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Last week was the kick-off of the 2010 NFL draft. The feeling walking out of Radio City Music Hall last Thursday night after the first round? Slight confusion. What exactly had we just witnessed?
In general, a sports draft is an assessment of potential performance rather than a reward for past performance. As such there is a level of predictability to the teamsΓÇÖ choices. But┬á this yearΓÇÖs draft? It actually seemed to buck that conventional wisdom.
A perusal of the draft board shows that overall the draft went as predicted. Most of the players that the experts expected to go in the first round went; they just may not have gone to the teams the experts predicted. So what made the draft feel so different from the usual expectations?
First, this was one of the deepest drafts in years. A fact that seemed to play itself out in the large number of linemen taken in the first round versus the relatively light number of ΓÇ£sexyΓÇ¥ offensive position players taken. Usually the first round of the NFL draft features the star quarterback like Linehart or Quinn or a dazzling running back like Bush. This is because teams at the top of the draft are the ones who need more offensive firepower to compete.
However there was so much talent available in this yearΓÇÖs draft, teams who needed offense did not feel pressured to make that a first round selection over a workhorse for the trenches.
Second, University of Florida grad Tim Tebow was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos. Prior to Thursday, there were four top quarterbacks available: University of Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, who went to the St. Louis Rams, Notre Dame grad Jimmy Clausen, who is now part of the Carolina Panthers, University of Texas’ Colt McCoy, who joined the Cleveland Browns and Tebow.
Bradford and Clausen were ΓÇ£guaranteedΓÇ¥ first round choices while McCoy and Tebow were predicted to be selected in the second round. After the dust settled, Tebow had accomplished the seemingly impossible and Clausen was odd man out. Yes, Tebow is a proven leader and winner but how much of that was system-dependent? Was his selection a reflection of past performance or a leap of faith about future success?
Ultimately, both these outcomes can be attributed to teams depending more upon past performance than future success. Teams with their first round selections chose players who have already achieved some measure of success on the previous level, as well as invested in positions which do not require much additional education at the next level. A linemanΓÇÖs job is essentially the same regardless of what level they play at: JV, Varsity, College or Pro.
As the 2010 season progresses and over the next few, it will be interesting to see how these first round draftees compare with their predecessors in terms of the number of successful NFL careers.
photo: Tim Tebow