Teams Fail To Utilize the True Power of Top Draft Picks

John GrayCorrespondent IApril 24, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 24: (L-R) NFL draft prospects Eugene Monroe, Virginia, Brian Cushing, USC, Aaron Curry, Wake Forest, Jason Smith, Baylor, Matthew Stafford, Georgia, Brian Orakpo, Texas, Josh Freeman, Kansas State, Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech, and Michael Oher, Mississippi, pose atop the Radio City Music Hall marquee April 24, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images)

Detroit has the Top Pick.  What should they do?  Should they really pick Matt Stafford, or any of the other "deserving" top college players to be the top paid player on their team and the position they play?

Can an 0-16 team, or any team, afford to vastly overweight their pay structure on an unproven rookie for five to six years at $10 million per season with $30 million + guaranteed?


It's of no surprise that many of the same teams select in the top 10 since they blow their salary cap on too few young unproven draft choices and can't afford to build depth.

Detroit realizes that no other team wants to be in such a position, hence the No. 1 pick, so it has little trade value.  Matthew Stafford should not be paid more than Tom Brady at anytime in his career until he has a Super Bowl trophy.

What is the solution?  If Detroit does that feel that there is a great difference between Stafford and Sanchez, then they should let their pick slide until they get to select one of the targeted players they want in a more affordable slot. 

The No. 1 pick really is not a prison sentence; it doesn't mean they must select No. 1. It's the right to draft in any position of No. 1 or below.

If Detroit holds onto their card then would the Rams still go for Jason Smith or pay Stafford to back up Bulger for two to three years?  The next slot is the Chiefs, who just acquired Cassel.  Unless they trade, they aren't going for Stafford either. No. 4 is Seattle.  Sports Illustrated predicts they go for a QB for the aging Hasselbeck. 

If Seattle does jump at Stafford then Detroit at No. 5 can go Sanchez, but save probably 50 percent of the No. 1 pick's money and use it to sign free agents in the many other needed areas. 

Or, with the No. 5 pick Detroit could perhaps trade with NE Patriots or another team to obtain many of their picks to add much needed talent to their team if Belichick or another team was so inclined.

Detroit could probably hold the No. 1 pick a few more past No. 5 even though the Browns have two young QB's already, and the Bengals and Raiders have their starting QB's.  At any time the Lions could trade the pick when it's in a more desirable/affordable position.

So, essentially, the Lions can save millions by maintaining their poise and the control of their pick by letting the draft unfold before them until they feel compelled to get one of the players they desire, but at a much more affordable price.

Other top teams could do likewise if they could not trade down, or just wanted to slip a few, but maintain control with each slot.  If you trade down two or three positions, the team could easily hurt themselves and ruin their draft if their two or three targeted players are taken. 

Maybe there is some truth that Belichick did not want the Chiefs' No. 3 pick over the more affordable No. 34, but if this was true Belichick failed to realize that the No. 3 pick is the right to draft in any position of No. 3 or below. 

If he wanted the No. 10 pick instead then he should have taken the No. 3 for Cassel and just held it until he felt inclined to use it.  Just imagine Belichick smirking against Goddell and the others owners while holding his draft card for a few picks (an hour or so making them sweat and ticking them off), especially after the fiasco with Camera Gate and the penalty of a No. 1 pick being taken from them.

I highly doubt Detroit has the smarts to let their vastly overpriced No. 1 pick slide for a few.  They will waste millions on Stafford, and will not be able to afford to build a support cast around him, and may even be forced to trade Calvin Johnson.  Stafford will join Joey Harrington, Andre Ware, and Chuck Long among other ghosts of high Lion QB draft choice futility.