Excitement. Anticipation. Mystery. Anxiety.
No, I’m not describing the latest action movie, I’m talking about the NFL Draft! And this does not just apply to fans; there is also some intense emotion inside of every one of the 32 team Draft rooms. I have seen a complete range of emotions expressed as I worked in these Draft rooms over the years, ranging from absolute bliss to utter frustration, from complete shock to confident satisfaction. And honestly, I have come to expect nothing less.
The NFL Draft is a culmination of two years worth of work. Scouts have been tirelessly crisscrossing the country compiling and analyzing every possible piece of information about every college football player eligible for the NFL Draft. They have written reports breaking down every aspect of the athletic talents of these graduating college football seniors (and the dozens of juniors declaring for the Draft). The result is that teams know JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING there is to know about every player. Allow me to name a few random examples:
- Number of pancake blocks
- Changes in the Degree they are Pursuing
- Parents’ Marital Status
- Number of Speeding Tickets
- Relationship Status
- Positions he has Played throughout his Career
- Any Bone that has ever been Broken in his Body
- And the list goes on…
Teams are fully prepared, and rightly so! They are investing millions of dollars in building the future of their respective teams, and to make mistakes in the NFL Draft ultimately leads to failure on the football field. It goes without saying that the professional football industry is unforgiving…
Games Lost = Jobs Lost
So the entire Front Office of every team has remained focused in preparation, knowing full well that difficult decisions will have to be made. They cannot afford to make poor choices.
However, even with scrupulous planning, things will not go ideally. Most often, the NFL Draft unfolds much differently than anticipated. Unforeseen circumstances present themselves, unbelievable opportunities arise, and prudence is tested. Things will not go as planned.
Twists and Turns
Listed below are just a few of the events occurring on Day 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft Thursday night that most of us never saw coming. But there are reasons, and my inside experience can shed some light on those reasons. Lets explore:
It comes as no surprise that Miami jumped up to select defensive end Dion Jordan, whom they apparently felt they absolutely HAD TO HAVE. This happens numerous times in every Draft. A team feels that the player it covets will be selected by another team, so it trades up in front of the team(s) it sees as threatening. The Dolphins felt the obvious threat of Jordan being selected by the teams right after the third pick.
2. The Race for Arms
The NFL has placed a premium on the quarterback position, and this fact always shines through in the NFL Draft. Usually a team trades up in the first round to select a quarterback that nobody else expected to go that early. Quarterbacks go early simply because having the RIGHT quarterback in place can put a team over the hump and into Super Bowl contention for a decade!
But this year was SURPRISINGLY different as the the only quarterback taken was E.J. Manuel by the Bills. While he may have been taken a bit early, he was the only quarterback selected. I was shocked to see no teams trade up into the bottom of the first round to select an available quarterback.
3. Follow The Leader
Analysts always predict that a “run at a position” will happen. This occurs when a team desperate for a certain position sees players at that position being selected repeatedly. For example, this year 6 offensive linemen were chosen in the top 11 picks!
Teams often have numerous players grouped at the same position with very similar grades. So a team will say that they want to be sure to get 1 of the 4 offensive linemen in the grouping with its pick. If the team sees these offensive linemen being taken, it may try to trade up to make sure it can select one of the offensive linemen in the grouping of 4 before they are all gone. This year there was not even an opportunity to trade up: The teams sitting at the top of the Draft wanted the available offensive linemen.
4. Betting The Farm
Remember the bounty of picks the Falcons gave up 2 years ago to trade up and select receiver Julio Jones? Sometimes a team will have a strong conviction about a player as the perfect fit for their system. They believe his skill to be so great that the impact he has on the team will catapult the team to greater success. When this is the case, the team is willing to give up a “king’s ransom” to trade up for the player. Yesterday that team was the Vikings. They traded back up into the first round to draft receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, and they gave up four picks later in the Draft for this right.
5. The Two-Step
Sometimes a team feels that the player it covets does not warrant being selected at its pick. This team feels that no other team has the player graded quite so high. It believes it could get the player later in the round, so they are very receptive to offers to trade down. It appeared to me that Oakland was that team this year as they moved down from pick 3 to pick 12 and still selected the player it targeted: Cornerback D.J. Hayden. This is always risky but rewarding.
6. The Stretch
This is the scenario that every media ‘analyst’ loves to critique! You will hear them claim that a team “absolutely reached” on a player and “should not have selected him that early!” Sadly, they are only right about this a small portion of the time. For the most part, teams usually stick to their grade boards, and they do not select players sooner than their grade warrants. But every now and then we see an overzealous coach or a worrisome owner or an egotistical general manager make a ‘powerplay’ decision and truly reach for a player. It appears that happened yesterday with the Chargers. New General Manager Tom Telesco likely felt some internal pressure to acquire a cornerstone offensive tackle. With the top three tackles going very quickly, the Chargers had no feasible opportunity to trade up. Instead, they stayed put at pick 11 and selected tackle D.J. Fluker much higher than any other team would have dared!
7. The Slide
Brady Quinn. Aaron Rodgers. Need I go on? There is always a player that slides. In short, everyone recognizes this player’s talent, but for whatever reason he does not get selected. Maybe it’s an unknown injury situation, maybe it’s a hidden character flaw, or maybe it’s just that teams had more pressing positional needs. Whatever the case, he falls down through the first round, and all he can do is helplessly watch and wait. This happened again on Thursday, and two teams were able to cash in on fantastic players. The Bengals got great value with tight end Tyler Eifert at pick 21, and the Vikings got a supreme talent with Sharrif Floyd at pick 23.
Similarly, it was especially difficult to watch quarterback Geno Smith yesterday as he sat there pick after pick waiting for that phone call telling him he was selected. Sadly, that call never came for Smith or linebacker Manti T’eo.
8. Go Fish
There are times when a team will find itself in an unfavorable scenario. All the players of interest are gone, and there are no players left with a grade high enough to warrant being selected. But the team also has received no worthy trade offers, so they are forced to select the best player available and hope for the best. I’m no expert, but that appeared to be the case yesterday with the Packers. With the selection of Datone Jones, I believe they are simply praying for the best!
My favorite pick: Barkevious Mingo at pick 6 by Cleveland. Specifically, I see amazing change-of-direction, great hands, and tremendous burst in him.
My bust pick: Cordarrelle Patterson at pick 29 to the Vikings. I see Patterson as a tall lanky pass catcher that lacks agility. He may be able to catch jump balls, but he does not run crisp routes; he does not show any ability to separate; he lacks some burst, relying solely on his top speed; and he doesn’t use his hands well to get off the jam.
What Did You Actually Know?
Nobody could have predicted things to unfold the way they did last night. (I actually had 6 of the 8 of the items above accurately titled and described without specific names before the Draft had even begun. That is only possible because some things happen every year: It is just difficult to predict the teams, players, and pick numbers.)
So maybe some foresight can be applied, but ultimately the good Personnel departments are set apart from the bad by the players they select. Those scouts, coaches and executives that made the right decisions will be rewarded for years to come. Those that missed the mark likely will be shown the door sooner than later. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, all we can do is watch these players develop over the next decade. So sit back and enjoy as the craziness of the Draft continues to unfold today and tomorrow!
Comment below on who you think was the steal of the draft, who could be the next bust and if you think your favorite team made the right move. Make sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @SportsNetworker