A few weeks back, David asked whether we can consider Dee Milliner a bust.
I have been thinking about the question ever since. At the time, I said it was too early. I was thinking about it from the perspective of whether Milliner can have a successful career. While things are off to a bad start, it still is conceivable he can turn things around and become a quality NFL player. This is not the only lens through which we can examine Draft picks, though.
There are many reasons the Draft is critical for success in the NFL. One of the biggest is the Draft is the easiest place to find premium players at a low salary cap cost. For the first four years of a player's career, he demands a low salary. If you get a star, that is a huge advantage.
In one sense, it is important to find good players through the Draft because veteran free agents are expensive. Other teams can bid on the good ones so their price is higher. With a salary cap, it is almost impossible to build a good team through free agency.
The ability to add impact players through the Draft also frees up money to be used elsewhere. Take the case of Milliner. He has seldom been on the field in his first three years, and his play has been poor with only a handful of exceptions when he has played. This was a big reason the New York Jets had such a huge hole at cornerback heading into the offseason last year.
Milliner was a top ten pick. A corner who goes that high is supposed to be a star, number one type. Because Dee has not developed into that, the Jets felt the need to go out and sign Darrelle Revis. Revis carries a $16 million cap hit this year. If Milliner was a star, the Jets might not have felt the need to go get Revis back. That's $16 million that could have been spent upgrading other weak parts of the roster. It could have been spread out to get multiple players to help the offensive line, tight ends, running backs, and/or linebackers.
Even if Milliner was a quality starter, maybe the Jets still go after Revis. Perhaps in this event, they do not spend $7 million on Antonio Cromartie. It would not have been as much money, but it still would have gone a long way to helping a roster so thin in so many areas.
I still think there is a slight chance Milliner can salvage his career. From the Jets' perspective, though, too much damage might be done for this pick to be a success. Like any first rounder, Milliner had a four year window to provide the Jets a big-time bargain. It doesn't click for some players as a rookie, but you ideally would like to start to get real value for three of those four years. Right now we are at the end of year three, and Milliner cannot get snaps over guys like Darrin Walls and Dexter McDougle.
His lack of development has cost the Jets a lot of cap space.