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.)

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