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Stadium and Main: Stop Freaking Out about the NFL Draft

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Stop Freaking Out about the NFL Draft

No love for the WolverinesFor those of you about to jump off a cliff because Michigan didn’t have a player taken until the 4th round (DT Gabe Watson to Arizona, WR Jason Avant to Philadelphia), I suggest you take a step back. I think most “experts” would agree that the “best” talent is usually taken in the first 2 rounds... makes sense, right? So let’s look at what Michigan’s recent teams have done in the seasons after they have not had a player selected in the first 2 rounds:

1997 Draft, prior to the 1997 season: No Michigan players selected in first 2 rounds. Hmmm, what happened with that 1997 team? The program must have really been in decline then, huh?!

2002 Draft, prior to the 2002 season: No Michigan players selected in first 2 rounds. The 2002 team finished 10-3, with losses to eventual National Champion Ohio State, a Top-10 Iowa team, and a 2-point loss at Notre Dame. Nice wins over Washington to start the year and over Florida in the Outback Bowl to end the year. Not a “great” season, but not the monumental meltdown that some fans think will happen after having (outrage!) no players drafted in the opening rounds.

Similarly, our recent teams have really struggled after losing a lot of talent in the first 2 rounds:

2001 Draft, prior to the 2001 season: Pick #8, WR David Terrell. Pick #17, OL Steve Hutchinson. Pick #18, OL Jeff Backus. Pick #38, RB Anthony Thomas. Pick #43, OL Maurice Williams. The 2001 Michigan team was one of the worst in recent memory, falling apart down the stretch and finishing 8-4 after a blowout loss to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

2005 Draft, prior to the 2005 season: Pick #3, WR Braylon Edwards. Pick #29, DB Marlin Jackson. Pick #33, OL David Baas. The 2005 Michigan was likely the worst in recent memory, finishing 7-5, partly due to injuries, but also due to losing these three high-quality players.

In case you haven’t noticed, Michigan’s teams do much, much better when they are top-heavy with experienced talent. 1997 and 2003 are two examples of this. And I really think 2006 and 2007 will follow that trend as well (especially 2007). So while you complain about all of Ohio State’s draft picks, ask yourself if you would have been happy with their last 2 seasons of play with that Mega-Loaded roster: 8-4 in 2004, with losses to Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and Iowa, and 10-2 in 2005, with no Big Ten Title, but respectable losses to Texas and PSU. I have a feeling that in 2007, we will look back and say, “how did Michigan lose 5 games in 2005 with such a talented roster?” Much like Ohio State fans are thinking, “how did we lose 4 games in 2004 with such a talented roster?”

My point is that things tend to even out over time. While the 2006 Draft was not kind to Michigan, it looks like the 2007 and 2008 versions will be much better. Overall, we might not have as many NFL players as Ohio State or Florida State, but I think or win-loss record over time will be quite comparable to those schools (and has been very comparable in recent years). So having a “bad draft” doesn’t mean that our program is dead or that we are going to stink next year – it more likely means the opposite: that we have kept most of our talent on the roster, and that we only lost a handful of decent role-players (I’m looking at you, Grant Mason, Pierre Woods, Pat Massey and company). Conclusion: We will probably be much better next year. Fingers crossed…


Anonymous Tom said...

Ohio State shared the Big Ten football title last year-- PSU and OSU both finished 7-1. The tie-breaker (which went to PSU) determined which team got the automatic BCS berth, but both teams received Big Ten championship trophies.

Also, since many of those players who graduated contributed for all four years, you might want to consider their entire resume: 2 Big Ten titles, 3 BCS bowl games, 4-0 in bowls, 3-1 vs. Michigan and a national championship.

I don't think you'll find too many Michigan fans who wouldn't take that.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Tom - good points about the entire 4 year resume. But I would have liked a bit more in the past two years if I was an OSU fan, when many of those players were contributing more than they did in 2002 and 2003.

And as far as last year's Big Ten Title goes - OSU lost to PSU straight up. Yes, it was technically a "shared" championship, but PSU was the "real" champ in most fans' minds due to the head-to-head win over OSU.

7:34 PM  

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