In the 1999 NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams selected Dre Bly in the second round of the NFL draft. He helped them win a Super Bowl and was a two time pro-bowler. In retrospect, no one would blame the Rams if they had picked him in the first round.
In the 2005 NFL draft, the St Louis Rams selected OJ Atogwe in the third round of the NFL draft. He was the 2008 team mvp, and was franchised by the team in 2009. He is one of the greatest ball hawking safeties in the NFL. In retrospect, no one would blame the Rams if they had picked him in the secound round.
In the 2009 NFL draft, the current Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers selected Clay Matthews III with the 26th overall selection of the first round. He has been selected to pro bowls both seasons in the league, had 13.5 sacks in 2010, and made the game clinching play for the Packers in their Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In retrospect, no one would blame the Packers if they had picked him with their initial first round pick, the 9th overall pick.
And that's the problem with the selection of Lance Kendricks. If he turns out to be a top flight tight end, everyone will go back and say that the front office made a great pick. But the draft isn't just about how a player turns out; it's also about what price a team paid to get him.
In the examples above, if those teams had reached a round up, five years later, they would have been told they made great picks. But the 1999 Rams would have missed out on future Hall of Famer Torry Holt if they had used their pick for Dre Bly. The 2005 Rams would have missed out on Ron Bartell. And the 2009 Packers would have missed out on B. J. Raji.
No one would have blamed those teams for picking those players earlier. But because all three teams maximized value with those picks, they ended up with two great players instead of just the one that they would have had.
By now, everyone knows Kendricks's potential. His college coach raves about him, saying “he’s playing as good of football as we’ve seen at that position" after a win over Arizona St last September. That's big praise coming from a guy that has coached three tight ends that are currently in the NFL(Travis Beckum, Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham). His 40 time was as low as 4.50. He's considered to have great hands. He has the potential to be a good-to-very-good NFL tight end.
But the NFL draft is about maximizing selection value. The Rams selected Lance with the 47th overall pick. The highest pre-draft grade I could find for him was 78th overall, which is where the Rams picked in the 3rd round. No one else was as generous. Our beloved mockingthedraft.com had him as the 9th rated TE and the 148th overall player. That would make him a borderline 5th round choice. According to VanRam, the Rams had Kendricks rated about the same as DJ Williams. And Williams ended up going in the fifth round.
I loved the pick of Robert Quinn(obviously). I like both of the wide receiver picks as well. And after watching a highlight reel of Mikail Baker(here), I am as excited for him as I am for any of our picks after Quinn(we haven't had a return man like him since Tony Horn).
But Lance Kendricks was a pick that deserves an F grade. It's nothing against him, nor a knock on his talent. It's a knock on the front office. Their job is to maximize value, and with this pick, they did just the opposite. No matter how good or bad Lance Kendricks ends up as an NFL tight end.