I think one smart investment teams make is taking a quarterback late in the NFL Draft. Contrary to the beliefs of some, the odds of finding a good player are not very good at that point. Quarterbacks are extremely important to the success of teams in the NFL. They are extremely difficult to evaluate, though. Once they get into the league, it is impossible to say how they will progress. Rookie quarterbacks are kind of like lottery tickets. The odds are not great, but the more you have, the better the chances of hitting.
I think a team like the Jets would particularly benefit from adding a young quarterback to try and develop. This team already has its franchise guy. Any young quarterback could learn at his own pace and be groomed to become the backup. The Packers took Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn in the 2008 Draft for this purpose to sit behind Aaron Rodgers. Brohm, the more highly regarded of the two, did not work out. Flynn beat him out for the job. This year, Flynn was able to step in when Rodgers got hurt and throw for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Patriots in Foxborough. He might have botched an end of game situation that cost his team a chance to win the game, but Flynn's play gave the Packers a much better chance of making Charlie Sheen proud and winning than almost anybody thought they had. Veteran backups are usually no better than a stopgap, capable of adequate play and not much else. No team would give these known commodities a chance to start. A good backup quarterback is a luxury in the NFL. Few teams have them. If Mark Sanchez goes down, think of how badly the team would be hurt. A good young backup would cushion the blow.
It can also be a smart investment. Think back to the Patriots with Matt Cassel. New England invested a sixth round pick in him back in 2005. Since they had a starter when he hit free agency, they flipped him as part of a package for a second round pick a few years later. They essentially moved up four rounds in the Draft. He also played reasonably well in helping the Pats to 11 wins without Tom Brady in 2008.
In the coming days and weeks, I hope to discuss some trends on successful late round picks to maybe shed some light on possibilities.