Friday, April 09, 2010

McNabb trade and the draft

There are a few lessons you can learn from how the Eagles parted with Donovan McNabb. The best way to trade away a star is secretly. Once the fact you are shopping a guy becomes common knowledge the price to get the player starts dropping - so you have to move quickly. Once a player knows the team is willing to part with him it is hard for a team to keep him, especially if he is a quarterback. Everyone knows that so teams will offer less. I bet Washington gets less for Albert Haynesworth than you expect if they trade him (I would pull the trigger - some players can accept being shopped and come back, but Haynesworth is a malcontent - remember how I predicted he would shut it down last year after getting paid).

As for the trade itself I am not sure what the Eagles were thinking unless this was just about salary. Despite being the best #5 ever McNabb is probably not a Hall of Famer, but he is a well above average NFL quarterback and only 33. Washington will be better with him - although not a title contender. Playoffs are realistic, but also because Mike Shanahan is improving the team in many wise ways - Danny Boy would never build an OL. The RBs are still week, I bet Willie Parker ends up with the most yards. Also by trading for McNabb they won't be tempted to blow a pick on Jimmy Clausen (not a fan of any of this years QBs).

Meanwhile having *finally* gotten some good receivers Philly downgraded at QB. I know Eagles fans have never loved McNabb, and he does skip too many passes, but Kevin Kolb is unproven. Throwing for a bunch of garbage yards once the Saints had won the game and beating the defenseless Chiefs doesn't prove much. Maybe Any Reid has seen something in practice, but reportedly he had to be convinced to part with McNabb. Also with Michael Vick on the roster (and being paid fairly well) it isn't hard to imagine the fickle Philly fans quickly calling for him if Kolb struggles.

My favorite part of the whole McNabb saga was when the Raiders were trying to get him. The press talked about how if the Raiders made that trade it would mean that JaHamburger Russell (I'll keep this short - I know some folks are tired of constant confirmation that he sucks) was a bust. Uh - the 48% completion percentage, 3 TDs to 11 INTs (in his third year), being benched for both Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski in the same season, and the constant reports about him being fat and lazy (this offseason he has reportedly "slimmed down" to 290 lbs) wasn't enough!?! But I did hear one thing I want to dispute. No matter if he never sets foot on a field again he won't be as big of a bust as Ryan Leaf. Leaf stands alone atop the pantheon of sports busts because he not only sucked he was also the consummate poison for the Chargers. I've never seen another quarterback not get high-fived by his teammates after a TD pass. Leaf fought with everyone: teammates, fans (literally had to be restrained), management (screaming matches). He turned off everyone and the cost the team fans. No one has ever damaged their franchise as much.

Speaking of busts with the draft getting close I want to address a theory that has gained currency - taking offensive tackles because they don't bust nearly as much as skill position players. That's not true, it is just that you don't remember the offensive line busts as much because A: you aren't as excited about them in the first place B: linemen are relatively faceless and C: a crappy tackle is less noticeable on a football field as a bad QB. From 1991 to 2006 (I did not do the most recent picks as we don't know about them yet) teams took 54 tackles in the first round. I'm going to call 15 (28%) of them outrights busts: Kwame Harris, Stockar McDougle, Aaron Gibson, Ernest Dye, Charles McRae, Chris McIntosh, Jamain Stephens, John Michels, Billy Milner, Bernard Williams, Andre Johnson, Trezelle Jenkins, Stan Thomas, George Foster, and Kenyatta Walker. How many of those names do you know? And that is not counting a bunch of guys who played just for a few years, bounced around to several teams, ended up at right tackle or guard, etc. Robert Gallery, Antone Davis, Pat Harlow, Victor Riley, Leonard Davis, Ross Verba, L.J. Shelton, Alex Barron, and Vernon Carey. How happy would you be to get those guys out of a first round pick? That is another 9 guys (17%). Thus 24 guys - almost half - are at least disappointments. And ten others did not make a single Pro Bowl but at least were regular starters - your Jeff Backus's of the world. And there question off the payoff. If you have a first round pick won't you rather get a great quarterback than a great left tackle? Would you rather find an average QB or an average tackle? Further the stats reveal that your odds of finding a stud tackle aren't higher than finding a quality player at "high risk" positions. 37% of first round tackles made the Pro Bowl at once from those fifteen drafts while compared to 30% of receivers (18 of 61) and 41% of QBs (15 of 37). Plus it is easier to find quality players at tackle in later rounds. Seven tackles made it to Hawaii out of the second round in the years examined. As did and equal number of receivers - but 66 receivers were drafted against just 32 tackles. Don't believe the hype. And realize now with everyone thinking tackles are a safe pick they are reaching for them more, so there are going to be more busts in the future not less.


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