This is kind of an interesting debate that I am sure will heat up as the draft approaches. But as it looks now, we look like we will have hopefully the No. 2 pick and access to the top defensive talent coming out next year. With that in mind, and it looks like there will be a top DT/DE, a top pass rusher, a top corner, and a top safety/CB and top OLB. Who would you chose if you assume we have equal needs across the defense and say you grade all the playyers equally for their respective positions? More after the jump.
I have been listening to the debate on the radio and obviously the financial risk on choosing the 2nd player in the draft are huge. If we miss, it will definitely set the franchise back. So with that in mind, what gives us the biggest value and what is the safest pick, and what is the biggest risk?
As we all know the draft is an educated crap shoot at best. But some positions are easier to grade than others. OT seems to be a pretty easy position to grade and it seems that those picks have a lower risk factor. Looking at the defense, I would say that CB and probably OLB are the two easiest positions to grade in general. CB play is isolated and you can generally tell if a guy can read routes, make breaks on balls, can play man to man, or has good ball skills, and can support the run. Likewise, OLB is somewhat an easier position to grade since there is a lot of tape as far as pass rushing and coverage ability and ability to shed blocks, read and react, and tackling form. I would say on the reverse side of the spectrum, DE seems to be a somewhat harder position to grade because guys may be switching positions (Ayers) or they may be switching systems. It also usually takes awhile for a DE or DT to adjust to blocking schemes in the NFL and not being able to simply be more athletic than the guy across the ball. DT also seems like a difficult position to grade in many ways since it is sometimes difficult to see how effective the guy is if he isn’t playing in the scheme you are running at the pro level.
With this in mind I would rate the following positions as safest (1) vs. riskest (10), meaning that the riskier position runs a higher rate of bust.
CB – 3
OLB – 4
MLB – 4
S – 5
DE – 7
On the flip side of the coin is what position gives you the best bang for your buck, meaning what position can come in an dominate and turn the defense around. In this category I would say that a pass rushing DE/OLB probably has the biggest benefit. While a safety typically or DT probably has the hardest time making an instant impact. So with a scale of big impact (1) to no impact (10), I would rate the positions as follows.
DE – 2
CB – 4
DT – 6
Now granted, there are obviously exceptions to the rule, Ed Reed and Warren Sapp obviously had big impacts early. But this is more about how the position affects the overall play on the field of the defense.
The next criteria I think you need to look at salary cap implications. Any top five pick is going to get a hefty contract. But in the NFL hierarchy certain positions obviously get paid more because they have a bigger impact on the team, what I am saying is you generally will pay your QQB a hell of a lot more than a G, likewise, CB generally get paid a lot more than a S. So if one were to draft say a S in the top 5 and pay them like a cover corner, it somewhat skews or messes up potential salary cap issues. So with a rating of paid appropriately as top 5 pick (1) versus why the hell are we paying a long snapper 2 million as a (10), I would rate the positions as follows:
DE – 3
DT – 5
S – 7
So looking at the following ratings and adding them up you have the following:
DE 7+2+3 = 12
DT 7+6+5 = 18
OLB 4+3+4 = 11
MLB 4+6+6 = 16
CB 3+4+3 = 10
S 5+5+7 = 17
With what I feel the lowest number being the position that has the lowest risk for bust, highest potential to affect the defense, and makes the most financial sense if you grade all the players equally as far as needs. Based on this little exercise I would say that of the top defensive players on the board:
Nick Fairely DT – Auburn
Patrick Peterson - CB/S – LSU
Robert Quinn – OLB, UNC
Prince Amukamara – CB, Nebraska
DeQuan Bowers – DE, Clemson
Prince Amukamara or Peterson look like the better bets, assuming Peterson is truly a CB. Now granted I have advocated for addressing the front seven first, but sometimes taking the safe bet is the right bet.