The Five Cardinal Rules of the NFL Draft
The NFL Draft can be a confusing thing. It's a crapshoot. There's no guarantee that the player you feel is a savior really ends up being the Messiah for your franchise.
However, throughout the years trends have arisen. Certain tactics work come draft day, and some don't.
The simple fact of the matter is, there are five accepted rules as far as the draft goes. Without further ado, I present to you the Five Cardinal Rules of the NFL Draft.
1. If You Don't Have a Franchise QB, Don't Pass on One
To make it to the Super Bowl, teams typically go one of two routes at the beginning of every season: have an elite quarterback or have a dominating defense. It's much easier to hit right on one player than it is to get 11.
There's a reason why the Rams really must draft Jimmy Clausen at No. 1 overall. In the 2006 draft, they traded their selection away, which eventually became Jay Cutler.
In 2007, they passed on Brady Quinn at the 13 hole for Adam Carriker, who really hasn't panned out. In 2008, they opted for Chris Long, who has only nine sacks in two seasons, instead of Matt Ryan.
In 2009? Mark Sanchez was ignored for Jason Smith, who now might not play left tackle. They can't afford to do it again.
2. The Combine Means Nothing
Let me backtrack on this point a bit...The Combine is somewhat useful. Most importantly, it let's you know about any lingering injuries that might alter how you view a prospect.
If he has a history of ACL injuries, that might be deemed too risky to use on a top five pick.
Also, the interviews are most often overlooked, and nobody really seems to realize how big of a deal they are. One scout has said that they dropped a second round prospect from their board entirely because of a poor interview.
But the most overblown aspect of the whole combine are the workouts. What do these workouts tell you? That's right, nothing.
Will a 4.3 40 really erase four years of unspectacular tape? No. Of all the rules, this one is commonly abided by the least.
The fact of the matter is that the scouts and teams have their big boards set after the All-Star games, with only minor adjustments made for interview and injury-related issues.
3. Positional Value!!!
Positional value is something that most casual draft fans have never heard of. Let's explain this concept as an example.
Remember last year's draft? Let's say the Lions, who were picking No. 1 overall, had linebacker Aaron Curry as the top-rated player on their board.
Despite being a great prospect, the Lions simply couldn't take Curry first overall. Why? Positional value.
To be blunt, some positions matter more then others. Defensive end, quarterback and left tackle are by far the most important positions on the field.
Therefore, these players are given the top priority, or highest positional value. Maybe you and your scouting department are in love with a five technique (i.e., the Chiefs and Tyson Jackson last year).
You can take him in the top five, but will he make enough of an impact to use such a high pick or the millions of dollars you'll pay him?
4. Have a Quarterback, Protect the Quarterback, Rush the Quarterback
Since 1990, let's take a look at the first overall picks by position.
Offensive tackle: 2
Defensive end: 2
Defensive tackle: 3
Running back: 1
Wide receiver: 1
There's a stunning revelation coming from here! Eleven of those teams wanted to have a quarterback, two wanted to protect the quarterback and five wanted to rush the opposing quarterback.
Two other teams were complete idiots.
This ties right into positional value; if any of these positions are in question, they immediately need to be right on top of your to-do list.
5. Value Can Trump Need
Bill Polian is by far the best front office official, regardless of position (general manager, president, director of pro personnel, etc.). Why? Because, he understands the draft.
He got his quarterback in their first draft in Peyton Manning. Then, he found ways to make his quarterback find success; adding weapons like Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne. He also used high picks on pass rushers like Dwight Freeney.
Once Polian got his basic pieces in place, he was able to follow the fifth and final rule of the draft.
Need should typically be a large proponent in deciding who you draft. If you're getting atrocious safety play, you'll likely want to add a new safety via the draft or free agency.
However, if a player who's rated even higher on your board is left for your picking at a position not of need, you take him in order to get the best players possible.
With Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, the Colts didn't come into the 2007 NFL Draft thinking about a wide receiver as a top need. However, when Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez was available for the picking, they snatched him up.
They did the same in 2009, by drafting Donald Brown out of UConn despite having Joseph Addai.