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Posted March 8, 2010
Revisiting Kiper vs. Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named (2009)
If you never learn from history, then you are doomed to repeat it. The media only lives in the present, never really playing devil's advocate and always plays into cliche draft theory even if it is 100-percent wrong. This really hurts fans and draftniks because they are generally getting analysis that not only lacks creativity, but also simple logic.
Last year, the most epic NFL Draft debate occurred on ESPN between their two draft rivals: Mel Kiper Jr. and the "Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named."
They were discussing what they would do if they were Detroit at No. 1 overall. Kiper defended taking Matthew Stafford, while the "Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named" thought the Lions should take Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith or Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry because selecting Stafford was too much of a risk.
I am going to review their debate to prove simply why: 1) The "Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named" has no clue what he is talking about, 2) We MUST learn from this debate to increase our knowledge of NFL Draft strategy/theory, and 3) We MUST apply that knowledge instead of forgetting about the past and always living in the present.
1) You should draft the top-rated player on your board (even if it isn't a quarterback)
2) You have to be an elite, superstar, flawless quarterback prospect to be of adequate value to be taken No. 1 overall
3) Taking a quarterback high involves more risk than taking a non-quarterback high
4) Quarterbacks who aren't "elite" aren't worth No. 1 overall money since they are paid more than other positions.
5) Don't "reach" on a quarterback if he isn't in your top three or four prospects on your board.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s Argument:
1) You don't have to be an "elite" quarterback prospect to be of adequate value to be taken No. 1 overall. If you have him in your top-10 overall and you have a need at the position, then it would be in your best interests to take him No. 1.
2) If a quarterback is taken No. 1 overall, then he doesn't have to be an elite quarterback in the NFL to be successful enough to win games and live up to that pick.
3) The difference in contract money you have to be a quarterback of a high draft pick as opposed to a non-quarterback is worth the difference in value you get out of the quarterback position as opposed to a non-quarterback.
4) It's extremely difficult to find successful quarterbacks after the first round and you can't afford to pass up
5) Even elite quarterbacks in the NFL had their doubters (Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman) when they were prospects. Therefore, just because Stafford has some doubters that doesn't mean he can't be a successful quarterback in the NFL.
6) Maybe the single greatest NFL Draft analysis quote of all time: "Can you win with (quarterback's name here)? If the answer is 'yes', you take him."
Now, let's review how it all played out 11 months after the 2009 NFL Draft.
- Jason Smith had a very mediocre rookie season. He struggled to break into the starting lineup, and when he did play he was highly inconsistent. He played in only seven games, starting five. He missed nine contests because of a concussion.
- Matthew Stafford had a mediocre year as well, but this is expected out of quarterbacks as opposed to offensive tackles because it requires a much greater learning curve. Very few rookie quarterbacks have stepped in as rookies and been highly successful, much less behind Detroit's offensive line and a horrendous defense that can't stop anyone.
Can you imagine if Detroit had taken Jason Smith or Aaron Curry No. 1 overall? Let's play that genius scenario out. Detroit takes Smith No. 1, and now we are potentially looking at one of the biggest No. 1 overall busts of the past decade. If you go No. 1 as an offensive tackle, then you had better be able to step in right away and play at a high level.
Where would the Lions be now heading into the 2010 NFL Draft? They wouldn't have a quarterback and would be pretty much forced into taking Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen at No. 2 overall, both of whom are inferior prospects when compared to Stafford. Also, now you are paying No. 1 money to a mediocre offensive tackle, which can cripple your salary cap (let's assume for the sake of argument we aren't on the verge of an uncapped year or potential holdout in 2011).
What if the Lions had taken Curry as Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named says they should have? Great, they got a stud strongside linebacker, but their defense still sucks because they have nothing on their defensive line and they still lack a signal caller.
Detroit taking Stafford makes everything else simpler ? it's always easier when you can bring that quarterback in and begin developing him. Now, you can focus on building around the quarterback like the Lions have this year in free agency and the NFL Draft. Also, you don't have the stress of having to rely on the 2010 class to find a quarterback.
To sum up the Kiper vs. Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named's debate: the Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named was absolutely destroyed and he was wrong in everything that he said. Kiper, on the other hand, was flawless and provided much more accurate analysis.
Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named would have taken Jason Smith because he had him No. 1 on his board. Great! Now, the former No.1 player on his board is a borderline starter who still needs development.
Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named will continually pass up on quarterbacks until he finds the perfect one for him (sounds like a quarterback gold digger). The Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named currently has Sam Bradford No. 9 on his board and Jimmy Clausen No. 38. Looks like Detroit will still be without a signal-caller and face of the organization until 2011.
Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named said that an offensive tackle was less risky than taking a quarterback. A year later, Jason Smith isn't very promising based on his rookie year production, and you still don't have a quarterback if you pass up on Stafford. Sure, Stafford wasn't Drew Brees last year, but we knew going in not to expect him to be great as a rookie. That "quarterback equals more risk" theory isn't holding much weight after Smith's rookie season.
Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named thought Smith was the better monetary value at No. 1 than Stafford. A year later, Stafford's value is infinitely greater than Smith, both on the field as a quarterback and off it in marketing.
Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named doesn't think you should ever take a quarterback high if he isn't rated high on your board. Unfortunately for this person, his standards are far too idealistic. Every quarterback in the NFL has their flaws, but a lot of them are successful in spite of their flaws. If you consistently pass up on quarterbacks because they either make inconsistent decisions or aren't 6-6, then you will never find a quarterback.
On the other hand, Mr. Kiper killed this debate showing why he is still the best in the business.
Kiper was right that you don't have to have a quarterback rated in the top 10 of your board to justify taking him No. 1 overall. Quarterbacks are too vital to success to pass up.
Kiper was right that you don't need an elite quarterback prospect to win games. What's wrong with having a "very good quarterback?" Is there something wrong with Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo or Eli Manning as your starting quarterback? Absolutely not, and that's why these quarterbacks are a threat every year to make the playoffs.
Kiper was also right in that contract money shouldn't be an issue in terms of passing up on a quarterback for another position. If that quarterback pans out, then the value of your franchise infinitely goes up and you certainly get your fair share of returns in relation to what you are paying that quarterback. Do you honestly think there is any way New Orleans would let go of Drew Brees because he costs too much money? Never. Brees is worth every cent to their organization and team.
Kiper again was right that it is very difficult to find a quarterback in the second or third round. While Kiper boasts Stafford as his starting quarterback, Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named is trying to develop Brian Hoyer or Colt McCoy. Which team do you think is going to win more games in the NFL over a 10-year span? Passing up on a very good quarterback prospect at No. 1 is a much greater risk than not selecting him No. 1.
Stafford had his doubters like Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman. Those doubters would be in a crappy situation if they had passed up on him like McShay would have. Maybe Stafford doesn't pan out, but Jason Smith isn't looking like an All-Pro either. Stafford gives the Lions a chance that Smith and Curry simply don't.
"Can you win with Matthew Stafford? If the answer's 'yes,' you take him."
A year later: Can the Lions win with Jason Smith? Probably not. Can the Lions win with Stafford? A year or two down the road, it honestly would not shock me if Detroit won the NFC North.
Of course, the Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named is consistently passing up on quarterbacks, and his team is never going to win because they don't have a quarterback.
Kiper proved last year why he is still the undisputed king of ESPN's NFL Draft coverage. The Draft-analyst-that-shall-not-be-named still has a LOT to learn.