Mark it Zero

The NFL Draft: A little less crapshoot, a little more blackjack

Several weeks ago, I compared the draft to a crapshoot, in which luck was as important as skill in determining success in the NFL draft.  While I still believe this to be the case, I also believe there are teams that do gamble better than others. So maybe I should change my analogy to Blackjack.  Even though you might demonstrate more skill than the other guys, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win.

Part of this change in perspective is due to a recent study by Pro Football Weekly (PFW).  In their 2010 Draft Guide, the magazine took at look at each team's drafts during the 5-year period of 2004-2008.  It looked at several benchmarks for success, but the benchmark that was the most interesting and useful was each team's breakdown for all 7 rounds of the draft in the following 3 categories:

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The Dude’s Mail Sack: A cage match between Jarvis Moss and Marcus Nash!

Fat Man blogger TJ “The Dude” Johnson posts The Dude’s Mail Revue on Thursdays, in which he takes your questions about the state of the Denver Broncos. Got a titillating question? Put a dollar bill into the Dude’s G-String and he might answer it—after bowling practice.

TJ, I know I said last week that I thought Kyle Orton's neckbeard was sexy, but that's until we signed Brady Quinn. He's absolutely dreamy.  Have you seen his pecks?  His biceps?  Everyone wants to know, is he going to start in 2010?

--Charlie, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Draft Dez Bryant - only if you’re playing Monopoly

"The process was really thorough. We took our time. It was important for me to get the right fit for our football team."

--Matt Millen, Former General Manager, Detroit Lions

Matt McGuire, over at Walter Football, is probably best known for his mock drafts.  But it's his blog that I enjoy more. Recently, he had a blog entry entitled, NFL Draft Picks Are Business Investments.   He wrote something that I think deserves a lot more attention:

If I gave you $4 million to invest, would you invest that money into a company that didn't care very much about what they were doing? Would you be confident about investing in a business that didn't care about customer service, their product, employee relations, employee performance and leadership?

I doubt you would - you might as well throw the $4 million into a fire.

But what if this company had a lot of upside? Would you still be willing to lose the $4 million if you could get a large return in a couple years? It's a massive risk.

How can a company that doesn't care become profitable? It's almost impossible for that to happen.

So why should we evaluate NFL Draft prospects any differently? In translation: How can an NFL player be successful if he has a very mediocre work ethic, doesn't love the game, doesn't take the process seriously, and is immature?

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The Dude’s Mail Sack: Is Kyle Orton eye candy?

Fat Man blogger TJ “The Dude” Johnson posts The Dude’s Mail Revue on Thursdays, in which he takes your questions about the state of the Denver Broncos. Got a titillating question? Put a dollar bill into the Dude’s G-String and he might answer it—after bowling practice.

Hey, TJ, just give me the stats! I've noticed that with the signings of Jamal Williams, Jarvis Green, and Justin Bannan, the Broncos are getting a little long in the tooth on the defensive line.   Are these guys really the answer?   I mean they are really really old.

---Mike, Norman, Oklahoma

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The Loser’s Curse and the NFL Draft

In 2005, Cade Massey and Richard Thayer, two academics from Duke and the University of Chicago, authored a fascinating and statistically-heavy paper entitled The Loser's Curse: Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the National Football League Draft.  While the paper is dated, and while it has received its fair share of criticism and analysis itself, I think the most fascinating sentence from the entire 59-page paper is the biggest and most overlooked truth from the modern-day NFL:

Buying expensive players, even if they turn out to be great performers, imposes opportunity costs elsewhere on the roster.

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Visions of sugar plums: the value of Brandon Marshall

Christmas comes only once a year.  And Pete Carroll isn't donning a santa costume.

While we all might have believed last week that Brandon Marshall was worth a 1st and a 3rd round pick,  two things happened in the last two days that say otherwise:

  1. The Denver Broncos themselves placed only a 1st round tender on Marshall
  2. The Anquan Boldin trade

The Boldin trade, in particular, dealt what could have been a giant blow to the idea that the Broncos will be getting what we as fans hope is a fair value for the player known as The Beast.   

After the jump, we'll look at the Boldin deal, it's consequences for Marshall, and what both Seattle and Denver might be considering as they discuss what Bradon Marshall is worth.

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Shake Me: How turnovers and penalties shook the 2009 Denver Broncos

Penalties and turnovers hurt, like a kick to the groin.  Every coach will tell you that they can kill a drive faster than a Darrius Heyward-Bey crossing route (the groin of the Oakland Raiders).  In fact, you hear about penalties and turnovers so often in post-game press conferences, you would think that play calling had little do do with the results of the game.  

And often this is the case.  The team that does the best job executing its own individual game plan is usually the winner. Penalties and turnovers are simply markers along the way.

But when you chart every offensive play in a given season, you tend to only focus on the big picture (trends, downs and distances, player values) and forget about just how large a role penalties and turnovers really play.  Each holding call, each interception and fumble, each turnover on downs, and each missed field goal--each one of them were a piece of what became the 2009 Broncos offense.  So I thought that I'd take a brief moment this week in the middle of all of the draft analysis, to explore, using expected points value, penalties and turnovers. 

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Talk Dirty to Me: The power of hyper-aggressive coaching & how stats can make Josh McDaniels dirtier

You know I never
I never seen you look so good
You never call the plays you should
But I like it
And I know you like it too.....

If you're ever in a jam for awesomely-bad 80s music, so bad that it's actually good, you don't have to look much farther than the band Poison.  This little ditty, Talk Dirty To Me, is classic lipstick metal, so shallow that it's profound. So non-existential, it's almost existential.  And it's a lesson for NFL coaches.

Be aggressive.  Don't play it safe.   Wear eye liner.

Well perhaps the third is optional (unless your the new Al Davis hire).  But the first two should be requirements for all NFL coaches.

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Major Kyle (Coming Home): The 2009 Broncos passing game & why Eddie Royal isn’t lost in space

4...3...2..1...Kyle behind us...

passing, hurling....floating weightless
calling, calling...(Denver) home...

When I put these weekly columns together, I have so much 80s music to chose from it's almost criminal.  This week it was a close competition between Motley Crue's Shout at the Royal or Falco's Rock Me Kyle Orton.  But ultimately I decided there simply wasn't a better way to introduce the 2009-passing game of the Denver Broncos than with reference to this song by Peter Schilling in 1984, which was also covered in 2009 by Shiny Toy Guns.  I personally could listen to either version 50 times in succession--the equivalent to the number of seasons the Raiders will wait for the playoffs--and never grow bored.

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I Ran (So Far Away): The story of the Broncos running game in 2009

He just ran....He ran all night and day....

...Knowshon couldn't get away.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the 2009 Broncos season (aside from knowing that Raiders fans continue breeding) was the lack of a running game. You've heard the storyline, but let's review the major plot points again:

  1. The Broncos nab the top running back in the draft.
  2. The Broncos struggle in short yardage, but the problems are masked by a 6-0 start and one hell of a defense.
  3. A small offensive line begins the painful transition to a power-running game.
  4. Denver's best run-blocking lineman is injured.
  5. Denver finishes with a 4.2 average yards-per-carry and ends up 18th in rushing.
  6. The rookie running back shows flashes of brilliance, but, by most accounts, finishes below expectations.

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