Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Staff" infection

It sounds like there is a good chance that the Lions will select Matthew Stafford with the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Stafford and his agent have until Friday to accept a deal proposed by the Lions. Various reports have the Lions taking Aaron Curry if an agreement cannot be reached with Stafford. I expect Stafford—with his agent’s blessing—to accept the deal because being the #1 pick in the draft will be a “feather in the cap” for both the least of which is his agent. If this goes down like I think it will, then the Lions will be making a huge mistake. Even if I liked Stafford—which I don’t—taking a quarterback with such an important pick is—and likely always will be—foolish.

There are a number of reasons not to take Stafford that have everything to do with Stafford himself. One reason has to do with "price." If the Lions take him with the first pick, they will likely be dishing out $15 million more in guaranteed money than they would had they chose to intentionally drop to the 5th pick and take either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. That is a substantial difference. However, there are just as many reasons—if not more—to avoid Stafford that have nothing to do with his abilities. There is a bounty of first round quarterback prospects that will be available next year including Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and Jevan Sneed just to name a few. The Law of Supply and Demand is not on Detroit's side with respect to drafting a quarterback this year. Next year, however, it most certainly will be.

Still, the Lions will likely end up taking Stafford not necessarily just because they are the worst franchise in the history of the universe (L.A. Clippers aside) but because NFL teams in general have an infatuation with taking quarterbacks early in the draft. Like most infatuations, this one is purely illogical. The vast majority of NFL teams that have chosen a quarterback early in the draft have ended up crippling the franchise with that decision. It is amazing that teams continue to fall into the same trap considering the evidence.

QBs Drafted in Top Ten since 1990

YearNamePickQB RatingPro Bowls
1990Jeff George180.40
1990Andre Ware763.50
1992David Klingler665.10
1993Drew Bledsoe177.14
1993Rick Mirer263.50
1994Heath Shuler354.30
1994Trent Dilfer670.21
1995Steve McNair382.83
1995Kerry Collins573.82
1998Peyton Manning194.79
1998Ryan Leaf2500
1999Tim Couch175.10
1999Donovan McNabb285.95
1999Akili Smith352.80
2001Michael Vick175.73
2002David Carr174.90
2002Joey Harrington369.40
2003Carson Palmer188.91
2004Eli Manning176.11
2004Phillip Rivers492.91
2005Alex Smith163.50
2006Vince Young368.81
2006Matt Leinart1071.70
2007JaMarcus Russell173.90
2008Matt Ryan387.70

Quarterbacks are important but they aren’t so important that it’s worth taking an extremely high chance of wasting an extremely valuable draft pick. Everybody wants the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Interestingly enough, Manning went first overall and Brady went in the 6th round! That dichotomy is a microcosm of the NFL as a hole. Great quarterbacks come from every round. Donovan McNabb, Philip Rivers, and Jay Cutler went in the first round. Matt Cassel went in the 7th round and Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, and Jeff Garcia went undrafted. Identifying college quarterbacks that will flourish in the NFL is about as sound a science as "Mind Reading." Plus, while everyone wants a good quarterback, many recent Super Bowl Champions have had merely average quarterbacks. Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson were no better than the league average while Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning managed games more than they won them.

The draft, by nature, if full of risks. I understand that every position produces "busts." The Lions have run the gamit over the last decade coming up empty in the first round with quarterbacks, offensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks and wide receivers. I’m not suggesting there is no risk selecting another position. I am suggesting that the risk is way too high to use a top five or ten selection on a quarterback. I’ve been saying since last fall that the Lions should use the #1 pick on the best offensive tackle in the draft. Obviously, they need help on the offensive line and have had as many issues on the o-line over the last 25 years as they have at quarterback. Here’s another reason why they should take the best lineman in the draft:

OTs Drafted in Top Ten since 1990

YearNamePickPro Bowls
1990Richmond Webb87
1991Charles McRae70
1991Antone Davis80
1992Bob Whitfield81
1992Ray Roberts100
1993Willie Roaf811
1993Lincoln Kennedy93
1995Tony Boselli25
1996Jonathan Ogden411
1996Willie Anderson104
1997Orlando Pace17
1997Walter Jones69
1998Kyle Turley71
2000Chris Samuels36
2001Leonard Davis22
2002Mike Williams40
2002Bryant McKinnie70
2002Levi Jones101
2003Jordan Gross81
2004Robert Gallery20
2006D’Brickashaw Ferguson40
2007Joe Thomas32
2007Levi Brown50
2008Jake Long11

The vast discrepancy in the two charts above make you wonder how any NFL GM could keep his job after wasting a top 10 pick on a quarterback. The difference in level of success between drafting a quarterback and drafting an offensive tackle in the top ten is astronomical. Since 1990, there have been 25 quarterbacks taken in the top 10. In that same timeframe, there have been 24 offensive tackles taken in the top 10. The 25 quarterbacks produced a paltry QB Rating of 73.3. All of those teams on the list above were in exactly the same position the Lions are in in now. They all mortgaged the future of their franchise on a quarterback and, on average, got a return of a low 70's QB rating. The only thing worse than being bad enough to have a top ten pick is making a bad choice with that top ten pick. Most of the teams on the quarterback chart did just that and paid for it for many years. The Lions are one of those teams having already been through all of this with Joey Harrington in 2002.

The 25 quarterbacks picked in the top 10 since 1990 produced 32 Pro Bow selections. Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb make up half of those selections. On the other hand, the 24 offensive tackles produced 71 Pro Bowl selections. The tackles on that list are some of the best linemen of the last 20 years. Only three of the 24—Charles McRae, Antone Davis, and Mike Williams—can be considered “busts.” On the other hand, at least half of the 25 quarterbacks have been “busts” while only five—Steve McNair, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Philip Rivers, and Matt Ryan—can be considered elite quarterbacks and only one of those five ever won a Super Bowl.

There is still hope that the Lions won’t be able to reach an agreement with Stafford. Unfortunately, the backup plan is to draft a linebacker which is more like drafting a quarterback than an offensive tackle in terms of expected success. If the Lions don’t select Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, 10 years from now they will be just another team on a chart that shows how stupid it is to take a quarterback in the top 10 of the NFL Draft.


Ottolini said...

I quit this team after they passed on Harris and traded down to take Stanton. I did not think they could possibly do something more stupid, until today. Anything team mayhew/lewand had done until now is meaningless. The way they used those first two picks cannot be justified.

Since I quit this team the first time, I have managed to be less invested. They do not ruin my Sundays anymore. I still pay more attention then I should. Unfortunately, a lions fan is something you're born into. I don't think I can really ever be free. I am moving to Virginia in 2 months. I will still likely follow this team. I guess what makes me most angry about this is that I can't truly enjoy the NFL the way someone with a real football team can. Instead, I am treated with assinine draft picks and new logo fashion shows.

Anonymous said...

You said it Ottolini. It's a farce and a crime against one of the greatest sports towns in America that we can't enjoy the NFL.

It's not just losing, it's the complete and utter ineptitude of this franchise that does it.

That's why I follow the picks and everything, but don't really care too much who they pick because chances are they'll turn out to be wrong 9 out of 10 times.

And yes we are all born into this mess. I blame my father big time for this, I like to think I will not do that to my son, I'll pick another team before he's born.


Jake said...

Otto and Mike,

To paraphrase He-Man, you have the power! I'm not sure where you're at Mike but Otto moving to VA is the perfect opportunity to boot the Lions from the family. Pretty soon, Lions fans (if there are any left) are going to start making up reasons to move just so they can do the same!

Tony said...

I've been in Virginia for two years now and I still follow the Lions. I'm still not able to follow the Redskins (or Nationals, or Wizards - I like the Caps but they haven't supplanted the Wings). Not sure the exact reason or perhaps its because I am crazy.

That point may be made again here when I say that I've decided that I WANT us to draft Stafford. I see all the arguments against him, but I think I actually grade Stafford out higher than many of the top 10 qb's the past few years. I like him better coming out of college than Alex Smith or Matt Lienart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler (close enough to top 10). I was far from sold on Russell too. Over the last 5 years or so only Matt Ryan seemed a better prospect to me than Stafford though Staffords ceiling I think is higher. Next years crop of QB's does not intrigue me. Bradford is the only one that I care for and I'm not sure I grade him out over Stafford.

Plus I'm not sold on Smith. While I think and feel he will succeed - he seems like he has the physical tools and mental makeup - there is also something about him that makes me think he will never hit the upper echelon of tackles. I don't think he rates out as high as Joe Thomas or Jake Long and I'm not sure he would rate ahead of some of next years crop of tackles.

I guess I'd rather get the QB now, let him learn in my system for a year, and then instead of targeting a QB next year - which I don't feel is as strong - I can take a OT like Okung or Williams - who I think might be better prospects than Smith.


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