Lesson to be learned: Don’t overvalue prospects just because they play premium positions
NFL front offices have become obsessed with those who play quarterback, those who protect quarterbacks and those who attack quarterbacks.
The first six picks of the 2013 draft were all either offensive tackles or edge-rushers; a pass-rusher, offensive tackle and quarterback went 1-2-3 in 2014; two quarterbacks and a sack artist were chosen with the top three picks in 2015; same deal in 2016; and a pair of defensive ends sandwiched a quarterback atop the 2017 draft. cheap custom nfl jerseys
Ndamukong Suh is the only player who doesn’t play any of those three positions to be drafted first or second overall since 2010.
The problem is teams have been passing on higher-quality players at less vital positions in favor of flawed tackles and edge-defenders at the very top of the draft.
The 2013 draft class isn’t pretty, but the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins all probably regret taking tackle Eric Fisher, tackle Luke Joeckel and edge-rusher Dion Jordan, respectively, with the top three picks.
Fisher is a solid starter at left tackle for the Chiefs, but Joeckel’s career might already be over after busting in Jacksonville and Dion Jordan is now a reserve in Seattle after recording just three sacks in Miami. None have sniffed a Pro Bowl.
Arguably the most valuable player from that class is center Travis Frederick, who went to the Dallas Cowboys 31st overall because nobody takes a center in the top half of the first round these days. But all of those teams would have been better off with Frederick, or cornerback Xavier Rhodes (25th overall) or wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (27th).
Fisher and Joeckel always needed to add a ton of strength to become elite blind-side protectors, and the raw customized nfl jerseys cheap Jordan had to do the same. They were all projects, but they still went 1-2-3 because the class stunk and they played high-demand positions.
The St. Louis Rams made the same mistake taking offensive tackle Greg Robinson second overall the next year, despite the fact they could have taken great players at lower-demand positions (wide receiver Mike Evans, receiver Odell Beckham Jr., defensive tackle Aaron Donald (whom they were fortunate enough to select 11 picks later at No. 13), guard Zack Martin and linebacker C.J. Mosley, to name a handful).
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly explored the dynamics of the failed Robinson pick last summer, noting that as the gap between the college and pro games widens, more offensive tackles are being drafted high based on “traits instead of game tape.”
Robinson looked the part but had to develop his technique significantly, and the Rams had almost nothing NFL-related to utilize when evaluating him.custom nfl jerseys
“Is this guy strong? Can he move? Can he jump? They’re looking for amazing athletes with prototypical size and a salty temperament who can one day learn to do what’s necessary at the next level,” wrote Kelly of the difficulty of trying to assess college players at that position. “Teams call it projection, but with offensive linemen in particular, that ‘projection’ feels more and more like a euphemism for ‘guessing.'”
A study conducted by yours truly in 2015 found that the safest first-round picks are typically safeties, linebackers and interior offensive linemen,customized nfl jerseys but nobody wants to be safe in this low-patience era, and players at those positions don’t usually move the needle.
Quarterbacks, pass-rushers and big blind-side maulers are the real needle-movers, which might explain why the Jaguars used three top-three picks in as many years on players at those positions. We’ve already touched on the Joeckel mistake, and we’ll get to Blake Bortles later, but defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. has nfl custom jerseys cheap already failed miserably as a No. 3 overall selection in 2015 (he has just 12 sacks in two seasons and is dealing with off-field issues).
The Jags could have landed less sexy stars Leonard Williams, Marcus Peters or Landon Collins later in Round 1, but they gambled on an extremely raw pass-rusher in the top three and it backfired.
Did the Cleveland Browns make the same mistake drafting edge-rusher Myles Garrett first overall in 2017? It’s still too early to tell.