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  1. #1
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    McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    The four most common draft mistakes
    By Todd McShay
    Scouts, Inc.
    Friday, February 12, 2010
    Updated: February 15, 2:11 PM ET

    An NFL scout recently told me, "Even after all these years, we don't have a Moneyball formula for success. But we are getting closer." Until then, the NFL draft will remain about as unscientific as any sports endeavor. As long as scouts and GMs have to scramble to evaluate roughly 1,000 college football players at four different levels, every now and then a Pierre Garçon (Mount Union, sixth-round pick) is going to have more catches in one season than a Mike Williams (USC, first round) will have in a career.

    So what's that scout talking about? Well, just because there's no secret to guaranteeing a sweet draft doesn't mean there aren't some must-follow tendencies that can help avoid disasters. As we head to the scouting combine, which starts on Feb. 24, then on to draft day, here are some mistakes the know-it-all suits shouldn't make. (But most assuredly will.)


    1. They will ignore the big four. At the top of the draft, four crucial positions -- QB, offensive tackle, cornerback and pass- rusher -- should trump all others. It's a supply- and-demand thing. As the league's emphasis on passing puts those positions at an ever-greater premium, the elite talent pool at those spots remains basically the same. Notice wide receivers aren't included on this A-list. You can get them anytime. Two of this season's top five wideouts -- Miles Austin and Wes Welker -- weren't even drafted. On the other hand, all five of 2009's leaders in QB ratings were among the first 33 picks. Catchers depend on passers, not the other way around.

    Look at this season's Super Bowl teams. At the big-four positions, the Saints and Colts combined to produce five Pro Bowlers. The average draft position of those guys was 44; two were first-rounders, two others early second-rounders. The teams generated nine more Pro Bowlers from the other positions. Those guys were drafted, on average, with the 80th pick, not including Colts center Jeff Saturday, who was undrafted. The Chargers (five of their past six first-rounders played one of the big-four positions) get it. The Lions (four wideouts and a linebacker in the top 10 between 2003 and 2007) don't.

    So while All-America safety Eric Berry is tempting, the St. Louis Rams shouldn't think twice about snatching a defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, at No. 1. A combo of Suh and, say, LSU safety Chad Jones (a likely second-round pick) will win more games than Berry and, say, second-round DT Dan Williams will.


    2. They will be seduced by looks. Scouts, GMs, even esteemed members of the media get too wrapped up in 40 times and 225-pound bench press reps. In many cases -- see: Smith, Akili; Jones, Matt; Gholston, Vernon -- superhuman physical gifts make usually rational minds race with possibilities. It's why you'll hear about Tim Tebow playing H-back soon. Too often, scouts think a freakish body automatically translates into freakish success. It doesn't.

    I've heard the buzz as it happens. Did you see that?! The furor overwhelms reasonable analysis. Mistakes and shortcomings that pop up on film or the police blotter fade into the background. Coaches are especially optimistic about being able to turn raw athletic ability into refined production. They think they can take special athletes and coach 'em to become special football players. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, guys like Clay Matthews and Austin Collie slide down the draft board, then make an immediate impact. The same arc will be followed this year by Texas WR Jordan Shipley and Penn State DT Jared Odrick. Neither will be a combine terror. They'll be happy to make their noise in the NFL.


    3. They will pay no mind to minds. As one scout told me recently, "You can't win with dumb players in the NFL anymore." This Jeff George-inspired rule isn't so much about human intelligence as football intelligence, not book-smart guys but playbook-smart guys.

    And yet book-smart evaluators still pay too much attention to academic All-America teams and the Wonderlic test. A 4.0 GPA or 40 on the Wonderlic doesn't necessarily mean a player will be able to read a screen or outfox a defender. Savvy GMs know the least-seen part of a player's combine performance, the personal interview, is the most important gauge. To be fair, more front office people are watching film with players and giving them pop quizzes to see what they've got between their earholes.

    The importance of mental agility is starting to sink in. Rey Maualuga had first-round athleticism but slid to the second because teams saw the blunders he made in diagnosing plays and how he relied too much on raw ability to compensate. Maualuga had a solid rookie season for the Bengals (63 tackles), but it is now clear why he was the third USC LB drafted in 2009.

    Here's a good test for this season's GMs. Watch where South Florida DE Jason Pierre-Paul goes in comparison to Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan. Pierre-Paul is a physical freak, and a team may get flak for passing him by to get to Morgan. But what that team will know is that Morgan is far more versatile and game aware than his counterpart, who hasn't shown much more than pure pass-rushing ability.

    "You can't win with dumb players in the NFL anymore."


    4. They will choose need over value. Everyone who has a say in a team's draft starts with the idea that the biggest holes need to be filled first. It's a fair philosophy in a football utopia. But in the real world, hole-filling can't be the only -- or primary -- factor in determining which guy to take.

    Look at what the Vikings did in the 2007 draft. After scoring only 17.6 ppg, they needed help on the offensive line, a replacement for QB Brad Johnson and a serious upgrade over No. 1 receiver Travis Taylor. The only solid spot in the offense, in fact, was running back, where 27-year-old Chester Taylor had gained 1,504 yards from scrimmage. But necessity didn't force Minnesota to reach for Brady Quinn or Ted Ginn Jr. at No. 7. Instead, they went with the best value on the board, some kid named Peterson. Think they wish they'd gone a different way?

    The Colts are the NFL's best at balancing value and need. In the past four drafts (despite picking after the big-four positions have been poached), they've gone 4-for-4 with top choices: RB Joseph Addai, WR Anthony Gonzalez, OG Mike Pollak and RB Donald Brown. None was a sexy choice. All offered bang for the buck at the spot they were chosen. If team president Bill Polian also filled team needs, well, that was a nifty bonus. More to his point, a perennial contender restocked its shelf with starting-caliber players.

    The Bills sit on the opposite side of this balancing act. They've consistently targeted need over value and failed miserably. From 2006 to 2008, the Bills reached for DT John McCargo, RB Marshawn Lynch and CB Leodis McKelvin. Not one of them was a starter by the end of this past season. That's a drafting disaster. Buffalo fans had best hope their team has learned its lesson as it debates whether to reach for QB Jimmy Clausen at No. 9. It's a position of need, for sure, but, personally, I see him as the No. 28 prospect in the draft. Buffalo would be better off taking a top offensive tackle, Oklahoma's Trent Williams or Rutgers' Anthony Davis. A QB like Colt McCoy or Tony Pike will be waiting for them later.

    And if all else fails, they can try to trade with the Raiders.

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  2. #2
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    I'd love to see his rational for having Clausen ranked 28th. Is it the 28 tds? or the 4 ints? Maybe its the near 70% Completion. IMO Clausen should be our #1 pick.

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by CanadianRamsFan View Post
    I'd love to see his rational for having Clausen ranked 28th. Is it the 28 tds? or the 4 ints? Maybe its the near 70% Completion. IMO Clausen should be our #1 pick.
    Summarizing from various videos and audio interviews I've heard recently from McShay, it's a combination of questionable maturity/attitude, good but not great or elite physical tools, and limited upside. McShay figures that Clausen will likely be a Top 15 pick but personally has him graded closer to the second round.
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Summarizing from various videos and audio interviews I've heard recently from McShay, it's a combination of questionable maturity/attitude, good but not great or elite physical tools, and limited upside. McShay figures that Clausen will likely be a Top 15 pick but personally has him graded closer to the second round.
    And I tend to agree. The thing with Clausen, which I swear has been mentioned before on these board, is his inability to get it done in the clutch. He had an abundance of weapons around him and put up fantastic numbers for the Irish this past season, but his team finished a mediocre 6-6. A great Quarterback doesn't let his team lose games.

    Understandably, the argument will be made that he didn't 'lose' Notre Dame any games, but there's a decent margin between winning games for your team and not being at fault for a loss. He has good physical tools and he did great when surrounded by talent. There aren't a great deal of scenarios wherein I can see Clausen becoming a walk-on success in the NFL. There are too many teams with too little talent for him to have an impact all on his own. He's good, undoubtedly, and his play certainly warrants his selection somewhere in the first or second round. But I don't see a high ceiling. With Clausen, in my opinion, what you see is what you get. And what you get is a Quarterback who had great numbers throwing the ball to great receivers, but couldn't manufacture more than six wins for his alum.

  5. #5
    TheRammer Guest

    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Dam thats a good article by Mcshay...Spags and Devaney have this draft need vs. value balance down IMO. I think they won't reach for certain players as is evidence by what they say and talk about in all their interviews...

    As for Clausen I think McShay is right this is a weak QB class in a normal QB draft class Clasuen would be like a 4-6 ranked QB so thats why McShay ranked him like he has done. I think maybe he could turn out like a immature Tony Banks possibly.. The lack of talent of QB has altered views of him. I personally wouldnt object if we picked him up in the top of the second but NEVER first overall!

  6. #6
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Can someone give me some examples of Clausen's "Immaturity", remember the guy is in College...don't expect him to fold his napkins when he eats, lets be realistic.

    The whole "upside" argument is one i never liked. A person's potential is not measured in film. A person's capacity to learn is almost unlimited. A guy like Clausen (whom im sure we can agree hasn't maxed out his body) can get faster, stronger and smarter. Its called learning..And he has done that over 3 years at ND and showed marked improvement in each one. Anyone saying that Clausen is or isn't a winner have just got a bad argument. A QB isnt the sole player on the team. ND offense scored a lot of points and averaged 30.8 points/game. Clausen can't run out onto the field and play defense. Ken Dorsey won a crazy amount of games for a top program. How did he do in the NFL? Bad argument..

    I believe Locker didn't win too many games with the Huskies either btw..Nor did Cutler with Vanderbilt.

    Clausen is tough, has a good arm, great accuracy, good decision making, good pocket presence, intelligent, and wants to win...

    What more do you need?

    Every argument against Clausen just seems weak to me for some reason...

    oh and btw isn't Manning a great Quarterback? Yet he lost his team the Superbowl (according to your logic). Marino never won a superbowl.. is he not great? Ill gove both ways and give you guys who DID win superbowls. Elway was a great QB but didnt win one until just about his last year in the league and had a good defense. Joe montana's ***** had a great defense.

    Takes two to tango and a team to win football games..nuff said
    Last edited by Bralidore(RAMMODE); -02-18-2010 at 04:22 PM.

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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Bralidore(RAMMODE) View Post
    Can someone give me some examples of Clausen's "Immaturity", remember the guy is in College...don't expect him to fold his napkins when he eats, lets be realistic.

    The whole "upside" argument is one i never liked. A person's potential is not measured in film. A person's capacity to learn is almost unlimited. A guy like Clausen (whom im sure we can agree hasn't maxed out his body) can get faster, stronger and smarter. Its called learning..And he has done that over 3 years at ND and showed marked improvement in each one. Anyone saying that Clausen is or isn't a winner have just got a bad argument. A QB isnt the sole player on the team. ND offense scored a lot of points and averaged 30.8 points/game. Clausen can't run out onto the field and play defense. Ken Dorsey won a crazy amount of games for a top program. How did he do in the NFL? Bad argument..

    I believe Locker didn't win too many games with the Huskies either btw..Nor did Cutler with Vanderbilt.

    Clausen is tough, has a good arm, great accuracy, good decision making, good pocket presence, intelligent, and wants to win...

    What more do you need?

    Every argument against Clausen just seems weak to me for some reason...

    oh and btw isn't Manning a great Quarterback? Yet he lost his team the Superbowl (according to your logic). Marino never won a superbowl.. is he not great? Ill gove both ways and give you guys who DID win superbowls. Elway was a great QB but didnt win one until just about his last year in the league and had a good defense. Joe montana's ***** had a great defense.

    Takes two to tango and a team to win football games..nuff said
    Well said, I agree 100%!!

  8. #8
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    If you read the reports on him this year, they almost always make a note of how he matured in the past year. There is a reason they say that. He had a few off the field problems when he first arrived at college and maturity was a major issue.

    I don't buy a lot of the arguments against Clausen. I like Bradford 10x more but I don't agree at all that he's 2nd round talent. And if you say he didn't have a lot of come backs, you didn't watch the Fighting Irish. He had a horrible team around him and he did a great job.

    Edit: I'm not a McShay fan. He seems more interested in making dramatic statement and getting attention from them than actually providing insight. Like when he declared Tebow wouldn't even be a good backup in the NFL and then had him rated as first round talent. Kiper called him out on it last fall and McShay just smiled.

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Bralidore(RAMMODE) View Post
    Can someone give me some examples of Clausen's "Immaturity", remember the guy is in College...don't expect him to fold his napkins when he eats, lets be realistic.
    Clausen's maturity issues are pretty widely accepted as accurate even by his supporters, who defend his cocky attitude by claiming all NFL quarterbacks have to be cocky to some degree.

    But if you're looking for specific examples, I think he began turning some people off when he rented a white stretch Hummer limo that took him and his entourage to the College Football Hall of Fame where he made his commitment to Notre Dame at a press conference. For more recent examples, there was an altercation between Clausen and Boston College player Rich Gunnell after the two teams played just this last season where, after exchanging some words, Clausen shoved Gunnell and then waved him off as he was walking away. Here's the ESPN report of the incident...

    Gunnell has choice words for Clausen
    BC receiver still angry after career day
    By Nick Friedell
    ESPNChicago.com
    Updated: October 25, 2009, 12:49 AM ET

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The trash talking at Notre Dame Stadium reached a fever pitch as soon as the Fighting Irish wrapped up their 20-16 victory over Boston College. Players were getting into each other's faces. Curses were being flung everywhere. The emotion that had been brewing throughout the hard-fought game finally boiled over.

    This was most evident near the Eagles' sideline. BC wide receiver Rich Gunnell, who had a career day by racking up 179 yards and a touchdown, was about to be interviewed on the field. That's when Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen came over, apparently to congratulate him.

    Gunnell wasn't having any of it. The fifth-year senior started jawing back and forth with Clausen. For a second, it seemed a brawl might erupt right there.

    So, what happened? Here's Gunnell's version:

    "In the beginning of the game, we were warming up, running on the field and [Clausen's] out there chirping and talking all this trash and he pushed, I think, Justin Jarvis. He just pushed him for no reason, and I just looked at him like, 'What are you doing? Who do you think you are?'

    "He's just sitting there still talking and then afterward, he was trying to be all friendly. I was like, 'I don't want to hear it now.'

    "It just rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't like what he did. It just seemed like he was a little fake toward the end of the game because they won. I know if it was the other end of the stick, he'd probably be saying the same thing to me."

    Clausen told the media after the game that he was just trying to tell Gunnell that he was a heck of a receiver. "I was just trying to say 'good game' to him," Clausen said.

    Gunnell agreed with that part of the story, but wasn't buying what Clausen was selling. "After the game he just tried to say, 'good game,' this and that," the receiver said. "And I thought it was phony."
    In a podcast from a week ago, Todd McShay talked about Clausen pointing and staring at opposing coaches after he scored touchdowns, and specifically brought up Clausen's behavior when Notre Dame played Pittsburgh this year. I'm planning to rewatch the game tonight to see if I can pick anything out, but it was a pretty specific claim for it not to have any truth in it.

    Scouts and personnel people will probably also ask Clausen about the altercation in November outside of C.J.'s Pub at about 2 a.m. when he was punched in the face by a person described as an irate fan. I don't think a definitive explanation of what happened ever came out, but most accounts report the incident as Clausen being sucker punched. Notre Dame's AD Jack Swarbrick said of Clausen, "He was not engaged in a fight. He didn't throw any punches. He didn't directly engage the individual." I'm not sure what he means when he says Clausen didn't directly engage the guy, but regardless of how the story was reported, he'll probably be asked about it.

    Now, you can look at these incidents any number of ways. They may not matter at all to some people. But the guy definitely has the reputation of having some maturity or attitude concerns, and while RebelYell is right that many report he has made strides this season, the shoving incident has to make you wonder. There's nothing wrong with being a fiery leader or being confident in your abilities, but it's clear Clausen's behavior has struck some people the wrong way. Interviews with front office people at the combine and at his pro day will be exceptionally important for Jimmy, I think.
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  10. #10
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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Bralidore(RAMMODE) View Post
    Can someone give me some examples of Clausen's "Immaturity", remember the guy is in College...don't expect him to fold his napkins when he eats, lets be realistic.
    Some are: Him pointing at the opposing head coach after he throws a touchdown strike, Being caught up with immaturity on being the starting QB at ND the years before his senior year with some minor incidents, Clausen looked as good as he can in ND's offense possibly and has a great striking potential to be a JP Losman type of QB. I just know if he can get his work ethic down intime and with alot of the money going to be thrown out at him gives some Tony Banks potentials

    I'm not by any means saying Clausen is going to be utter trash and not amount to anything, he has great potential but, there are alot of red flags that go up with him especially when some are suggesting he be used as our number one pick or trade up in the 1st round and pick him, which would go against what our franchise is trying to accomplish and gamble our future with finances and/or picks. However, If he was there in the top of the second round I'd be open to taking him...

    ps.s well looks like Nick beat me to the punch.. but ya he elaborated way more than what I described...
    Last edited by TheRammer; -02-18-2010 at 06:54 PM.

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    Re: McShay: The four most common draft mistakes

    Good article by McShay. Completely agree with the last point. You look at really, the only good 1st round draft picks by the Rams in the last decade in Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce were on the team when they made those picks but they chose those 2 anyways and they worked out great for the team.

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