The Indianapolis Colts go on the clock in mere hours. The long wait since the Superbowl is about to end. By the time this weekend is behind us we'll have enough to keep us busy until training camp opens. There's something really special about the NFL Draft. The amount of hope riding into Thursday is universal to nearly all teams and it can turn into despair or exultation as soon as Monday.
This is early Christmas for football fans. My buddy has his draft strategy already planned; two DVR's to follow ESPN and NFL Networks' coverage so he won't miss a thing. We've been talking about this draft for weeks now. The excitement is universal around the league and fans of every team wait anxiously to see what happens when the clock rests on their logo for those brief minutes.
In about two hours Roger Goodell will light the fuse on a bomb with a timer that will tick onto the Colts and then move to the Redskins... and then all hell may break loose. The draft is off-field warfare. Are the Broncos ready to go get what they want? 31 other teams would love to see them grade out like many of drafts of the past decade.
Is this our year to turn the corner? The Mayans are giving us one last shot.
Looking back over the past decade of Bronco drafts has really got me thinking about the kind of expectations I should have heading into this draft. This is a huge year for us, not only because we are hoping to add another two or three immediate impact players but because this is, in comparison to last year, a much more difficult draft for EFX. Drafting from #25 is no cakewalk. This is hitting a target the size of a wombat territory.
Our draft study was extremely revealing for me in a few ways. First of all, I learned a lot about players that I had completely forgotten had ever been a part of this organization. Their legacy (or lack of it in many cases) highlighted just how difficult it can be to find players that are able to perform in the league. The stakes are enormously high. Odds tell us a good draft is more like a batting average, a constant fight against futility, than it is a six to ten question exam. Can you imagine how good the Broncos could have been if they were to have batted even .300 with a few homeruns over the past decade?
If the expectation is six or seven starters every draft we are destined to be disappointed.
Secondly, this study helped show me that the history of the Broncos drafts after Y2K is so sketchy at best. I mean, we graded out at 2.3. A solid C. One can only hope that after Snooki births the Mayan prediction that ends the world we:
a) find a way to survive and
b) see the next decade turn a significant corner in terms of drafted talent.
Finally, the opinions in regards to a successful draft are all over the place. Some will grade an entire draft on one pick (the #2 overall pick at that) and ignore the rest while others will compare draftees to their closest draft mates and compare production and then provide a grade based on that comparison.
I realize that a lot of this is based in opinion and a final draft grade could take years to flesh out, but for all of the ballyhooing about the McDaniel's drafts the Broncos have seen some important playmakers added to the roster during his tenure. Most importantly he added the offensive pieces necessary to get this football team to the playoffs last season.
I also found it especially interesting that some of us are willing to give EFX a beginner's shot, a first time pass, in 2011. The idea that an average draft for them is actually great because it was their first seems a bit strange to me. The NFL doesn't play easy on newbies.
For this draft to be effective, EFX needs to show off their skills in the midrounds. Not their skill at #2.
We are moving into a new era and while the 2011 draft class is simply too new to pass any kind of final judgment, I do find it rather hilarious that we are so willing to sing the praises of a draft that owned the #2 overall pick and celebrating that pick like it proves how great we are at drafting. In a post awhile ago I likened this to sending a guy into the Victoria’s Secret photoshoot and telling him to pick a beautiful girl if he can find one, and then congratulating him on his amazing selection skills when he actually lands a hot one. If you miss at the #2 overall pick it’s like picking the cameraman. So, great job EFX! You picked a supermodel out of a pool of supermodels last year.
Quite honestly I was more impressed with the Orlando Franklin pick at #46. That is the kind of pick we need today. On the other hand I have been completely underwhelmed by the Moore and Irving picks. Those are the kind of picks, if they are looking for immediate playmakers, that will hurt us.
Many of our 2011 draftees have something significant to prove this year.
Today, EFX is working with the #25 pick and instead of getting their pick of the crop they will have to be ready to play the chess match that is the NFL draft in a different way. This year is the year that intrigues me in regards to our front office's true draft skill. I love that we got Von Miller, but there is no Von Miller talent at #25, at least not that kind of obvious talent.
What that means is that in the rounds the Broncos will be doing most of their roster addition the general opinion of the picks will range all over the place. We talk a lot about value and about getting the right picks in the right places. We talk about how important it is to not just get the player we want, but to get him in the right spot.
This kind of talk makes me nervous. Winners tend to research and work for what they want... and then they go out and they get it. In terms of the draft, teams must know what they want and be willing to go pay for it, otherwise they'll become window shoppers and while patiently waiting for that perfect value slot for their ideal player, they'll watch their player get taken a few slots too soon and then be forced to fall back on plan B.
Plan B's in drafts are called bad drafts. Plan Bust.
I hope the Broncos don't become the window shoppers of this year's draft. The draft is the most critical three days in a team's season to significantly better their football squad and we shouldn't be shopping at the Nordstrom Rack for that surprise talent. This is Gucci time. This isn't Country Buffet time, this is Elway's Steakhouse time.
Value drafting often leads to thrift shopping.
I hope the Broncos have a clear plan and a desire to be aggressive and execute that plan. I hope Elway looks at his draft board and approaches it the same way he approached the Manning acquisition... "Plan B?"
Sometimes these things will backfire, no doubt about it. However, the draft isn't an exercise for the meek. There is a reason it's called a War Room. We shouldn't be gearing up to negotiate truces. We should be gearing up to take what we want, and do it with cunning. The draft is not a battle of attrition. This is about asserting our will more dominantly than 31 other teams. If that means we need to outbid someone, I hope our front office trusts their scouting team enough to make the necessary moves.
EFX has been saying from day one they want to add immediate impact players to this team. Are they prepared to do just that? Ladies and gentlemen, let's go find out. The time is now.