Posted by Walter
Winston Churchill famously once said, "All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes." While this adage is probably most relevant to the arena of world diplomacy, it is certainly relatable to the plight of NFL personnel directors when preparing for April's draft. All things considered, there must not be all that many wise men running NFL draft boards, since we seem to see the same stupid draft mistakes every year. Every year, it seems, NFL personnel people fall into the same trap of reaching too high for certain players, while letting others fall much further than they should. Why does this happen? You're guess is as good as mine, but sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, NFL personnel directors will make these same mistakes once again.......At least this year we are preparing you for it.
Players Who Will be Drafted Way too Early
Robert Meachem, WR Tennessee - While it's fashionable to bash Tedd Ginn Jr., the fact is that given his speed and ability to help in the return game there is very little chance that he will be a total NFL bust. The same cannot be said for Meachem who seems to be flying up NFL draft boards. Now don't get me wrong, Meachem does do certain things very well, and he could succeed in the right NFL system (namely one like New England's that wouldn't ask him to do things he can't), but anyone who is projected as a top 15 pick (as Meachem is) has to be able to make plays no matter what the situation. Meachem is almost a clone of former Vol wideout Donte Stallworth, who was drafted WAY too early (13th pick) in the 2002 draft. Like Stallworth, Meachem is a pure deep threat with no other skills that really translate into stardom in the NFL. If he is asked to be a #1 or even a #2 guy right away, he will struggle.
Greg Olsen, TE Miami - Olsen is by far the best tight end in the entire draft, there is no doubt about that. But is a college tight end who doesn't block and has gotten into the endzone exactly once in the past 12 months really worthy of a top 20 pick? Olsen has great athletic ability, but let's not go overboard here. It's not like he is Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates. Olsen is fast, but he isn't fast enough that a weak side LB couldn't hang with him. And frankly, Olsen isn't a very physical player, so why not stick a strong safety on him. The point is that Olsen just isn't the devastating matchup problem that some are making him out to be.
Mike Griffin, S Texas - Griffin has a ton of cache in this year's draft, mainly because there have been so many good Texas defensive backs in the last two drafts. In addition to Griffin, the 2007 edition will feature Longhorn corners Aaron Ross and Tarrell Brown, while both Mike Huff and Cedric Griffin were first day picks in 2006. While the dearth of talent in the Texas defensive backfield is undeniable, it would be wrong to lump Griffin in with those other players. Griffin simply isn't as physically gifted as guys like Aaron Ross or Mike Huff (who, by the way, struggled a bit for the Raiders in his rookie season). Griffin does everything well, but nothing great, and I wonder whether he will be able to hold up in coverage in the NFL. Safeties who can't cover are one of the all time classic NFL draft bust paradigms, and Griffin could be one of these guys who comes into the league and just kills his team by giving up big play after big play.
Marshawn Lynch, RB California - One of the draft's most prominent lessons is that unless you're getting Ladainian Tomlinson, you don't need to reach for a RB in the first round. Consider the following:
Player One - 565 rushing yards, 742 receiving yards, 8 total TD
Player Two - 745 rushing yards, 194 receiving yards, 7 total TD
Player Three - 501 rushing yards, 313 receiving yards, 2 total TD
Player Four - 1081 rushing yards, 325 receiving yards, 8 total TD
Player Five (2) - 941 rushing yards, 436 receiving yards, 15 total TD
Player Six (3) - 633 rushing yards, 102 receiving yards, 2 total TD
Player Seven (4) - 650 rushing yards, 270 receiving yards, 4 total TD
OK so which player was drafted in the first round #1 or #5? How about #3 and #6? You get the point. Players 1-4 were all first round RB (Bush, Maroney, Williams, Addai), while players 5-7 were drafted in later rounds (Jones-Drew 2nd, Norwood 3rd, Washington 4th). Marshawn Lynch is a running back who has some skill. But that cannot be the salient question when drafting running backs. You have to ask yourself whether he has enough skill to make him worthy of a first round pick, when players the caliber of Jones-Drew, Norwood, and Washington are available in the later rounds. And this is not a one year phenomenon. In addition to those three, the following running backs have been drafted after the first round in the past three seasons: Frank Gore (3rd), Marion Barber (4th), Brandon Jacobs (4th), Tatum Bell (2nd), Julius Jones (2nd), Michael Turner (5th). The bottom line is that these guys are there every year, so if you have confidence in your drafting ability, don't waste your first round pick.
Players Who Will be Drafted Way too Late
Paul Poszlusny, LB Penn State - While I don't think Patrick Willis will be a better NFL player than Puz, I at least understand why some teams have him rated higher. What I don't understand is why many of those same teams have both Lawrence Timmons and Jon Beason rated ahead of Puz. Poszlusny reminds me a lot of guys like Demeco Ryans and Lofa Tatupu, players who everybody with a brain new could play in the NFL, but for some reason just kept falling all the way to the 2nd round. Both Ryans and Tatupu were thought to be undersized, and too slow for the NFL, but both just made plays in college by knowing and understanding the game. The scary thing is that Poszulsny is probably a smarter football player than either of the aforementioned two. Puz can play inside and outside (and, as I have hypothesized, perhaps even the middle) and, more importantly, the man LOVES football. He is identical to both Ryans and Tatupu in the sense that they are all the type of players you win with. The term "winner" is a bit weird in football since it is such a team game, but winning does tend to follow around certain players.....Puz is one of those guys.
Justin Blalock, OL Texas - Here is something I don't understand, NFL teams clearly value interior line play enough to draft defensive tackles in the first round, yet they do not value it enough to draft offensive guards in the first round. Seems kind of odd that you'd admit the importance of the defensive player, yet still deny the importance of the guy blocking him. While offensive tackles have become somewhat of a glamour position, NFL games are won and lost just as much between those tackles. Yet teams still continue to undervalue guard play. Consider the case of Shaun Alexander. Yes he got hurt last season, but he simply was not the same running back without Steve Hutchinson paving the way for him. The 2007 draft has a ton of very good guards in it, but Blalock is clearly the best of the bunch. He is big and strong, and is a classic mauler who could even bump outside to tackle if needed. Guys like this just don't grow on trees. Teams need to understand that it doesn't matter how good your tackles are if you can't control the guys in the middle. Blalock looks like a long time pro bowl player, and if he is available at the back of round one he would represent outstanding value.
David Harris, LB Michigan - I have long been on the David Harris bandwagon. Although somewhat limited athletically, Harris is the best true "thumper" in the entire draft. The "thumper" is another position that has become devalued by NFL teams. With speed linebackers like Brian Urlacher getting all the attention, classic inside backers who take on guards and stuff the run have become almost extinct. I had the pleasure of watching one of the best "thumpers" of the past 10 years in the Patriots' Ted Johnson, and let me tell you that his presence was critical for the team's success. Harris is a big, strong linebacker who actually relishes his collisions with fullbacks and guards. While he will probably be a strictly 2 down linebacker during his career, Harris is a guy who could step in and help a 3-4 team on the inside right away.
Josh Wilson, CB Maryland - I love everything I have ever seen from Wilson, except his size. However, unfortunately for him, most NFL teams are only going to focus on one number: 5'9''. Wilson is small, there is no denying this, but he is also fast, smart, and fearless. Make no mistake about it, if Wilson was six feet, you'd not only know who he was but you'd be praying that he some how fell to your favorite team. Regardless of his size, there is no doubt in my mind that Wilson WILL be a very good NFL player. He may be limited to playing the slot, but you know what, in the new NFL passing games rule and the nickelback is almost as important as the other starting corners. Nearly every NFL team has 3 or 4 good wideouts, and on third down often the best matchup for the offense is their third WR against the defense's third DB. Wilson is a guy who can come in and play the nickelback spot right away, but who loves football enough to push to start soon thereafter.