"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." Karl Marx
With the pomp and circumstance of the NFL draft over, a dose of reality puts it into perspective: The NFL draft is not a panacea for galactic incompetence.
In other words, no matter how many high first-round picks certain teams get, some of them will continue to dwell in the bargain bin of irrelevance, right next to Betamax videocassettes and New Coke.
The years may change, but the names usually stay the same: the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals always seem to be jostling for the top pick, while the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers pick later in the first round, yet are consistently vying for the Lombardi Trophy. (The New England Patriots are a unique case which I'll address later.)
Back in 1936, around the time Marxism was gaining steam around the world, NFL owners decided that one of the best ways to make the league competitive is to have the draft in inverse order of record. That is to say, the teams with lousy records pick higher in the order. Such a system falls into the maxim stated above, a basic tenet of Marxism.
It seems simple enough and, like Marxism, looks damn good on paper. Unfortunately, neither Marxism nor the NFL draft plays out on paper.
What both Karl Marx and the NFL owners failed to take into consideration is human nature. Part of human nature is to make bad decisions based on flawed logic and irrational emotions. And no amount of advantages can compensate for utter negligence and stupidity.
Indeed, you can give Matt Millen, the former Detroit Lions general manager, an infinite amount of draft picks and he would spend them all on wide receivers that won't be on the team in a few years (read: Charles Rogers and Mike Williams).
Or, the petrified Al Davis would use some archaic metric based on "speed kills," hoping to reincarnate the Ken Stabler-to-Cliff Branch dynamic.
(Seriously, Al Davis has become a caricature of himself. He is reminiscent of an old member of the Soviet politburo waxing nostalgic about the Iron Curtain and watching footage of Nikita Khrushchev's, "We will bury you" speech.)
Throw in a Dan Snyder, who continually makes football fans scratch their heads and wonder how he made enough money to buy the Washington Redskins and a Mike Brown, who hires the Bengals scouting staff from the pool of summer help at nearby Kings Island amusement park, and you have the making of a really bad MTV reality show.
Meanwhile, guys like Bill Polian (Colts), Kevin Colbert (Steelers) and Ted Thompson (Packers) go on picking later, sweeping up players like Joseph Addai, Maurkice Pouncey and Aaron Rodger who were ignored by other teams and building championship-caliber teams with them.
Now, what Bill Belichick does is genius draft capitalism. That is, he capitalizes on mismanaged teams like the Raiders almost annually. He makes a trade with them (i.e. Richard Seymour), getting a first-round pick, knowing full well that the pick will be high enough for him to package it into a trade for 10 more draft picks in the later rounds. It has gotten to the point where the second round of the draft has been trademarked by the New England Patriots.
Yes, the NFL draft is one of those ideas that derived from good intentions, like Marxism, but at best, gets mixed result due to human error. Unfortunately for many future NFL draft picks, the road to hell (i.e. Oakland or Cincinnati) is paved with those good intentions.