The NFL Draft is a chance for teams to start anew. It’s a chance for the bottom of the league teams to gain valuable pieces to build their franchise. But for some of the top teams in the league, the first round of the draft seems to be losing its glow.
More talent to be found at bargain prices
For teams like New England and Seattle who have their starting quarterback firmly installed and have a more or less playoff- ready roster, first-round picks don’t appear all they’re cracked up to be anymore.
Both Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll have proven track records of taking late-round picks and turning them into superstars.
Seattle found Bobby Wagner in the second, Russell Wilson in the third, K.J. Wright in the fourth, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the fifth, and both Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell in the sixth. Those players have a combined for 11 Pro Bowls and 5 All-Pro honors. Oh and they all have a Super Bowl ring. And would have another, were it not for Belichick’s draft mining.
New England picked Patrick Chung in the second, Joe Thuney in the third, Trey Flowers in the fourth, Marcus Cannon in the fifth, of course Brady in round six, and Julian Edelman in the seventh. Thuney started all 16 games at left guard in his rookie year, and Marcus Cannon started 15. Flowers came on the scene in a big way down the stretch a year ago and appears to be in line for a bunch of pass rush work in 2017.
All teams hit on late-round picks at some point. Seattle and New England just seem to find diamonds in the rough at a fantastic rate.
Quantity and Quality
Both franchise’s have shown a propensity to trade back from their original spots to stockpile later picks. Astonishingly, Seattle has not picked a player in the first round in four of the last five drafts. New England hasn’t picked one in three of the last five.
Yet over that period of time, they’ve won 45 (Seattle) and 50 (New England) games. Oh, and won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls.
While they don’t hit on every pick in the last six rounds, they make sure that by trading down to later rounds they have plenty of opportunities to strike gold. It’s worked out for both franchises in recent history.
Experience Over Potential
Not only have New England and Seattle proven adept at drafting, they find players in free agency, and through trades, who fit with their schemes and are able to contribute immediately.
Seattle doesn’t make a Super Bowl run without trading for Marshawn Lynch and signing free agent defenders Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
And look at what New England did this offseason. Is there a wide receiver in the draft with experience and the skillset of Brandin Cooks that would’ve been available at pick No. 32? No chance.
Since Cooks is yet unproven in Foxboro, I’ll offer up Chris Hogan, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Legarrette Blount, Rob Ninkovich, Martellus Bennett, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Darelle Revis as proof of the Patriots’ ability to sign playmakers to fit their system and maximize potential.
We will have to wait and see just how well these two teams draft over the next six rounds starting Friday evening, but I’d be willing to bet you’ll see a few of each of their picks starting within the next couple years.
Don’t be surprised if they continue to trade down and stockpile picks or future draft capital. Also, be prepared to scratch your head when they pick someone you’ve never heard of. That guy could be a Pro Bowler before you know it.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we witnessed a Super Bowl 49 rematch within the next five years.