Following every NFL Draft, bloggers and sports analysts spend weeks dissecting every team’s choices, and whether or not they had addressed their "needs" from the pool of available college all-stars. This media scrutiny usually ends up with writers assigning a "grade" or "ranking" to every team's incoming draft class. Now some reasonable writers do admit how ludicrous this is, distributing grades to teams before their talent even tries on their new jerseys. The rational analysts concede that the only way to accurately assess a draft is to wait several years. But even then, post draft analyses are weak because as every fantasy football enthusiast knows, there is ALWAYS another surprise. In other words, you have to wait a considerable amount of time before accurately assessing a draft, as late bloomers can completely change the value of a former late rounder or undrafted player.
Although I openly criticize the idea of assigning theses grades, I do understand their function. Pre-and-Post draft media coverage does serve quite a useful purpose in terms of getting everyone excited for the next season. I mean, by late spring everyone is already starved of NFL action long enough, and who doesn’t want their team’s decisions justified? Picks that undoubtedly will send our favorite team, my beloved Monsters of the Midway, to the top of the division!
Except the reality is that these assessments are of little value, and as much as we want to think college success, or a list of athletic traits accrued from combine tests, leads to NFL superstardom, it just isn’t the case.
After accepting this reality, I started thinking if there was someway to more accurately predict NFL success. Because for every Pro-Bowler drafted, there is a handful of busts signing million dollar contracts and taking up roster space. This is especially concerning considering the very existence of the draft is to ensure more competitive play, and allow less talented teams the opportunity to rebound and challenge last year’s conference champs.
Except that unfortunately this isn’t the case. Year after year we see the same teams at the bottom of the league, with many incapable of competing with most of the other NFL franchises.
After doing a quick analysis of the last 5 NFL drafts (starting in 2010), specifically the first 10 picks of each draft , the reaffirmation of my statement stays the same: The worst teams in football stay the worst teams in football. The majority of the first 10 franchises to draft a player in the 2010 draft remained at the bottom of the league for the next four seasons. Only one team that had a top 10 draft pick did not have one again for the next four seasons (Seahawks). Three teams, the Bills, Jaguars and Browns were in the bottom 10 for the next four seasons, the Redskins for three of the next four, and the Lions, Bucs, and Raiders for two of the next four. Although it is true that many of these teams have traded away their first round draft pick, and occasionally ended up losing a first round pick entirely, the fact remains that they have been incapable of markedly improving their record given the current system that exists to improve their standing.
The NFL right now is in a serious reevaluation process, longer playoff discussions, talk on readjusting the PAT line, and also constant deliberation on player safety. Another important conversation that should happen is a reevaluation of the NFL draft. Although on paper the system appears just, many teams are currently in a long-term rut, and are having a very difficult time escaping their cycle of losing.
I don’t believe in a simple solution, but potentially teams that are in the bottom 10 should not have the opportunity of trading away their pick. The bottomfeeders of the league should be able to pick more than one player in their first round, essentially selecting a first round pair, rather than a player.
These suggestions are attempting to radically alter a system that has existed since the 1940s, but it is an adjustment that seems necessary to improve competitiveness. I give the NFL draft a failing grade for accomplishing what it is meant to do.