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NFL Draft 2012: The True Value of Franchise Players and Draft Picks

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissoner Roger Goodell poses for a photo with Blaine Gabbert, #11 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, holds up a jersey during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Trijohn TranContributor IIIJanuary 12, 2012

We've all seen what a great quarterback can do. From the magic of Tim Tebow, to the records of Drew Brees to the greatness of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, the value of a franchise quarterback cannot be understated. He can revitalize a team and its fans and bring hope to a city. 

Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III make the 2012 draft one of the more hyped classes in a few years. From what I've seen of them, there are no major flaws in either of their games and both are NFL-ready.

It is likely that a team will try and trade up to get one of the two quarterbacks, and the cost of doing so will be the proverbial "king's ransom." The price for Luck would be at least two first-round picks, if not three, and something similar for Griffin. 

Any player projected to be a top-10 pick is worthy of being traded up for, but the costs of trading up for Luck and Griffin are absurd. The Colts will probably not let Luck pass them by, so let's look at a possible RG3 scenario.

The Redskins are a candidate to trade up for the Rams' No. 2 pick, sending two first-round picks and one second-round pick. Washington needs a quarterback, but the price is simply not worth it. Those picks would be better spread around and spent on two marquee receivers like Alshon Jeffery, Michael Floyd and a good quarterback to throw to them. 

Both Luck and Griffin are incredible prospects that are ready for pro football, but there are so many things that decide whether a QB is successful, with the system, players and coaches around him being key factors. While either of these two players could turn a franchise around, the risk for other teams out of position but wanting to trade up are too great.

That being said, there are also never guarantees that a player—especially at QB—will live up to their billing as a top-10 pick, which brings us to the point that the draft is more or less a crapshoot. If a team mortgages their future to trade up for a player, everything is great if he pans out, but if he doesn't, that franchise has just been set back a few years.

I'm all for trading up, but teams have to exercise some moderation and caution when doing so, and remember that they are never required to put all of their eggs in one basket.

Something most people don't realize is the importance of draft picks. The idea that you build through the draft and supplement through free agency generally holds true throughout American sports. A team that follows this will find themselves competitive long after the free-spending franchises have burned through their budgets.

A good example of smart team-building would be the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA, stockpiling draft picks, cap space and other assets and then spending wisely.

Conversely, in the NFL this year, teams have lost big when they gambled big on solo players. Both Kevin Kolb and Carson Palmer have not lived up to the prices paid for them—high draft picks and a No. 1 CB in Arizona's case.

There is too much of a "win now" mentality in the NFL, and teams are hurt in the long run because of that.

The point is, aggressive moves are sometimes needed when building a winning team. But those moves also need to be smart, and risk vs. reward needs to be thought about.

When that balance has been found, move ahead. But as always, buyer beware.

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