Written by Kip Earlywine
This was probably the most surprise-filled first round I’ve seen in a while. Here are a few random thoughts from day one:
“Buyer’s market, indeed.” The funny thing about the term “buyers market” is that it actually means the opposite in a sense. It refers to a situation where there are more sellers than buyers, and therefore the laws of supply and demand signify lower prices and less overall activity. A recession can be an example of a buyer’s market. In most cases, it isn’t easy to sell in a buyer’s market.
It was reported that every team picking between three and sixteen was contacting teams about moving down the day before the draft. This made a lot of sense as the talent falls off very gradually after the top 6 “elite” talents are off the board. Trading down has a lot of appeal if you can get a player nearly as good at the lower pick.
Despite the flood of sellers (who presumably wouldn’t be interested in buying), we saw a huge flurry of team’s trading up today. More surprising still was how many trades took place in the top ten. Top ten trades are historically uncommon, you might have one or two a year normally. If you count the RG3 trade from earlier, there was a total of four trades in the top ten, with the Rams trading back twice. The Seahawks of course had their trade at #12. There would be four more trades in the rest of the first round, including two by the Patriots, who are notorious for trading down, not up. All in all, there were 9 first round trades- more than one trade for every four picks.
Maybe the best thing to come out of the NFL labor dispute last year was the sanity that was restored to the rookie pay scale. Doing so not only eliminated “the loser’s tax”, but it’s clearly encouraging teams to trade up on draft day, which makes the draft more unpredictable, more fun, and helps it move along at a quicker pace.
“Who?!” I’m not sure if I’ve seen a draft with as many surprise first rounders as this one. Bruce Irvin is one of the biggest draft surprises ever, even moreso than Tyson Alualu from a couple years ago. Then you had Brandon Weeden, who I’m sure made history as the oldest quarterback ever selected in the first round. Chandler Jones technically wasn’t a surprise first rounder, but he wasn’t widely mocked in the first round until days before the draft. AJ Jenkins became a surprise 1st rounder despite the fact that there were three other receivers with first round grades that hadn’t been taken yet. Jenkins was ranked 99.84 on the consensus big board, meaning that on average (among Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, etc) he was a projected 4th round pick.
As it turns out, Bruce Irvin was not a reach. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that seven teams had Bruce Irvin ranked among their top 15 players. That figure probably comes pretty close to the number of teams that were considering pass rush help in the first round, so it sounds like Seattle was hardly alone in thinking that Irvin was an elite pass rushing talent. As I expressed in my draft reaction earlier tonight, my problem with the Irvin pick wasn’t the pick itself but the opportunity cost. Why not trade down some more? Well now it’s starting to look like that wasn’t the case after all. The Jets and Chargers picked in the next three selections after Seattle, and both coveted pass rushers. If even one of them rated Irvin highly, then Seattle would have been out of luck. There was also a report by Michael Lombardi that Irvin had been contacted by a team in the bottom third of the first round and told he’d be the pick if available (it’s speculated that team was the 49ers).
In retrospect, it appears Seattle played their hand perfectly. There wasn’t a single pass rusher taken in the first 11 picks, meaning Seattle had their choice of any pass rusher in the draft, and they still chose Irvin. But instead of taking him at #12, they moved down just a few spots and added two extra picks, upping their total from 6 to 8. As I said in my previous post, when taking value out of the equation, the Seahawks added one of two players I liked the most (draft stock aside) in the whole draft. They added two draft picks doing it, and now it appears the one drawback (reaching) isn’t as true as I initially thought it was. The Seahawks will probably get their share of “F” grades for what they did, but in retrospect those two moves could end up looking amazing in a few years time.
I guess this whole “reaching for Bruce Irvin” storyline highlights something really important. Listen, we draftniks like to think we matter, but we really don’t. NFL front offices don’t adjust their boards based on what Mel Kiper thinks, or what Todd McShay thinks, or what Mike Mayock thinks, and certainly not by what Rob or I think. Us draftniks have limited time, limited resources, limited experience and knowledge, and while we work hard to project the draft with decent enough success, the fact is that our evaluations just aren’t going to be as high quality as the evaluations by most NFL front offices. Those guys are professionals. People like us are just entertaining wannabe’s.
And so when I give my own rankings, or when Mel Kiper and Todd McShay talk about their big boards, all we are really doing is guessing how NFL teams rate players. That’s all it is and nothing more. When a guy like Bruce Irvin or AJ Jenkins goes first round, who are we to criticize? Seriously. Unless you know how every team rates every player, you’ll be forced to judge based on empty guesstimates, which in the case of Bruce Irvin proved our harsh initial judgments to be completely wrong.
And I’ll say this too- our front office also has a much better feel for the market than we do. They’ve had a lot of success with letting their own free agents test free agency because they knew the market wasn’t very strong for them. They’ve used this tactic time and again to motivate players to sign back with Seattle on cheap, short-term contracts. They also knew before the 2011 draft that Ryan Mallett was in for a big fall and would reach at least the late second round (he was snatched up in the mid third). NFL teams knew that. Reporters and draftniks didn’t. They also knew that James Carpenter was rated highly by multiple teams who picked right behind them (Steelers, Bears, and Packers). Odds are pretty good that Seattle also had ways of knowing about a few of the other seven teams that ranked Irvin in their top 15, and the Seahawks wisely decided to quit while they were ahead at #15 and take Irvin there. All that being considered, its awfully hard to complain about how the Seahawks came out today.
Who was day one’s biggest winner? A case could be made for the Colts and the Redskins if their shiny new quarterbacks end up having Hall of Fame careers, but the team draft I wanted to switch places with the most was actually the draft by St. Louis. I’m sure that somewhere Adam Carolla is getting plastered right now for more than the usual reasons (he’s the only celebrity Rams fan I could think of off the top of my head). The Rams moved from the 2nd pick to just the 14th pick and added two future firsts and two more present year second rounders for doing so. Their punishment? Having to select Michael Brockers, who is arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft. The Rams now have three picks in the first half of round two, and this is a very good year to be picking in the early second round. I would much rather have those three early 2nd rounders than the #12 pick. The NFC West is already becoming a tough division and its future is looking tougher by the minute.
Who was day one’s biggest loser? Most people will probably say the Seahawks, but I have a feeling those remarks will just look entertaining in a couple years time. I’m going to go outside the box a bit and say that Cleveland was the biggest loser, in the sense that they did the least good with what they were given.
First, they were losers because they lost out to the Redskins for RG3. That’s strike one.
Next, they sacrificed a very valuable 3rd round pick for a pointless trade up to secure Trent Richardson. Even if another team jumped up for Richardson at #3, which probably wouldn’t have happened, Cleveland was assured some pretty phenomenal offensive talents in Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon either way. A 3rd round pick this year is going to be the rough equivalent of a 2nd round pick last year in terms of talent level, so watching them waste a 3rd rounder for no good reason was the draft equivalent of a rich guy caricature lighting his Cuban cigar with a hundred dollar bill. That’s strike two.
Finally, I gave Cleveland my vote for “best day one of the draft” last year when they swung the ridiculous Julio Jones deal, the prize of which was a 2012 first round pick. Seeing them waste that pick on a quarterback who will be 29 years old midway through his rookie season is not only strike three against them in the 2012 draft, but it makes me want to consider rescinding my imaginary draft trophy I gave them last year too.
Coming up: players to watch on day two. Stay tuned.