SportsProf

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

NFL Draft Issues

I've re-read, at least in part, Mel Kiper's NFL draft guide, and what strikes me is how many teams draft on hope versus experience on the one hand and then experience versus combine results on the other -- in the same draft. The Eagles, for example, took two offensive linemen who aren't regarded necessarily as potential starters in the NFL, yet the Kiper-esque write-up on them is that they make the plays and did so consistently this past season. On the other hand, they took another player who was criticized for concentration lapses and whose draft stock fell precipitously this past season. Finally, they took a guy whose stock fell markedly because of an injury this past season.

My take? The draft is something of a crap shoot, isn't it? Perhaps the scouts overanalyze, because the knock on one offensive lineman was that he has short arms and the knock on the other is that his legs aren't necessarily that powerful. Yet, both made the plays all season long, and you have to figure that they're good enough football players that they can figure out how to get it done during the regular season. The other player, the kid with concentration problems, probably won't get any better, will he? Why is anyone to think that he'll fare better in (much) more complicated NFL systems than he did in his major conference? To me, the Birds drafted that guy based upon raw talent, but there are plenty of guys with raw talent who fail to make teams because their work habits are bad.

So, as to your team, look at the guys they drafted and whether they excelled. Did they make the plays? Did they score in the red zone, did they hold onto the football, did they make the plays? Could the defensive backs cover? Can they hit, can they tackle? Were they first-team all-conference? How did they actually do?

Yes, of course, some guys burn out, some guys don't get better, and some guys have yet to peak. But there has to be a better system to identify how players will project in the big-league uniform. Jimmy Johnson had one, Bill Polian has one, but most teams do not.

As for the Eagles, well, according to the article in ESPN the Magazine that I linked to within the past week, they were smart to trade down, and the pundits on ESPN said frequently that the middle of the draft was deep even if the top of the draft was not. Whether this draft harvests enough depth to get the team to another Super Bowl remains to be seen.

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