Every year we hear about players who put up big numbers and surprise everyone at the combine. Often they move up considerably on several teams’ draft boards and end up getting picked much higher than their actual play merits. This happens because too many coaches and general managers, despite their experience, let their emotions get in the way. This proves that coaches and general managers make mental mistakes too. More often than not, the result is that these players end up being out of the league a few short years later.
One thing combines are extremely useful for is in evaluating the accomplished smaller school players. These players generally have proven that production is not their problem and it gives them a chance to show how they stack up against the players from the bigger schools. If they match up physically, I’d personally take a successful small school player over a player from major school that has been inconsistent throughout their career.
Spending a number one pick on a player like Andrew Luck would have made sense had he elected to come out early. Luck has proven that he not only possesses all the physical and mental characteristics you look for, but he has performed for two years at a level you would expect from a player having those traits. Contrast Luck with Cam Newton. No one can argue that Newton has plenty of upside, but he only produced (albeit fabulously) for one year at the major college level. He could just as easily end up being the new Akili Smith rather than the next Peyton Manning.
I am also of the belief that high first round picks are best reserved for players that come in and help your team immediately. Just looking at quarterbacks, only half of the teams (16) in the NFL started the season with a quarterback who was drafted in the first round. Yet 35 quarterbacks have been first round selections since Peyton Manning entered the league. That’s more money wasted on first round quarterbacks than some countries’ GNP.
There are far more examples of quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round who have been ruined by being thrown into the fire, than have had success. For every Mark Sanchez or Peyton Manning there are several Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, Tim Couch and JaMarcus Russells out there. It’s quite possible that, if some of those quarterbacks were drafted in lower rounds, and been given the opportunity to develop further before being forced into action, a few of them may very well have had successful NFL careers.
It makes sense to look for those hidden gems and take a flyer on them in the later rounds. If you take them too early you have pressure to play them before they are ready. That can ruin them mentally and thus hurt your organization as well. Remember, once a player loses his confidence, it’s twice as hard for them to regain it.
Posted in The Mind Side Blog Supertao.com
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