The Advantages of The NFL Draft Over Free Agency

sportsloungecentral.comContributor IMay 26, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots drops back to pass against the New York Giants the second half of Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Patriots 17-14.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

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"I was sick of football ... I ended up resenting everything that pro football represented. I was tired of all of it, the media, football and practice. I just had enough. I put too much pressure on myself and I talked way too much when I came out, probably to get more money." - Tony Mandarich

With the second pick in the 1989 NFL Draft the Green Bay Packers select: Tony Mandarich

Third pick: Barry Sanders (Hall of Famer)

Fourth pick: Derrick Thomas (Hall of Famer)

Fifth pick: Deion Sanders (Future Hall of Famer)

Many times we have seen players taken early in NFL Drafts that don’t pan out, and today I'll be taking a look at the advantages of the NFL Draft verses NFL Free Agency.

Let’s not forget to give praise to Tony Mandarich, who had the fight and heart in him to come back after a cocaine addiction to play football again.

I'll start this off by taking a look at the advantages of the NFL Draft. Take a look at any great team in the National Football League you will notice that they all draft very well.

For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers are always drafting future replacements and seem to never make a wrong move when it comes to letting an older player go. They just replace him with a draft pick.

A recent example would be Larry Foote leaving for the Detroit Lions and the Steelers already having the replacement in former first-round pick Lawrence Timmons to fill the void he leaves at inside linebacker.

Another example would be the Philadelphia Eagles. They always know when to get rid of players at the end of their careers. Last year they got rid of Jeremiah Trotter and had Stewart Bradley in the waiting to replace him. Not only did Bradley outplay Trotter, he is becoming a rising star at MLB.

The real advantage you get in the NFL Draft is that the potential is by far much higher then getting a player through free agency. However, to be fair they also have a higher bust potential. Yet we always see those later round picks making impacts after being a “nobody” in the draft.

Take Trent Cole of the Philadelphia Eagles for example. Cole was the 10th player selected in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft and has turned out to be one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.

Almost any football fan knows who the 252nd pick in the 2007 NFL Draft was, and that would be Marques Colston. Colston holds the record for the most catches in the first two years of any wide receiver ever with 168. Going from a seventh round pick to a superstar wide receiver is something no one saw for Colston. It just stresses the fact that every single draft picks matters.

The NFL Draft is simply amazing to NFL coaches because it allows them to grow with the player and get to know them from day one when they step onto the field. Coaches start to groom players the first day of training camp and even in mini camps.

Coaches love the ability to develop players and watch them not only grow as a player but as a person in general. Being able to build a connection with a player is a great thing for the team and the community; without a connection you may never see eye to eye.

The benefit of free agency is that you know what type of player you’re getting because you have seen them play at the pro level; it’s a quicker process than drafting a player and teaching him the ropes of football.

Last year's biggest free agent player was Asante Samuel, who was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles after playing with the Patriots for five years. Samuel was drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 draft and quickly became one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

He came to the Eagles and made a huge impact right away, something they knew he would do. He had 36 tackles, 4 interceptions, 24 pass deflections, and 1 touchdown in 2008, not including his two interceptions in the playoffs. The Eagles knew what they were getting and it didn’t take him as long to learn the playbook as a rookie would have taken.

Free agency is a key for teams that are trying to get over the hump so to speak. If they need one or two players to bring them to the promise land then they can go out and get a player that will make an immediate impact. Just adding a veteran player to a locker room can help the morale of the team and show that management is ready to do whatever it takes to win a championship.

It’s a factor that the New England Patriots always use; they add older players who will keep them in the playoff hunt. Every single veteran free agent has the Patriots on his list because he knows that every year they have the potential to win a championship.

A problem with signing a free agent is that sometimes you have these players who get the huge contracts and shut down afterward. What reason do they need to tear their bodies apart when they already have $10 million in the bank?

This offseason, when the Washington Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth, people were saying that he would shut down right after his contract and not produce.

It’s something that every single team needs to watch out for. That’s why building a work ethic with rookies is so important; that way they will always work hard no matter what.

Another example would be when the Philadelphia Eagles traded for the Buffalo Bills' Jason Peters in exchange for a first-round pick and more. in addition, the Eagles extended him for four more years and $53 million, making him one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL. Many, however, thought he just gave up last year because the Bills didn’t give him the money he wanted last offseason.

Another problem with free agency is that it generally costs more money to sign free agents than it does to draft a player, unless we are talking about a top-10 draft selection. It’s an advantage to draft well because you get them cheaper and sometimes they can do the same as a veteran or even better.

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