Takeaways from Last Week – April 8
They say you can’t judge a draft until after three years. I would generally agree with that statement. It’s unfair to judge a draft until at least three seasons have gone by. But I really think you have to wait five years before it’s really an accurate judgment.
By that point, most if not all of a team’s original picks have finished their rookie contracts and hit free agency. And you can really determine the strength of a draft based on how many players lasted long enough to hit free agency, and how many of them managed to earn second contracts.
For grading drafts, I have come up with a fairly simple grading system that after five seasons assigns a grade of A, B, C, D, or F to every player drafted. I’ve added examples from the 2008 class.
A – An elite or near elite player. Mike Lombardi would call these “blue chip” players. For quarterbacks, it’s modified to players that are good franchise quarterbacks. Example: Matt Ryan, Ray Rice.
B – Mike Lombardi would call these “red chip” players. They are universally considered among the better players at their position and definite impact players. They are typically among the best players on their respective teams, and would be considered so on any team. Examples: Chris Long, Jamaal Charles.
C – Solid starters. Guys that are fairly entrenched as starters and could start on a significant percentage of NFL teams. Examples: Sam Baker, Cliff Avril.
D – Backups or low-level starters. They are role players or may be starters, but are widely considered to be very underwhelming starters: Examples: Felix Jones, Early Doucet.
F – These are players that are out of the league. Examples: Kentwan Balmer, Chevis Jackson
I try not to overemphasize their most recent performances, trying to look at a player’s five-year career as a hole.
So far I’ve looked at the 2007 and 2008 draft classes, looking at where they were at the end of 2011 and 2012 seasons, respectively. After this upcoming season we should be able to judge the 2009 class. Here’s how they stack up with number of players with each grade.
It’ll be interesting to look at what the 2009 draft looks like after this season when we reach the five-year deadline. But it’s interesting that the 2007 and 2008 have very similar numbers. That simply could be a coincidence, but if we see the 2009 draft shift towards similar numbers, it would be hard to argue that is still merely a coincidence. And we could start to assume that in general drafts produce roughly the same amount of talent. What differs is not the overall talent brought into the league, but which teams do the best jobs finding that talent.
You could use this rating system to assign a Grade Point Average per team to judge how well they drafted by assigning four points for an A, three for a B, etc. For 2008, the Saints wound up with the highest GPA, averaging 1.50 points per pick. Carl Nicks was their A-level player, and Sedrick Ellis and Tracy Porter were C-level players. DeMario Pressley gave them credit for a D-level player as he was on injured reserve with the Bears this past year. Taylor Mehlhaff and Adrian Arrington were Fs. What’s interesting is that none of those players (assuming Ellis is not re-signed) are currently with the Saints.
If you’re curious to how the Falcons 2008 draft graded out, it placed 7th with a GPA of 1.18 points. Jacksonville had the worst draft with a GPA of 0.20. The only player that did not receive a F grade among the Jaguars five picks that year was Quentin Groves, who was a backup with the Cardinals last year before signing with the Browns last month.
What is going to happen to Tim Tebow? Nobody appears to want to trade for him. I’m sure the Jets are waiting for the phone to ring in order to pull off a draft day trade. But that phone is probably never going to ring. So they will likely cut him after the draft and he’ll be a free agent.
Then what happens? Someone has to sign Tim Tebow right? With the read-option being so en vogue someone is going to want him to be at least a backup, right? Jacksonville doesn’t want him. Seattle doesn’t appear to be interested. San Francisco just traded for Colt McCoy, so they are probably out.
It’s interesting how much things change. Tim Tebow was a phenomenon just a year ago. Now, nobody wants him. It would seem that because of the accoutrement that comes with acquiring Tebow is probably scaring off a lot of teams that would love to have a player of his caliber as a backup.
Because let’s face it, Tebow is a terrible passer. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. But he can still win games. There are backup in this league that are much better passers, but are incapable of winning games (here’s looking at you Brady Quinn). But if a team was to acquire Tebow, you better be firm in your resolve about your starter, and he better be comfortable with your faith in him.
And I don’t think there are many quarterbacks in the league that fit the latter. It’s somewhat of an ego-driven position, because in order to play at a high level there has to be some level of ego that pushes you forward. And think about this, when Peyton Manning showed up in Denver, whether implicitly or explicitly, it was clear that Tebow had to go. If Peyton Manning wasn’t comfortable with looking over his shoulder to see Tebow’s face, then who else could possibly be?
It’s all probably going to lead to New England. I think we are all just waiting for the Jets to dump him, so that Belichick can scoop him up. Then he’ll plug him when Aaron Hernandez gets hurt, and we’ll expect some sort of magic to happen because that’s what we’ve come to expect from Belichick. But why not San Diego where he can rejoin Mike McCoy? Charlie Whitehurst is the lone backup there. Philip Rivers is basically under a one-year audition or they might move on.
Honestly, I’ve spent several minutes over the past few months daydreaming about the possibility of Tebow joining the Falcons and being convinced to move to tight end where he becomes the heir apparent of Tony Gonzalez and grows into a great player. It’s a pipe dream, of course.
But I’m an unapologetic Tebow fan. I have been since that day in September 2008 when he stepped to the podium after losing to Ole Miss and promised they would not lose gain. And they didn’t, not for another 22 games until Saban and Alabama got them in the SEC Championship the following season. That earns a great deal of respect in my book and frankly can’t see how anyone else can’t respect that. If that doesn’t earn your respect as a football fan, what can?
Now I know there are a good deal of readers of this site that are Georgia fans or follow other SEC teams, and out of principle must hate Mr. Tebow. I understand that.
That aspect of fanhood is always interesting to me. Take for instance, Drew Brees and the Saints. As Falcon fans, we are supposed to hate the Saints. They are our biggest rival, and have been for a number of years. Since I can remember, and I’ve been a Falcon fan for over twenty years, whenever one team is good, so is the other. When one is bad, the other is right there with them.
Brees is a good player. I personally have been a fan of Brees since his days at Purdue. Thought he got a raw deal early on in San Diego, and loved the fact that he turned around and basically gave them the finger after drafting Philip Rivers by playing his butt off the next two seasons. And with what has happened over the past seven years, has an entire fan base in Southern California wondering “What if” I’m sure similarly to how Falcon fans felt many years ago in regards to Brett Favre.
Now I wouldn’t expect everybody to feel that way. But I would expect everybody, Falcon fans alike, to acknowledge the fact that he’s a great player and an eventual first ballot Hall of Famer. And his seven-year stint in New Orleans is about as good as you’ll find from any quarterback’s seven-year span in NFL history.
If you acknowledge that and then say, “Screw him because he’s a Saint.” Fine, I don’t have any beef with that. But on the other hand, I would have a problem with someone that won’t even acknowledge his skill level simply because of the team he plays for.
Because you know what that makes you if you think that way: a racist. Because that’s exactly how racists think. You’re not judging a person on the merits of their character, but simply because of their skin color. We as human beings cannot control what we look like. That is embedded in our DNA at the moment of conception, or for those of you with a different worldview: some higher divine power. We can however control the type of people we are.
So when a person basically dismisses Brees “character,” i.e. his ability as a quarterback, simply because he’s wearing the “wrong-colored” uniform, it sets off a warning system in my head. And it’s hard for me to fathom that sort of mental process that can arrive at that level of thinking is limited solely to football. They probably think along similar lines in other walks of life. And myself being of African-American descent might be a bit more sensitive to that than your average person. But I will try to distance myself from those types of thinkers as much as possible.
Now you could certainly be a racist and think Drew Brees is a good quarterback, so it’s not the defining litmus test. But if you don’t believe Brees is a good quarterback because of the team he plays for, it probably makes you a racist. Or some sort of “ist” that regularly hates on another group of people just because they merely exist.
And what many of you Falcon fans may not know is that Brees came very close to being a Falcon. After the debacle that was the 2003 season where the Falcons quarterback depth was tested to its limits, the Falcons were on the lookout for a backup quarterback. At that point, the Chargers were ready to give up on Brees after a poor season, and new Falcons GM Rich McKay was very close to pulling the trigger. The deal fell apart, presumably because the Chargers wanted a bit more than the Falcons were willing to give. Ultimately the Falcons settled on Matt Schaub in the third round of the 2004 draft, and the rest is history.
That, in my eyes is an interesting what if scenario. What if the Falcons had acquired Brees back in 2004? Vick gets hurt for a game or two, Brees fills in ably. Then he hits free agency the following year, and probably gets a starting opportunity elsewhere. So Brees as a Falcon probably doesn’t have a huge impact. But it does mean that Matt Schaub winds up being picked by the Rams in 2004, who were very smitten with him at the time. His career path and potentially that team’s path goes much differently. Maybe Brees lands in Dallas who signed Drew Bledsoe in 2005. Or Detroit, who picked up Jeff Garcia that same off-season. Or Cleveland, who grabbed Trent Dilfer via trade. Maybe the Dolphins land Brees instead of Gus Frerotte. Maybe Jon Gruden signs him to compete with Brian Griese for their starting job. Maybe in 2005 with Brees gone, the Falcons draft David Greene to be the backup quarterback behind Vick and Ty Detmer. Or Kyle Orton, Dan Orlovsky, Adrian McPherson, Matt Cassel, etc?
But it certainly has ripple effects here in Atlanta, New Orleans, San Diego, and potentially several other cities. Maybe he would have went to Cleveland, and languished there under Romeo Crennel for a few years and never became a Hall of Famer. Maybe he could have helped turn Cleveland around and given them a consistent winner. This man may be the only person to ever know.