Home > Draft, NFL > NFL Draft 2011: Important Lessons from LiveBall’s Big Board

NFL Draft 2011: Important Lessons from LiveBall’s Big Board

Third to last post on this NFL draft.  I promise.  I have one to do on process points: long time readers of my work are very familiar with this activity (now in its fourth year).  I also have a FNQB to do on undrafted free agents, following up on the first ever FNQB, which was written almost a year ago.  This one, however, is a reaction to the post-draft reaction.  I have a problem with a couple of high consensus grades.

Here are the resources I am using for this article:

NFL Draft Scout Prospect Board
Optimum Scouting Top 400
LiveBall Sports Big Board 

Cleveland Browns

This is one that stuck out to me.  There are plenty of experts out there lauding the Browns for the draft they had, starting with the trade down with the Falcons for Julio Jones, netting just an awesome return for a rebuilding team.  I probably shouldn’t call the Browns a rebuilding team.  But I don’t have a better word for “not there just quite yet in 2011.”  How about still-building?

After the trade down though, did anyone care to comment on the fact that the Browns reached on nearly every pick?  NFL Draft Scout rated Phil Taylor as its 28th best player.  Optimum Scouting had him at 40.  I had him at 63.  The Browns traded down to the 21st pick, then took him.  A justification of that pick has been that the Browns “needed” a specific type of nose tackle, but I thought they were moving to a 4-3 defense under Dick Jauron.  I know for a fact if you run a 40 front, you do not need to reach for a run stopper.

Jabaal Sheard is kind of the same deal.  He was a college DE projected to OLB in a 30 defense, which, again, the Browns are not playing.  Jabaal Sheard was graded as the 45th best player by NFL Draft Scout, Optimum had him at 21, I had him at 70, which definitely seems low because I like him as a pass rushing prospect.  But that’s solidly in the third round.  This isn’t really a reach, but there were better value picks available.  Greg Little, meanwhile, is being lauded as a second round steal when absolutely no one thought he ran routes well enough to be anything but a third day pick.  I didn’t have him in my top 150.  Optimum had him at 72.  NFL Draft Scout had Little at 150.  Little’s value was, optimistically, in the third round.  The Browns took him in the second.

In the first two days, the Browns landed two guys with second round grades and a guy with a fourth round grade.  The pick up of a first rounder next year was nice, but I don’t see this as a needs-solving draft, nor did the Browns get any sort of value on their picks.  Furthermore, if you use the value litmus test of removing special teams and defense to the equation and just strip football down to offensive point maximization, the Browns took an athlete receiver who needs to learn how to run routes, an athletic TE project who needs to learn the nuances of the position in order to replace Evan Moore, their current athletic TE who is still perfecting the nuances of the position, a fullback whose claim to fame is that he also played some linebacker in college, and an offensive lineman who profiles immediately as a backup.  Which is to say, they essentially added Greg Little to last year’s offense.  I don’t like that draft much.

Houston Texans

I don’t think Houston had a bad draft (conversely…I thought the Browns had a bad draft), but Houston has received high grades across the board, and I think the assumption that they now have the personnel to play the 3-4 defense is far from certain.  I don’t understand JJ Watt at no. 11.  NFL Draft Scout had him ranked 14th overall, and he certainly had the athleticism to pull such a grade.  But optimum had Watt at no. 25.  I said 27.  As in: late first rounder.  Further more, a 3-4 end in Wade Phillips’ defense isn’t supposed to be an impact player.  To justify a grade higher than 30th overall, one has to be an impact player.  Either Watt is going to be a poor scheme fit and will be asked to play the run far more often than he should be to justify his draft grade, or he is a good fit and was just overdrafted by a round.  Either way, it would be intellectually dishonest to think of the Watt pick as a synthesis of value and need, it was likely neither.

A lot of analysts really liked Brooks Reed, but aside from the teams that really did have a high grade on Reed (which apparently includes the Texans), the consensus I believe was that Reed should be in the second or third round based on how he profiles as a pass rusher.  I think there was a vocal minority who thought Reed would grow into being an elite pass rusher, but his grades from our sources are all over the map.  41 from NFL Draft Scout, 90 from Optimum, 74 from me.  The Texans drafted him at no. 42 overall.  That’s definitely not a value pick, but it’s right in the range where the most optimistic sources had Brooks Reed going.  Now if you’re the Texans, you have to convert Reed to a 3-4 OLB and hope he turns out to be exactly who you thought you were getting.  That’s not sound draft philosophy, and you’ll lose those gambles more than you’ll win them.

There’s nothing bad to be said about the trade up to draft Brandon Harris, however.  Optimum had him at 31, NFL Draft Scout at 35, and I had him at 23.  That’s a cold steal for the lacking Texans secondary.  The pick of Rashad Carmichael in the fourth round gives the Texans plenty of pieces on defense to rebuild that unit into a competent group.  But the offense received zero help from this draft, and the defense isn’t going to improve to above average without an impact player.

Detroit Lions

This is a draft that was universally loved.  Picking Nick Fairley at 13 almost had to happen, but the hyperbole about how strong the Lions defensive front is now with Fairley did not have to happen.  Fairley does not improve the Lions edge rush, and to get on the field, he has to take playing time from other more than able bodied defensive interior players.  It’s a really good situation for Fairley to go in and succeed, but the Lions defense is bettered far more in upcoming season than it was in 2011, when the DL was already certain to be a strength.  It’s a really good defensive line.  It is not the best DL in the league, and perhaps not in the top three.  And the back seven went nearly unaddressed.  LB Douglas Houge from Syracuse is a scouting pickup that strengthens this class greatly if he develops into a starter, but 31 other teams are not expecting him to.

Now, what the Lions did in the second round is essentially the meat of this draft.  If you like what they did there, you grade this draft really high.  If you don’t like what they did, this is a below average draft for Detroit.  I happen to like what they did with these two picks (WR Titus Young, RB Mikel LeShoure), but two things they did not do were fix a leaky offensive line that cannot run block, or add depth to the quarterback position.  Titus Young is a scheme fit WR as a deep threat who will play a very important role very early in his career.  LeShoure’s role is less specific, but his impact may be even more immediate.  Essentially, the Lions are asking LeShoure to run the ball behind an offensive line that isn’t great at run blocking, and make those handoff calls more than just a waste of a down.  That’s a tall task, and LeShoure is good enough to be offered the opportunity, but this could end up being a wasted pick with Jahvid Best already in the fold.  Young could easily bust as well, especially if he struggles to adjust to Matthew Stafford’s often erratic passes.

There is a low floor on this draft for Detroit.  Nick Fairley is certain to add depth, if nothing else, to the defensive line in year one, but if that ends up being the only thing Detroit gets out of this class, they wasted a year.  And when you rectify this against the fact that Detroit is getting lauded for the consensus best draft, you can’t justify that grade unless you believe completely in Young and LeShoure.  The value is there, but this is not a better than average draft.  Not, at least, in the days after the draft.  It’s simply a class with unlimited potential.

New England Patriots/Indianapolis Colts

I lumped these two teams together for a reason: they apparently went in with identical strategies, but the Patriots were far more loaded in terms of resources than the Colts were.  But there’s no question, looking at the draft classes, that the Colts came away with better players.  The Patriots picked OT Nate Solder at 17 overall, instantly causing all observers to forget how unconvinced everyone was that Solder could block top NFL rushers a week ago.  NFL Draft Scout had him at 23 overall.  Optimum said: 52nd overall.  I said: 39th.  There are legitimate questions as to whether Solder will ever be able to handle NFL defensive lineman without help.  The Patriots took him at 17th overall.  It’s a gamble; not one that can’t be won by New England, who is great at developing players, but how can it be assumed that Solder isn’t a reach by NE?  He clearly is.  Indy got a far better player at no. 22 in Anthony Castanzo.

The Patriots then took Ras-I Dowling in the second round, which wasn’t a horrible reach, but it was the first pick of the second day, and perhaps the most valuable pick in the entire draft.  And the Pats — with trade offers on the table — used it on a guy who they hope can be their second corner.  And who probably was only the best CB available on a couple boards.  It’s a highly questionable pick.  New England continued to reach for offensive help drafting RBs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the third round.  Obviously, both have 1,000 yard potential as Patriots backs.  And as a Redskins fan, I thank the Pats for leaving Roy Helu on the board until the fourth round, in spite of this strategy.  That was rather generous of you.

The best value picks made by the Patriots were Ryan Mallett at QB: a good investment as insurance for Brady and to convert into a high pick at a latter date, and Marcus Cannon, who is recovering from a scare with cancer which pushed him down the board.  Two good value picks sounds good, until you realize how many picks the Patriots were working with.  Then it’s just a normal day at the offense.

The Colts though, in the second round, grabbed a second lineman who had an overall grade of 24th from Optimum, and 34th from me (54th from NFL Draft Scout) in OT Ben Ijilana, who also fills a need.  With value on the pick.  The Colts simply didn’t have the resources in this draft the Patriots did, but they got way more from it than New England did.

New Orleans Saints/Oakland Raiders

Pointing something out here.  The Raiders received low draft grades for focusing on speed and rebuilding on the offensive front and defensive backfield (or where the team’s weaknesses lie) using two mid round picks obtained from the Patriots for next year’s second round pick, typically a very valuable thing to give up for two 50/50 shots at NFL regulars.  Not an unfair trade to the needy Raiders –who have an abnormal amount of expiring contracts to leverage against — but typically one that the Pats will win and the Raiders will lose.

New Orleans also made an identical trade to the Patriots of which the Pats will figure to win.  New Orleans traded up from the second to the first round at the obscene price of a 2012 first round pick, and then drafted a player in RB Mark Ingram that they could have just taken at no. 24 if they really thought him to be a transcendental runner worthy of trading “too much” for.  Apparently, New Orleans liked him enough to mortgage the future for, but not as much as Cameron Jordan.  No wonder the Saints loved their draft.  I’m just wondering why everyone else does.

According to Football Outsiders, New Orleans’ draft graded out as the 7th best, while Oakland’s was the 28th best.  They both made the same mistake in trading too much value to the Patriots.  The Saints clearly improved on draft day, but the Raiders and Saints should have had more similar grades.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: