The NFL has two primary mechanisms (at least for the moment) to promote parity among its 32 franchises.
The first is the salary cap, which prevents big market teams from buying up all of the best talent in the league.
The second mechanism is the draft, which awards the worst teams in the league with the opportunity to add the best players coming out of college to their rosters.
The most successful franchises in the NFL build their teams through the draft. This process requires patience and drafting well year after year.
Sometimes, when a team is poised to be a contender, and is an impact player or two away from reaching the playoffs, a single draft can make a big difference.
But most of the time it takes several consecutive good drafts for a team below .500 to put enough key players in place and build the depth behind them necessary to become consistent winners.
Occasionally a team mortgages its future by bartering away draft picks to acquire talent today through trades. But the bill always comes due. These are the teams that sometimes go from double-digit wins one season to below .500 the next.
The next five slides identify teams that aren’t likely to get enough help in the 2011 draft to improve their standings this coming season. They are all teams that need to learn how to build through the draft.
The Redskins have the 10th pick in the first round but have only two picks in the first four rounds, and only seven picks overall.
In fact, Washington has averaged only a little better than two picks in the first four rounds since 2003.
The Skins have way too many needs (almost every position) and far too few draft picks to fill them.
Team owner Daniel Snyder can’t draft or buy his way out of this mess in a single season. Or two. Or three…
Brett Favre, the Vikings, and the Metrodome Roof All Collapsed
Minnesota has almost as many holes to fill as the Redskins.
They do have nine draft picks, but all but two of those picks are scheduled for day three of the draft.
The Skins do have one advantage over the Vikings—FedEx Field doesn’t have a roof.
The Vikings might be smart to take a gamble on QB Ryan Mallett, who could become the next Terry Bradshaw or Brett Favre, and is actually a good fit for the organization.
Taking Mallett with the 12th pick in the first round makes more sense than the Jets moving way up to No. 5 last year to grab Mark Sanchez.
And Minnesota wouldn’t have to give up three players, their second-round pick next year and pay a fortune to get Mallett like the Jets did to snatch Sanchez.
Paying big bucks to acquire Donovan McNabb won’t solve Minnesota’s long-term problem at the quarterback position.
Even with McNabb, the Vikings would have trouble climbing out of the cellar of the NFC North this year.
This is no longer a team on the cusp of the playoffs. Their window of opportunity is nailed shut for a while even with nine draft picks this season.
Carolina owns the first overall pick in the draft, but doesn’t have a second-round pick.
They badly need a quarterback, but if they gamble on Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, and à la Jimmy Clausen, the gamble doesn’t work out, they will have wasted their second-round pick last year, No. 1 pick this year and probably end up near the bottom of the league again next year.
Andrew Luck, anyone?
If the Panthers play it safe and select someone like Marcell Dareus at the top of the draft, at least they are pretty much guaranteed a key defensive starter.
The Panthers do own eight picks, including four prime mid-round picks where a lot of solid talent will be mined this year.
With any luck (and a lot of input from new head coach Ron Rivera, new offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski and new defensive coordinator Sean McDermott), Carolina can begin to plug some of the major holes in this team.
However, if the Panthers do manage to improve a bit this year, it will be because its new coaching staff utilized its existing talent more effectively than its old regime did, and not so much because of the impact of any new talent the team acquires in the 2011 draft.
Mike Thomas Makes Yet Another Catch Against The Texans
Last season, Houston boosted the passer rating of practically every quarterback they faced, highlighting their weakness at the cornerback and safety positions.
This was despite having drafted four cornerbacks and three safeties in the last four years.
Under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Texans move to a 3-4 defense and will now also need some serious help at linebacker.
The Texans have eight draft picks, seven of them pretty early in each round.
Still, given Houston’s recent draft history—they’ve drafted only one Pro Bowl player since 2007—it’s fair to doubt that their draft selection brain trust can identify enough talent to solidify their defense this season.
Jay Cutler About To Crushed By Clay Matthews
Da Bears have a lot of needs, especially on offense. They have late picks in each of the seven rounds of the draft because they were the NFC North champions last season.
Assuming that Chicago will have a tougher schedule this season, and given the odds against them being as lucky this year as they were in 2010, it will be tough for the Bears to find enough quality players late in each round to sustain the level of success they enjoyed last season.
The Bears won’t end up anywhere near the cellar of the league, but it’s not much of a stretch to imagine them dropping to third place in the NFC North.