Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The 2011 Draft and the Cam Newton Mess

Prolog about the 2011 draft

Suddenly in the past two weeks, everybody is beginning to talk about the 2011 draft. I guess this correlates with the first series of mathematical eliminations from the playoff picture. Once your 2010 season is (virtually) over, and you’re just playing out the string, there is nothing to look forward to but the draft. In a sense, it is reasonable to start talking about the draft.

Unfortunately, the things being said about the 2011 draft are mostly poppycock. As usual, there is far too much talk about the QB position. I hope to install a circuit breaker on some of this sanguine talk. Much like the New York Yankees, I hope I can get you to sip the reality potion.

And the #1 prospect of 2011 is: a very shitty draft indeed!

That’s right! You heard it from me first. The top prospect in 2011 is a shitty draft. Why? Let me tell you about it.

1. The 2010 draft was an ultra bonsai affair, quite probably the best draft since 1983. 2010 was rich because it looted the 2011 Draft. Loads of quality underclassmen declared themselves eligible for the 2010 draft.

2. The record numbers of underclassmen who declared themselves eligible in 2010 did so explicitly because they feared a rookie salary cap in 2011.

3. Unless the 2011 draft can loot the 2012 draft, it is going to be a very poor crop indeed. Will we see another strong crop of under classmen entering the NFL draft this year? Fuck no.

4. On the first horn of the dilemma is the fact that the NFL moves closer and closer to a lock-out every day. The owners have already spelled out a detailed plan for a partial shut-down of the league. They will go into hibernation mode to conserve money. In response, the players have voted to conditionally decertify the Union if a lockout occurs. This is legal maneuver that permits litigation. In response, the league published a plan to refund season ticket holders if there is a lockout. In response, the Union informed its players that they should save and not spend their last two paychecks of the year to get them through 2011. We are much further down the road to disaster than you think.

5. On the second horn of the dilemma is the fact that the Union is fine with the idea of a rookie salary cap. Vets don’t like it when rookies get $78m contracts, with $50 million guaranteed. Whether you know it or not, the rookie salary cap is not a controversial issue in this negotiation. All inside sources say the players favor a rookie cap. If they can work out the other issues, like an 18 game schedule, the rookie cap will be an automatic part of the agreement.

If I am a junior or a sophomore eligible for this year’s draft, I am officially stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I enter the draft, I may get locked out, or I may get capped. In either case, I am not happy with the situation. I may lose my senior year of football only to be locked out and make no (zip, zero, zilch, nada) money. I may return to work for what my immediate predecessors would consider shitty contract.

Sorry folks, that just isn’t much incentive to leave school. Unless I am a senior, I am staying in school. When you look at it from the micro-economic perspective, I see little reason to believe that the 2011 draft will loot the 2012 draft. The motivation to declare for the draft just isn’t there. This is going to be a senior prom affair, with a few underclassmen guests.

Based on all of these points, I think this will be the worst draft since 1987. It just so happens that 1987 was the last strike-afflicted year. That is not a co-inky-dink. There is a causal link here.

The NFL Never, Never, Never learns

There is a Mosaic law, stenciled by the finger of God on stone which states clearly “Thou shalt not take a quarterback in the 1st round! That’s right, it’s mortal sin to take a QB in the 1st round of the draft. Why do I say this?

According to the actuarial tables, a high 1st round pick should have a better than 50% chance of making it in the NFL. More than 70% of all Senior QBs drafted in the 1st round, fail to become franchise QBs in the NFL. Yes, it’s true ladies and germs. Test me and see if I am wrong. That is worse than the average results for non-quarterback 3rd round picks. About 66% of 3rd round picks go bust in this league.

When you draft a QB in the 1st around you automatically down-grade your first round pick to a lower value than a third round pick. That is a statistical fact, not a theory. It is a posteriori conclusion, it is not a priori notion. It is a conclusion from research, not a theoretical explanation of data.

If you know anything at all about probability and outcome in mathematics, or risk assessment in economics, you know that using a 1st rounder on a quarterback is the same value as trading a 1st round pick for a 3rd round pick. That is a very stupid thing to do.

Your Rams just struck gold in the 1st round, right?

The automatic response is to hit me with the et tu fallacy, and remind me that the Rams just took Sam Bradford and did fine. You might remember that I had plenty of objections to that move. Devaney turned out to be right. I turned out to be wrong. We both got lucky. In any case, I would not recommend this ‘strategy’ to anyone.

The fact remains that a 1st round QB is a very bad economic and logistical risk in the draft.

At this point it looks like we got away with murder… in broad daylight… captured on video tape. I don’t know how we managed to do that, and my mind still boggles over this clean get-away. It was the triumph of emotion over reason. It was the triumph of a gutsy call over scientific football.

Still, I would never recommend attempting murder to anyone. Hang on a sec there Dave, did you just equivocate drafting a QB in the first round with attempting to get away with murder? Yep, that’s exactly and precisely it. Drafting a QB in the first round is like trying to get away with murder.

And now for the Andrew Luck and Cam Newton bullshit

Let me begin with a recap: If I am an underclassman, I’m staying in school. I am not entering the draft. Understand that 90% of all non-senior QBs go bust in the draft. Understand that there is a lockout on the horizon. Understand that if you take your 90% risk, and stare-down the lockout, you may win a shitty contract as your reward for bravery. Not much incentive there, eh boys? Play the percentages and stay in school.

Looking at it from the perspective of an NFL GM, I think you are absolutely crazy if you take either Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. Luck is a redshirt sophomore. He’s too young. Throw that one back. Let him grow some more. Forget about him. I am not taking a 10% chance and a 90% risk on him.

Cam is effectively a redshirt junior, and he’s carrying plenty of baggage. Here we have the kid who’s destined to be the most controversial figure in football during both 2010 and 2011. I’ll give you my two cents about Cam, which ain’t worth a nickel.

Mel Kiper is hyped about Cam Newton. In that one fact alone, you have all the information you will ever need to stay away from the kid. Mel is the practically perfect reverse barometer. Remember, this was the fool who advocated JaMarcus Russell like there was no tomorrow. Mel was the guy who stated that JaMarcus would be a Top 5 NFL Quarterback within 3-5 years. Nope, he’s out of the league. In his wildest statements ever, Mel said JaMarcus had true ”John Elway ability.”

If a man could be burned at the stake for being wrong about the draft, certainly Mel would be charcoal by now.

Colin Cowherd is also a Cam Newton advocate. Understand that Cowherd offers you nothing on the draft except regurgitated Mel Kiper takes. When you get a draft opinion from Cowherd, you are getting a second hand, predigested Kiper take. As an added bonus, Cowherd freely admits that he liked Ryan Leaf, the guy most frequently cited as the biggest NFL draft bust in history.

Just one more special bonus: Both Kiper and Cowherd were stoked up about Jimmy Clausen last year. Insiders say that the Carolina Panthers are interested in acquiring both John Harbaugh and Andrew Luck in a package deal. If so, what does that tell you about Clausen? What does this tell you about the Panthers’ organization? Nothing good in any case. It’s a train wreck disaster going down in Charlotte. Clausen is a part of that train wreck. So are Kiper and Cowherd.

Why I am not taking Cam Newton

History teaches us that kids with loose morals turn into tragedies once they get a couple of million bucks in their pockets. This has absolutely nothing to do with on-the-field performance. This has everything to do with the police blotter.

If you interviewed all 32 NFL GMs, I guarantee you that their #1 fear of a prospect lies in how he will respond to sudden wealth. They worry about whether their chosen kid has the moral fiber to withstand sudden, massive, unbelievable prosperity. GMs worry about whether sudden wealth will turn the chosen one into a drug-fueled party monster. There are all kinds of things that walk hand-in-hand and side-by-side with being one of those rich NFL Party Monsters. This is the #1 risk for just about any high-round pick in the NFL Draft.

In response to this kind of attack, defenders of Cam Newton frequently cite the fact that Cam had both parents in the home and his daddy (Cecil) is a preacher. Please… it is to laugh.

We all know that there are two types of preachers in this world: sent by God and not of God. You got some who are in it for humanitarian reasons, and you have some who are in it for the money. You have some who are other-worldly, and you have some who are very worldly indeed.

What would you think of a preacher who goes to a college or university and makes a point-blank illegal Payola demand on behalf of his son? By all accounts, Cecil Newton is a Deliverance preacher. Do you know what that means? He rebukes Satan and casts out devils for contributions… errr… the tithe. You do know that this is something Benny Hinn and Ken Copeland specialize in? They cast out Satan in deliverance services all the time. Somehow Satan always gets back inside in time for the next show. These two Deliverance preachers are also big advocates of Payola.

No folks, I am staying away from Cam Newton. I love athletic running QBs, and I am staying away from Cam. Stolen laptops? Cheating on tests? On the verge of getting kicked out of Florida? Bumping down to the CC level? Asking for payola on his return? Just one year of productivity on the major college level? This doesn’t sound like the sort of moral fiber that withstands massive wind-fall profits.

Some have compared Cam Newton to JaMarcus Russell. Dan Fouts did this recently on the Dan Patrick show. Is that supposed to inspire confidence in anyone?

Others have compared Cam to Vince Young. I think that is more apt, but do understand that Vince Young’s career is on the bubble right now. He lacks mental toughness, the ability to deal with adversity, and work through issues with his coach. To be precise, he can’t take it when people boo him. Again, this isn’t good confidence material.

Finally, many have compared Cam to Tim Tebow for a lot of reasons. Understand this: TD Tim had four squeaky clean years of high productivity at Florida before graduating as a senior. He was beloved by all, and criticized by no one. In terms of actual production, Cam is a one-year wonder more comparable to Ryan Leaf than Tim Tebow.

If I am in the market for a quarterback, and boy I’m sure glad we aren’t, I am looking in another direction.

A little retrospective

How good does the Bradford pick look today? Not only are our Rams set with a solid franchise QB, but we are set to enjoy a free pass in 2011. How good is that? I think it is just fucking fantastic that no one expects us to participate in the QB debate this year. We can now enjoy our right to completely ignore the entire Andrew Luck & Cam Newton controversy. Everybody will understand completely.

If we had avoided a QB entirely in 2010, something I knew we would not do, there would be tremendous political pressure on the Rams to select either Andrew Luck or Cam Newton (should they be available). Certainly we would not be 6-6 and in the NFC West hunt this year. We would have another high pick more pressure than ever to select a QB.

Now we don’t have the slightest worry in the world about that. All is well. Devaney’s call is looking better and better every day.