As we approach the NFL draft in April I thought it might be a good time to look at some myths and misconceptions that seem to pervade comments and opinions from many different sources.
The "safest" player in the draft
I am not even sure what the notion of the "safest player" in the draft truly means. My guess would be that it is the player with the highest floor, hence the least likeliest to bust. Is there really such a thing as a "safe" pick in the draft?? These are 20 year old kids coming out of college into the NFL, with limited experience as adults, let alone experience in a professional sports league. The bust rate in the first round of the NFL draft over the last ten years is estimated to be around 50%. None of the above sounds very "safe" to me. I suppose that Chance Warmack must be considered the "safest of the unsafe". The other thing that disturbs me is that being a "safe" player to draft is considered to be a plus attribute in some people's evaluation of that prospect. However, if I am Les Snead or Jeff Fisher you can bet I am looking for the "best" player, not the one that is least likely to bust. I am also looking for a player with the highest ceiling.......not the highest floor. Any GM who doesn't have the confidence to pick this way probably shouldn't be part of a draft team. Picking a "safe" player, to me, is akin to trying not to lose instead of trying to win.
BPA (Best Player Available)
Speaking of "best player", I hear the expression BPA used a lot to describe one of the more prominent and, apparently, most sensible strategies for drafting players. I couldn't disagree more. I will give you an exaggerated example to illustrate the point I am trying to make. We pick at 16 and 22 in this years draft. The BPA at 16 is CB Dee Milliner and the BPA at 22 is QB Geno Smith. Should we pick them because the BPA strategy suggests we should?? Of course not. If the Rams did this, half of the fan base would be on the way to the hospital on draft day suffering from cardiac arrest. But if Chance Warmack and Kenny Vaccaro were the BPA at 16 and 22, no one would so much as flinch if we drafted them. What is the difference between these two players and Milliner/Smith? Warmack and Vaccaro would both be picks that fill a need and/or make sense (especially when you consider blocking schemes, our reliance on the power running game and the presence of Kaepernick and Wilson in the NFC West). The concept of BPA takes on an entirely different meaning when followed by "that makes sense" or "that fills a need". Those additional words are the major reason the Rams traded down the second pick in the draft last year. Griffin was the BPA at the second pick. The Rams already had a franchise QB in Bradford. Picking the BPA made no sense in this case, nor did it fill a need. BPA should really be named either BPATFAN or BPATMS. Or a combination of both. Now THAT is the best draft strategy.
Draft pick trade value charts
I have seen a lot of mock drafts (mine included) that have the Rams trading down for additional draft picks. In many cases the fairness/quality of the trade is validated by the mocker by using the point systems prevalent in trade value charts (ex. we trade down a first round pick worth 1000 points and get back a second round pick worth 580 points, a third round pick worth 320 and a fourth round pick worth 100.....voila.....an equal and fair trade). It is also presumed that the NFL front offices use these charts as a tool to help determine values. Aside from using the chart as a minor reference (probably one they created themselves), I can't see how front offices would place much stock in them come draft time. These are the reasons why I question the use of these trade charts: 1/ Many mockers who use these charts will overvalue their importance relative to how much NFL teams value them. 2/ Most of the charts were devised well before the new CBA and salary cap rules. First round picks are far more valuable now than before the new CBA came into effect. Why? The new rookie wage scale is dramatically lower now; it is less of a financial burden to sign first round picks and to not take a big cap hit in doing so. Sam Bradford's contract will tell you all you need to know in that regard. Most value charts do not reflect any of these developments. 3/ Each draft is completely different in composition. For instance, this years draft is thought to be deep but not loaded with first round talent. It follows that the charts would have to be altered to reflect the composition of this draft (ie. first round picks would be given less points and later round picks more points). 4/ At any rate draft day trades are not valued by a point system. Trades are conducted using a common economic principle known as "fair market value". The definition of fair market value? Fair market value is what someone is willing to pay for something and what another is willing to accept in return. A good example would be the Rams trading down the 6 pick in last years draft to Dallas for their 14 and 45 picks. Many thought the Rams did not get enough in return for that number 6 pick. The draft pick trade value charts showed that we should have received a fourth round pick in addition to the second round pick. Why didn't the Rams get the extra pick from Dallas? Because the trade was made using the principle of fair market value. The Cowboys were willing to give up their second round pick only. There were no better offers from other teams. The Rams decided that their offer was a fair one and willingly accepted it. Trades are made on draft day using the principle of fair market value.
40 Times and college stats
40 yard dash times, hand size, height, weight, bench press reps, arm length and on and on ( and in the case of Janoris Jenkins, given his proclivity for more than one woman, likely measuring his endowment). A bewildering array of measurements. It is my belief that far too much importance is placed on these measurements (particularly the 40 time) by fans, mockers, football analysts, even some scouts and head offices in the NFL. I can't count the number of times I have read and heard things like "Kyle Long will have to be shifted to guard because his arms are too short", Matt Elam does not have ideal size for the safety position", "you can't teach speed" or "we will have to wait to see his 40 time at the combine". Don't get me wrong, I have been guilty of saying and writing these things myself. Nor am I discounting the need to perform due diligence in this area of evaluation. I just believe that far too much emphasis is placed on these methods of evaluation when it comes to determining a players draft stock. The same applies to player stats. Getting 20 receptions for 300 yards against Shermanville Southern Tech College can easily pad the stat line. The quality of opponents can vary greatly, even at the FBS level. Offenses can stack 4 wide receivers against a secondary that has one quality defender. Stats should be carefully analyzed in evaluating a player; for in many instances they can be deceiving. An example would be safety Phillip Thomas of Fresno State. He has climbed up draft boards and is now touted as a possible second round pick. One of the reasons for this climb is the fact that he led the nation in interceptions with 8. It is presumed that he is quite the ballhawk because of this. However, his interception total is somewhat deceiving. 5 of the 8 interceptions were against 3 weaker teams from weaker conferences, teams that had a combined record of 9-27. Some of the more important questions when evaluating a player are: Is he a quality football player or more of an athlete? Is he a good fit for the team (personality and scheme-wise)? Does he have the mentality, heart, drive and maturity to be successful in the NFL? Does he have an understanding of/ have good instincts with regard to the position he plays? Does he have a high football IQ? Does he have a little bit of a mean streak? Can he hit hard and create turnovers? Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens (and no doubt Jeff Fisher) are perhaps the best examples of putting these thoughts into practice. They are less concerned about the physical attributes of a player; far more attention is paid to their attributes as a Football Player. Jason Smith is the poster child for the rationale I am describing here, a player who was drafted more because of his physical attributes than for being a football player, one with the mentality to be successful in the NFL.
Don't draft a running back in the first round!!!!
The question that begs to be asked here is : Why not??? I guess I am just an old-timer....I look back on my years of watching Steven Jackson, Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson play football and have some pretty fond memories. They were all first round draft picks. The two answers I see most often nowadays for not drafting a running back in the first round are: the running back position does not have as high a positional value as it did ten years ago, since the rule changes favour pass-happy offenses; and that a Pro Bowl running back can just as easily be found in the later rounds. I agree with those answers to some degree, but not to the extent that it should preclude the Rams or any other team from drafting a RB in the first round. Here are the reasons for my assertion: 1/ The notion of excluding a RB from consideration in the first round contradicts the strategy of taking the BPA that fills a need. If the Rams don't bring back Steven Jackson and feel there is a need for a feature power back, then drafting a first round-worthy RB makes a lot of sense if the RB is the BPA. At least as much sense as drafting a Chance Warmack in the first round. 2/ Devaluing the running game (and by extension running backs) has become the norm in this age of pass-happy offenses. Some of the teams that made the playoffs this past season might disagree with this devaluation. Would Minnesota have made the playoffs without the MVP-type season that Adrian Peterson (a first round pick) had? At least some of Seattle's successful season was attributable to the play of Marshawn Lynch (another first round pick). Seven of the 12 teams who made the playoffs had running backs who gained over 1000 yards rushing and all 7 players were in the top 12 in rushing yards over the course of the season. Finally, I think Tampa Bay is quite pleased with their selection of Doug Martin in the first round of last years draft (1454 yards rushing and 11 TD's). My guess is the Rams would be pleased too if they had those kind of results from the running backs they chose in the later rounds. What of the argument that Pro Bowl RB's can be found in the later rounds? In the just-concluded Pro Bowl. 4 out of the 6 particpating RB's were first round picks. Jeff Fisher has stated many times that he feels the running back position is still quite valuable. That's good enough for me.........
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Your comments and opinions are always appreciated!