Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pre-Draft Thoughts

As we all wait for the most exciting selection meeting EVER, I have a few ideas rattling around my noodle. Lucky you, you get to read them, after this annoying little Interfeed speed bump...


I know that there are always plenty of trades, and that makes things juicy for geeks like us and confusing for people like my dad. But rarely does anyone move at the very top of the show anymore, and that's a damned shame. The reason is that you have to pay top-ten picks an obscene and undetermined amount of money. Smart teams (the ones that actually win games and draft late in the first round) hate to shell out big bucks to unproven talent. Dumb teams (the ones that hold a seemingly permanent seat in the first dozen selections) would be better off with an array of good picks as opposed to one premium gamble--a gamble that often backfires.

The solution, friends, is a rookie salary cap. The NBA has one, and it works great. Every team, and every kid hoping to get drafted, knows exactly what each spot is worth. Clubs can build their budgets around that number, and if necessary trade up or trade down with exact dollar figures in mind. No one holds out, no one has to calculate the difference between a quarterback drafted at No. 1 versus, say, a linebacker taken there.

Plus, fuck rookies. Why should they have any leverage at all? There's nothing wrong with taking a kid who has a unique skill and making him a millionaire, but why should Kellen Winslow be the highest-paid tight end in the history of the league before playing a game? Again, going back to the NBA: Rookies there make plenty of coin, but the huge green comes with the second contract. Professional athletes actually earning their salaries by playing professional sports? Brilliant!

If that were in place this year, the Lions could trade down for multiple picks with ease. And teams that are legitimately one player away could move up--while paying a price--to roll the dice. But with cost certainty and no chance of a holdout, the wheeling and dealing could commence.


For some reason, I was listening to the sports talk yesterday. And for some reason, Maurice Jones-Drew was sports talking. Turns out MJD is a pretty serious draftnik, and he said that if he were a GM, he'd never select a QB first overall, or even in the first round. The pint-sized dynamo, himself a steal in Round 2 in 2006, would only take a behemoth from the O-Line or D-Line.

His reasoning was twofold. First off, the game is won and lost in the trenches, everyone's heard that. Secondly, though, a big ugly who's not as good as advertised on draft day can still contribute to a team, while QBs who fail to match their hype are simply busts. Bad tackles can become passable guards, bad defensive ends can find a spot in a rotation (cough, Jarvis Moss). But a bad signal-caller can only hold a clipboard or get cut.

Look no further than Robert Gallery. He was a can't miss left tackle coming out of Iowa in 2004. The Raiders took him second overall and, well, he missed. A year later the other Bay Area team committed a similar whiff, as the Niners snagged Alex Smith. Now Alex Smith and Robert gallery are both lousy, and in hindsight neither should have been allowed anywhere near the top of the first round.

Difference is, Alex Smith will most likely spend the 2009 season and beyond doing something other than playing football. Robert Gallery, meanwhile, will start on an NFL offensive line for the sixth straight season. He's been moved to right guard, where he's extremely overpaid and no threat to make a Pro Bowl. But he can still play somewhere. After all, every team needs a warm body to block for extra points, and Alex Smith can't exactly fill that role.

Well played, Maurice.


Uh, that would be Josh McDaniels. Coach Doogie has, in four short months, replaced a Hall of Fame coach, given pinks slips to most of a defense, run a star QB out of town and wrested nearly all the authority in the franchise from an owner who vowed to make his next coach stick to X's and O's, not dabble in personnel.

Most rookie coaches have a bit of a honeymoon. If things don't go so well out of the gate, they can always lean on the excuse that they had to impose their system on the last guy's players. Well, almost every fingerprint Mike Shanahan left on this club has been washed clean. This is Doogie's baby, and with ten picks in the next two days, he'll either knock this draft out of the park or crash like the Hindenburg. There will be no middle ground.


I'm sort of thinking that Kansas City wins more games than do the Falcons in '09.