Thursday, April 29, 2010

NFL draft

I watched part of the NFL draft in anticipation of where the following players would go:
Sam Bradford- St. Louis
C.J. Spiller- Buffalo
Jacoby Ford- Oakland
Tim Tebow- Denver
Jimmy Clausen- Carolina
Colt McCoy- Cleveland
Which of the 4 QBs taken will have the best pro career? That’s very difficult to predict. One trend that I do not favor is throwing rookie quarterbacks to the wolves in the season opener. I say, let them sit and learn for at least 10 games then maybe give them some playing time late in games that are already decided. What does it take to make it as an NFL quarterback? First, you’ve got to be more than 6 feet tall, preferably over 6’3” and weigh more than 215. Count me out there. You’ve got to run a 40 in the high 4s or better and have a rocket for an arm with pinpoint accuracy. For example, Drew Brees can hit a bulls eye target with the tip of the football from a 30 yard distance. Then, there are the equally important intangibles such as leadership skills, instincts and ability to make decisions in a split second. If that’s not hard enough, you need an offensive system best suited to your strengths and perhaps most importantly, strong talent surrounding you in the huddle. The latter is the number one reason why I favor sitting most high first round picks especially early in their rookie seasons. The team got to pick you number one for a reason. The team sucks. It is true that players like Matt Ryan can come along and have immediate success with a team that struggled the previous year but those cases are the exception rather than the rule. Former top overall picks such as Bradshaw, Elway and Manning played as rookies and all 3 of them were awful. True, they later turned out to be Hall of Famers but there’s also players such as David Carr and Tim Couch who started for some pretty bad teams and never did live up to expectations. If the line can’t block for you and your receivers can’t get open, you won’t complete many passes no matter how good of a player you are. In a more recent example, Matt Cassel went 11-5 for a New England team that was coming off a perfect regular season. The next year, when Brady was healthy, Cassel was traded to an untalented Kansas City team and went 4-12 with much poorer stats. I doubt very much that his skills eroded that much in one year. Now, suppose Tim Couch and David Carr happened to be surrounded by Super Bowl caliber talent. Could they have been winners there? We’ll never know but I tend to think the answer is yes.
High first round quarterbacks were drafted where they were for a reason. They were outstanding college players. What are the chances that it translates to the next level? I’d say that when you consider all the factors discussed above, your chances are about 50/50. If you have the number one pick, you could end up with Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers. On the other hand, you are just as likely to get Tim Couch, David Carr or worse Ryan Leaf/JaMarcus Russell. I think there are a lot of third string quarterbacks who were drafted in rounds 3 or later that may not have been head and shoulders above the college competition but have the skills necessary to be pretty good in the NFL. Unfortunately, they usually never get a chance to play. Brady never would have gotten a shot if Bledsoe didn’t get hurt and the team was at least moderately successful.
As for Tim Tebow, a lot of reporters, and even some players have already written him off as a failure before he’s even played a down. I say give him a chance. He’s got just as much chance of success as any other recent first round QB. I’m really rooting for him too. Now that Kurt Warner has retired, we need another vocal Christian ambassador in the NFL. I commend commissioner Goodell for taking a strong stand against idiots like Roethlisberger and Michael Vick. Whether you like Tebow or not, I think you can safely say that there’s not much chance he’ll violate the personal conduct policy. True, his arm strength and delivery have been questioned which is why I would not have taken him as a blue chip choice. A late first rounder sounds about right and may work out for the best since he won’t be pressed into a starting role as a rookie for a team that sucks. In addition to unimpeachable moral character, Tebow has amazing leadership qualities and has proven to be a winner in the SEC, usually considered to be the highest level of competition at the college level. You can’t ask for much more.
Lastly, I want to address the possibility of a lockout for the next NFL season. That would really be a bad call. In my opinion, the economics of pro football are fine the way they are now. The only thing in which I have a problem is handing tens of millions to rookies who have yet to play a down. Outside of that, I see no problems at all. There is a salary cap but it’s not so burdensome that it prevents a team from being successful for many years and even the hapless Detroit Lions may only be a year or two away from being contenders if management drafts wisely. Unlike baseball, only a small amount of these large contracts are guaranteed. A-Rod got a ten year $252 million deal and if he got hurt or his production fell off a cliff, too bad. He's still paid even if he's released. Not so in football. You can cut your busts and only be on the hook for the signing bonus. I oppose expanding the schedule to 18 games. When you consider playoffs and the preseason, you are talking about a 26 week season or half of the entire calendar year. That's overkill and will lead to short careers and more serious injuires. The only major rule that I would change would be overtime. Sudden death was fine in the ‘70s when kickers were less accurate and offenses turned the ball over much more so than today. Now, I favor some form of the college system in which each team is guaranteed at least one possession with no ties.

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