Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

The Steve Urkel NFL Draft Preview

The Steve Urkel NFL Draft Preview
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Andrew Healy

On "Family Matters," Steve Urkel was constantly screwing things up. Kind of like Daniel Snyder in the NFL draft. But without all the money. And with Reginald VelJohnson.

Since the draft is in Urkel's hometown, let's take a look at what each team might do on Thursday that would be a big mistake. Teams may not be able to beat the draft, but they sure can lose it with trades like Miami's move up to get Dion Jordan in 2013.

For the Steve Urkel Biggest Mistake NFL Mock Draft, I won't go nuts and assume any team will be dumb enough to trade their entire draft for a running back. Instead, I'll look for mistakes that teams are likely to make according to existing draft forecasts, or given recent history. The Urkel mock will think bigger in potential screw-ups for teams that have valued assets poorly in the past than for teams that have made few mistakes.

And it will also think of a range of mistakes, not just the standard fare of stats guys everywhere: the disastrous trade up. Included in the potential "Did I Do That?" moments are players teams should avoid (although the evidence will have to be pretty strong here, given how hard it is for teams to consistently find better players), trades they are likely not to make, and potential confrontations with Mel Kiper.

So that every team gets its Urkel's Boner, I've moved Buffalo and Seattle back into the first round where they would have picked if they had not made respective trades with Cleveland and New Orleans. For each team, I am assuming the draft goes pretty much to form by the consensus of the projections. The Titans' mistake would be to let Marcus Mariota pass them by, but that does not mean I assume he is sitting there for the Jets to take at number six.

1. Tampa Bay picks the wrong quarterback.
Given the stakes, it is pretty surprising how many big misses there have been among top-five quarterbacks. Projection-wise, Jameis Winston looks very Tim Couch-y and David Carr-y. While it seems crazy now to think that Winston would miss altogether, it also looked that way at the time for previous No. 1 picks. By taking Winston, the Bucs would also be passing on Mariota, who has the best passing projection in three years without even accounting for his potential as a runner.

2. Tennessee does not take Marcus Mariota.
Zach Mettenberger is very likely not the guy. In a small sample as a rookie, Mettenberger ranked 40th in DVOA. While far from definitive, that sample gave no reason to think he is anything better than the bust almost all sixth-round quarterbacks become. Given that getting a franchise quarterback can render any manner of sins forgivable (see "Grigson, Ryan"), the Titans should not miss their chance to get theirs. The Titans should run Marcus Mariota's name up to the podium.

3. Jacksonville takes Dante Fowler, Jr.
The third pick in the draft has been an analytics-ignoring dead zone the last few drafts. In 2012, the Browns took a running back (even worse was which running back they took). In 2013, the Dolphins took the aforementioned Jordan, who projected poorly according to SackSEER. Last year, the Jaguars took a quarterback who also projected poorly. This year, some mock drafts have the Jags taking Fowler, whom SackSEER likes even a little less than Jordan. The projection systems will always make mistakes, but Fowler's rating is low enough that the Jaguars should pick the highly-rated Vic Beasley if they go for a pass rusher.

4. Oakland stays put and takes Amari Cooper.
Some team is going to fall in love with Amari Cooper. And well they should. Stats and scouts agree that Cooper is the best wide receiver in this class. Last year, the Bills gave up a first-round pick for the right to take another wide receiver, Sammy Watkins, with the fourth pick. With a better receiver potentially available, the Raiders might be able to turn Cooper into a similar haul of draft value. Having given up draft value for most of a decade, the Raiders need to be trading down more than most.

5. Washington's owner takes over the draft.
No team gave away more draft value in picks in the last 15 years than Washington. While recently that has been largely due to the RGIII trade, their much longer trend of undervaluing draft picks bears some of the blame for their long run of futility. New general manager Scott McCloughan apparently wants to trade down. Here's hoping that Snyder lets McCloughan really run the show.

6. New York Jets do not trade up to get Mariota.
Yes, the general rule is to trade down. If we factor in salaries, even under the new CBA, it looks like late first-round picks are as valuable as early first-round picks. So trading up is very rarely a good idea...

...except when a franchise quarterback is in the picture. With Geno Smith failing to crack the top 30 in DVOA his first two years, the Jets likely do not have that franchise quarterback on the roster now. Mike Maccagnan has done a remarkable remodel of the team's roster, but that remodel is not in the same vicinity as complete without a quarterback. The Jets should be willing to pay the (Jimmy Johnson) market price to get Marcus Mariota. If they can get him for less, all the better.

7. Chicago does not get additional picks for Jay Cutler.
New GM Ryan Pace should consider starting off in total rebuild mode. The Bears were the second-oldest team in the NFL last year by snap-weighted age. They need to accumulate picks, and trading Cutler would help. Coming from New Orleans, Pace would have to buck the trend of his former team, which consistently traded away picks to move up.

8. Atlanta trades up to get their pass rusher.
With Scott Pioli now having more power in Atlanta, perhaps the Falcons are no longer in the market to trade up to grab their guy. That always seemed like a strange fit for Belichick disciple Thomas Dimitroff, and it would seem even stranger for Pioli. But Peter King's mock draft has the Falcons trading up to take Fowler. After Dimitroff's moves that have left the Falcons' roster thin, few teams can afford to lose picks less than Atlanta. And the Falcons may be able to grab either Beasley or Bud Dupree at No. 8, anyway.

9. New York Giants don't even consider making a trade.
Giants' GM Jerry Reese trades draft picks less than any other long-time general manager, and far less than most. He has neither traded a pick away nor acquired a pick in the first three rounds since 2009. With enough teams wanting to jump up to grab the apple of their mind's eye and one of the elite pass rushers likely still available, Reese would be remiss not to explore how much he value he could get for the ninth pick.

10. St. Louis drafts a defensive player.
The Rams have the youngest defense in football by snap-weighted age. That defense also ranked as one of the best in football over the second half of the season, finishing sixth in Weighted DVOA. St. Louis should go with most of the mock drafts and pick an offensive lineman if they keep their pick.

11. Minnesota doesn't get their pick to the podium.
Yes, it was 12 years ago that the Vikings picked ninth instead of seventh after letting time expire. I'd like to believe the Vikings let time expire because they'd read the then-recently-released study arguing later first-round picks to be more valuable. Since they could have traded the pick, though, let's not go with that. Of course, given that they ended up with one of their only two first-round All-Pros since 2000 (Kevin Williams), maybe the Vikings should always let time expire before picking.

12. Cleveland doesn't seize the day for Mariota, either.
The Browns' run of quarterbacks since 1999 is enough to make Jets' and Bucs' fans jealous. And they have used first-round picks in two of the previous three drafts on quarterbacks, with one failure (Brandon Weeden) to go with one very unpromising beginning (Johnny Manziel). Recent reports have the Browns making a run at Marcus Mariota. GM Ray Farmer accumulated draft assets with the smart trade down last year. He should use those assets to finally get a quarterback who has a real shot to make Browns fans stop longing for Bernie Kosar.

13. New Orleans trades up (again).
Did the Jimmy Graham trade signify a turning point for Mickey Loomis in terms of valuing draft picks? Or will another player again prove too tempting when the opportunity comes? The Saints have a closing window with Drew Brees aging, but they have enough roster holes that they should avoid the trade-up trap.

14. Miami takes a receiver.
The smart trade for Kenny Stills gave the Dolphins a receiver who was ranked third by DVOA last year. With him and Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins have a young duo with upside at receiver. They need to get at least one receiver later in the draft, but they would ideally use their first-round pick elsewhere. If Trae Waynes is available, the Dolphins would be wise to take him. Miami is alarmingly thin at corner, and their best player (Brent Grimes) turns 32 in July and is likely to decline soon.

15. San Francisco does not trade down.
Trent Baalke has acquired more draft value in recent years than any other GM in football. Acquiring those picks helped build the foundation for their recent run of success. With the retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland as well as doubts about whether the 49ers are set at quarterback, Baalke is likely to be acquiring more lottery tickets this year, too.

16. Houston says no when San Diego calls to offer Philip Rivers for Ryan Mallett.
OK, that won't happen. But that would be a Maginot Line-level mistake for Houston to turn that down.

17. San Diego takes a running back.
If San Diego follows some of the mock drafts and takes Todd Gurley, they will be giving up a chance to fill more pressing needs in exchange for a running back, a position they could easily address later in the draft.

18. Kansas City trades up.
The default bad idea for a team not trying to go get a quarterback and lacking good evidence to think they can identify players better than other teams. Only three teams qualify on that score (see below).

[ad placeholder 3]

*19. Buffalo does not use its defensive line assets to acquire picks.
The Bills have about 27 percent of their salary cap tied up in four defensive linemen. Their great tackle (Marcell Dareus) has one year left on his contract. And they do not have a first-round pick. The Bills are very unlikely to win the Super Bowl given their current quarterback situation, and they will have to pay market price to keep Dareus next season. In other sports, GMs would take this opportunity to trade their asset to a contender and get prospects or draft picks in return. This kind of move should happen in football, too.

20. Philadelphia does not let Howie Roseman run the draft.
From 2010-14, under Roseman, the Eagles acquired more draft pick value than all but three teams. In the Sam Bradford trade alone, new GM Chip Kelly gave away a second-round pick and the equivalent of another second-round pick in lost cap space. Roseman appears to value assets much better than Kelly.

21, 22. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh miss opportunities to acquire value.
The Bengals and Steelers are in a juicy zone to extract value from teams wanting to move up, often to select a player they did not expect to be available. The 22nd pick has been traded in the last three drafts, so Pittsburgh should be waiting if only for the chance that Cleveland might want to take a quarterback. The Bengals and Steelers have both rarely traded picks under their current GMs. If the right ransom is offered to them, they should take it.

23. Detroit rehires GM Matt Millen to replace current GM Martin Mayhew.
OK, now I'm just being silly.

24. Arizona does not consider Brett Hundley.
With Carson Palmer now 35 and often injured, the Cardinals should be trying to find their long-term solution at quarterback. Hundley may not be that solution. Now that QBASE adjusts for his propensity for taking sacks, it gives him about a one-in-four chance of being an upper-tier or elite quarterback. Those chances are still about as high as Teddy Bridgewater's were last year, though, and high enough that the Cardinals should consider Hundley with their first-round pick. At the same time, Chris Brown's point about Hundley throwing a high share of his passes behind the line of scrimmage is an important concern that for which our projections can only partially account.

25. Carolina does not trade down.
From 2010-14, the Panthers were the fourth-biggest sellers of draft pick value, trailing only the Redskins, Raiders, and Bears. Dave Gettleman has done much of the needed recovery work, and should continue by acquiring additional picks if possible.

26. Baltimore…
OK, teams usually don't beat the draft. But let's leave open the possibility that a few teams really do fare at least a little bit better. Going back to the '90s, front offices that include Ozzie Newsome have been finding good players for basically two full decades. From 1990-99, the Bravens had the 23rd-most expected value in picks (according to Chase Stuart's chart) and drafted players who produced the 11th-most value (according to the Approximate Value the players produced in their first five years). From 2000-09, the Ravens had the 22nd-most value in picks and got the fourth-most value out of the players they selected. And Newsome has planned the compensatory pick process better than anyone. So it's hard to see Baltimore making a big mistake. Certainly not impossible, though. With his first pick as GM, Newsome did trade up to take a quarterback who completed 47.8 percent of his college passes.

[ad placeholder 4]

27. Dallas decides it's one player away.
Under Jerry Jones, the Cowboys were obviously big net acquirers of draft value through the Herschel Walker trade. Lately, the results have been more mixed. From 2000-04, the Cowboys were the third-biggest sellers of draft value. Then Jones was a net buyer for the next five years before flipping back from 2010-14. Dallas gave away a third-round pick last year to move up to take Demarcus Lawrence. They should not repeat that mistake.

28. Denver trades up.
Really, it's usually a bad idea. Although see No. 32 for a thought that also applies to Denver.

29. Indianapolis GM tells Mel Kiper (or Bill Polian) he's never worn a jock strap.
Yes, if you are of a certain age, you might not even remember that Mel Kiper became a big star even before Jerry Maguire.

30. Green Bay…
Is there any chance the Packers will make a clear mistake in the draft? From 1990-99, the Packers drafted the best set of players according to their total Approximate Value in their first five years. From 2000-09, they ranked second. They did so well despite only having the 14th-highest expected value based on where they picked from 1990-99, and the 10th-highest expected value from 2000-09.

*31. Seattle…
Not sure John Schneider makes big mistakes either. Except for that Percy Harvin trade. While I think the Seahawks paid a high price to get Jimmy Graham, he really might be the one player the Seahawks needed to get over the top. That trade leaves Seattle without a pick until the 63rd selection. Other GMs might make a trade up given the long wait, but it is hard to see Schneider feeling that kind of pressure given his success in finding stars on Day 3.

32. New England trades into future drafts.
The Patriots have taken full advantage of the premium offered to teams willing to trade picks now for picks tomorrow. Two such trades enabled the Patriots to get Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo, a pair of players whom they otherwise would not have been in position to pick. If I was a GM, I would usually be looking to make that kind of trade. But with Tom Brady's window closing, I think the yield would have to be very high to justify the Patriots giving up picks now for picks later.

In closing, I wanted to take this chance to say thanks for all the readers and comments since I started at Football Outsiders. I am so grateful for all of it and will continue to be so. Enjoy the draft.

Comments

18 comments, Last at 01 May 2015, 9:49am

4 Pretty Disappointing

To see a joke that's over a decade old instead of some insight into Minnesota's draft. There are so many ways they could justifiably (in my mind, at least) go, that I was curious to see what FO thinks the Vikings should avoid.

16 Re: Pretty Disappointing

Well, I don't think they made a mistake. Picking Waynes made a ton of sense. Anyway, next time I skip a team, I promise not to pick the Vikings.

18 I agree on Waynes. In

I agree on Waynes. In re-reading my comment, it came across a little more harsh than I meant. Your articles are good content here at FO.

5 Re: The Steve Urkel NFL Draft Preview

Roseman racked up his draft value points by trading back constantly for more Day 3 picks which were largely useless, unlike other teams who were trading back and stockpiling day 1 and day 2 picks. Assets exist to generate returns, I'd rather have a GM who knows how to create return on assets but with a smaller amount of assets, than a GM with a large pile of assets and no idea how to generate return. In my opinion, Howie was the latter.

13 Re: The Steve Urkel NFL Draft Preview

I'm only getting it in 4 minutes early enough to be prescient, but Kelly clearly has a plan to flip Bradford. If he manages a first, all of the (e.g. MY) negativity about that trade will look silly. I'm hoping to look silly.

(I still don't want Mariota, but what can you do?)

8 Re: The Steve Urkel NFL Draft Preview

The problem with trading Cutler for more picks is twofold.

One, the Bears didn't sign a stopgap QB in free agency (not that there were tons of competent QBs out there), so without him it's Jimmy Clausen or draft a guy not named Winston or Mariota and start him right away. The former is an admission that you're tanking in 2015 and the latter is a recipe for ruining whatever potential the rookie might have had.

Two, with Cutler's contract, age, and track record, no one wants to give up much of anything for him. The Bears were reportedly very interested in trading him right before his 2016 money became guaranteed and could not do it. Nobody's going to give up a 1st or even a 2nd or 3rd for Cutler and his contract. Could the Bears get rid of him and pick up an extra late-round pick or two? Possibly, but how much value are those picks really going to provide?

9 Falcons

I cannot imagine trading up when one of Beasley, Dupree or Gregory will be there at 8. I am going to throw something at my TV if Falcons move up.

I stopped reading Peter King a long time ago. Does he know what he's talking about?