April 25, 2007

NFL Draft What If

Every draft guru from Mel Kiper all the way down to GibbsRulz1991 has declared this the draft of mediocrity. After the top five (or more if you like the guys just off the elite cusp, e.g. Gaines Adams, Okoye, Landry, etc.) players, there is a massive clot of low-first high-second round talent. Naturally, if you have the 10th pick, that means you're going to pay 10th pick money for the same quality of player that the team with the 40th pick will get to underpay.

Perhaps this is less a sign of mediocrity in the crop than it is a sign that the elite players are easily distinguishable from the very very good. It could also be a sign that the seven NFL scouting services (six team-run independents and one service used by all the others) have access to so much information that they have managed to detect many flaws that were normally hidden in guys who proved to be busts. Who knows? Part of the allure of the draft is that everything is based on what we think we know about guys who have never played in the pros, what we think we know about the strengths and weaknesses of NFL teams that won't take the field for five months, and what we think we know about which teams always make brilliant picks (Steelers, Pats, Ravens, Cardinals recently) and which ones always find a way to blow it (Redskins, Texans, Bills, Browns recently).

But all that aside, how about this for a what-if scenario: the notoriously cheap Minnesota Vikings are on the clock with the 7th pick. The studs are all gone, and they're looking at paying 7th pick money for a 25th pick kind of guy. For this reason, no one will help them trade down. Perhaps they remember back to 2003, when they took too long deciding on a trade offer with the Ravens, had their time expire, and watched Jacksonville sprint on stage to select Byron Leftwich ahead of the Vikes' pick.

This event is instructive for two reasons: 1) Jacksonville is still trying to figure out what to do with Byron Leftwich; and 2) If you don't pick in time, the next team in line can jump in and pick ahead of you. I cannot not the find the official rules for the Draft, but I would guess that the 15-minute clock for the next team in the selection order begins at the expiration at the previous team's 15 minutes. I assume this because I have read that "a team is ALWAYS on the clock". So that means if team X fails to pick in time, team X+1 can pick at any time after that. The fun part comes if team X+1 also lets their time lapse. Then team X+2 also can pick from that point forward.

What if there is a Mexican Standoff on draft day? Team X intentionally fails to pick, perhaps with some pretext about working on a trade and getting distracted, with the hope of paying the player they want less. Then Team X+1 catches on to the idea, and decides they don't want to pay more than a player is worth, and they intentionally do not pick within 15 minutes. This could go on and on until multiple teams are staring at each other hoping one would just go to the podium and pick.

It seems far-fetched, but why overpay? I wonder if the NFL has a rule in place to handle such a standoff. Did it ever occur to them?

5 Responses:

Brien said...

I don't think this would ever happen. NFL GMs are concerned about a lot of things. Money and winning are the two that immediately come to mind. But their biggest concern is not looking stupid. Even if not picking until later in the draft is a smart move, it goes against the grain and there is a big risk that it would be portrayed as a stupid move. Since GMs move around quite a bit, it's important for them not to lose the respect of the owners and their peers. That's why you don't often see them rocking the boat or doing anything different and imaginative.

But I think you're right, the rules don't prohibit it.

J-Red said...

I think you touched on something. I think GMs not wanting to look stupid would make the standoff more likely after the first team lets the clock expire. What makes it less likely is that GMs don't want to look cheap. Even with the salary cap, teams have to give the impression that they pay top dollar if they want to attract free agents.

I remember when the Redskins had the 2nd and 3rd picks in the 2000 NFL Draft. It was widely known that they were taking Chris Samuels and LaVar Arrington. They selected LaVar first, then Samuels, because they felt a high 1st round LB commanded less than a high 1st round LT. With the slotting system, they saved money on Samuels' initial contract.

Brien said...

I don't think that stupidity aversion makes the standoff more likely to continue. The second GM is going to (at first) assume that the first GM accidentally let the clock expire. Under that assumption, he will try to make his pick as quickly as possible. Then the media will praise GM2 for quick action to move up a spot and will castigate GM1 for losing his spot in the draft by inaction. A few commentators might mention the salary issue, but that will be secondary. Minnesota still gets made fun of for missing their pick, but I've never seen anything saying that they didn't get the guy they wanted.

Jeremy said...

I believe you've just set forth one of those law school hypotheticals that while technically and legally could happen, in actuality would never happen. Kind of like the Bar Exam criminal law questions where a bipolar person commits 20 different crimes after just having drank a cup of what they thought was Kool Aid that really had Everclear in it and one of the crimes was only committed when an old roommate was attacking his girlfriend playfully but he assumed she was in imminent fear of serious bodily harm, pulled out a gun, and blew away half the bar. And Jason is about to give me all the legal defenses that could negate this crimes, I know him too well.

But I do buy into the reputation factor, that every GM, in whatever sport, is driven by ego and total fear of being eviscerated by the press. If you let a higher pick go by that you could have free access to, simply because you suspect that the team above you was playing Mexican Stand-off. Wow, how Bill Parcells of you Jason. Anyway, it wouldn't get past team X+2 because that GM would never catch on.

J-Red said...

But you're forgetting something...

All NFL GMs read this blog. All 31 of them. (The Redskins assign an unpaid intern to read everything on the entire internet daily and give them a brief summary in easy-to-digest storyboard format. Just like they do it at Red Zebra.)

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