Great article on how to draft successfully


May 13, 2002
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Gilbert, AZ
Drafting 101
A how-to guide at draft for an NFL team

By Pete Fiutak

For purposes of this exercise, I'm the draft coordinator/general manager of an NFL team. I accept the NFL world the way it is right now with salary caps, free agency, and a parity world that demands that my team by in the hunt for the Super Bowl this season. I'm also taking into account the current talent in this year's draft.

Step One: Don't draft a quarterback in the first two rounds unless he does something at an elite level.

Unless a quarterback has some otherworldly talent like Michael Vick's speed, Donovan McNabb's magical intangibles or Daunte Culpepper's size, don't take a quarterback in the first two rounds. The numbers simply don't lie.

How many quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds of the draft since 1990 have won Super Bowls for the team that chose them? Try 0 for 38 (and one for fifty since 1984 with only Troy Aikman bucking the trend.) How many of those 38 quarterbacks have even gotten to a Super Bowl (as the starter) with the team that originally chose them? Two. Steve McNair and Drew Bledsoe. Brett Favre and Trent Dilfer won Super Bowls for teams that didn't draft them. Kerry Collins got to the big game once.

In the past, you could draft a quarterback, ease him into the mix, and turn him loose after a few seasons of seasoning. No more. Now, the quarterback has to come in and turn things around right away, but almost no quarterback is ready to become a star in his rookie year. How well has Chad Pennington done after getting time to learn the New York system?

There's absolutely no reason whatsoever to draft a quarterback when there are so many good ones out there that can fit into the right system like a Marc Bulger or a Kelly Holcomb. Let someone else develop your quarterbacks. Take a look at the winning quarterbacks in the last four Super Bowls. Brad Johnson, Tom Brady, Trent Dilfer and Kurt Warner. Dilfer was a first round draft pick, but he was a backup by the time he got to Baltimore. Johnson, Brady and Warner were afterthoughts on draft day.

It was fine for Houston to take David Carr last year since the franchise weren't planning on getting to the playoffs anyway. How he'll get time to develop and learn the ropes like Troy Aikman did. There's not a Vick or McNabb in this draft that can be a superstar no matter what the talent is like around him. Quick, name a receiver on Atlanta or Philadelphia. Let everyone else deal with Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich and Kyle Boller. They're not going to win a Super Bowl for you until you trade for them.

Step Two: With the possible exception of quarterback, take the best player available no matter what

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever draft for need. In this era of free agency, you can never have too much talent at a position. Talent is talent is talent and the more great players you have at a position, the more options you have. If you have several great receivers, you can run a more open attack. If you have several running backs, you can rotate them to find the hot one. You can always trade excess.

Step Three: Don't get so hung up on pass rushing defensive ends

The biggest crock of crap stat in football is the sack. A more telling stat, and one that can't be found anywhere, is the drive killing stat. Who cares if a guy gets a sack on second down? An NFL quarterback can complete the third and 14. In college, great pass rushers are more disruptive since 95% of college quarterbacks don't have the ability to read the hot receiver. In the pros, most top quarterbacks will find a way to get the ball away, but it does help if you can hurry them along. Don't be afraid to take linebackers and send them like Chicago did with Roosevelt Colvin.

Step Four: Draft Willis McGahee early and don't think twice about it

Ask yourself this ... would you trade the 16th pick in the draft for the number two pick in the 2004 NFL draft? If McGahee didn't get his knee ripped up in the Fiesta Bowl, he might be the number one pick in the 2003 draft and would be the second best prospect behind Charles Rogers. Looking at the 2004 draft, a healthy McGahee would be the second best prospect behind Roy Williams of Texas. Draft him and say, "I know you want to get on the field this year Willis, but shut it down for a year, give yourself 15 more months to rehab it correctly, learn our playbook and our offense, and then come back roaring in 2004." If you do this, you have a sure-thing star for next season. This brings me to my next theory ...

Step Five:
... injuries heal
If you look hard enough, you'll find injury problems with every college player. If a player has a chronic problem with an injury, then it's time to worry. If a player has a one-shot deal like a broken bone somewhere, accept it, let him heal, and draft him.

Step Six: Actually watch college football games

Do your homework. Anyone that saw Ron Dayne play in college knows that he heated up in the second half of games when the 300+ pound-per-man Badger line had worn down the small college defensive lines. Dayne got most of his yards and was most effective by being able to run through big holes and barrel over small and tired college defenders in the second half. That doesn't work in the NFL. Too many teams look at a player on film and realize the guy can play. All of a sudden, he can't play because he timed a tenth of a second slower than other players in the 40-yard dash. If there's a question mark with the way he plays the game, that's one thing. Never downgrade a player because he doesn't have the ideal hip snap. Kentucky's Dewayne Robertson had a totally average junior season, but is 317 pounds and quick so he's now considered a top 15 pick. There should be a sign in every war room in big block letters ... IF HE WAS AN AVERAGE COLLEGE PLAYER, HE'S NOT GOING TO BE BETTER THAN AN AVERAGE PRO. This leads to my next step...

Step Seven on't be an idiot. In other words, don't try to make a pick happen, don't buck a trend and don't take dumb chances

Don't be an idiot: Roy Williams was obviously a Pro Bowl caliber player coming out of Oklahoma. What are you doing taking Joey Harrington or Ryan Sims ahead of him? Terence Newman and Charles Rogers are obviously the two best players in this draft. Just draft them. Don't take a Carson Palmer or a Jimmy Kennedy and hope they pan out over a guy who obviously is a star in waiting.
Don't try and buck a trend. If Penn State players have disappointed in the NFL, don't take them. It's always wrong to generalize when it comes to drafting, but let someone else take the chance on a Nittany Lion. Always, always, always, always, always take the guy that you think will go to the Pro Bowl in two years.
Don't take dumb chances and don't try and make a pick happen: Don't take a player with a bunch of concerns like an R. Jay Soward in the first round and hope it'll work out. Don't take a Sylvester Morris-type of player and hope he can handle himself in the big-time. And for the love of all that is right, never draft a kicker.

Step Eight: Don't worry so much about height

USC's Troy Polamalu is 5-10 and is knocked by several scouts from being too small. Don't laugh, but he'd probably go ten picks higher than he will if he was a mere inch and a half taller. Exactly why does it matter? Defensive backs can jam receivers and almost always negate a height advantage with the right technique. Even more ridiculous is the concern over running back height. Why does it matter if a back is 5-9 or 6-1? It matters a little bit for quarterbacks, but most quarterbacks like to see through lanes as opposed to over linemen.

Step Nine: When in doubt, trade out of the pick

Build your team through free agency and/or trades. If there's no one there you like, take a developed, experienced free agent who's a known commodity rather than throw a dart at the board and hope it works out. And finally ...

Step Ten:When in doubt, go for the home run

Roster players are nice, but you have to ask yourself with every pick, "Is this guy good enough to get me to a Super Bowl?" Taking bodies just to draft them won't do you any good. If a player isn't a potential starter for your Super Bowl caliber team, let someone else have him.
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Captain of Team Murray
Jul 21, 2002
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Orange County, CA
I don't really agree with some of his takes, and I think he draws some strong assumptions at times.

The reason why teams took Ryan Sims over Roy Williams, is because a good safety is easy to find. Teams don't take safeties high normally, because a lot of good safeties are found later, and quite a few are better than Roy Williams.


May 14, 2002
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Holmdel, NJ
By Pete Fiutak
Who is Pete Fiutak?

Step 10 - Rules are made to be broken. (Last year's breaking of a rule typically becomes this year's rule if the dude who broke it was successful).