The “Draft” series of posts was meant to give you some insight into a few past picks that didn’t necessarily have the success or longevity that many of you might have expected. No excuses — they are what they are. However, I can assure you that as much evaluative detail, analysis and overall work went into the selection of those players as did the likes of Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Jarvis Moss or Tim Crowder.
Our system of collecting the information, utilizing the data and eventually setting the draft board is as thorough as any in the League. How do I know this? Because the many scouts and coaches that have come to the Broncos from other clubs and other systems have told me so. Your Denver Broncos will not be outmatched in this area, period. (Remember, I was an Intelligence Officer in the Air Force. Gathering and analyzing is what we did.)
That said, I promised I would touch on some of my own philosophies/feelings surrounding the draft, and it is important to understand that these are mine and mine alone. They have been incorporated into the way we implement the business of “scouting” and in the manner in which I advise our Head Coach when we’re “on the clock.”
Trying to define one “central philosophy” with which we attack any draft would be like trying to cram smoke into a bottle. Nothing is to say that we could not have gone with a defensive end when we took a wide receiver instead, but no single season’s draft and the picks that coincide with it exist in a vacuum.
There are extenuating circumstances surrounding the existing roster, salary-cap status and overall budget situation that have a profound effect on who we might select. We weigh our overall needs, addressing them in the best possible manner, whether through free agency, trades or the draft. At times, some positions can be more efficiently filled with a veteran player than a developmental rookie.
Also, rarely taken into account is our own coaching turnover. Most would think that the stability of Coach Shanahan has maintained a parallel stability in the types of players we’re looking for at certain positions. That might be the case when speaking of running backs or offensive linemen. But recall that we’ve had four defensive coordinators since 1995, each with his own unique requirements for implementing his own unique scheme. That may have been most apparent this past draft as we rebuilt the defensive line for the third time in four years.
What I can say is that there is a fallacy out there that Coach Shanahan is the “end all” when it comes to draft picks. That could be the farthest thing from the truth. What he has is “final say” on who we pick. This is no different than a General having “final say” over battle plans or a CEO over a major corporate marketing plan. It took a lot of work prior to getting to that point.
In fact, we probably have more people with input during draft preparations than any other club in the League. My own perspective brings a broad based view of the existing roster and its associated contractual obligations, pro personnel issues, my own college scouting background and certainly the financial status of the club as it pertains to the money set aside for players.
Jim Goodman, Director of Player Personnel, brings years of experience as a college coach and recruiting coordinator to our discussions. Jim was a very successful area scout in the southeast prior to taking over the college scouting department and then player personnel. He acts as our “national” scout, usually personally evaluating the top 100-150 prospects across the country. Mix in an additional four evaluations (per player) from our area scouts and the input of the coordinator and position coach, and suddenly there are a myriad of “voices” to be heard.
That in itself is not such a bad thing (numerous opinions), but I think you have to be wary of not being able to “see the forest for the trees.” I’ve noticed in the past that issues of personal emotion or group-think can get in the way of making sound decisions (both by scouts and coaches). I’ll also admit that players have traveled up and down the board from their original “grade” as a result. I think we’ve done a much better job as of late in keeping with the plan, using the information that has been gathered and selecting the right players for the Broncos.
There are many reasons why you want your first and second round selections to stick, but probably at the top of the list is the “opportunity cost” of adding talent to your roster, coupled with the financial/cap obligations being allocated to a highly talented, yet unproven player. I’ll agree with many of you that “too much” and “too often” can severely hamper a club’s ability to put a competitive team on the field. These are players, that because of the cost/length of the contract, should be counted on as building blocks to your roster over four or five years. They have to “make your team” in year one and hopefully be producing sooner rather than later.
Third-round selections vary a bit in that the financial impact lessens substantially, but certainly not the fact that they fall in the “top 100″ players of a class. Fourth rounders become a new “first round.” There are usually any number of reasons that a particular player may have “slipped”. Most teams reevaluate their board at the end of the first day and look for values at the beginning of day two. This approach was taken with Marcus Thomas in ’07 and Maurice Clarett in ’05.
Earlier I touched on the fact that more college free agents are on active rosters than the combined total of the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. These players also log more playtime on average than their drafted counterparts.
I personally see very little difference in these two pools. Drafted players (fifth, sixth and seventh rounds) garner more guaranteed money than free agents and yet aren’t necessarily any more apt to make your roster. So the fact that we might only draft four players one year has to be tempered with how many college free agents we may have signed. Success here can be as good as a draft choice; Rod Smith, Matt Lepsis, Cecil Sapp, Mike Bell, Selvin Young, Erik Pears.
I’m looking at this post and realize that it may take you as long as a first-round pick to read it, so I’ll break and come back with more later. I look forward to it.