Mindfreak: if you’re so smart, why aren’t you a general manager?

Last week, as I was holding down my couch springs, I lavished some big-time praise on Brian Xanders for his work during the 2011 NFL Draft.

He deserved it.  The Broncos went into the draft with seven picks; they came out with nine. 

Statistically, Xanders improved the Broncos' ability to land more starters.

You'll notice that I mentioned none of players' names to come to this conclusion.  That's because I agree 100% with Kerry J. Byrne wrote last week:

You know how most analysts do it: They pretend they watched every college football game of the past three seasons, toss out clichés about various schemes, or which players "set the edge" and have "good motors" and then try to guess which will succeed or fail at the next level.


Good luck with that.


The truth is that nobody knows who's going to succeed or fail -- not us, not the draft "experts" on TV and certainly not the GMs making the decisions on draft day.

Despite the truth in Byrne's words, there is usually someone who will email or leave a comment about the Ravens, Patriots, or Steelers as evidence that some guys really are smarter than others.  As my good friend Ted Bartlett stated, Mel Kiper, Jr. has made a nice living for himself selling that narrative.

It also never fails that someone emails me with some form of the following comment: "If you're so smart, why aren't you a general manager?"

I try to remain sympathetic to these arguments, but it's difficult.  A computer simulation, in which teams have a 50-50 chance of hitting on their first-round draft picks, would likely produce outcomes that would mirror these three elite teams over time (and the Raiders and Lions, for that matter).  Still, we as humans like explanations for even the slightest patterns among randomness.  Luck just won't do.  We've got to explain luck away.  So we tend to make statements like, "Emmitt Smith was one of the greatest running backs in NFL history," as an explanation for his career, versus acknowledging that pure luck played a huge role.

This thinking also works in reverse.  Former Bronco "Tombstone" Jackson, by many accounts of his peers, was the most talented pass rusher of his generation, perhaps in the history of the NFL.  Yet, most people have never heard of Jackson, and you won't find him in the Hall of Fame.  That's because his career was decimated by injuries.  It also explains why Deacon Jones and not Jackson ends up on so many NFL Films segments.   At least the Broncos had the smarts to put Jackson in their Ring of Fame.

Why all this talk about luck?  Several reasons.  First, I'll be spending more time talking about randomness and football in the future.  It will make you less likely to kick your dog after a Broncos loss when you really come to terms with how much of this stuff is random.  Second, although I do praise Brian Xanders for his work in increasing the Broncos' odds of drafting starters, I recognize that his success as a general manager will have as much to do with randomness as his own skill.   Sorry, X-Man, stuff is just going to happen that you never planned for (like guys allegedly slipping on McDonald's wrappers and plunging an arm through a television set).  Third, I'm so convinced that much of this stuff is random luck that I want to put my own picks up against the X-Man's.  In other words, I'm not convinced a guy blogging from his parents' basement will do any less poorly than a staff of scouting directors, coaches, and well-paid executives.

You see, while I praise Xanders for his maneuvers and acknowledge he filled positions of need, I still disagree completely with most of his picks, even as I wait for the Broncos to address their defensive tackle needs in free agency.

A few ground rules before I begin, just to make the randomness even more enjoyable.  Although Xanders (according to interviews) spends most of his time breaking down tape, I'm going to restrict my knowledge to several dozen college games on TV, along with a lot of scouting reports.  As Byrne suggested, I'll hardly be doing anything differently from the other thousand mockers with no life and a Twitter account.

So let's jump right into my post-draft re-mock.

Pick #2 - Von Miller, Linbacker, Texas A&M

I was on record as supporting any of the following four picks here: Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, or Miller.  So I can't say I disagree with the pick.  Therefore, I won't.

TJ's re-mock pick:  Von Miller

Pick # 45 - Rahim Moore, Safety, UCLA

Moore's comments on wanting to be a Bronco forever (forever ever?) have made him a lot of orange-and-blue fans across America.   It's hard to completely condemn Xanders for jumping on the top safety in the draft at this pick as well, given that Moore could have slipped into the first round.  Yet, I'm compelled to disagree with the former pool cleaner turned Dan Reeves disciple.  Moore may have indeed been the best player available on the Broncos' board, but on many other boards, he simply wasn't.  This is where I would have picked a defensive tackle back to back.

TJ's re-mock pick: Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina.  The New York Giants nabbed Austin seven picks after the Broncos got Moore.  They know a thing or two about drafting defensive linemen.  Apparently, the Broncos never even considered Austin.  We'll see in a few years if the Broncos have a solid starter or if the Giants have yet another dominant defensive grinder.  Right now, I'm putting my money on the team with the track record.

Pick # 46 - Orlando Franklin, Tackle, Miami

If you read through our Chewing the Fat analysis in real time, you know I thought this was a reach.  Ted Bartlett has helped ease my mind on the pick over the last week, yet I still find myself wishing the Broncos had simply backed up the truck on the defensive line at this pick.

TJ's re-mock pick: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State  Paea went seven picks later to the Bears, which was crushing.  In a few years, Paea will be crushing linemn on his way to the Pro Bowl.

Pick # 67 - Nate Irving, Linebacker, North Carolina State

Let me be clear: after seeing Irving's film, it's damn hard to disagree with the pick.  However, there were many others who would have gone with Martez Wilson here, who was still available.  This includes me.

TJ's re-mock pick: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois  Of course, the Saints picked Wilson five picks later.  In a few years, this should be an easy comparison since Irving and Wilson both play linebacker.

Pick 108 - Quinton Carter, Safety, Oklahoma

The Broncos did need a safety at some point during this draft. They were lucky that Carter was on the board.  It's another pick I can't disagree with.

TJ's re-mock pick: Quinton Carter

Pick # 129 - Julius Thomas, Tight End, Portland State

This was my favorite pick of the draft outside of Miller, but that doesn't mean I would have done the same at this pick.  Here is where you get your offensive tackle.

TJ's re-mock pick: Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU   I hate to play the hoodie card, but Cannon was drafted by the Patriots at pick 138.   Spare me the medical stuff.  Cannon could easily be a better pro than Franklin in three years.

Pick # 189 - Mike Mohamed, Linebacker, California

At this point in the draft, you are just hoping something sticks without calling Lester Hayes.  I can't criticize the Broncos too harshly for continuing to address their linebacking corp here.   Yet, I'm in competition with Xanders, so I'm going in a different direction.

TJ's re-mock pick: Jerrell Powe, DT, Mississippi  Yes, Powe is better suited to a NT in a 3-4, but getting a guy this fat PHAT who can occupy blockers on short yardage is too good to pass up.  Unlike Xanders, Elway, and Fox, I would have loaded up on DTs in this draft, not LBs.  Why?  The DT class in 2011 was vastly superior to the LB group.  Of course, no one really knows.  We are talking about 22-year-old kids here.

Pick # 204, Virgil Green, Tight End, Nevada

I can't fault this pick in the least.  When a tight end like Green (who could have arguably gone in the latter part of the second round) slips to the seventh round because of injury, you should pull the trigger.   The difference between Xanders and I, however, is that I would have already addressed defensive tackle three times over, while this was his second tight end.

TJ's re-mock pick: Virgil Green, TE

Pick # 247, Jeremy Beal, Defensive End, Oklahoma

Another difficult pick for me to criticize since I had wanted the Broncos to take Beal here.  However, this is a competition, so my need to gloat over Brian Xanders down the road trumps my logic.   That's okay, the randomness of all of this works in my favor, even if I just pull the pick out of a hat.

TJ's re-mock pick: Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame  Another run stopper on short yardage.   Hey, when you rank 32nd against the run, would you rather draft Beal here or a guy who is going to help you on 3rd and 2?

The Summary Account

Here's how I stack up against the former pool cleaner.   To punctuate the absurdity and randomness of it all, I'll refer to myself as a former fast-food worker, since I used to work the graveyard shift of a local fast-food establishment before graduate school (have I got stories for you).  I may not be a candidate for the Dan Reeves Graduate School of Hard Knocks, but putting extra cheese on a hunk of steroid-loaded meat certainly puts me in Xanders' league.

Pick Brian Xanders, Former Pool Cleaner   TJ Johnson, Former Fast-Food Worker  
Pick # 2 Von Miller, LB Von Miller, LB
Pick # 45 Rahim Moore, S Marvin Austin, DT
Pick # 46 Orlando Franklin, OT Stephen Paea, DT
Pick # 67 Nate Irving, LB Martez Wilson, LB
Pick # 108 Quinton Carter, S Quinton Carter, S
Pick #129 Julius Thomas, TE Marcus Cannon, OT
Pick #189 Mike Mohamed, LB Jerrell Powe, DT
Pick # 204 Virgil Green, TE Virgil Green, TE
Pick # 247 Jeremy Beal, DE Ian Williams, DT

But why should I have all the fun?  I invite you to list your picks in the comment section below.  I'll save all of them, and after the season ends, we'll see if you were smarter than both Brian Xanders (less likely) and yours truly (more likely).  Do well enough, and who knows?  You might get a call from John Elway inviting you to be the next Broncos GM.

Think that's absurdly too random?

Welcome to the NFL Draft.   If you're so dumb, why aren't you a general manager?

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

Agree, disagree, just like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so I can quit my day job.

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