Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 May 2006

Mike Tanier Chat Transcript

Click. Clack. Football Outsiders are in the house. Here's a transcript of our second draft chat from BP.com, conducted Sunday at noon in the middle of the fourth round.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 01 May 2006

40 comments, Last at 03 May 2006, 12:02pm by Pat


by brasilbear (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 9:13am

Samuel Beckett reference, does all of FO read so widely?

by Rocco (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 12:12pm

I think that was actually "Under Pressure", and not "Ice Ice Baby." Or at the least, I'm hoping to God that they used Queen instead of Vanilla Ice.

by cd6 (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 12:30pm

#2 it was "Under Pressure" so don't worry

re: overrated draft picks
My roommate is a skins fan and he always jokes that "draft picks are overrated" but I think he's just tired of me making fun of him for already being short two picks next year.

As a steelers fan, I debated whether it was better to have Santonio Holmes with a first rounder (and technically two later picks) when we could have, apparently, traded a 2nd rounder for Javon Walker. And I think I'd rather have the guy who doesn't have an additude problem and will be signifigantly cheaper. When you factor in the fact that (if you can draft well) your 2nd, 3rd rounders can turn into valuble starters at a fraction of the cost of most free agents, I think economics alone make a strong case for draft picks being valuble, and not "underrated."

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 1:08pm

The problem with thinking that draft picks are overrated is that you forget that there are two benefits to draft picks. The first is that you get a new player. The second is that the player is ridiculously cheap.

Matthew Furtek's comments were that Walker for Williams, Daunte Culpepper for Cook, and Abraham for Nick Mangold were steals from the FA receiver's point of view.

But it's not just Mangold for Abraham, for instance. It's Mangold for Abraham plus about $7M in cap space which they can use for other players. Ditto for Culpepper for Cook. Walker for Williams is actually 'Williams for nothing, considering Walker wasn't going to play no matter what.'

The main problem I have with the Redskins each year is they never are deep enough. And I think the reason for that's simple - they simply don't have the cap space to do it. The Redskins usually have a very steep dropoff from starters to backups. (*cough* 21-year veteran as a starter at the end of last year *cough*)

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 1:30pm

I'm taking a wait and see approach. If the 'Skins make the playoffs again I'll think of the draft as overrated.

The thing is... there is more than 1 way to skin a cat, and Mel Kiper and all these other draftnicks want us to believe you can build a team only through the draft.

The Redskins have been decent at developing UDFAs recently.

Antonio Pierce and Ryan Clark were both UDFAs on defense who got nice contracts the previous offseasons. Lemar Marshall, starting MLB was a UDFA. Their defensive tackle rotation has mainly been lower round or UDFAs. These players weren't necessarily drafted by the Skins, but they were picked up on the cheap. Ade Jimoh was given the nickname "burnt toast" for his 4th CB performance in 2003 and 2004, but filled in admirably when Springs went down.

The trend is continuing with the Redskins bringing in a number of UDFA LBs to compete... notably Spencer Havner from UCLA.

On the offensive side of the ball they haven't had much success with lower round draft picks or UDFAs. Rock Cartwright comes to mind... but that's about it.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 2:28pm

The Redskins have been decent at developing UDFAs recently.

The thing is that they must have lost some UFA's they wanted to other teams. That's why you draft those people in the lower rounds.

Most of Washington's overpayment in trading up was overpaying by the equivalent of a 5th-7th round pick. They should be stockpiling more of those - especially if they're having success with undrafted free agents.

Costwise, there's really very little difference between an undrafted free agent and a 5th-7th round pick. The benefit is the fact that you can't lose those players to other teams.

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 3:26pm

Ok, this makes no sense to me:

For years Football Outsiders has been championing linemen and proving that RBs are fungible.

The Texans are very deep at RB.

Mario Williams is an elite DL prospect.

The Texans desperately need DL help.

But everyone is piling on Houston's first pick, including members of the FO staff (Tanier, Smith).

Aaron, please bring some sense back to this site! Your statistical analysis is the backbone of FO, isn't there something you can do to cut through all this pedantic draft speculation? I come to FO for facts, not armchair talent evaluation.

by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 3:41pm

John, when did I pile on Houston's pick?

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 4:24pm

Looking back at Deadspin I see I was wrong, MDS. Your take seems appropriately ambivalent given the uncertainty of the NFL draft. I don't agree with the Jordan/Olajuwon comparison, just because I don't see any way of meaningfully comparing players at different positions playing different sports, but I understand you were responding within the framework of the Jordan/Bowie comparison and it's not your fault that such an idiotic analogy had been previously forwarded.

I guess I'm just looking for that one independent voice that is willing to say the Texans made a smart pick, and am amazed I haven't heard it. I'm pretty convinced by midseason a million moronic sports pundits will have disavowed ever ripping the Texans for picking Mario Williams, and'll be chattering about someone else's perceived blunder. As a journalism student few things are as frustrating as the state of modern sports media. I’m being told there are no jobs for me; meanwhile, every idiot who ever sniffed a pig skin has to beat the job offers off with a stick. Excuse me for lashing out against the good-guys.

Oh, BTW, I'm a Seahawks fan, not a Texans homer.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 4:35pm

Well, the Texans were pretty deep at DE, as well.

They've now got:
Weaver ($3-5M/year)
Travis Johnson ($2M/year)
Williams ($6M/year or so, maybe up to $10M/year)

plus Kalu, Smith, and Ioane.

That's a lot of money to dedicate to just your defensive ends.

by DD (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 4:45pm

The problem with Mario Williams being that people don't seem to think he has a big motor, and may not be worth the number one pick in any draft!

As far as the Redskins, I don't think they were an exceptional team last year. They made the playoffs, but clearly didn't stack up to the top teams. I'm sure Redskins fans are full of pride and would love to disagree with me, but they just aren't 'all that', and next year I don't see them going back to the playoffs.

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 4:58pm

It's just that if the Texans weren't going to take Bush, then why didn't they trade down? Did they have Williams rated so highly above players like Vernon Davis, Haloti Ngata, Brick and the QBs that he was worth paying the premium you pay to a #1 pick? It seems unlikely they would have a player who does have questions about him rated so highly above all those other players. So why didn't they trade down?

I think one possibility is that there is simply NO ONE in the NFL who is willing to pay the premium that you end up paying to a #1 overall draft pick. There is not one team in the NFL who considers the salary cap price of a player picked #1 overall to be worth a player who hasn't played a down in the NFL.

Which says to me that maybe it's time to rethink how high draft picks get paid. It would be real interesting to find out if the Texans had any offers and what they were for the #1 pick.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 5:10pm

It’s just that if the Texans weren’t going to take Bush, then why didn’t they trade down?
Did any team express interest in trading up.

You can only sell if there's a buyer.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 5:31pm


I think you're right. Williams got ~$24M guaranteed, and his contract is $54M/6 years standard, with a possibility of it being $62M.

That's insane. Literally, insane. Taken at face value, if he sticks around for 6 years and leaves, that $9M/year.

That's impractical: the franchise value of a DE is $8.33M/year. The franchise tender is the average of the top 5 DE salaries in the league.

In other words, even if Williams is the next Julius Peppers, he's still getting paid more than him. So you're essentially overpaying. Rookies are supposed to be cheap...

In fact, though, if you look at it: assume that $54M/6 years is about normal for what the first overall picks are demanding. No position in the league has a $9M/year franchise tender. None. Even quarterbacks are only $8.8M/year.

Now, granted, this is simplified down a bit. That $54M is backloaded, of course - the contract is probably designed to be restructured in 4 years (that, of course, has its own problems - it means you have to keep the player). But I think it's safe to say that I can understand why no one wanted the 1st overall pick. Even if you get a great player: even if you get the next Peyton Manning, the next Barry Sanders, the next whoever - you're overpaying. And that's not even considering the fact that the player might bust.

by Catfish (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 6:08pm

Re 13

Also, the Saints after the Brees signing had pretty much put their pick up for auction.

by DD (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 6:48pm

Pat brings up the age old question of why the hell is the NFL so dumb as to overpay rookies in the first place? I wish somebody could explain this. These first round picks should be slotted into an automatic salary with a small yearly cost of living adjustment. How do these unproven rookies end up making this kind of money? Why do they even get to negotiate their price? The amount of the rookie pool is already fixed by the NFL.
A number one pick deserves about 3-4 million a year at the most, in my opinion. Just enough to keep them from playing in Canada and no more!
Why does the players union look out so much more for rookies who are not even in the league yet, over veterans who are already in the union?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 6:57pm

I'v often wondered the same, DD, and the only thing that comes to mind is that Upshaw and Co. believe that huge money for the top first rounders helps drive the market higher for top tier free agents, and the salaries directed toward guys who receive the franchise designation. Given a hard salary cap, however, this means that Upshaw and Co. are working harder for the interests of upper tier players than for the much larger balance of the rosters.

by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 7:21pm

Will I don't really buy that argument. Unlike Baseball, football has a hard salary cap so any money the rookies make only serves to take money out of the hands of veterans. Teams have to spend a certain amount and the amount reamining is only that which remains after allocating from the slaary slotted for your draft picks

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 7:38pm

Hey, Jason, I just said that most veterans aren't served by this. I'm merely positing that all veterans aren't in the same boat. It is mathematically true that a rookie contract which is greater than any other veteran's at that position must benefit those veterans who receive the franchise desgination the following year.

Upshaw and Co. must be doing this for some reason, and this is as good a reason as I can come up with. Feel free to speculate yourself.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 7:57pm

These first round picks should be slotted into an automatic salary with a small yearly cost of living adjustment.

They are, for the most part. The negotiations in the contract are usually about the structure of the deal, and the incentives included.

You should be arguing that the amount given to the 1st overall pick as a contribution to the rookie pool is too large. Which I would agree with.

See PFT's recent article about how much the first overall pick could get this year.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 9:01pm

#13: Did any team express interest in trading up.

You can only sell if there’s a buyer.

That alone strikes me as all kinds of odd. If Bush really is this phenomenal, once-in-a-generation talent at RB, why would no one even make the offer? And if Houston wasn't going to take him anyway, then why would they set the price astronomically high and not come down? If they stayed inside the top five they'd more than likely get Mario anyway, and whatever picks they can get the other team to part with would be better than none at all. If there really wasn't a serious offer made for the #1 pick, I have to wonder if the coaches noticed something about Bush we haven't.

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 9:46pm

Re: 10

I don't think that Johnson, Ioane or Smith are 4-3 DEs, I think they will all move to the DT rotation. Williams moves into the mix at DE with Weaver, Kalu, Peek and possibly Babin. In fact, Ourlads scouting service has the depth chart as:
LDE Weaver, Kalu, Davis
LDT Johnson, Payne, Deloach
RDT Smith, Ioane, Malone
RDE Williams, Peek, Babin

I assume in this rotation Weaver will only play 1st and 2nd down, and Kalu will come in for pass plays. Williams will rotate with Peek, and Johnson rotates with Payne based on play knowledge.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 10:30pm

why would no one even make the offer?

Well, there's a difference between wanting a once-in-a-lifetime talent and wanting a once-in-a-lifetime talent at ~$9-10M/year.

How many teams could actually afford that? The first year cap hit would be manageable, but it would get progressively worse each year. Definitely teams on the crunch like Indianapolis could never afford Bush.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 10:36pm

And one of these years, I swear I will remember that Houston's going to a 4-3. Really.

Although the phrase "Kalu will come in on passing plays" just strikes me as all kinds of wrong. A pass rushing force he is not.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 10:52pm

Any team picking high in the first round must have cap space for the ridiculous contracts the CBA guarantees a high first-round pick, pretty much by definition. So it's not like there would be a $9-10M difference between going for Bush and not going for Bush. You're right that the cap hit would be considerable, but those teams are paying a significant percentage of that to their own first-round picks anyway.

by Zac (not verified) :: Mon, 05/01/2006 - 11:58pm

Re: Pat #20.
Sure, they could cut how much a player's value is for this year, but there are no limitations on what his value can be in future years. Really, they should standardize each year of the rookie contract (4 - 5 years at X per year, where X is based on the pick), but even that isn't without problems. You'd probably have to specify that no renagotiations are allowed for the first two years, or something like that.

by vincent (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:20am

I keep waiting for someone to demonstrate objectively that the Redskins have poor depth. Ray Brown was mentioned, but the guy was a decent starter in 04 and a better than decent primary backup OL in 05. The team has has excellent defensive depth the past two years, working through injurys to key players in both campaigns and they have three running backs who could easily start for the Jets. Last year they lacked depth at WR and responded by signing Randle El and Lloyd while still keeping Patten, Thrash and Jacobs.

Don't just assume that the Redskins don't have depth because they have fewer draft picks than the other teams and they sign lots of free agents. Actually look at the roster.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 9:40am

re.10,22 - The Texans starting D-line will indeed be Weaver, Johnson, Smith, Williams, with Payne used extensively in the DT rotation. However, beyond that it gets a bit more complicated. Kubiak has already said that for passing downs, Williams and Weaver will move inside and Babin and Peek will come in on the ends, which sounds like one heck of a scary pass-rush to me. I would also speculate that while Babin is the direct first replacement for Williams, the response to Weaver needing to come out would be to shift Williams to LDE and bring Babin in on the right. Even Peek may in practice be higher on the depth chart than Kalu.

by Craig (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 10:51am

On the rookie contract front, consider the impact of pre-determined contracts on agents... if players are slotted, do they need an agent? Maybe, maybe not.

The renegotiation issue can be helped by using voidable years... let the player achieve certain measurables, and they get the option to void a year (maybe more, in extreme cases like "Super Bowl MVP") off the end of their deal.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 11:24am

Sure, they could cut how much a player’s value is for this year, but there are no limitations on what his value can be in future years.

Yeah, there is. You can only raise the salary each year by 25% of the value of the first-year's paid money (not including signing bonuses, but including roster bonuses).

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 11:27am

Ray Brown was mentioned, but the guy was a decent starter in 04 and a better than decent primary backup OL in 05.

Yeah, I'll just have to disagree there.

Actually look at the roster.

Done that. I fully accept that Redskins fans will think the team has strong depth, but I don't agree.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 11:32am

I'll make the argument about their offensive line.

Ray Brown retired after this season. Their backup offensive tackles are inexperienced and young. Last year, Ray Brown when Randy Thomas came in and that was it.

QB Campbell is there if Brunell gets hurt (situation not unlike the Eagles from last year). Campbell is expected to get more than 50% of preseason snaps (due to QB controversy last year he didn't get much).

RB they have Portis, Betts, and Cartwright as well as a young practice squad player.

TE/H-back they have Cooley, Fauria, Sellers, and Robert Johnson.

On defense they've got Wynn, Daniels, Sala'vea and Griffin as starters with some young guys for depth.

LB they could be thin, but there are some 2+ year players around.

Defensive secondary is a little short at safety. No one was signed to replace Omar Stoutmire (who was kind've a 3rd safety type of player). I really detest the player in his slot now (Pierson Prieleau). I suppose training camp is where that gets sorted out. If Sean Taylor or Archuleta miss significant time they could be screwed, unless Williams rotates a CB into that slot.

At CB they signed someone who started for Jacksonville last year as a nickelback.

I'm fairly certain they are no thinner than other teams in these areas.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:01pm

On defense they’ve got Wynn, Daniels, Sala’vea and Griffin as starters with some young guys for depth.

There's the bit that worries me more than others (as I've stated elsewhere). Wynn: 10 years. Daniels: 11 years. Sala'vea: 8 years. Griffin: 7 years.

Backups: Clemons, former UFA (1 year) who didn't exactly do... much of anything last year. Boschetti, former UFA (2 years) who has a grand total of 8 tackles in 2 years. Killings, former UFA, grand total of 20 tackles in 6 seasons. Then Evans and Carter as the only backup DL on the team with any significant playing time. And maybe a UFA or two.

(If this is out of date, blame NFL.com and the Redskins website)

Compare this to Philly, for instance: Kearse, 8 years. Patterson, 2 years. Walker, 7 years. Howard, 7 years. So already the D-line is on average about 3 years younger, which means they're going to need the backups less than the Redskins will.

But as for backups: Bunkley, 1st round rookie. Rayburn, 3 years, 50 tackles. Jasper, 10 year veteran. Cole, 1 years, 38 tackles. Thomas, 5 years, 47 tackles. Plus a few rookies coming in. That's the difference, to my eye: the backups have experience.

Note that tackles are only being used here as a proxy for amount of gameplay, not actual production.

Am I missing something? With a DL with an average age of 9 years, you'd think you'd want to have more than just 2 backups with any experience whatsoever.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 12:10pm

QB Campbell is there if Brunell gets hurt (situation not unlike the Eagles from last year).

What? It's completely unlike the Eagles from last year (which, honestly, is a good thing. Philly in 2005 is not a QB model to emulate).

McMahon was a career backup who had seen little playing time, without a lot of upside. McNabb was a 29-year old starter. Brunell's a 36-year old QB. Campbell is hopefully a real prospect with serious upside.

And the Redskins, smartly, also signed Todd Collins in case Brunell gets hurt, which would leave them another QB with experience on the roster - unlike, say, Green Bay, which is idiotically charging head first into a season primed for disaster.

by Loose On the Lead (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 4:47pm

The Redskins didn't overpay for the #35 pick. According to the draft value charts, it was pretty much an even swap, so I can only assume they paid the going rate. Now, if you want to argue that McIntosh wasn't worth the #35, that's another matter.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 5:24pm

That's the argument - same thing for Jason Campbell last year. They could've picked him up at a few slots lower without a problem.

I guess it's possible that they knew someone was going to pick him before that, but I really doubt it.

by vincent (not verified) :: Tue, 05/02/2006 - 10:35pm


You are missing something, Andre Carter is a projected starter Wynn is the backup.

Evans and Wynn can be considered pretty darn solid backups by any definition and they both play end and tackle. Killings is a decent rotational-type player and the Redskins drafted two tackles.

I was asking for factual evidence that economics have created a thin Redskins team... I just don't see a position where they are thin.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/03/2006 - 12:33am

Note the disclaimer. Note also that I used the previous poster's line.

Regardless, just sub Carter for Wynn. It actually only takes the age of the line down a year. An 8-year average line is still old.

Killings is a decent rotational-type player

You have a really low standard, then. He had 9 tackles last year. He was cut by Cleveland once, Minnesota twice, and Washington once. This isn't what I consider 'decent'.

So that's 6 defensive lineman that are qualified to start in the NFL, 3 who aren't (or haven't been), and 2 who've just been drafted in late rounds.

That's what I would call thin.

and the Redskins drafted two tackles

Who won't have any experience, and weren't really considered strong players by the entire rest of the league. It's definitely reaching to believe both will be decent NFL tackles. One, maybe. And next year? Probably not.

I was asking for factual evidence that economics have created a thin Redskins team… I just don’t see a position where they are thin.

Huh? Did you look at the comparison with Philly's defensive line? I can grab another random team, too. Just glancing at, say, the Patriots, or the Bears, or the Giants - all of them also have players with far more experience as backups at each position.

The Giants were in a similar situation, too: four decent starters, one good backup, one very promising backup, and three very inexperienced players.

They drafted a DE in the first round, and a DT in the 4th.

I can't see how the Redskins can be considered anything other than thin at defensive line. Any injury and you're rotating in players who've never seen that kind of workload in their entire career.

As for evidence that economics causes it? Other than the 6 starting quality defensive linemen (which... is basically what you need nowadays anyway to rotate sufficiently) the remaining 3 are all undrafted free agents, likely playing for the veteran minimum. I really don't think that the Redskins would have the money to sign quality DL veterans.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Wed, 05/03/2006 - 3:09am

Whoops... sorry about missing Andre Carter, he slipped my mind.

From the Redskins.com site. This was their defensive line rotation last year.

You'll notice the two back-ups played in 10+ games last season. They also have two rookie DTs who might sneak their way in.

Boschetti played 13 games in 2005, with one start, as part of the Redskins' defensive line rotation. Boschetti joined the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent, signed in April 2004 out of UCLA.

Killings began to establish himself as an NFL defensive lineman in 2005. He was on the 53-man roster all season and played in both of the Redskins' playoff games. Killings played in 10 games, with one start, and also saw action in the Redskins' two playoff games.

Salave'a played in 14 games, with 13 starts, and both of the Redskins' playoff games. He finished the season with 50 tackles (23 solo), a half-sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Evans played in 16 games, with three starts, and logged 32 tackles (22 solo) and three sacks.

I'm not worried about their defensive line at all.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 05/03/2006 - 12:02pm

You’ll notice the two back-ups played in 10+ games last season.

The Redskins.com site is going to be a little biased. They're going to present the players in the best light possible.

Compare the Redskins defensive line to other defensive lines around the league, and they suddenly look very, very thin.

Boschetti clearly doesn't have experience. He was barely able to break the roster last year. Killings has been off and on rosters for years (including the Redskins!). Ditto with Clemons.

I'm just very confused. You need about 6 guys in a 4-man D-line rotation, right? The Redskins have 6 guys who are clearly NFL-quality defensive linemen, and I'm actually being generous to Evans, who was barely on the Cowboys roster in 2002, and cut in 2003. But he seems to have produced decently for the Redskins, so we'll call him 'NFL-quality'.

Then the remaining backups they have are all low-round draftees and UFAs who have sporadically performed their entire career.

Let's define an 'NFL-quality' lineman someone who's been on an active roster (ignoring injuries) continuously for at least 3 years, or his entire career, or a first-day draft pick. These are guys who you can expect will be able to handle the NFL. They might not (just like a UFA might be fine) but you can expect it.

Then the Redskins have 6 NFL-quality linemen, and an average starting line-age of 8 years.

Seattle has 8 NFL-quality linemen and an average starting line-age of 6 years.

Philly has 9 NFL-quality linemen and an average starting line-age of either 6 years or 4.5 years depending on if Bunkley beats Walker for the starting spot.

Chicago has 7 NFL-quality linemen and an average starting line-age of 4.5 years.

NYG has 6 NFL-quality linemen and an average starting line-age of 6.5 years or much less if Kiwanuka starts over Strahan. That's the best comparison I can give to the Redskins: and I would say that the Giants are thin on the defensive line, too.

I could go on, and on. Washington has one of the oldest starting defensive lines in the league, and they've got some of the fewest number of proven backups behind them.