I think NFL draft stories with titles like, “Winners & Losers of the NFL Draft” are just about done for the time being. And I couldn’t be happier with that. I recognize the interest in such articles, and we even ran one here on Other League. But the belief in them is the biggest problem I have with them.
I went back to 20101 and found four random articles from each year through 2012 that professed to inform the readers who won those drafts … just days after completion, at best. I obviously stopped there because to try to grade the 2013 NFL draft at this point is still too early. 2012 is questionable, but I’ll allow it.
In doing this, one has to find a balance between judging the analysis on solely a performance basis vs. a process basis. I truly believe that picks can be good given the process involved, even if they flame out. However, the pure decision to grade these drafts mere hours after they end is enough to let me suspend my rule.
2010 – BleacherReport
This one seemed too easy. BleacherReport? Quality analysis? 2010? I’ll admit that their business model and execution of it was a resounding success, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the information provided.
The author, Benjamin C. Klein, may have realized what little true analysis he would provide, as the title involves the words snap decisions. Klein even notes a distinction between the winners in his current article and the likely draft winners …
“not for snap decision winners. But they both might be remembered as having the best drafts in 5 years. I personally need to wait and see with them.”2
I would argue that the wait and see approach is best for all draft analysis, but let’s see who the winners and losers were. Again, these were random selections based on a google search, while I may have gotten lucky, I didn’t pick and choose these articles to be easy prey.
The Detroit Lions were considered winners for getting Ndamakung Suh (yes), Jahvid Best (concussions – no) and Amari Spievey (out of the league – no).3
The Seattle Seahawks were winners. I’d agree with it, except this statement, “Taking into account that by using draft picks as trade material the ‘Hawks got QB Charlie Whitehurst and RBs Leon Washington and Lendale White, they too may have gotten six starters for 2010.” Whitehurst and White should not have been considered good gets.
The Oakland Raiders list as winners. Okay draft with Lamarr Houston, Jacoby Ford and Jared Veldheer (not listed as a good pick by B/R) headlining the class. However, Rolando McClain was another example of “safe” linebacker picks going wrong and Bruce Campbell is a journeyman tackle at best.
I don’t know if I would call the Cardinals winners, but I won’t begrudge the selection too much. But, I’ll give credit where credit is due as picking the New England Patriots as winners was a solid call recognizing a very nice draft, despite Aaron Hernandez’s transgressions.
The losers were decent in this article to start, but the problem with the Cincinnati Bengals draft was particularly egregious.
“The Bengals didn’t reach, they took appropriately-slotted players. That’s not the issue; the issue is that they always take risky players. Example? Jermaine Gresham’s knees, Carlos Dunlap’s character, Geno Atkin’s motor.”
Klein could have pointed out almost ANY other player that the Bengals drafted, but these three were moderately successful, with two creating a dominating defensive presence for the Bengals. The “motor” argument is on the same level of the hand size argument to me.
2011 – SBNation
Let’s streamline this a bit now that you can get a sense for my thought process.
Losers were the Raiders4 and the Seahawks. Picking on the Raiders was taking the easy way out because they didn’t have a first round pick. As is so often true in these articles, if you don’t get a sexy first round name, you lose. Having said that, it wasn’t a great draft, but I’m not sure I like the process for dubbing them a loser. The Seahawks draft was good though. With Kris Durham (a decent depth WR), Malcolm Smith (defending Super Bowl MVP) and Richard Sherman (his pick almost makes it a good draft on his own).
Winners? Oh, even better. The New Orleans Saints and the Lions. They had two good picks between them, Nick Fairley for Detroit and a late blooming Cameron Jordan for New Orleans. I particularly liked this analysis, “The Saints may have given up a lot in order to get back into the first round to get running back Mark Ingram, but it was a smart move.” We’ve seen how true it has become and how valuable running backs are these days. I forget that text lacks the subtleties of a statement dripping with sarcasm. Let me clarify, I mean that running backs are treated as less valuable than the equipment guy on a football team and are drafted as such. Just look at this year’s draft where no back was selected until the 54th pick.
2012 – CBSSports
If the draft is about getting impact talent, these winners are not winners, save for one. It’s too easy to call the Indianapolis Colts5 winners in the 2012 draft for putting Andrew Luck on their draft card. I know it doesn’t have to be smart to be a winner, but the best QB prospect in years at number one? Not rocket science. As far as the rest? The Bengals, Steelers, Packers, and Panthers.
There were a few solid picks; Luke Kuechly, Casey Hayward, Kevin Zeitler. But, these haven’t shown to be stellar draft classes yet. As much as I want to say a Richard Sherman makes a draft class, it just doesn’t. One player doesn’t make a class.
I actually agree with a fair amount of the losers at this early point, but this seems to be the most lucid process not name evaluation. Hitting the Jags for taking a punter in round three and the Browns for taking a late twenties rookie QB in Brandon Weeden, despite the classic trope of saying who they COULD have drafted if they never made a trade in a previous season.
There were also misses in here. Shaming the ‘Skins for taking a solid backup QB, though not necessarily needed, has shown to be useful. I also didn’t have a problem with the Broncos finding some insurance and a mentee for Peyton Manning by drafting Brock Osweiler.
My final point, I have a big problem with the disconnect between every writer, analyst and TV talking head saying you don’t draft for need, you take the best player available and then seeing statements like this. “It just doesn’t feel like they really addressed any of their primary needs in this draft.”
All in all, it’s much easier to tear down something like this than it is to build it and attach your name to it. I commend these writers for attempting the impossible. But, I wish more analysis of this type was measured and not done simply for clicks and at the behest of their editors.
We don’t know who won the 2014 NFL draft yet. Hell, we probably don’t even know who won the 2013 NFL draft! I’m all for discussing the draft and looking at picks we may have liked for one reason or another, but can we avoid grading and rating these draft classes before they ever put cleat to gridiron?
A completely arbitrary date and decision. ↩
In response to someone claiming the Ravens and 49ers’ drafts would be better than the Cardinals and Raiders – a safe bet. ↩