up was the backup QB. Don't knock the other reserves who have stepped up time and time again the past two years because one dumbo eared nancypants blew it.

My god Quincy Morgan even played good yesterday. Quincy freakin' Morgan.

by david mazzotta (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:07pm


I read that to mean that he had an emotional, and possibly sexual, attraction to them.

Of course, that may say more about me than him...

I think I'll shut up now.

by charles (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:18pm

The catch was on 3rd down. the montana-jones one.

by Bad Leroy Brown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:18pm

I hear you Jason.

Call me crazy but I happen to think that Clinton Portis, Edge James, Julian Jones, Curtis Martin, Willis McGahee, Carnell Williams, Lamont Jordan, LT, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, and Tiki Barber are all better than Warrick Dunn.

I don't think Warrick Dunn would be a starter on most teams in the NFL.

by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:21pm

I think Dunn is a top notch running back myself. The only backs I'd clearly take over him are LT and Alexander, right now.

by Astro Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:23pm


Yeah, I probably should have qualified my comment on Carl with a "usually."

I have a question for you based on your status as a Vegas Insider. This might not be the thread for it, so I posted it in the thread for the piece on the predictive power of DVOA. Any thoughts you have are highly appreciated.

by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:37pm

RE: #49

Julian Jones suxx.

What makes everyone think that their objective ratings of running backs are more valid than somebody elses, hmm? I love PK criticsm as much as the next guy, but let's keep it along the lines of #33. That is a fair (and hilarious) criticism.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:40pm

Re #50- I'm with you and PK on this one. FO readers should know that you can't just look at the yardage leaders to figure out who the best running backs are.

by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:45pm

"Clinton Portis, Edge James, Julian Jones, Curtis Martin, Willis McGahee, Carnell Williams, Lamont Jordan, LT, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, and Tiki Barber are all better than Warrick Dunn." -#49

If you were to trim this list to James, Mcgahee, Alexander, Tomlinson, Holmes, and Tiki, I wouldn't have an issue. Those 6 guys are all better than Dunn, according to DPAR. Also included in this list of "Guys Better than Warrick Dunn" are; Thomas Jones (#3! Take that PK!) Williw Parker, Corey Dillon, and Ronnie Brown.

by masocc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:47pm

re: #52:
Two words: Tax break. ;) Shhhh.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 3:59pm

Does anyone else see the irony in Peter King naming one of his columns "Don't believe the hype"?

Calling Courtney Brown a bust? Have you even seen him play? Ranking Indy #1 and saying their defense is for real, even though you admit they haven't played anyone? Ranking SD #2? Heck, I'll even throw in ranking Denver #3, and I'm a Denver fan (although I really can't think of a better place to rank them)! And all this talk about Denver smacking New England in the mouth? And a Brett Favre anecdote, and another "Eli is for real" assertion (how many career road wins does he have, again?), Vinny Testeverde is suddenly old a week after he found the fountain of youth... do I really need to go on? There's a word for all of these observations, Mr. King. Where I come from, we call them "hype".

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 4:04pm

So SI.com has a poll listing David Carr, Courtney Brown, Tim Couch, and Ki-Jana Carter as the four biggest busts. As of right now, Carter leads Couch by about 20 percentage points.

IMO, that's just wrong. I don't consider freak injuries to be a factor in determining one's bust status, so I don't believe that Carter should be an option. Now, Cade McClown on the other hand...

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 4:08pm

I think King's point is sound (regardless of the applicability of Arrington). Given the injury factor, you can question how smart it is to give ANYONE that kind of cash, but especially guys who have never played a down.

Look at the success Belichick has had because the Pats understand the value of a dollar. The Colts have been pretty smart about how they have drafted (although one can certainly question some of their big contracts to established stars). The injury thing is probably the reason E. James didn't get the big long-term cash.

The draft idiocy is compounded because some teams place way too much emphasis on certain positions. Anyone think the Titans are still suffering from the huge money they gave McNair and George?

by Astro Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 4:41pm

RE: 52

Nice. I laughed for five minutes. That's the price I sometimes pay for taking everyone but myself seriously.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 5:07pm

I've always been an advocate of trading down. Most of the time, those teams in the top 5 were so bad, it'll take more then one player to help them and that cap hit is a lot. I'd rather get 4-6 players who can start then betting my entire future on one player who if they don't pan out will spell a lack of competition for 3 years.

by C (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 6:03pm

You can criticize the first round in the draft, but how many current quality starting QBs not named Tom Brady were drafted in any round other than round one?

by EJP (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 6:09pm

Re: #62

Brett Favre was drafted in the 2nd round by the Atlanta Falcons.

Of course, to be fair, the Packers traded a first round pick to obtain him the next year.

by JonL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 6:27pm

RE: #62

Brees was drafted in the second round (the first pick, but still)

And I guess it depends on the definition of "quality." A lot of teams have gotten by with guys like Delhomme, Bulger, Brunell, Hasselbeck, Garcia and Trent Green, none of whom I think were drafted in the first round.

(They may not all be quality now, but were some approximation of quality at some time)

by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 6:29pm

Since it is hard to define "quality starting QBs", let's just review how many starting NFL QBs were not drafted in the 1st round.

2nd Drew Brees
2nd Jake Plummer
2nd Brett Favre
3rd Brian Griese
3rd Josh McCown
4th Aaron Brooks
5th Mark Brunell
6th Matt Hasselbeck
6th Marc Bulger
7th Gus Frerotte
8th Trent Green

BTW, Testeverde was drafted in 1987!

by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 6:31pm

See the link

by Joey (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 7:33pm

Really? All first round picks don't pan out? Wonder if that holds for later rounds, too? I guess there's no way to know...

I don't get the Arrington example, either. Seems silly to cloud the waters picking somebody who's been to multiple Pro Bowls when there's plenty of guys who've done absolutely nothing.

by Drew (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 7:57pm

Last sentence of the article --

I think they batter the Rams tonight, 36-17.

I got a chuckle about this, because it's something that TMQ harps on that bothers me too. Why 36? How about 35? One doesn't just pull 36 out of the air. It seems like he must be predicting a 2-point play or 5 field goals. Yes, it's a minor beef, but why someone would predict 36 is beyond me. My prediction for this evening -- home team wins, 25-4.

I will give him kudos on his thing he thinks he thinks point #8. People seem to already be expecting too much from Bruschi's impending comeback.

by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/17/2005 - 8:47pm

But Bruschi is sooooo underrated! How can he be overhyped?

by Daniel (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 9:35am

I don't understand why PK is so down on draft hype and busts. We need the Ryan Leafs to act as a contrast to the Peyton Mannings. Didn't TMQB link to a study done by economics professors at Harvard that analyzed the cost effectiveness of the NFL draft and found that it actually penalized the teams with the top picks?

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 1:04pm

PK says this in his latest mailbag:
"But Bruschi is a football player. As much as anyone I know, that's who he is. Does anyone tell an auto-racing driver, who's at far greater risk than a football player, not to race? A boxer? I'm not being flippant here."

Has he ever seen Muhammed Ali? What about the boxer who recently died, Leavander?

It's stupid to say that nobody ever tells boxers that they're risking their life. It's even more stupid to assume that someone who has suffered a serious injury has less of a chance of injury or death than a normal healthy person.

It's great that he has been cleared to play and it's obviously his decision but it looks like a risky one and I don't think it's wrong to point that out.