Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I don't usually use the d-word, but...

You know you're a douche when even your agent calls you a "goddamned drama queen":

And yes, I realize that complaining about media coverage of Favre while linking to an article about Favre is ironic, but none of it would be necessary if he wasn't such a douche.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

How many idiots does it take to make a bad draft pick?

My answer: one.

On the other hand, it takes a lot of idiots to make a good draft pick.

And at the heart of this discussion are Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy and why I'm OK with the Vikings not drafting either one of them, even with their pressing long-term needs at quarterback.

Confused? Good! Now, let me explain.

First, when I say "good" or "bad" draft pick, I mean that a player was drafted lower (good) or higher (bad) than he probably should have been. By this definition, Peyton Manning wasn't a good draft pick. He was picked #1 overall, which was probably about right. The same goes for Adrian Peterson, who was the #7 overall pick, and could arguably be called the #7 best player in the league right now. Similarly, Sam Manuel, the last pick of the 1996 draft who never played a game in the NFL, wasn't a "bad" pick -- he was picked right about where he should have been.

Now consider someone like Troy Williamson. #7 overall, has done squat in his NFL career...clearly a "bad" pick. On the flip side, there's the #199 pick in the 2000 draft, Tom Brady. He was a "good" draft pick.

Most teams probably had Williamson much lower on their draft boards than #7. But the Vikings, thinking themselves "smarter" than everyone else, had him pegged very high and chose him with the #7 overall pick. In other words, it can be argued that 31 of 32 NFL teams were "smart" about Williamson, and it only took one "idiot" team to overdraft him and make him a "bad" pick.

Now, look at Brady. Every NFL team passed on hi, multiple times. Clearly, this was not a good decision. The Patriots finally picked him -- making them the "smart" team and the other 31 teams "idiots." Even so, Brady is an anomaly. 6th-round draft picks don't normally go on to Hall-of-Fame careers. Nobody was commenting on how Brady was a "steal" when he was drafted. 30 of 31 teams didn't even want him on their roster, and the Patriots didn't even care to expend a pick on him until the draft was nearly over.

Clearly, the Patriots did well by drafting Brady. But it's not like they possessed some kind of prescient knowledge that he would go on to the type of career he did. If they did, they would have drafted him much earlier. At most, they were hoping for a capable backup and, perhaps someday down the road, Drew Bledsoe's replacement.

All of which brings us back to Clausen and McCoy. The Vikings could have drafted either player but chose not to do so. Instead, Clausen went #48 overall to the Panthers, while McCoy slid to the third round and was picked in the #85 slot by the Browns. Along with Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow, who were taken before the Vikings' first draft pick, both were considered potential future franchise quarterbacks. All four were featured extensively on ESPN, including a "QB school" run by Jon Gruden, where he broke down each QB.

My question is: If they're so good, how could every NFL team pass on them -- some multiple times?

Yes, not every team needed a quarterback, but I count about 17 possible picks before Clausen went and 25 before McCoy was drafted by teams that could have potentially gone after a QB (including several by Cleveland before the team took McCoy). If these two players are so good and were, according to many draft "experts," undervalued and "steals" by the teams that picked them, then why did it take so long for them to be drafted? I clearly didn't spend weeks breaking down each player, but I came away from his session with Gruden unimpressed. Both might be decent QBs -- and certainly better than what the Vikings look to have under center in 2011 -- but I don't think we "missed out" on either player. Chances are that both of them were "decent" draft picks, picked right about where they should have been.

(And only time will tell if the Denver Broncos were smarter than the likely 31 of 32 NFL teams who didn't think Tim Tebow was worthy of a first-round pick. Given those odds, I'd be pessimistic about Tebow's chances.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2000 Draft Revisited

We all (OK, I) like to talk about how silly it is for the NFL pundits to grade the draft hours, or even minutes after teams have made their selections. We all (really, all of us!) know that you can't give a team an A- or a C+ or an F on its draft until several years have passed and those rookies have turned into All-Pros or unemployed free agents. Unfortunately, nobody ever really keeps track of what the draftniks of the world have had to say and hold them accountable for their predictions of draft success.

Yeah, I'm gonna go there.

Here is Peter King's draft report card from the 2000 NFL Draft. After 10 years, I think we can get a pretty good idea of how these teams actually did in the draft. To evaluate the draft, I'll be using Pro-Football-Reference's Approximate Value (AV) system to sum up the total value of a team's draft picks. AV is a decent measure of overall value of a player, whether he's a quarterback, offensive lineman, safety, tight end, whatever. It's not perfect, and, for purposes of tracking the draft, it doesn't account for players who leave a team via trade or free agency, but it's a reasonable way to measure draft success, and, since the draft was 10 years ago, most players taken in it have played the bulk -- if not all -- of their careers, giving us a good measuring point to determine their overall success.

Here's the draft list, sorted by AV, with Peter King's placement listed first and the team's top pick, as determined by AV:

KingTeamTotalAVTop PlayerAV
14NY Jets280John Abraham68
6Green Bay257Chad Clifton61
23Chicago235Brian Urlacher97
11San Francisco212Julian Peterson64
7Pittsburgh199Plaxico Burress66
19Denver196Deltha O'Neal47
16Baltimore188Jamal Lewis69
15NY Giants183Cornelius Griffin59
9Tennessee172Keith Bulluck68
2Seattle168Shaun Alexander68
8New England167Tom Brady104
17Arizona156Thomas Jones58
31New Orleans156Marc Bulger57
12Jacksonville153Brad Meester50
25Minnesota146Chris Hovan57
21Carolina131Deon Grant54
18Cincinnati131Neil Rackers45
1Oakland131Sebastian Janikowski50
24Indianapolis128Marcus Washington53
13Philadelphia111Corey Simon47
4Washington111LaVar Arrington61
10Cleveland110Dennis Northcutt41
22Detroit96Reuben Droughns27
20Kansas City96Greg Wesley38
28St. Louis94Brian Young42
27San Diego87Damion McIntosh39
29Atlanta66Mark Simoneau31
5Buffalo64Sammy Morris26
3Tampa Bay60Cosey Coleman27
26Miami59Todd Wade39
30Dallas34Mario Edwards24

The biggest issue with AV, IMO, is that it doesn't rate kickers (or punters), and there were three kickers and one punter who were drafted in 2000 -- first-rounder Sebastian Janikowski (Oakland), along with Neil Rackers (Cincinnati), Paul Edinger (Chicago), and Shane Lechler (Oakland again). I decided to go with a very simple rating of 1 AV per 20 points scored for each of these kickers. The very best players ever in the NFL have AVs around 150-200 for their careers (Jerry Rice is 250), and that would put the best kickers -- the ones around 2,000 career points at about 100 AV, which seems fair for kickers. As for Lechler, I semi-arbitrarily gave him an AV of 40 -- less than Jano, but still appropriate, I think, for a guy who's been probably the best punter of the last 10 years.

Some observations:
  • It's not hard to rule the roost when you have four #1 draft picks, as the Jets did in 2000. None have gone on to truly spectacular, HOF-worthy careers, but the foursome of John Abraham, Chad Pennington, Shaun Ellis, and Anthony Becht have a total AV of 208, which would be enough for fourth place alone -- not bad for one round!
  • Lechler and Jano save Oakland from having a truly abysmal draft; without my AV assignments to those two, the Raiders would have mustered just 41 total AV from their other picks, good for #30 (of 31) on the list. Still, they were probably a tad overrated by King.
  • Meanwhile, King's worst draft grade went to New Orleans, and probably deservedly so. Marc Bulger never played a down for the Saints; without him, the team's total AV drops to a mediocre 99, with Darren Howard (42) as the only notable.
  • Several of King's lowest grades -- St. Louis (28), San Diego (27), Atlanta (29), Miami (26), and Dallas (30) -- actually do rank among the worst drafts of 2000. Dallas' picks are especially putrid. Admittedly, they only had five picks, and #49 was their highest, but still... only sixth-rounder Mario Edwards made any kind of NFL impact.
  • King doesn't think much of Chicago's draft. "Brian Urlacher had better be great," he said, and he is, at least when he's healthy.
  • "he'll be a better pro than Ron Dayne" is what King said about Shaun Alexander. Uh, yeah.
  • His opinions of Tampa Bay's and Buffalo's drafts, though, were a little overly optimistic. "Cosey Coleman's an eight-year starter after Randall McDaniel retires," he said. Not bad -- Coleman started for six years with the Bucs and Browns. Then he said, "Corey Moore, will be one of those classic Bills picks (they always get a very good player after the first round, every year), the kind of player GMs will regret passing on." Moore played two years in the NFL, one for Buffalo and one for Miami.
  • One very good player can really skew a team's overall ranking. If not for Tom Brady, the Patriots would have had a total AV of 63, and their best player would have been Greg Randall (17).
  • Tee Martin and Danny Farmer also get big props for Pittsburgh.
  • The "uninspired" Vikings draft turns out OK. Unfortunately, Chris Hovan and Fred Robbins wind up playing much of their football outside of Minnesota, forcing the team to rely heavily on free agency for much of the decade, with mixed results.
Anyway, King's analysis of the draft is pretty much what you'd expect: some hits, some misses, overall reasonably good (as anyone can do just by observing draft position and possessing some football savvy) but generally uneven. And, like the Buffalo observation, a whole lot of "this guy is a hidden gem"-type commentary that's easy to ignore when the guy doesn't pan out (which happens 99% of the time) and is highly recounted when it's right. Shame he didn't get on the bandwagon of that Brady guy. Still, I suggest you read the full article if, for nothing else, a trip down nostalgia lane.