So today is one of the highlights of the NFL offseason – Draft day!
For those unaware of the format, think of the Premier League and compare how teams go about adding talent to their roster.
In the Premier League, you need to find yourself a particularly wealthy owner, willing to bring the world’s finest players to their club via massive transfer fees. No guarantee of success (ask Liverpool) obviously, but you wouldn’t say it’s a level playing field between Manchester City and Burnley. Essentially, the richer your club, the greater chance of success you have.
Compare that to the NFL…
Each year the 32 teams of the National Football League are ranked in order from the previous season, with the Superbowl champions (currently the New England Patriots) being number 1 and the team with the worst record in the league (this year the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers) being number 32 & so on.
Then flip this ranking, to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers number 1, the second worst team (Tennessee Titans) number 2, all the way through to the Patriots at number 32. You now have a draft order (and a system that ensures a far more level playing field than Premier League football!).
The excitement and pressure of Draft Day was conveyed excellently on the big screen in Kevin Costner’s Draft Day (aptly named).
Check out the trailer below!
Here’s where things get interesting…
The NFL draft is the process where the best players coming out of college (College football is the feeder system into the NFL) are chosen by the professional teams. The draft order as described above, is the position where each team will pick. So the Buccaneers have the first pick of this year’s draft & can choose anyone they’d like (ideally the finest player in the draft!).
So who are they going to pick? What would you do with the first pick of all the best young players in the world for that year? Who would you choose? Why? What do you take into consideration? You’re going to be investing millions of pounds/dollars into this guy (as well as your reputation as a talent evaluator), so you’d better do your homework.
This is exactly what all NFL teams have been doing since the season ended some three months ago. They’ll look at game film of the players in action, they’ll look at their physical attributes (you really don’t want a 5 ft 4, 11 stone offensive guard lining up against a 6ft 6, 19 stone defensive tackle & expect them to protect their quarterback).
They’ll look at the psychology of the player – they may have all the athletic gifts in the world but are they still a risk? What’s their work ethic? What do their teammates think of them? Their coaches? Are they lazy & rely on natural talent? Well that won’t be enough in the cutthroat world of professional sports.
As an example from yesteryear, you have two fantastic quarterbacks coming out of college. Both are immense talents & both had incredible collegiate careers. One is a steady, solid (some may suggest, boring) character. His unquestioned work ethic & level-headed attitude make him a good bet for an excellent career at the sport’s most important position.
The other, a maverick, a potential transcendent genius who could single-handedly propel your team into heights you could never dream of. But, he has character concerns, he may not be reliable? He may be a little too much of a maverick? What do you do? Roll the dice? Often the greatest players of any sports have that natural unpredictability that goes hand in hand with their sporting genius. Think Eric Cantona, George Best or Paul Gascoigne. Would you risk it? Or do you go with the solid, steady guy – think Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker? There’s no correct answer & only hindsight will tell you if you’re right.
In the 1998 draft, this scenario played out exactly as above. Two Quarterbacks, two different characters, both exceptional talents. Fast forward to the present time & how did they pan out? Well, Peyton Manning (the solid, level-headed hard worker) was taken as the first pick by the Indianapolis Colts. Now considered as one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks, Manning has enjoyed a phenomenal career, has won a Superbowl & has passed for more touchdowns than any other QB in NFL history.
What of the other guy? Well, Ryan Leaf (the maverick) was taken with the second pick. He had a short, undistinguished NFL career, retired after only a few seasons of dreadful production, spent time in jail for burglary & substance abuse & wasn’t exactly what his team were hoping for. You can see which pick worked out well & which didn’t right?
So here we are again on draft day. Who picks who & why?
How about the first pick? Teams are always desperate to have a high quality quarterback & if you don’t have one, you don’t win, simple. Tampa Bay doesn’t have one, there’s one available in the draft – you take him, right? The answer to this is probably.
Jameis Winston from Florida State University is widely regarded as the best QB in the draft. Undoubted talent, but he comes with off-field concerns, some serious (google him & you’ll see!) and some not so (see crab legs incident). What do the Buccaneers do? What would you do? By the way, you can also trade picks with other teams, should you wish – how about you give up your number 1 pick this year for a team picking at number 10? They also give you their first round pick for next year as well – tempted? This is where the draft gets fun.
Let’s take a look at some of the decisions facing the teams this year with the first 10 potential picks. Let’s also put a Saints twist on it as well!
Pick # 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Expected Pick: Jameis Winston.
Saints comparison? QB #10 Ben Denton.
Who do you choose? The gifted Winston, with questions about his maturity & reliability? Or the high character, marginally (and only marginally) less talented Denton?
Our pick? Denton. We have to nail the first pick, there’s simply too much money at risk to miss on this.
Pick #2: Tennessee Titans
Expected pick: Leonard Williams
Saints comparison? DT #65 Deke Morton
Leonard Williams is widely considered the best player in this year’s draft. Winston only goes above him due to Quarterbacks being seen as the most important position. Williams is as close to a sure thing prospect as you could find. Deke Morton is also a sure thing – solid, reliable, with all the measurables & high character you need for this position.
Our pick? This is a tough one, but we’re going with Leonard Williams. He’s just slightly heavier than Morton & we think this extra beef could give us an advantage.
Pick #3: Jacksonville Jaguars
Expected Pick: Dante Fowler
Saints comparison? DE #99 George Wright
Fowler is that important commodity in the NFL of someone who can chase down a quarterback. George Wright has also been known to scare the daylights out of opposing QBs.
Our pick? George Wright. We’re going strictly on measurables here. At 6 ft 6, Wright just has the edge over Fowler. When the talent levels are equal as they undoubtedly are here, we’ll go with the taller guy.
Pick #4 Oakland Raiders
Expected pick: Amari Cooper
Saints comparison: WR #81 Sam Armstrong
Cooper is as polished a prospect as you could find. He represents very little risk & has enjoyed a stellar & productive career. Armstrong has too. Very little to choose between the two. Both have good hands, both lightening quick, both able to lose defenders with their intelligence & experience.
Our pick? Cooper. We received a scouting report suggesting Armstrong can occasionally suffer cramp. With nothing else to choose between these two studs, we go with Cooper.
Pick #5 Washington Redskins
Expected pick: Kevin White
Saints comparison? RB/TE #7 James Walter
White, the big, strong wide receiver who terrifies opposing defenders with a mixture of size & speed. Walter, equally speedy, equally strong & equally terrifying.
Our pick? These picks can often come down to the smallest details… The jury is still out on this one, but we don’t think we would be able to let go of Walter… Teams really struggle to stop him and even when someone does stand in his way, James has no problems trucking through them…
Pick #6 New York Jets
Expected Pick: Marcus Mariota
Saints comparison? Head Coach, Andrew Day (via trade)
Mariota is expected to be the second quarterback taken in the draft, many teams are lining up potential deals with the Jets to tempt them into giving up this pick so they can snag him. So is the Andrew Day for Marcus Mariota trade worth it? One of these two men is a tanned, bronzed, athletic beast of a man who runs 40 yards in less than 4.5 seconds & is loved like a god in his home country. The other is Marcus Mariota. That’s why we won’t be trading our beloved head coach, no deal.
Pick #7 Chicago Bears
Expected pick: Trae Waynes
Saints comparison? CB #85 James Dunstan
Waynes is one of the fastest players on the defensive side of the ball in the entire draft. At 6 ft 1 he’s also considered tall enough to man mark bigger receivers. Do we go with the faster Waynes, or the taller (6 ft 3ish) Dunstan?
Our pick: Dunstan. You can’t coach height.
Pick #8 Atlanta Falcons
Expected pick: Bud Dupree
Saints comparison? DE #76 Conor Whitehouse
Both genetically gifted monsters of men, both with enormous potential. Frankly we think you can’t miss with either on this pick, so we’re going with Whitehouse on the basis that he’d accept a lower pay offer.
Pick #9 New York Giants
Expected pick: Brandon Scherff
Saints comparison? OL #50 Clive Russell
Every player has their 40 yard dash time recorded prior to the draft. This why we’re taking Russell with this pick. The ultimate “dancing bear”, for a man of his stature to sprint like a runaway freight train is rare indeed. Sorry Scherff, but Clive’s our guy.
Pick #10 St Louis Rams
Expected pick: Vic Beasley
Saints comparison: LB #58 Spencer Duffy
Beasley’s reputation has skyrocketed this year. Some even suggest he’ll be picked in the top 5. Sadly for him, he’s only a linebacker – he cant kick field goals as well, which is why we’re going Duffy.
So this highlights some of the dilemmas facing teams on draft day. Who picks who? Find out tonight (first pick should be around 1am if you can stay up!). Which picks will work?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing…
Written by Oxford Saints Defensiveback coach Andrew Peart