A fun topic to discuss because there are so many angles. Sam wrote a post about top QB selections in the past few years and I outlined the #1 and #2 picks. We both came to the conclusion that no can predict the future and trading up is a complete crap shoot. I’ll also add that there is nothing black and white in sports. You can cite examples until your blue in the face backing up a point and it could be completely wrong in reality. That’s why people love sports so much.
If you follow my blog you’d know that I’m not a huge proponent of being bad to get good. I’m going to suggest that you don’t have the draft THE PLAYER. You just need to know how to get the player.
Football Examples – There is no point talking about any other position than the QB
- Tom Brady. Much to Rob’s chagrin, I’m not going to go into detail about how the 199th pick of the draft became the best QB of all time.
- Where were other Super Bowl QB’s drafted?
- Russel Wilson – 3rd Round, Pick 75
- Ben Roethlisberger – 1st Round, Pick 11
- Joe Flacco – 1st Round, Pick 18
- Drew Brees – 2nd Round, Pick 32
- Brett Favre – 2nd Round, Pick 33
- John Elway – 1st Round, Pick 1
- Troy Aikman – 1st Round, Pick 1
- Eli & Peyton Manning – 1st Round, Pick 1
- Sometimes the player finds you. “Rodgers was widely projected to be drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, his childhood team, making him the number one overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. The 49ers drafted Alex Smith out of Utah instead and Rodgers slid all the way down to the 24th overall pick by the Green Bay Packers.” Let’s look at the 49ers here for a minute. They had the #1 pick of the draft and chose the wrong guy. No one can predict Rodgers is going to be most talented QB in the draft, but he slid all the way to 24 and the Packers have been a Super Bowl contender ever since. It doesn’t matter if you have the #1 pick if you can’t pick talent.
- Drew Brees is synonymous with what the Eagles tried to do with Sam Bradford. A QB who proved he could play at an NFL level and suffered an injury that left people skeptical of his effectiveness. The Chargers decided to go with Philip Rivers (after Brees led the Chargers to 11-4 and 9-7 records in consecutive seasons) and have been mediocre ever since. The Saints swooped in and got the player to set the future of their franchise for the last decade.
- Love or hate Lebron James, he is the best player in the NBA excluding Steph Curry (even currently). You don’t need a great team to be good if you have Lebron James on it. At the age of 20, he led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 42-40 record and getting to the 2nd round of the playoffs with players like Zydrunas Ilgauskus, Eric Snow, and Drew Gooden. Unable to win a championship in Cleveland (he got to the finals) he took his talents to South Beach and ended up becoming part of the Heat squad to win 2 championships. This proves that you literally only need LeBron, the player, to become an elite team.
- The Magic had two #1 picks in a row to get Shaq and Penny and went to the NBA Finals soon after. The Magic made a serious blunder in not giving Shaq the required money and the Lakers swooped in with an understanding that this is the player who will take us to the championship. Paired up with Kobe, the Lakers were right.
Steph Curry was drafted with the 7th pick of the 2009 NBA draft and has revolutionized the way the game was played. At 6-3, 190, he’s not the overwhelming force that LeBron James is at 6-9, 275. It’s not clear that Steph is going to become the best player in the NBA and that’s obvious as he drops to 7. The Warriors gambled and got the player of the generation. It should be noted that both Steph and LeBron were born in Akron, Oh.
“I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs, I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable. He’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had [two years] of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”
Gregg Popovich, in 2012, on Leonard
All the Pieces of the Puzzle
The San Antonio Spurs have not had a top 20 pick in the NBA draft since 1997. What I’m pointing out is the difference between “tanking” to get a pick and being THE BEST at recognizing talent and finding the player. However you slice it, the Spurs are the model of what an NBA team should be. They are better at identifying talent than any other team and this is why they’ve been top caliber for 20 years. Philadelphia has proven continuously they are not that good at this part.
To come full circle to the Eagles and trading up, my gut says it’s not going to work because you can’t predict who the player (aside from Lebron James) is when they are 21. People develop differently under different systems. I’d bet my bottom dollar that if Kawhi stayed in Indiana he wouldn’t be a top 5 player in the NBA right now. Systems and coaches make players want to be who they can become. That’s one of my main issues with the Sixers and Hinkie’s strategy. The system breeds losing. Losing gets ingrained in your mind. It’s bad for business.
There’s also a major point that I’m overlooking and it’s management and their abilities. Here’s a clue if you’ve been sucking for a long time, get new owners. Notice the Philadelphia owners quitting early on Chip and Hinkie who saw the world differently. I will say though that If I saw the way Chip utilized Demarco Murray last year, I would have wanted to kick him to the curb too. It’s bigger than high draft picks, it’s knowing how to win at all costs. Why do you think Popovich and Belichick hate talking to the press – it’s because loser’s talk to the press. Look at Cam Newton after the Super Bowl. He gets it. This point is more for humor but maybe it’s not. You need the Popovich’s and Belichick’s to rise above. Are coaches good because they win or does winning make good coaches? Was Gary Kubiak considered a good coach when he went 61-64 with the Houston Texans? Is he considered a good coach now? Technically that point contradicts my point but he was brought into a club that had won at least 12 games the past 3 seasons. Elway specifically went out and got Peyton. Does that sound like a better plan than tanking and looking to draft high?
At this point I’ve lost my way and got caught up in rambling and ranting and citing examples and at the end of the day where am I? I could have probably summed this up in one sentence. – get the best player the league has to offer and hold on to them forever.