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Overused NFL Draft Cliches

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some things I frequently hear people say during the NFL Draft that drive me crazy.

“This player doesn’t make sense. The team has bigger needs than X position.”

I never understand how people can look at the Draft so narrowly. There is more to evaluation than simply looking at your roster, finding the weakest position, and picking players exclusively at that position. Needs change from year to year. Last year nobody thought cornerback was a need for the Jets. Would drafting a cornerback last year have been a mistake based on what we know now? This also dismisses the idea that needs are based solely on positional weakness. The Jets aren’t weak at running back. They do lack a go-to guy on offense and an offensive identity. If you think hypothetically one of the backs in this class would be an Adrian Peterson/Marshawn Lynch type talent, wouldn’t that fit a need? The Jets could build their offense around giving that guy the ball frequently, which would make everything else run better on that side of the ball.

“You can’t draft a player at X position so early.”

Why not? If it’s a kicker, punter, fullback, or long snapper, that’s a good reason. Those guys clearly don’t have value. That’s why our title is “overused” rather than “inaccurate.” For other spots, however, people get too focused on position. Role matters too. A tight end might not have a ton of positional value in theory, but if your guy is a go-to receiver like Rob Gronkowski or even Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen, would you say there is no value? Off ball linebacker might not have the most value, but a guy like Luke Kuechly would be worthy of a top think. Think the Chiefs regret taking Eric Berry so high or the Seahawks Earl Thomas even though safety isn’t viewed as the most valuable position? Sure, at some spots you need to have a higher return. A good left tackle or edge rusher might be worth an early pick wheras a linebacker or safety would have to be great. You can’t blanket rule out most positions, though, or you end up like Arizona ten years ago taking a left tackle over a running back. The tackle they picked was Levi Brown. The back they didn’t pick was Adrian Peterson.

“Drafting a player at X position early is a waste. You can always find one of them later.”

There are great players at every position who have been found later in the Draft. More are found in the early rounds at every position aside from the few mentioned above that have no value. Again, if you can find a great player earlier, you should take him. You have no idea whether a good player will be available later on at the right value.

“Go ahead and act like you know this player won’t pan out. Tom Brady was a sixth round pick.”

When we get to the late rounds, the odds are against any player being a hit. No, we can’t say for sure whether a player will pan out. There are plenty of late round success stories. Citing Brady is a useless comparison, though. Brady was drafted in 2000. Do you think there’s a reason you aren’t using a more recent example? It’s because players picked that late so rarely turn into good players, forget about generational talents. You aren’t even being fair to this year’s sixth round pick by saddling him with that comparison.

“Why would you draft a player and have him change positions? That never works.”

Aside from all of the times it does work, the inconsistency of the statement’s use is enough to drive you crazy.

For starters, the role of one position can vary wildly depending on scheme. Darron Lee at Ohio State played an off ball linebacker role. He covered and played the run a lot more than he rushed the passer. In the program, he was listed as an outside linebacker. With the Jets, an outside linebacker is a pass rushing position. Inside linebacker is where you play the run and cover. Yet I have seen people claim the Jets were dumb to change his position.

Second, the position doesn’t always do justice to the role. Even though he was listed as an outside linebacker at Ohio State, there were points where Lee was utilized like a slot cornerback.

Third, there’s a real inconsistency when it comes to logic on position changes. People talk about how crazy it is to switch a cornerback to safety. These same people say nary a word when a team drafts a guy who played outside cornerback in college and stick him in the slot early in his career. Learning to play without the boundary to help in coverage is akin to learning a new position. Yet because slot and outside guys are listed both as “cornerbacks” in the pros, this isn’t a problem.

Fourth, you have to take skillset into account. Some players might not have the tools to play their college positions successfully but do have the skills to play another. Many college teams stick their most athletic offensive linemen at left tackle. Some lack the explosiveness to man the position in the pros but do have the tools to play guard. Some defensive ends in college are too small to stay there in the pros but are explosive enough to stand up as outside linebackers.

Fifth, many of these players changed their high school position when they came to college. Why can’t they do it again.

This is our best class in years. Our team got 5/6/7 potential quality starters out of this class.

If you say it this year, I’m betting you said it last year also. How did that work out. How many classes in NFL history have produced that many good starters. Look at the best teams in the league. How many of their recent classes produced that many quality starters? Optimism is cool, but can we get a little perspective here?