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NKySteeler
04-23-2010, 11:04 PM
Alright... Here's a decent read for some entertainment!.... :lol:
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Why Your NFL Teams Draft Strategy Sucks
By Joe Lindsey
April 22, 2010

Ever feel like your favorite NFL team acts like a bunch of awestruck fanboys come draft day? You might be right, and we have the stats to prove it.

There are lots of philosophies about drafting, but two general rules that many teams agree on are: Never pass on a franchise QB, and always take the best player available, regardless of team needs.

But the two draft maxims may be mutually exclusive. The NFL draft is riddled with first-round busts including a bumper crop of so-called franchise QBs. That may partly be due to the age-old tendency to chase offensive production and points.

And that means that teams may perennially overvalue not just quarterbacks but the other two traditional “skill” positions: wide receiver and running back. (That’s not the only bias; a recent BYU study found that teams routinely overrate running backs and receivers from BCS conferences compared to non-BCS schools.)

It all begs the question: Are teams better off drafting skill positions high and paying for pedigree, or low where they come cheap and you can hedge with multiple picks? Recent history may be some guide.

To the numbers!

In the 2009 draft, 12 skill-position players went in the first round. By contrast, 2008 saw just six QB/RB/WR taken. (The NFL’s mock draft predicts six skill-position players taken in the first round tonight, while Scouts Inc. features five skill players in its top 32 rankings.)

Of the 2009 crop, every single skill player drafted in the first round saw action in at least eight games, even Michael Crabtree, who missed the first five regular-season games due to a contract holdout.

(Aside: See what I mean by fanboys? Most observers think Crabtree wouldn’t have pitched quite as big a tantrum if the Raiders hadn’t inexplicably gone goo-goo eyes over Darrius Heyward-Bey at seventh overall, three spots higher than Crabtree. Heyward-Bey saw action in 11 games. Total stats: nine catches, 124 yards and one TD on a contract with $23.5 mil guaranteed over five years, which puts him on pace for just over half a million bucks per catch, before taxes. Nice work if you can get it.)

But teams often push first-round picks hard in order to get their money’s worth (every non-skill player also saw action in at least eight games, excepting three who were injured). The question isn’t who gets on the field as a rookie or even how much, but who’s still there several seasons later.

A better comparison, then, would be what happened to the first-round picks of 2003 to 2007, who’ve had the benefit of at least three full seasons to grow into the pro game, and enough time to beat the average three and a half season NFL career.

Granted, it’s a small sample size, but statistically, the evidence suggests that drafting non-skill players in the first round is a better bet than skill players. It’s even more pronounced in the first 10 picks, where teams award the most expensive guaranteed contracts that could hurt them most in the salary cap if a player is a bust. (See: Raiders, Oakland.)

From 2003 to 2007, skill-position players taken in the first rounds ended up regularly starting in 2009 (*) at rates of 25 percent (2003), 69 percent, (2004) 75 percent (2005), 62 percent (2006) and 60 percent (2007), for a five-year rolling average of 54 percent. If you throw out the high and low years, it’s 64 percent.

That’s compared to non-skill players, whose starting ratio in 2009 was 63 percent (2003 and 2004), 75 percent (2005), 80 percent (2006), and 90 percent (2007), a five-year average of 75 percent. Take out high and low and it’s still 73 percent.

(Note: two players in the 2004 draft are out of football for reasons outside their control. Kenichi Udeze had leukemia in 2008 but survived. Sean Taylor was shot at home by burglars. Both players were full-time starters in their final seasons, and if you include them the 2004 starting percentage for non-skill positions is 74, which pushes the overall averages to 76 percent each.)

Among top 10 picks, the disparity is even more pronounced. Just 61 percent of the top 10 skill-position picks from 2003 to 2007 started regularly last year. Among other positions over the same time frame, that jumps to a whopping 83 percent of first-round picks who started for their teams last season.

NFL coaches and GMs aren’t stupid. So why do they continue to use high first-round picks on skill-position talent knowing that, statistically, they are less likely to work out and more prone to screw the team on the salary cap?

The simple answer is probably the lure of success. Of the teams that won the last 10 Super Bowls only one, the famously nonstar-oriented New England Patriots, have steered clear of first-round skill position players (their only skill pick this decade was RB Laurence Maloney in 2006).

And several of those teams — the Steelers, Colts, Ravens and Giants — have found their current franchise QBs via the first round (the Giants in a trade with the Chargers).

For all the high-profile busts, there is also the chance of finding a singular generational talent who can propel a team to greatness (and, not coincidentally, fat profits). No position exemplifies this more than QB.

In the last 20 drafts, QBs have been the first overall pick 11 times, and second overall pick three times. Many of those players — Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Michael Vick for three — have brought little but pain to their franchises. But there have also been the Mannings, Carson Palmer, Phillip Rivers and Donovan McNabb.

This year, the fateful first pick belongs to the St. Louis Rams.

They need help, well, everywhere. They just released their starting QB from last season, Marc Bulger. That’s led most to suspect they’ll take Sam Bradford, the consensus top QB in the draft this year. But the Rams have a slim receiving corps (their top pass-catcher last year, Donnie Avery, ranked just 74th in catches and 69th in yards), so there’s no one for Sam to throw to.

On the defensive side, the team acquired free agent Fred Robbins in the off-season, but Robbins is an 11th-year veteran. Their only other DT of note is Ryan Clifton. The second highest-rated player on most draft boards? Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And it so happens that other than Suh and Bradford, the other consensus top pick is Gerald McCoy, a DT from Oklahoma who’s actually rated highest of the three by Scouts Inc.

Statistics say that Suh or McCoy is the safer pick. And with the news that the Steelers are reportedly shopping troubled but talented QB Ben Roethlisberger, there’s always a chance that the pick-laden Rams could pick up Suh or McCoy with their top pick and then package second picks to deal for Big Ben.

Will they? Despite the Rams’ recent history in taking QBs off the scrap heap and getting great results, word is that they’ve already rebuffed the offer.

(*) Methodology:

- Compiled from official NFL draft and player statistics at nfl.com for 2003 to 2007 years.

- There are many metrics of player production. For purposes of this argument, I’ve chosen whether a player started in 50 percent or more of his team’s games in the 2009 season. If a player lost all of the 2009 season to injury but started 50 percent or more in 2008, he’s counted as a starter. Similarly, if a player lost part of the 2009 season but started the majority of the games he did play, he’s counted as a starter.

- As noted above, two first-round picks I know of are now out of football for reasons beyond their control. Players whose playing time came to an end due to factors within their control such as behavioral issues (i.e., PacMan Jones) or because of football-related injuries are counted as nonstarters.


http://www.wired.com/playbook/2010/0...ucks/#more-853