An open letter to George Paton


I’m writing to you today to give you some advice for the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. You won’t take my advice of course, but you should. I’ll lay out a case, which you will reject, and I’ll be proven to be correct in 4-5 years.

You, and almost every other NFL GM are drafting RB’s all wrong. Now, before your eye roll causes you to have a stroke, hear me out.

There’s no sane person that believes that a RB should be taken in the first 20 picks of the draft. Most sane people feel they should be taken in the 2nd round or above. There are lots of valid reasons why this is the case.

Other then a QB there’s really no position in the draft that can be as immediately as impactful, and touches the ball more, then a RB1. However, due to injuries and a myriad of other factors it makes perfect sense to go with a 2nd round pick. You can get a first round talent with a second round contract for an position that has a higher injury rate then pother positions. Fair enough, basic market economics. Tons of plug n’ play talent deep into every draft even though the talent drop off after the first 4 RB’s or so is steep. Again, that’s all reasonable.

Normally no GM is gonna take a RB at say the 20th pick or early 2nd round like you did with Williams last year and then next year trade up for another top 1-3 RB in the next draft. I mean, no one thinks the Steelers took Najee Harris at #24 in 2021 and are going to take a top three RB (say Hall) at #20 this year.

So George, here’s where you, and everyone else in the NFL is screwing up: You all draft a RB1, fill the need, then, to create depth, you’ll draft a backup RB in the 3rd or 4th or whatever, or sign an older veteran.

Normally you’ll sign the "complementary" RB ( if you have a speed guy you get the bruiser or vice versa) because you all play chess and you think that players of the same position but different styles give you more options and scenarios. You’re wrong about that but we’ll come back to that.

With every other position redundancy is key and the talent drop off is reasonable based on the position for that redundancy. The thinking goes: Why have two first round talents at LT when one is gonna be on the bench and get no reps. Why have two starting QB’s ( Grappollo and Lance) at the same time? Fill a need with superior talent, then draft for depth. There’s reps and contracts to think about and if you do have two first round talents you’ll eventually have to trade one based on contract size.

That thinking doesn’t make sense at running Back. It doesn’t make sense for several reasons. First, the position doesn’t have the longevity of other positions because of the injury history and nature of the position. Next is the immediate impact that a RB can make. These are the exact reasons why stacking first round talent and loading up is more crucial then other positions.

So George, let’s look at your team, the Denver Bronco’s. Javonte Williams is a stud RB and hopefully he’s going do great things and have a solid career. But, what if, and just hear me out George, you traded up early into the 2nd round to get Brees Hall, Daemon Williams or Kenneth Walker III? What would happen with your offense then?

Do a thought experiment here with me George. In the normal scenario let’s say that you draft a solid 2nd-3rd round RB that’s fast and about 190 lbs to be the opposite type runner that Williams is. Then let’s say Williams pulls a hamstring in the 3rd week or sprains an ankle and is out for 3 weeks. So, you plug in the other RB.

Now you’ve got not only a talent decrease but also, most importantly, you’ve got a separate chess piece, the offense that you’ve worked on with Williams as a focal point with OTA’s and Training Camp has to adjust to a runner that has a different style. OL has to block differently. Different plays. All of it stacks together to make it just a bit different at a time when you want consistency.

Here’s where you, and almost every other, NFL GM’s always make that chess mistake. In chess, using two pieces of the same type ( two knights, two bishops or two rooks) in concert with each isn’t damaging, it’s exponentially harder to defend if done correctly and it’s a relentless and ruthless attack strategy.

However, you’re not adding attack vectors with different style runners, you’re decreasing them. That’s why you make the chess mistake, you think a RB is a RB is a RB even though you’ve intentionally drafted or signed a separate type player for the same position. You don’t change the piece ( in this case two different style and size runners) and still call it the same piece.

Now play out the same scenario with a physically similar/identical RB. Similar styles. Both getting reps. Both round 1 talents. It’s pretty similar for the entire offense if one guy goes down. There’s a better logistical flow, if you will, that allows the offense to continue on the same path while allowing the hurt RB to take that extra 10 days or so if need be. You can also put them on the field at the same time, decreasing work load and increasing longevity.

In this case you drafted Williams as a 5’10" 220LB tackle breaking machine with 1st round talent. In fact you moved up to get him. He’s your Knight. Now you need another. Who is that in this years draft? It’s maybe Daemon Pierce, a 5’10" 218LB tackle breaking machine.

Now, play along George, let’s say you hand Wilson a loaded receiving core and two RB1’s that are both young and don’t take up to much cap space. Who exactly is gonna to stop Wilson, Sutton, Williams, Patrick, Jeudy, and ( pick one) Hall, Pierce or Walker if they’re on the field together at the same time? There’s always going to be a mismatch and Hackett is going to find it during planning and Wilson is going to exploit it in the game.

Now you can play both of the RB’s for 3 years or so, then trade one or two to recover the draft capital that you’ll have to give up to move high into this years second round. Then keep the process going. That’s your window, three years.

Even though you won’t listen George you should. The mistake you and every other GM is making is simple. You’ve all adjusted the draft value you have for a RB and are gleefully happy you can get impactful talent, for 3-5 years on the cheap and in later rounds. For the most part though, GM’s haven’t adjusted the underlying methodology of their draft strategy to fit the new paradigm. That strategy needs to be adjusted and you need to aggressively double down on grabbing a RB in the top of the 2nd if one of the top 3 talents is available and you already have a true RB1 on the roster. Especially if there is a realistic Super Bowl aspirations.

Like I said, you won’t listen. You’ll draft a OL,TE or LB at the end of the second that’ll have virtually no impact and be on special teams and you’ll call it "depth". Or you’ll draft a a guy under 200lbs in the 4th and call it good to have a backup. None of that will get you either wins or deeper in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, your draft strategy will be a mistake, the same mistake all GM’s usually make, and you’ll waste a narrow window of time where Jeudy is on a rookie contract and the league doesn’t really understand how good Patrick is and Sutton is in his prime.

You should take a hard look at the analytics of what I’m saying. However, you won’t, so, just file this away and in a few years someone will do this, probably Belichick, and everyone will go….Hmmmm….wow that’s smart and where did I hear that before?

Benjamin Perrone

( and yes, I’ve been playing chess since I was three)

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