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Risk, ceilings, floors & draft strategy

Discussion in 'Patriots Draft Talk' started by patchick, Mar 24, 2009.

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  1. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The topic of risk seems to be dominating the OLB discussion right now, and I thought it deserved its own topic apart from the merits of any particular player. The typical debate is "high ceiling vs. low floor": is it better to swing for the fences and pick a player with extraordinary potential but significant bust risk, or to take a proven quantity who's more certain to be a contributor, but less likely to be a star?

    My thought of the moment is that it depends on the specific strategic circumstances of an individual draft, and that the Patriots are set up to aim for high ceilings this year more than last year.

    First off, there's a big difference in the risk inherent in picking #7 vs. #23. Last year's #7 signed a contract worth 3 1/2 times the #23. Next, there's the fact that the Pats pick again just 11 slots later, then 13 slots after that, then 11 again. IOW their basket of picks is structured to mitigate risk, allowing room for a couple of Hail Marys along the way. The draft is dense in talent along the way, further de-emphasizing any one pick. Finally, there's the fact that the Pats have constructed their roster to minimize reliance on rookies in 2009. Again, that suggests patience for greener players with high potential.

    For most teams and in most years, there's more pressure on hitting that #1 pick. But this year, I think it's a mistake to think of the #23 as an island apart from the picks that follow, or to assume that minimizing risk is a round-1 essential.

    If you made your way through all that, any thoughts?
  2. midwestpatsfan

    midwestpatsfan Rookie

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    If I read that correctly:) I agree with you.

    I have been struggling with players I like at #23 because the players that grade out there do not have the potential as some of the guys that grade out lower but have higher potential down the road. That is why a guy like Barwin has to be considered at 23.
  3. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    Round one is still essential. Whiffing on a first round pick is tragic. Yes, one can make up for it by nailing 2nd and 3rd rounders, but a first round pick needs to be able to take over for the outgoing free agents that become too expensive. You get 1 first round pick a year (in theory). It is crucial to use it on a guy who will contribute for 5/6 years.

    Now, to your greater point, there's nothing wrong with swinging for the fences if the worst-case scenario is a ground-rule double. If the worst case scenario is a strike out, or even worse, Chad Jackson, then I'd pass. There's too many good players available to use a high draft pick on a boom-or-bust type.
  4. maverick4

    maverick4 Banned

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    One of the rare moments I disagree with pc. I think with our loaded team, we want to plug in a finished product.
  5. Hercules Rockefeller

    Hercules Rockefeller Rookie

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    Excellent observation, especially if they make most of their picks. I think it a virtual certainty that some form of trade will take place involving those 6 picks in the top 97, but the way they have set up their roster means they can take more risks. Certainly having picks so close together would allow the team to take a few more risks. I still see the most likely draft day result being the Patriots targeting a few specific players, doing what it takes to get them, and trading a pick for a pick next year.
  6. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Oh good, disagreement! :D

    On the face of it, this doesn't make sense to me: "the less we need immediate help, the more we want players who can help immediately." But is the idea that once you're close to championship level, every extra step closer to the promised land is key?
  7. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    That's the way I see it. If you're in your championship window, I'd prefer to plug in the surer (safer) players to get the belt, as opposed to using a pick that could be used on such a player and taking a player that might put you over the top, but might leave that spot unfilled and play "wait until next year".

    The above is obviously a generality. If the Patriots weakness heading in to the draft is a OLB for first and second down, I'd want Sintim over Barwin. If it were Defensive End, I'd want T-Jax over Gilbert. etc.

    If the Patriots had absolutely no weaknesses, sure, try to hit the homer with every pick.
  8. KY Pats Fan

    KY Pats Fan Rookie

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    I agree on the premise that a 1st rounder has to be a hit. My concern goes back to how many draft picks in 09 will actually make the team. Looking at the roster, I can't find too many holes. I would rather package up a few picks, move up, and grab at least as close to a sure fire pick that they can get. Now the question is "Who in the bottom half of round 1 could be classified as a "sure pick". I'm not sure.
  9. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    That's a long post for you, Patchick - almost in my territory. :D

    I would generally agree. I personally find the idea that 1st round picks are "risk free" is ludicrous. Consider the top 10 picks in the supposedly loaded 2006 draft:

    1. Mario Williams - seems to be developing well overall. Probably a good pick.
    2. Reggie Bush - not so "risk free", was he?
    3. Vince Young - another "risk free" pick?
    4. D'Brickashaw Ferguson - worth every penny of the #4 pick? Not.
    5. A.J. Hawk - a top 10 player at his position? I don't think so.
    6. Vernon Davis - hasn't exactly played up to his potential.
    7. Michael Huff - see Vernon Davis.
    8. Donte Whitner - a big "reach" at #8, has turned out to be one of the better picks from that draft.
    9. Ernie Sims - another "reach" for an undersized guy, another good player.
    10. Matt Leinhart - a "sure thing" QB from a "big time" program, right?

    So by my count 3 out of 10 picks have lived up to their draft status, though I don't consider either Whitner or Sims to be pro bowl level players. Not very good.

    I'll be willing to take risks in the 20's every day compared with that group. In fact, you can argue that Lawrence Maroney has played about as well as the average top 10 pick from that draft, even though we consider him something of a disappointment at #21.
  10. bucky

    bucky Rookie

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    I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually agree with Dryheat! You can't afford to have a first round pick eat up space on your roster and salary cap, and then give you nothing in return.

    If you look at a pick like Ty Warren, you know you're getting a "double" - a guy who'll be a very solid starter for you for many years. And given the work ethic, they might pan out into a triple of HR. So I'd say Graham was an example of a solid double who didn't pan out any higher.

    Then, as you get closer to the top of the draft, you're able to see some guys like Seymour or Mayo - solid doubles who have a good chance to pan out into big time players. Aaron Curry would be an example of this, this year I think.

    As you get deeper in the draft, there are less "doubles" to be had, so you can afford a couple of swings and misses int he 3rd/4th round area. To me, Marquis Hill was a good example of a boom or bust prospect. Crable, I think, is another one.

    The other thing to consider here is the salary cap implication. Late first and early second round picks are cheap compared to UFAs. So theoretically, if you can use your draft to constantly stock guys like Mankins, Merriweather, Maroney, Branch, Hobbs, etc. and replace them with similar players when their rookie contracts are up, it frees up money to pay your star players (Brday, Moss, Seymour) and plug immediate holes with the likes of AD and Chris Baker.

    One final item regarding this year's draft. It's been a while since the Pats have had a good draft class. The jury's still out on everyone from last year except Mayo. Merriweather is the only one left from 2007. And 2006 produced a kicker, 1 injury-prone starter, and a couple of backups. So it's imperative to get several players out of this year's draft who'll be starters in a year or 2.
  11. bucky

    bucky Rookie

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    This is a great post. I'll say this though - 1st round QBs are almost always boom or bust picks. So you can't really count them. And Reggie Bush, I would argue, has done about as well as could be expected of an undersized RB. It's not his fault he got hyped through the roof by the media and drafted way higher that he should have been.
  12. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    4. Go back and take another look, this kid was one dimensional coming in, but he's been getting stronger and improving his run blocking - he's worked to turn himself into a very good #4.

    8. Buffalo, the organization, is disappointed with his playmaking, he's their version of James Sanders, a solid, no frills kid. I like the purchase price NE spent a little more tha I like this purchase price.

    9. How is he a reach on a speed-based defense? For NE he's a reach, for Detroit, he's one of the few who panned out.
  13. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Obviously it's nice to hit on your 1st round picks, a number of teams have been successful despite a spotty record. Consider Tennessee (lead by our own Floyd Reese for many years), who had spectacular misses in 2005 at #6 (Pacman Jones) and 2006 at #3 (Vince Young) but still had many other successes - Michael Roos in the 2nd round and Michael Stewart in the 4th round in 2005, Cortland Finnegan in the 7th round in 2006 (I think), plus a number of solid 1st round picks like Michael Griffen and Chris Johnson. I don't think there's a team in the NFL that hasn't had a first round pick not pan out.

    The worst case scenario is always a strike out. Matt Leinhart hasn't produced much of anything in 3 years for Arizona. Cedric Benson was a total washout for Chicago. Charles Rogers was a bomb in Detroit. And they were all "risk free" top-5 or 10 picks, with great records of collegiate productivity for competitive programs in top leagues. In comparison, Ben Watson and Lawrence Maroney have been spectacularly successful. Chad Jackson (and arguably Marquis Hill, though he tragically passed away too early to tell) were really the only first day picks who totally did nothing to justify their early selection. Even Bethel Johnson showed flashes of why the Pats reached for him.

    I trust in our FO to identify players suited to our system and to assess risk. If they want to swing for the fences, I'm willing to allow them a few near-misses.
  14. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I listed Whitner and Sims as 2 of the 3 "successful" top 10 picks, so I would agree with you about Sims.

    As for D'Brick, a also agree with you, but I think it's fair to say that he has been a bit of disappointment as the #4 pick and a potential franchise OT so far. Nick Mangold (taken at the end of the 1st round) has clearly outperformed him on the Jets' OL.

    All I'm saying is that the top 10 is generally a gamble as much as the latter part of the 1st round, and at much greater cost. Consider some of the other years:

    2005 - relative busts: Alex Smith (1), Cedric Benson (4), Adam Jones (6), Troy Williamson (7), Antrel Rolle (8), and Mike Williams (10). And none of Ronnie Brown (2), bBaylon Edwards (3), Cadillac Williams (5) or Carlos Rodgers (9) has been a consistent pro-bowl level player. I'd take Logan Mankins over any of the top 10.

    2006 - already discussed.

    2007 - relative busts so far: JaMarcus Russell (1), Jamal Anderson (8). Gaines Adams (4), Ted Ginn (9) and Amobi Okoye (10) have been inconsistent but show promise. Levi Jones (5) and Laron Landry have been excellent. Calvin Johnson (2), Joe Thomas (3) and Adrian Peterson have been outstanding. One of the better top 10s. But Meriweather hasn't been far off of the average performance from that group.

    2008 - didn't show much their first year: Glenn Dorsey (5, considered one of the "safest" picks), Vernon Gholston (6), Derrick Harvey (8). Showed flashes: Chris Long, Darren McFadden (4), Sedrick Ellis (7), Keith Rivers (9). Excellent or better: Jake Long (1), Matt Ryan (3), Jerod Mayo (10).

    Even generally being selected by the weakest teams, most of those top 10 picks didn't make much of an impact their first year out, much less make an impact on a team as loaded as the Pats. So I think it's unrealistic to assume that there is a "risk free" player at 23 who can clearly be counted on to make an immediate impact. It's just not realistic.
  15. dryheat44

    dryheat44 Rookie

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    Well, just to keep with your example, As a result of Tennessee's top 6 misses, they don't have a long term solution at QB, despite burning an elite pick and huge chunk of cap room to a QB, and they were forced to use multiple high picks at CB. These are the things that set a franchise back. As a result, they've had to rely on run defense and run offense to win, and they got exposed as one-dimensional late last year. I agree with your ultimate statement above.

    NONE of those picks were risk free. Benson had major motivational and judgement question marks, Rogers had major intelligence question marks, and Leinart had major motivational/desire question marks.

    Really? I don't think either one has produced like a first rounder should.
  16. PATSNUTme

    PATSNUTme Paranoid Homer Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    This is and excellent thread. I'm at the stage now that I'm pretty confident that I know who the good player are. Now comes the hard part.

    You want to find out about players personality and work ethic. You want to find out if they are smart,do they respond well to coaching, and if football and being great is important to them. You want to find out if a player still has an upside, are they team players, and are they leaders.

    If a really good player in college does not get any better as a pro they are going to be busts. Others work hard their last year in college because they want the big payday and are not interested in getting better.

    So all of those thing named in the thread title are very important. You want to read as many scouting opinions on the players as you can.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2009
  17. bakes781

    bakes781 Rookie

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    I'd like to take credit for inspiring this if you don't mind? :p

    Obviously I agree with dryheat in that I think you need to minimize risk with your higher selections because of the $ invested. Yes every prosect is "risky" to some extent, but some more so than others. It does help to have a monopoly on the 2nd round, but if you swing and miss with your 1st round pick that "value" in the 2nd can be all cancelled out IMO.
  18. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Great comments from everybody, it's giving me a lot to think about. There's certainly a compelling argument that 2010 is a gigantic unknown while 2009 looks fantastic, so go for it all this year. But doesn't that suggest that ILB & S are really the places to focus first, and to heck with squabbling over OLB candidates?

    Also, one little contradiction to ponder:

    So are picks like #23 & #34 important to get right because they're expensive, or because they're cheap?
  19. PATSNUTme

    PATSNUTme Paranoid Homer Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    In my mind it doesn't matter if you really hit on #89 and miss on #23. We missed on Klemm and hit on #199 Brady. Did it really matter?
  20. Metaphors

    Metaphors Rookie

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    I think you also have to consider how high the "boom" is vs. how low the "bust" is (there has to be a joke in there somewhere). If the player has a hall of fame skill set, then you can more easily accept some bonehead behavior or limited experience or production against weak competition.

    For this draft, the prime example is Michael Johnson. If his college production consistently matched his physical skills, he would never make it out of the top 10. His ceiling is virtually unlimited as a Pats OLB. The trick is figuring out his floor. If he was inconsistent in college because of coaching, scheme or an inferior cast around him...then you take him because he won't have those issues with the Pats. If he was inconsistent because of focus, desire or intensity...then you pass because those traits not only keep him off the field but can kill a locker room.
  21. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    That's part of the problem. We're all pretty confident that we "know who the good players are", as are most GMs. And a lot of us will be wrong. :eek:

    I've had pretty decent success picking some players over the past decade. I loved Troy Polamalu, Karlos Dansby, Lofa Tatupu, DeMarcus Ware, Steven Jackson, Ryan Clady, and Greg Jennings. But I also loved David Pollack (who might have been great but got injured and didn't pan out), Michael Huff, and EJ Henderson. And I never saw Michael Roos or Owen Daniels coming. I liked Ed Reed but never thought he would become the best FS of the past decade. Allan Branch was the closest thing I had to a binky in the 2007 draft, and I thought he could be a pro bowl 3-4 DE. Oops.

    So I have my favorite players, and I've been vocal about them (Aaron Curry, Jason Smith, BJ Raji, Connor Barwin, William Beatty, Robert Ayers, Louis Delmas, Hakeem Nicks, Sean Smith, Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Jarron Gilbert, James Casey, Mike Wallace, Sammie Lee Hill, Devin Moore, Kevin Huber, and Jason Phillips among them, to pick 20 players), as well as about some of the players I don't care for. I've put a lot of work into thinking about "who the good players are". But I'm sure that I'll be wrong on at least 30% of them, and perhaps 50% or more.
  22. bucky

    bucky Rookie

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    Good question. Let me clarify my point then. Or perhaps even re-state it now with the benefit of afterthought. It's really a 2 part answer.

    Part 1:

    All draft picks, with the exception of top 10, are cheap compared to experienced starting NFL players. For example, Merriweather's contract was for about $9 mil over 5 years, compared to James Sanders $9 mil over 3 years. Obviously, the higher the draft pick, the more expensive they are. So whenever a draft pick goes bust, the higher he was drafted, the higher the associated cost.


    Part 2:

    As Mayoclinic points out, all draft picks carry risk. And it's very difficult to predict which ones will actually reach their ceiling (Watson and Maroney have been made examples in this thread). I would argue that it's a lot easier to gage a player's floor, than to predict where their ceiling is, or how close to their ceiling they're going to get.


    Part 1 + Part 2 = Team Building Strategy:

    - draft solid, unspectacular players who are able to become starters within 1-2 years.
    - develop these players to see how much of their potential they're able to reach
    - Identify key players who are developing to an elite level and can not be easily replaced. Apply the necessary $ to retaining these key players.
    - Identify players who are not progressing much past their floor. When their rookie contracts expire, replace them through the draft with similar players who are younger and cheaper.
    - Apply saved $ to acquire veterans who can fill holes and/or create depth on the roster.


    Which in turn leads to the following Draft Strategy:

    - Evaluate players mostly for their floor - how far is this player from being a starter/contributor to my team? What role are they capable of taking on and when?
    - When it's your turn to draft, draft the player with the highest floor.
    - When you don't see a player with a high enough floor (i.e. later rounds), proceed to drafting players with the highest ceiling
    - Sometimes, a decision has to be made: draft a player with a high floor, but a limited role (i.e. Ghost or Matt Slater) vs. one with a high ceiling, but a major project (e.g. Guyton). I do not have a rule for this situation, but suffice it to say that you will never be 100% accurate in these situations. Hopefully, they occur in the later rounds and you can make a decision based on the state of your roster at the time.


    That is my thesis for the day.
  23. PATSNUTme

    PATSNUTme Paranoid Homer Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    OK let me rephase that: I'm pretty confident who the good players are suppose to be.

    As I mentioned in another thread, Klemm was suppose to be better than Brady. The draft is about turning suspects into prospects. Not all prospects turn out to be the real thing.
  24. bakes781

    bakes781 Rookie

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    Obviously we're using this argument in the great "Connor Barwin vs. Name Your Own Personal Binky", but you can also use this with the top 2 QBs in the draft.

    Stafford is considered by most the "safer" choice, but Sanchez projects to have the higher ceiling. Most every draftnik believes Stafford goes ahead of Sanchez and I believe alot of that has to do with exactly what we're talking about here.
  25. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I'd usually agree, but part of my thinking came from a funny phenomenon I notice this year. Time after time I'll read a mock draft and cringe...until I mentally rearrange the order of the picks. E.g., the mock says something like:

    23 - Alphonso Smith
    34 - Brian Robiskie
    47 - Connor Barwin
    58 - Jarron Gilbert

    And I'll imagine it as:

    23 - Connor Barwin
    34 - Jarron Gilbert
    47 - Alphonso Smith
    58 - Brian Robiskie

    and then think "sign me up!"

    IOW, there's a big clutch of talent there, are there's just not that huge a difference between #23 and 34, or between 34 and 47. The probably that #23 will turn out to be the best of the 4 day-1 picks isn't so great.
  26. bakes781

    bakes781 Rookie

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    That's why I think the best play would be to trade the #23 pick for next season, which by all accounts is potentially supposed to be a better draft from what I heard.
  27. bucky

    bucky Rookie

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    Interesting that you say that. BB said on WEEI that (I'm paraphrasing) that there isn't much difference this year between 20 and 40. It's just that at 20 you can pick whichever player you want and at 40 you just take whichever one is left. Now, having just stated that as a fact, I will also say that he was given that information by the interviewer and basically just played off it. So I'm not sure whether that's his real opinion, or he was just playing along and being theoretical about it.
  28. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    In 2006 I heard that 2007 was also going to be loaded. In 2007 I heard that the draft was weaker than expected but that 2008 was going to be terrific. In 2008 I heard that the draft was weak at the top, but that 2009 looked like a dynamite class. And now I hear that 2009 is deep but not lacking in impact players, but that 2010 will be much better. And I take it all with a grain of salt. What's more, no matter how weak the draft (2005 being probably the weakest draft of the decade) and where we pick, the FO seems to do a pretty decent job of finding prospects who fill needs and fit our system. Some years better than others, but still, overall a great job. I assume they will do the same this year, and in 2010.
  29. maverick4

    maverick4 Banned

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    That's a little different from the picture you gave in the other thread, but 50% is still pretty good, exceptional even.
  30. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Good lord, please don't think that I'm claiming clairvoyance. I'm just another schmuck trying to analyze players and schemes.

    I think the draft is somewhat of a crapshoot. 198 teams passed on Tom Brady, 44 on Lofa Tatupu, 30 on Nnamdi Asomugha, 21 on Ed Reed, etc. I think a 50% hit rate on their draft prospects for any team would be quite good.
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