Football is the most popular sport in America. Yet the majority of its fans misunderstand one of its most important events, the NFL Draft. You can be smarter than them if you can internalize the following 10 bits of knowledge.
1. Picking the Wrong Quarterback is a ticket to years of Football Hell
Quarterback is the most important position in football. If you don’t have a great QB, good luck winning a championship. QBs are so coveted that teams reach to find the next great one in the first round. If you don’t get a QB who is smart, has a strong arm and is a good leader of men, your team won’t prosper. In fact, since the team invested a high pick in their supposed QB of the future, even if they’re a lemon the team will stick with them for too long and it will sink a franchise for approximately 5 -7 years: see Blaine Gabbert or Jamarcus Russell. Hope your team holds off instead of drafting a marginal QB prospect. Some team WILL do that in this draft.
2. “Winning” Free Agency is for losers
The draft is the most important part of building a great team. Many fans focus on their team acquiring Free Agents (basically, players whose contracts have expired from other teams) and get impatient or angry when the team doesn’t fill needs with Free Agent names they know. In fact, any time you see a team that “wins” Free Agency they are usually going to be losers. Look at the list of Super Bowl champions – you have to go back to 1996 to find a team that won a championship after acquiring the “big” free agent – the Packers and Reggie White. A smart NFL fan knows that good teams stockpile draft picks, train up their players, and re-sign their own guys instead of castoffs from other teams.
3. Understand “Best Player Available”
A logical way to approach the draft is to see where a team is deficient and draft accordingly. This is a trap that only bad drafters and fans fall into – called “drafting for need.” Good General Managers (GMs) draft the “best player available”, which means, regardless of position, they will take the player they think will have the greatest impact. “Drafting for need” means that you will usually draft a player too high just because they fit that position, therefore getting bad value.
4. Offensive Lineman are sexy picks
Many fans get caught up in skill-position players, like the big time Wide Receiver or Running Back. These players score touchdowns, they’re the players whose names you know from Saturdays. You may feel let down if your team drafts some lineman you never heard of. In fact, Offensive Lineman is one of the safest positions to draft in the first round; skill players are more likely to be busts. The position is incredibly important (especially Tackles) and the body type they need is super hard to find (go out and try to find a 6’-5”, 300 lb, guy with 35” arms who can move lightly on his feet).
5. The High First Round Running Back is a Draft Killer
This is one of the dumbest picks your team can possibly make. Running back is an incredibly fungible position, they get hurt all the time, and they are risky draft picks. Just pray your team doesn’t spend a high pick on a RB. In the last decade, only 1 RB taken in the first 15 picks of the draft has worked out for his team – Adrian Peterson. That’s 1 for 11 (not counting last year – good luck Trent Richardson!). Pray to the Football Gods your team doesn’t do this.
6. The Draft reflects the modern game
Modern rule changes, amongst other things, have changed the game into a passing league. The draft reflects this. Teams covet players that help the passing game on offense and disrupt the passing game on defense. Another reason why you don’t want high draft pick running backs (see rule 5). Understand this and you will understand the draft way better.
7. Mock Drafts are Stupid (but I can’t help reading them)
Talking heads who do Mock Drafts mostly don’t know jack. GMs around the league are trying to misdirect other teams on their targets and fill the info-hungry media with purposely misleading tips. Especially after the top 10 picks, a mock draft is just guff. Furthermore, they’re just trying to slot players where they believe they’re needed, violating Rule No. 3. But I read a ton of them anyway, cause I can’t help myself.
8. A Real Fan Knows more than just the First Round
Dumb fans only care about their teams’ first round pick and judge a draft accordingly. Good fans know that teams are really built in the later rounds. It is in Rounds 2-7 that you can get real talent and depth for your team. Learn some of these players – be a smart fan.
9. Use the magic of the internet to become your own scout
Just type a player’s name into YouTube and you can see great game footage. Don’t watch highlight reels. You want to see a player’s whole game – the good and the bad. It will also help you in player evaluation. You want to get out of the habit of just watching the ball. With the right video, you can scout like the pros do. Watch this video of Jarvis Jones to see some hot action:
10. Understand the Combine
The Combine is where all the highest touted players come together to do measured drills. Don’t get fooled by combine numbers and the stress the media puts on them. Combine numbers are just benchmarks to judge players according to historical trends (LBs with a 4.6 sec. 40 yard dash have x likelihood of being a starter, for example). Teams that draft based on strong workouts at the Combine lose (the Raiders for example). Good GMs judge on game film (like you can, above) and just supplement with Combine numbers.