NFL Style Poker
The NFL draft and the time leading up to it is one of my favorite times of the year. Back in 2000 before it hit prime time, a couple of friends and I would wake up at 8:30AM, go to the store, stock up on junk food and watch it all day long. A true 9-5 experience that most people would laughed at me about.
Teams are notorious for using smoke screens for all sorts of different reasons. It could be to bad mouth a player so he could potentially lose value and slide closer to where they’re picking. It could be to entice a team to trade up by showing interest in a player they have no real interest in (The Chiefs and Geno Smith are a great example).
This year one of the biggest smoke screens I keep hearing and really am not buying is how weak this QB class is. It’s not a complete smoke screens. These QB’s aren’t up to par with Andrew Luck, RG3, Ryan Tannehill, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson. The last two years have truly blessed us with some amazingly exciting QB’s.
The 2012 draft class could go down as the best ever depending on how many super bowls they churn out. 2004 is the year to beat in my opinion, with Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning holding two each.
The 2012 QB draft class is so good that most of us have forgotten how good Eli and Ben truly are. Now our frame of reference is RG3, Wilson, Newton, Kaepernick and Luck. They’ve raised the bar to an almost unfair level of competition. Fans will turn their backs on any QB that comes in and is less than stellar the first year or two. Fans in general are a very inpatient and illogical bunch hardly taking the time to educate themselves on history and only using shallow statistics they caught on ESPN the night before as their main argument.
Well, I’m not buying the whole Geno Smith is the only true first round QB talent. Why? Well, there’s this rookie wage scale that was just implemented just in case you haven’t heard of it. It made Cam Newton’s $22 million look like a bargain and Sam Bradfords $70 million look like highway robbery. It’s the same wage scale that made Brandon Weeden a low risk first round pick.
And its the same rookie wage scale that will make 5 supposedly below average QB’s 1st round picks this year. Because of this new wage scale choosing a QB won’t put your team back 5-10 years.
While I’m not sure how many will go in the top ten, I’m going to go with at least 2. If you’ll go ahead and Google the draft order, you’ll notice just how important a QB is. In the top 15 you’ll find the teams that consistently have QB problems year in and year out. The Saints are picking 15 and have one of the best 5 QB’s in the NFL but they also fielded one of the worst defenses of all time and still finished .500.
The Panthers are picking 14 by rallying behind otherworldly QB play out of Cam Newton. If you play fantasy he probably carried you through the fantasy playoffs into the championship. At least, that’s what he did for me. While they went 7-9 it was a tale of two seasons for them. They won their last 5 games of the season.
All the teams picking after 15 are pretty much set at QB which would make you think that a lot of these QB’s will slide out of the first round. So if Geno Smith and Matt Barkley go in the top 10 are the others doomed to slide?
Not so fast. Teams in the 2nd round have a good chance of trading back into the first round to pick EJ Manual, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib or Mike Glennon in very low risk high reward spots. You see, all 4 of those guys have questions and concerns but none of them are any worse or better of a prospect than Christian Ponder, Jake Locker or Blaine Gabbert were coming out.
They are very similar as far as their pros and cons go and nowadays, because of the rookie wage scale, they’re more low risk than ever. Brandon Weeden is going to cost the Browns a maximum of $8.1 million over 4 years! If he falls flat on his face next year, which I doubt will happen, they can cut him and move on or keep him around as a low risk back up.
There are some seriously freakish defensive end talent in this years draft. In the Giants two super bowl victories we’ve seen how important a good pass rush is. There are plenty of teams who would be willing to trade up into the top 12 for a chance to draft Ansah, Jordan, Werner or Mingo. That would give a QB needy team, like the Raiders, a chance to stock pile picks and also find them in a nice slot to pick EJ Manual, Nassib, Glennon or Wilson for a low risk rookie contract.
We’ve seen how aggressive teams can be when they have their targets set on a prospect. The Falcons, for example, traded into the 6th pick a few years ago, giving up what some considered a kings ransom for Julio Jones.
They gave up 2011 and 2012 first round picks, a 2011 second round pick and both 2011 and 2012 4th round picks! Now don’t you think a team like the Raiders, with a GM named Reggie Mackenzie who builds teams through the draft, will be fielding calls for a move like this? A guy like Dion Jordan would be a very good candidate for a team like the 49ers. They are absolutely loaded with 12 picks this year and imagine Jordan on that defense surrounded by Patrick Willis, Bowman, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith? I would suspect that asomugha would at least regain some of his old ways with that pass rush in front of him.
Then there are the Bronco’s, who are designed to win now and just lost a 10 sack a year pass rusher, who is in need of another explosive edge rusher on defense. A player like Barkevios Mingo or Ezikiel Ansah have created so much buzz they likely won’t make it out of the top 10. While both are very raw either one could easily step in and make a huge impact on passing downs while being coached up.
The Ravens just lost a few defensive corner stones, the falcons lost a pass rusher, the Packers need another pass rusher opposite Mathews, the Colts had a horrible defense, etc. Any number of these teams could be good candidates for teams in the top 10 both looking to stock pile picks and draft a low risk prospect at QB.
Before teams who had their sights set on a QB had to sink $50 million and multiple picks to trade up to get them. if that QB fails, not only are they out $50 million but by losing those picks they have no way to rebuild. A more complete team, like those picking at 20 and above, are probably pretty good at drafting. They not only probably have a nice young core of players on offense and defense to build around but they have something that makes drafting and rebuilding way easier: A franchise quarterback. A team like the Colts can hide many of their holes through great QB play. Look how atrocious their defense was? On the flip side Andrew Luck played out of his mind and despite the fact that he turned the ball over 23 times they still made it to the playoffs.
So, don’t let the so called experts bluff you into thinking that only 2 QB’s are worthy of first round consideration. In poker, you set your opponents up throughout a session to pay off your big hands later on. Teams downplaying this quarterback class is essentially bluff after bluff after bluff. Poker is an information war. Misinformation is a huge part of that as well. If an opponent knows your hand you’re dead. If a team knows that you want a player and you’re discussing a trade then they may be able to squeeze an extra pick out of you, and in the case of the Falcons, your clothes as well.
But Julio Jones worked out and because of the good old rookie wage scale no one will get stuck paying out jackpot lottery winnings for a QB. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of trading up and back in this years draft. This draft is full of defensive talent. A star cornerback or an explosive edge rusher could be everything one of the teams in the 20’s need to push them through the playoffs.
This year don’t be surprised if you see 5-6 quarterbacks getting drafted throughout the entire first round!