Thursday, April 12, 2007

Real "Myths" of the NFL Draft

Todd McShay of (by way of by way of ABC by way of Disney by way of a cartoon mouse on a steamboat) recently wrote a little ditty intending to "debunk" some perceived "unspoken rules" of the NFL draft. Unfortunately, these "rules" (or "theories" or "myths" or whatever you want to call them) sucked. Not because McShay wasn't correct in his assessment of their value, but because they weren't really "myths" at all. In order for something to be a myth, someone must believe it. No one I know has heard of the "myth" that offensive tackle is the safest position or that safeties and tight ends aren't worthy of higher picks or that cornerbacks are devalued because of the chuck rule. In fact, that last one is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Cornerbacks are valuable because they are good. If you have a great cover corner like a Champ Bailey and you need a corner, are you going to not draft him and take an Offensive Tackle instead because the chuck rule might make the defensive back less effective? If a player is talented, you take him because he's better than everyone else. No matter how much they change the rules, it's still helpful have a cover guy who is better than everyone else. So in keeping with my neverending desire to shoot my mouth off about everything draft related, I'm going to provide people with some actual myths, or at least stupid things that people do when analyzing drafts. So sit back and let my words massage your mind.

Myth No. 1 - Draft Experts Are Good at Mock Drafting
If we were as successful at our jobs as draft experts are at theirs, we'd be fired or incarcerated. In a pretty decent article written 3 years ago, Art Bietz (ironically of reviewed just how wrong the first round Mock Drafts are (in 2003 experts were right 10% of time, or were 90% wrong). My friend is a dentist. If he was wrong (or even close to wrong) 90% of the time, he'd be working in Mexico.... and probably doing pretty well. If you think that Dietz's sample size is too small, look at last year's draft, Kiper only got 4 picks correct and that's giving him the Ngata pick, which he had to the right team at the wrong slot. And that's all that Mel does!. Anyone can learn all the players' names and read statistics from a sheet in front of them on draft day. It would seem the skill--assuming there is one--is in correctly identifying what a team should and will do with their pick. If you can't do that, are you really analyzing anything? And if you aren't analyzing anything, what are you doing? Reading aloud?

Myth No. 2 If you pick the same position in the first round two years in a row, you can never select that position in the draft ever again. Ever.
This "myth" strikes me as the dumbest myth ever. The theory goes that if you draft a position too many times in the first round and it doesn't work out, you should take anything but that position the next year. As laid out in an earlier post, Detroit is facing this situation this year. The reason cited by the experts as to why the Lions can't pick Calvin Johnson is because they've failed in the past in picking WRs. So the logic is that because you need something and you've failed to get it, you should stop going after it, EVEN IF IT'S THE SAFEST PICK IN THE DRAFT? Isn't that the exact reason they SHOULD pick Calvin Johnson? Yes, the Lions need a ton of help on defense and sure their best move would be trading down, but that's not the discussion here. The only thing I'm pointing out is that to argue that the Lions can't take a receiver because they've drafted shitty receivers is insane.

Myth No. 3 - All Teams Draft Alike
This may seem completely logical but the way the draft experts setup their mock drafts almost NEVER takes into account the different ways in which teams draft. Experts usually evaluate drafts in two ways: 1. Best talent; or 2. Team needs. The fact is, some teams just draft differently. The Pats ALWAYS take a defensive or offensive lineman and usually do it in the first round. Now the reason the Pats go that route has a lot to do with the type of value available at that slot, but as an organizational philosophy they tend to load up on young talented lineman and scrap together the rest of their team through free agency. Regardless, every year, the powers that be peg them to take a corner back or linebacker. This year will be no different. The Pats have two picks in the first round and I guarantee you that if Jarvis Moss is sitting there at 24, the Pats are gonna take him even if whichever above-average defensive back they are "supposed" to take is still left on the board. Then you have a team like the Buffalo. They're run by a bunch of out of touch octogenerians and you have NO IDEA what they're going to do, so trying to predict their moves based on team needs or talent is useless. There is no way in HELL they take Patrick Willis despite their dire needs at linebacker. They just won't, so let's move on.

Myth No. 4 - Pre-Draft Rankings Have Value
This probably belongs in the "Draft Experts Stink" section, but I think it deserves its own paragraph. The order in which the positions are ranked will not even be close to the order in which they are selected. Outside of the top QB and maybe some other players who are off the charts (like Calvin Johnson), the player rankings are useless. The players will not be selected according to the rankings and the players at the top of those rankings will not outperform those below them. The truth is a kid like Kevin Kolb is just as likely to be successful as Brady Quinn, and Michael Bush or Lorenzo Booker are just as likely to be picked right after Marshawn Lynch as Antonio Pittman. You always see a guy who is listed as the No. 3 corner or Tackle slip into the middle of the second round and then shit the bed in the NFL while the guy projected as the 7th or 8th best guy gets picked ahead of him and stars (see Logan Mankins). The rankings have much more to do with crunching numbers than actual potential impact. This provides the reader with nothing more than it would if they were ranked based according to height. If you're going to rank the players in terms of value, give us something we don't know to justify it. Do you want to know why Brian Leonard is going to be more successful in the NFL than Marshawn Lynch? I'll tell you why: Because he gives a shit, has a chip on his shoulder and is as unique a talent as any fullback/h-back that has EVER come out in the draft. I don't give a shit if Lynch can run faster and made some linebacker from Stanford look stupid. He's a prima donna, he's got serious character issues and he's a major injury risk. So don't tell me that a kid like Leonard has less value than Lynch. I won't believe it. Anyone can put these rankings together. They don't mean shit and they are as reliable as anything anyone else could put together.

Final Myth - There is any accountability for being wrong about draft picks
This goes for both experts and those who actually pick the players. As pointed out above, there is no accountability for draft experts. They could be a million percent wrong, and they'd be doing the same thing the next year. And I don't fault them for it. I'm entertained regardless. Just don't tell me these guys are "experts" when they are never correct. The greater point is that there is no accountability even for those whose JOB it is to pick the players (the GM for lack of a better title) are rarely held accountable. Matt Millen is pretty much the only person who seems to get any notoriety for making bad picks. Think about it, other than Scott Pioli and the head coach / gm combos like Holmgren and Parcells when they were doing it (and maybe AJ Smith and Ernie Accorsi before he retired), can you even name 5 other GMs in the NFL? The head coach and the player are the only ones held accountable for draft picks and player development. Eventually, even the GM gets fired when there is mass turnover or failure, but that's well after players are released and the head coaches are fired. Why do NFL front office gents get a pass? It doesn't make sense. Shouldn't they be held MOST accountable? I'm not sure if this is actually a myth or not because the idea that front offices are held accountable for draft mistakes is about as believable as the story about Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials dying after mixing pop rocks with Coke.

Maybe these were more misconceptions than "myths" per se, but seeing that McShay's "myths" were even shittier, I feel comfortable with calling them myths.

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