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: Sports Article by Maxx McNall  ( 5344 )
Chris Santee
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« : June 04, 2009, 09:13:13 AM »

Below is a sports article submitted to the Fairfax News
by Maxx McNall

Is he really worth $41.7 million?

With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select…Matthew Stafford, quarterback from the University of Georgia. Based on talent alone, Stafford has all of the tools to be one of the league’s premier quarterbacks. He displays elite arm strength, pinpoint accuracy, deceptive speed, and has a passion for the game. The only knock on Stafford is his decision making ability. At times he tries to make the perfect throw, resulting in a high number of turnovers. Along with his superior talent level, Stafford will begin his NFL career with no character flaws to speak of. There is no question in Stafford’s ability and he is certainly worthy of being the number one player selected in the ‘09 Draft. 

Coming as no surprise to the public, Stafford was deemed to be the first overall pick since he declared to skip his senior year at Georgia and become eligible for the draft. After becoming the first team in NFL history to finish 0-16, the Lions are in desperate need for an influx of talent. The Lions ended the season with five different quarterbacks seeing action, none of whom deemed as being a “franchise quarterback”. With so many needs to fill, Detroit followed the strategy of many teams before them who held the first overall pick. Excluding the 2009 draft, in the past 11 years, eight quarterbacks have been taken number one. When teams have a chance to select a possible franchise quarterback, it is hard to make the argument that they shouldn’t take the risk. The Lions are looking for the player that will change the outlook of their franchise and they believe Stafford has the tools to make Detroit a championship team. 

Now in most cases, the quarterback, although it’s the popular pick, isn’t the one that a team should make. Of the eight quarterbacks that have been taken first in the last 11 drafts, only three have lived up to the expectations. Peyton and Eli Manning were both taken first overall and have gone on to win championships with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants respectively. Carson Palmer, since being drafted number one in 2003, has become one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. That is three out of eight who became “franchise quarterbacks”. If I were the General Manager of a team selecting number one, I would strongly consider taking the best overall player, regardless of position. I would not want to take the 38% (3 out of 8) chance that my selection turns into a successful NFL quarterback.

Of those five quarterbacks who failed to pan out, Tim Couch and Michael Vick are no longer in the NFL. David Carr is currently the backup to Eli Manning for the New York Giants after an unsuccessful five year stay in Houston at the beginning of his career. Both Alex Smith (4 years) and JaMarcus Russell (2 years) are still relatively young in their careers but have not shown enough progress to quiet their doubters. All of these players had the potential coming into the NFL of being franchise quarterbacks, but the expectations that come with being number one have proven that potential doesn’t always translate into success.

It is the expectations to perform at a high level that end up being the downfall to many careers of high draft picks. Being a quarterback in the NFL is hard enough. It is the most important position in the most pressure filled sport. A team that doesn’t have a quality starting quarterback will not win championships. It has been proven time and time again. The quarterback has to be the most prepared, hard working, disciplined player on the field at all times. Teams will only go as far as their quarterback takes them and missing on a QB with the first pick will set a team back in their development for a number of years. All of this is just adds to the pressure that these number one picks face when they come into the league.

If I were to give advice to teams picking at the top of the draft, I would tell them one thing, take the best player available. In my case, the position he plays holds no significance in his selection. If a quarterback happens to be the best available player on a team’s draft board, then I would have no problem if they choose to go in that route. Drafting the best player instead of drafting based on a positional need is the method all successful teams use when it comes to building a team. It helps build team depth and creates a competition between players every week at practice, knowing they have to earn their spot in the starting lineup. Looking at this year’s draft for example, linebacker Aaron Curry was considered by many to be the best player coming out of college. His all-around game and versatility made him one of the most well regarded linebacker prospects in recent history. Based on my draft philosophy, Curry would be the first overall pick, but Detroit feels the risk of Stafford panning out is worth the number one pick. It will take another three years or so before we know whether Stafford lives up to the expectations, all we know is that teams drafting high have flawed strategies.

If teams drafted the best available player, it is not possible that nine of the past 12 number one picks would have been quarterbacks. The biggest reason why quarterbacks are always taken number one is money. The day before the draft started, Stafford and the Lions agreed to a six-year, $41.7 million guaranteed contract. Just think about that figure for a moment. Detroit paid Stafford $41.7 million, the most guaranteed money in NFL history, without having taken a snap under center in the NFL. The Lions reasoning behind the move is that they knew the number one pick would command a significant amount of money. Therefore, in order to extract the most value out of their money, they feel it is necessary to draft a quarterback in hopes that he becomes the “franchise quarterback” every team needs to win championships. The most troubling aspect of the entire pre-draft process though was Curry and his willingness to play for Detroit. After a visit with Detroit, he felt very comfortable with the direction the team was taking and said he would sign for less money to play for the Lions. So here is the best player in the draft saying he will play for less money and would even fill a need at linebacker for the Lions. Yet, Stafford was the pick and that just shows the NFL must change the rookie payment structure.

Looking at the NBA, there is a designated amount a draft pick will make in their rookie contract, depending on where they are selected. The 2008 rookie payment scale had the first pick make approximately $4 million in his first year. The second pick earned $3.6 and so on down the first round of the draft. Each contract has two guaranteed seasons and a team option for a third and fourth year. Every sport, not just the NFL, should strongly consider implementing such a payment structure. This would allow teams to focus on drafting the player that really is the number one overall player available instead of the player who they think can make it worth spending the money. The NFL is the most successful sport in America, but you never want to see a rookie making the most guaranteed money in the history of the game.

Championships are won and lost in the NFL draft. Just this past season, we saw two rookie quarterbacks take their teams to the playoffs. Matt Ryan carried the Atlanta Falcons, a 4-12 team the previous season, to an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance since 2004. Joe Flacco led the Baltimore Ravens from a 5-11 season to 11-5 as a rookie and took his team to the AFC Championship game. Rookie quarterbacks can make a difference and that is what every team is hoping to find when they draft number one. They want another Ryan or Flacco to come along and change the entire outlook of a franchise. Finding one can take a long time and can be very expensive and it makes me wonder whether $41.7 million and a 38% chance are really worth it in the end.

Take Care & God Bless,
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« #1 : June 08, 2009, 08:19:09 AM »

 And you have to look at the big picture. A QB without a good line in front of him will spend a lot of time running or on his back. Without a good running back or receivers a QB isn't going to get you much. If a lossing team spends all of there money on a first round star, but has nothing to go with it they will still lose.  All major sports have gone ridiculous with the money they spend on rookie players. Base it on the real world, feel lucky to get your first job, if you do good you make more money. Do bad get fired or lose money.
« : June 08, 2009, 08:24:08 AM Henry »
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Follow The White Rabbit

« #2 : June 08, 2009, 11:36:09 AM »

case in point - Texas back when they got  Carr ( who is a back-up now) 

"Conservatives see any progress outside of what they approve of as the 'liberal agenda'.  Apparently no one told them they and what they think aren't any better than the rest of us"

"A closed mind is more dangerous than an ignorant one"
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