The big day is now just one day away. Are you ready for some football?
Yes, oh, yes, I am ready for some football. The only football event I’ve covered since I got here was the scouting combine in Indianapolis, but that was nearly two months ago and the annual burst of free agency that gets us through March and the final days of winter were replaced this year by labor unrest.
I hate labor unrest. I want some mini-camp. I want some OTAs.
First, of course, it’s the draft. I thought it would never get here.
Yeah, I like this kind of party, baby. I like “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane,” “gotta look good in the shower,” and all of those wonderful draftisms the scouts use that make the draft the most flavorful offseason event in all of sports.
We laughed nearly 30 years ago when ESPN announced it would televise the draft live and nonstop. What will they do between picks, we laughed? Hey, now they’re even doing it on radio.
So, in keeping with the craze, here’s another draft column. The subject of today’s column is: Five things you shouldn’t do in the draft.
1. Draft little guys early and big guys late—Nothing will disease a team’s roster quicker and more completely than wide receiver fever. You gotta get the big guys early because, as the late, great Giants GM George Young so elegantly described of his “Planet Theory,” there are only so many men on the planet that big and when you have a chance to get one, you gotta take him. Want proof? Look at the drafts of the expansion Browns and Texans. Where are the big guys? No big guys mean lots of sacks on offense and not many sacks on defense and that’s a formula for losing. Yeah, there are those wide receivers that are so special that they are worth a high pick, but there aren’t many of them and if you decide to take a swing at one of them, you must accept the fact that the bust percentage for first-round wide receivers is off the charts. Meanwhile, the hit percentage for offensive linemen gives GMs a warm, fuzzy feeling the day after the draft.
2. Think you’re one player away—Why do so many teams think they’re a player away from the Super Bowl? Why do so many teams that earned a spot in the top 10 by being a roster away from the Super Bowl think one player can change all of that? OK, there are those teams at the bottom of the order that might, in fact, need just one more piece to put them over the top and a trade up might produce that player, but the cost can be excruciating and teams that think they’re one player away are often teams that are at the end of their rope and are desperate to take one more swing before age collapses their run. Don’t do it. Don’t make the mistake of mortgaging your future by trading away picks for one pick. Don’t think in terms of this draft, think in terms of every draft. The draft is a collection process. When executed properly, it provides an even accumulation of talent that gives your roster chronological order so that it can sustain the team’s performance over all years, and not cause up and down cycles that require rebuilding.
3. Draft to sell tickets—It is the act of the truly woebegone. They have no fans and they soon will have no players if they draft salesmen instead of football players. Name one player that sold tickets because he lost games. Hey, Michael Vick sold tickets in Atlanta, but Vick’s talent made him worthy of the selection. You pick talent first and if you’re lucky the guy you pick will be a draw, but never pick a guy you believe will sell tickets but you’re not sure about his talent.
4. Draft for the same need—Some guys will become so obsessed with addressing a need that they end up drafting the same guy over and over. I’ve seen it. The need for a shut-down corner is followed by the selection of three cornerbacks in six rounds. Those teams often discover that they manufactured prospects, which caused those teams to seek safety in numbers. Hey, one of these guys has to be able to play, right? Wrong. The need for an impact pass-rusher is the common example. First round, second round, third round; they keep picking pass-rushers because they became so wired up about drafting a pass-rusher that pass-rushers are the only guys they studied and their board is overloaded with them.
5. Trust somebody else’s rankings—If you do that, then why even do your own rankings? Still, it happens. After months and months of work at assembling a board and targeting prospects, the week of lies leading up to the draft, all of which are intended to soften those that lack confidence in their own work, create doubt and re-working of those boards. All of a sudden, players start to rise and fall based on comments shrewdly made by personnel men on other teams that have their eye on a particular guy and know they need to make him fall to have any chance to draft him. Rank ’em and pick ’em. Don’t worry about what others say, especially what Mel Kiper and the legion of draftniks will offer in the way of post-draft grades and critiques.
Here’s the big do: Be true to your board.
If you scouted the prospects properly, your board is your friend. Trust him.