Monday, April 21, 2008

The Draft is this weekend! Yay!

Every year around this time, someone somewhere decides that it is time to write up an article about past NFL busts. Today the spotlight turns to Charles Bricker of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, who decided to write about quarterbacks being drafted too early.

It has been 10 years since the San Diego Chargers made an $11 million mistake by using the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft to select quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Eleven million dollars in signing bonus money. Plus his salary. Plus the unforgivable waste of a very high first-round selection, which so badly stalled the Chargers' progress that it would be six years before the club would have a season with more wins than losses.

Teams that are picking second overall usually really, really, really suck. That's why they're picking second overall. Even if Ryan Leaf has turned out to be a decent quarterback, it stands to reason that they might still continue to suck for six years. Furthermore, this is total cherry picking. The Chargers were so set back by the Ryan Leaf pick that in 1999, one year after making this franchise devastating pick... that they went 8-8. One of those eight losses was a 3-point loss to the Chicago Bears at home. So basically, Charlie, if the Chargers had barely beaten the Bears in that game, and had been 9-7 and in contention for a playoff spot/division crown (the Chiefs and Seahawks each won 9 games), suddenly the Ryan Leaf pick isn't so bad.

If Leaf was the only quarterback upon whom a small fortune had been squandered, San Diego's embarrassing misjudgment could be excused as an aberration.

In fact, year after year NFL clubs throw away millions, and high draft picks, in gambles on the most important position in football.

Year after year, NFL clubs throw away millions, and high draft picks, in gambles on ALL the positions in football. More on this later.

In all, 28 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round since 1998. Four have been abject failures — David Carr (Houston, 2002), Tim Couch (Cleveland, 1999), Akili Smith (Cincinnati, 1999) and Leaf (1998).

Yeah, man, all these dudes were terrible, though Carr's offensive line was putrid and there's a legitimate argument that that ruined him. But whatever. Yeah, they all sucked donkey balls.

Another nine have been less than mediocre, though they, too, have become multimillionaires because of their teams' desperate draft choices.

Okay since Charlie doesn't say who he's talking about, I can't even guess at who he means here, though I suppose I COULD look it up. *sigh* Okay, more on THIS in a moment.

Only Eli Manning (New York Giants, 2004), Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh, 2004) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis, 1998) have reached elite status — all Super Bowl winners. Now, five days before the draft, a number of teams must ponder whether Boston College's Matt Ryan is the next first-round quarterback mistake.

Holy shit. God, I AM gonna have to look that up aren't I. Stay here, and watch this while I do my research...

Okay, I'm back. Here are the guys who, since the 1998 Draft have been taken as first round quarterbacks. Feel free to skip the list, as I'll summarize at the end. OR you could read the list with comments!
  1. Peyton Manning IND, 1998 (Maybe the best QB ever to play the game)
  2. Ryan Leaf SD, 1998 (Terrible)
  3. Tim Couch CLE, 1999 (Actually led the Browns to a playoff berth, but then sucked due to injury)
  4. Donovan McNabb PHI, 1999 (Damned good, maybe an "elite QB")
  5. Akili Smith CIN, 1999 (Jesus Christ, I can't believe this guy was a first round pick)
  6. Daunte Culpepper MIN, 1999 (How much of his success was due to Randy Moss? I dunno. But Culpepper was a legitimate MVP candidate that year that Peyton threw 49 TD passes)
  7. Cade McNown CHI, 1999 (Another terrible Bears QB)
  8. Chad Pennington NYJ, 2000 (As much as I hate the Jets as a Dolphins fan, even I have to admit Pennington hasn't been that bad. He's been injured alot, and that contributes to him maybe being a bust, but he had a pretty damn good year in 2002.)
  9. Michael Vick ATL, 2001 (Uhm... Vick was pretty good for a while before that whole pound puppy thing. I'd say NOT a bust.)
  10. David Carr HOU, 2002 (Bust)
  11. Joey Harrington DET, 2002 (Bust)
  12. Patrick Ramsey WAS, 2002 (Bust)
  13. Carson Palmer CIN, 2003 (I'd say Carson's been pretty damned good)
  14. Byron Leftwich JAX, 2003 (Mediocre? Certainly not an out and out bust. Also really was injured alot.)
  15. Kyle Boller BAL, 2003 (Bust)
  16. Sex Cannon CHI, 2003 (I'm leery of calling him a bust, even though Archie will probably want to kill me for this. But they did get to the Super Bowl with him in 2006, so by Charlie's logic, if the Bears had somehow won that ONE game, Sexy Rexy would be an elite quarterback and Peyton wouldn't be?)
  17. Eli Manning NYG, 2004 (Pretty good, but elite? Weren't they calling for his head in New York around midseason last year?)
  18. Philip Rivers SD, 2004 (Yeah, I know the Giants picked him, and the Chargers picked Eli, but I'm ignoring that. Still kind of soon to tell, but Rivers has been at least decent to pretty good, no? Certainly not a bust.)
  19. Ben Roethlisberger PIT, 2004 (Very good)
  20. JP Losman BUF, 2004 (Maybe a bust)
  21. Alex Smith SF, 2005 (Still too soon to tell)
  22. Aaron Rodgers GB, 2005 (Still too soon to tell)
  23. Jason Campbell WAS, 2005 (Still too soon to tell. I'm copying and pasting at this point.)
  24. Vince Young TEN, 2006 (Pretty damned good so far...)
  25. Jay Cutler DEN, 2006 (Still too soon to tell)
  26. Matt Leinart ARI, 2006 (Still too soon to tell)
  27. JaMarcus Russell OAK, 2007 (Still too soon to tell)
  28. Brady Quinn CLE, 2007 (Still too soon to tell)
So if we knock out everyone from Smith onward (which maybe unfairly excludes Vince Young), we're down to 20. Of those twenty, 8 have been good or very good, and two have been serviceable or better than mediocre. The other ten have been out and out mediocre. So essentially, we're looking at a fifty-fifty proposition. Not great, but not terrible.

The point is that Charles Bricker thinks that Eli Manning is better than Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, and Daunte Culpepper in their respective primes. Furthmore, Charles Bricker thinks that if the Bears had managed to beat the Colts in the Super Bowl last year, Rex Grossman would be an "elite quarterback" while Peyton Manning would not. Charles Bricker is a stupid person.

By all estimates, he'll be taken among the top 10 players. Kansas City at No. 5 must upgrade at quarterback. Baltimore at No. 8, which in 2003 wasted a first-rounder on Kyle Boller, is in position to blow off another top pick. Carolina, at No. 13, might strike a deal with New England for the No. 7 spot.

Ryan, 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds, is sturdy enough to endure a few hits in the pocket, but an impressive scramble against Virginia Tech notwithstanding, he's no runner and, while he threw 56 touchdown passes, he also threw 37 interceptions.

Okay so he might be good or he might suck.

Scouts have praised his poise and leadership, but there's nothing unusual about those qualities in leading college quarterbacks, and none of that has much meaning when the QB is facing an NFL pass rush. The Dolphins' John Beck is a good example of a "poised" collegian who looked panicked in his rookie NFL season.

Jesus, dude. John Beck played in a grand total of five games, starting four of those, on maybe the worst team in NFL history. You really want to use "'poised'" in "sarcastic" quotation "marks" like that based on five "games"?

That said, there is a lot to recommend Ryan. Downfield passing isn't his forte, which is essentially an arm strength issue, but neither was it Joe Montana's stock in trade. Ryan was a successful quarterback on a team that didn't have a strong running game or great receivers.

More to the point, however, in a year that is not rich with quarterback prospects, Ryan is the best of the bunch.

And next year is probably going to be even worse. Seriously, who's good that's going to be draft eligible next year? You really think Tim Tebow is going to be a great NFL quarterback? Point is if you need a quarterback, Matt Ryan might not be a bad way to go. I mean there are few great throwers and the position is pretty important.

Why do teams over-draft quarterbacks? Because there are few great throwers and because the position is so important. For many clubs, that justifies the expense, even knowing that far more first-rounders fail than achieve.

Plagiarist. Anyway, this isn't even true. It's about even money.

Of course first-round quarterbacks succeed. There were six first-rounders running the 12 playoff offenses last season and one of them, Eli Manning, won the Super Bowl. But the runner-up, Tom Brady, was a sixth-round pick and two other playoff quarterbacks, Tony Romo of Dallas and Jeff Garcia of Tampa Bay, were undrafted.

AHEM. The New York Giants won the Super Bowl. Eli Manning didn't complete that pass to Eli Manning. Eli Manning didn't sack Tom Brady. Isn't using Super Bowl wins as the standard for an "elite" quarterback even dumber than using wins to measure pitchers?

Romo is now earning the sort of money given first-round quarterbacks. But there is a difference. He's a proven commodity. If sanity prevails this year, Ryan might be the only first-round quarterback this year, though how many desperate clubs will leap at Joe Flacco of Delaware or Chad Henne of Michigan?

Another thing: Why do people like to point out all the late round picks like Brady or guys like Romo who didn't get drafted at all without pointing out the vast number of guys drafted late or not at all that don't do a thing in the NFL? I'd say that first round pick quarterbacks pan out at a greater rate than late round picks. In fact, I've already shown this to be true. Anyone want to bet their life that quarterbacks drafted later than the third round pan out at a better rate than 50%? Didn't think so.

Two quarterbacks were taken in 2007's first round, though it's too early to judge if they've been a waste of cash and picks.

Most (only?) reasonable thing said so far.

JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 pick, signed a six-year deal with Oakland, though he's already missed the first year because he signed so late he missed training camp, was handed only one start, threw 66 passes, pitched four interceptions and fumbled four times.

No one is complaining too hard … yet. Without a training camp, he wasn't ready to play, even for a bad team. He'll have his camp this year and the Raiders will soon know whether he's worth the $37.5 million in guaranteed money he's being paid.

The only time an NFL player will have guaranteed leverage over a team is when he's drafted in the first round. Why are we faulting guys for getting theirs when the team can cut the guy on virtually a moment's notice? Did anyone expect Russell to come in, holdout or not, and light it up this year? Why does this post have so many rhetorical questions?

Furthermore, the Raiders also took Robert Gallery with a first rounder a few years back. Teams take terrible players with first round picks all the time. Not just quarterbacks. But that's for another post.

Brady Quinn, the No. 22 pick by Cleveland, missed 11 days of training camp before signing a five-year deal that paid him a $7.75 million signing bonus.

He threw three passes and spent his rookie year watching Derek Anderson rejuvenate the Browns and give rise to predictions that Cleveland could be back in the playoffs for the first time in six years.

Who is Derek Anderson? He was draft guru Mel Kiper's 14th-best quarterback in 2005, right after the eminently forgettable No. 13 Gino Guidugli.

Baltimore drafted Anderson in the sixth round and paid him a pittance, by NFL standards, before waiving him Sept. 20. He was claimed by Cleveland, where he was 10-5 as a starter last season.

Yeah some of those guys will turn out to not suck.

Unless he has a startling reversal of form, he could be more than just an alternate to the Pro Bowl this season.

Please. There have been tons of guys who've had one or two great years and then flamed out quickly. It happens in sports (not just football) all the time. It would not be "startling" for Anderson to return to his previous suckitude.

And Quinn? Carrying a clipboard and collecting his prodigious salary? The Browns will want to see if Anderson can continue with his elevated play before deciding to deal Quinn for a draft pick or proven player.

It's arguable that Quinn isn't ready to play yet anyway. How many quarterbacks have been good as rookies or second year players? I can just think of two or three-- Dan Marino, Big Ben, and maybe Peyton Manning, the latter of whom benefited from playing with Marshall Faulk and then Edgerrin James in his backfield.

In either case, they're stuck for his signing bonus, like so many other teams who have drafted a first-round QB, and, even if they dump him, they're also responsible for his salary cap figure.

Again, dude. Still too soon to tell. Brady Quinn could turn out to be really damned good. And then I'll point and laugh at you. Again.

There are Peyton Mannings out there. And Roethlisbergers.

But every one of them there are four Joey Harringtons or Byron Leftwiches. And the wasted dollars keep piling up — a mountain of money mocking most of the teams that can't resist drafting a quarterback in the first round.

LIES. Again with this crap. There are not four Joey Harringtons or Byron Leftwiches. It's more like for every Peyton, there's a Joey. As a beleaguered Dolphin fan, if you gave me a quarterback and said this guy could be Peyton Manning or Joey Harrington, with a 50% chance, I'll take that bet every time.

1 comment:

Archie Micklewhite said...

First of all, I think you saw me my Bronson Arroyo video and raised me that Muppet Show clip. +100 for that.

As far as Sexy Rexy goes, I'm OK with you saying he's not a bust if we're using a sensible version of Charlie Bricker's logic. In other words, if we're judging this on team success, then there's no way you can call Grossman a bust because he got to the Super Bowl. If you're using the much more reasonable evaluation of whether or not his performance has been any good, I think he really has to be a bust, especially when you factor in he lost two entire seasons to injuries.

So, no, I won't kill you. I mean, a Super Bowl appearance is a Super Bowl appearance, and it's not as though there was anyone else on that team who likely would have played better.