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Tag:Vikings
Posted on: April 14, 2010 4:50 am
 

Favre trade worst ever? Nope...

We're less than two weeks from the draft, and the annual Brett Favre watch is well underway.

So we're also seeing the usual stories this time of year calling the Falcons trade of Favre to the Packers for a draft pick after his rookie season the worst draft pick trade or overall trade in NFL history.

For the record, I disagree.

Never mind the stories about Favre's drinking, that he partied much harder than he practiced while with Atlanta, that coach Jerry Glanville didn't want him on the team, that he would have been in competition just to hang on to the #3 QB spot, or that when he got on the field his rookie year, two of his four pass attempts were incomplete - and the other two were intercepted.

Nope, forget all that stuff.  The bottom line is that Atlanta traded its second round pick one season for a first round pick the next season. That's hardly the worst trade in NFL history, regardless of what players are taken with those picks.

So let's cut then-VP of Player Personnel Ken Herock a little slack.  He didn't make the worst trade ever.

Click here for another side of the story you might not have known...





On second thought, go ahead and rip Herock to shreds.  He deserves it, because he DID make what is probably the all time worst trade. 

He just didn't do it in Atlanta.

It's actually a two-parter.  Either part alone would be a contender for the worst trade in NFL history.  Put them together, and the result is a masterpiece of horror.  It's the "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (or "Manos: The Hands Of Fate") of GM work.

I apologize for this turning into a long story, but believe me, it's worth it.  It's a gem.




Because of a 1980 trade, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't have a second round pick in 1982.

Read about it (and what a cheapskate Dolphins owner Joe Robbie was) here



When the 1982 draft came around, then-GM Ken Herock really liked a small school defensive end named Booker Reese, from Bethune-Cookman.  The Bucs planned on taking him in the first round.  What happened on draft day is a matter of who you believe. 

Offensive lineman Sean Farrell unexpectedly slid down the draft board and was still available when Tampa hit the clock at #17.  The Buffalo Bills called, wanting to move up five spots from their #22. They offered to swap their second rounder for one of Tampa's two third rounders as the trade price.

There was a lot of noise at the draft site in New York (mainly Giants fans already shouting for their preferred pick, as the G-Men were going to be on the clock right after Tampa).  And there apparently was a bad phone connection between Tampa and their man on-site, equipment manager Pat Marcuccillo.

With about five minutes clock time remaining, Marcuccillo handed in a card with Sean Farrell's name on it.  The folks in Tampa denied it, but the story in newspapers around the country (and fledgling cable network ESPN, which was right there covering it live) is that the Bucs made a mistake and either turned in the wrong card or turned in a card too soon.

After Farrell's name was announced, Marcuccillo went back and conferred with NFL officials - apparently saying it was a mistake and trying to "undo" the pick.  But the Giants turned in their card almost immediately after Tampa, so the commish said no dice.


Was it a mistake?  Here's one version of the story...


...and the denial by the Buccaneers.



Bottom line = the Bucs got Farrell, not Reese, and they had no second round pick to take Reese.  So they immediately started scrambling and tried to work a deal to move up.

They ended up giving the Bears their first round pick the following year (1983) for Chicago's second rounder, but in the end they got their man.

Herock proclaimed his draft an instant success, saying his first two picks were as good as anyone's.

Article with GREAT comments from Herock on Tampa's draft prowess...

(I really love this one, especially the stuff about how much better they were at drafting by taking more chances - as opposed to going for more of those lame, boring picks like Lee Roy Selmon, Doug Williams or Hugh Green.)



And they all lived happily ever after.



Well, not quite... 

Tampa quarterback Doug Williams was the lowest paid starting QB in the NFL (at a mere $120k - less than many backups and less than some punters and kickers) but chose to play out his initial contract rather than hold out for more money.  But when his contract expired after the 1982 season, he wanted to get paid.

Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse made an offer he called "generous".  Williams' agent called it "embarassing".  At that point it became pretty obvious that Williams would ended up bolting for the brand new USFL.

That wouldn't have been such a big problem, as the upcoming draft was even then regarded as the best in NFL history for quarterbacks.  There was just one catch... Herock had given up his first round pick the prior year.

Story on the Williams contract and the 1983 QB class...

...continued.  (Wow - Ken O'Brien as a Buccaneer?)


So he worked a deal with Cincinnati, once again giving up Tampa's future first round pick (in 1984) for Bengals backup QB Jack Thompson. 

(Browse the whole page, not just this Mizell column)



The Throwin' Samoan was Cincinnati's third stringer (most teams kept only two QBs on the roster) behind Ken Anderson and Turk Schonert.  He had been a first round pick back in 1979 but was already regarded as a bust. 

He had never completed 50% of his passes for a season, had never averaged 100 passing yards per game for a season, had a career QB rating below 60, and had not even attempted a pass attempt in his one and only game appearance the previous year.  And for this, Herock was willing to part with a future first round pick.

The Bucs flopped, and the pick Tampa gave up became the # 1 overall selection of the 1984 draft.  

In other words, the Bucs missed out on their chance to draft Dan Marino or Ken O'Brien (their choice - both were still on the board when what would have been Tampa's pick came up) because Herock felt he just had to have Booker Reese.  For an encore, he gave away the first overall pick of the draft straight up for a third string bust who hadn't thrown a pass in nearly two years.  And the one first round pick he got right throughout the whole mess was quite literally by mistake.




And now the "Animal House"/"Stripes"-style montage of what happened to the key players...


"Accidental" draft pick Sean Farrell had a productive, 11 year NFL career, including five seasons with the Buccaneers.  When he became a free agent in 1987, Tampa re-signed him and then traded him to New England for three draft picks, including a second rounder. 



The man on-site at the 1982 draft, Pat Marcuccillo, resigned his position as equipment manager for "personal reasons" during the 1982 players strike.  Within a week, he was charged with grand larceny for stealing 1,520 Bucs jerseys and selling them to a Chicago sports memorabilia dealer for $21k. 

The Chicago dealer (who reportedly didn't know Marcuccillo was selling them illegally) sold many of them to another dealer in San Antonio for $20 apiece. 

The San Antonio dealer then brought his jerseys to Tampa, advertising "Genuine Buccaneers Game Jerseys" for sale in the local paper.  That caught the attention of the Buccaneers front office, who prompted police to begin their investigation that eventually led to Marcuccillo's arrest. 

And just like they had claimed that there was no error with the draft card, the Bucs claimed at the time that they had no idea why Marcuccillo was leaving and that his resignation was a surprise.   (Hmmm.... 1500 jerseys went missing and the equipment manager suddenly quits during the police investigation...  Nope, nothing unusual here.  No clue why he left.)

(Enter 23 for the page number; the article is on the lower right side of the page)




Booker Reese flopped in 1982 and 1983, developed drug and alcohol problems, and was dumped for a conditional 12th round pick after the first game of the 1984 season. 

He also had another off-field issue...

He appeared in 11 games for the Los Angeles Rams, who sent him to rehab after he failed a drug test and then released him the following year. 

But he did meet the condition for the Bucs to get their 12th rounder

He signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1985 but again failed a drug test and was released, ending his NFL career. 

He was convicted of cocaine possession in 1999 and was sent back to prison for a parole violation in 2004.





The Chicago Bears used Tampa's first round 1983 pick to select Willie Gault, who lasted 11 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and return man. 

Before the NFL, he was a track star (110 meter hurdles, 4x100 relay) and a member of the U.S. Olympic team.  But he missed his chance to compete when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 games.  He was ruled ineligible for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles because he was a professional football player.

He did become an alternate in 1988, but in Calgary rather than Seoul.




Jack Thompson didn't even win the Bucs starting job coming out of camp, but became the starter after the other quarterback (Jerry Golsteyn, career QB rating of 36.2) put in horrid performances in the first two games.  Thompson then spent the 1984 season as the backup to Steve DeBerg, who was acquired in a trade for two draft picks.  It was Thompson's final year in the NFL.

Headline story on his release

And the beat writer's column on the side of the same page

(Interesting comparisons:  Culverhouse said no to paying Doug Williams $800k and then $600k in 1983, but note the contract the Bucs had given Thompson and also how much Steve Young made in the USFL.)




The Bengals traded Tampa's #1 overall pick of 1984 to the Patriots, who used it to select WR Irving Fryar.  Fryar racked up 12,785 receiving yards over his 17-year career, putting him 13th on the all-time receiving list.  He's also tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns with 84.




The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed a 5-4 record and made the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1982 season but utterly tanked in 1983, going 2-14 to start a remarkable string of 12 consecutive seasons with 10+ losses. 




Ken Herock left the Buccaneers in June of 1984, reportedly to take over the USFL's Washington Federals, who were planning to move to Florida. 

He ended up with the Raiders instead, helping them on their way from their 11-5 and 12-4 records in 1984/1985 to their 8-8 and 5-10 records in 1986 and the shortened 1987 season.

Right after the 1987 draft, the Smith family handed him the keys to the Falcons, where he remained for the next ten seasons.



His first draft choice as Falcons head of personnel... 

...Aundray Bruce.


Posted on: April 12, 2010 1:13 pm
 

This year's best mock draft

We're ten days and counting from showtime.  It's time for the mock drafts out there to start putting in their final entries -  the ones that really matter.

The best one I've seen yet this season was in the Chicago Tribune this weekend.  It's not a one-guy-picks-all deal like we'll get from the so-called gurus who don't spend more than ten minutes becoming familiar with any given team.  Instead, this one is a collective effort, with the beat writers from local papers around the country representing the teams they cover.

So D-Led made the Falcons pick, Rick Stroud of the St Petersburg Times picked for Tampa, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic made the Cardinals pick, etc, etc.   It was compiled by the Trib's Sam Farmer, who did NOT make a pick himself since Da Bears sent their first rounder to Denver last year.

It still has all the flaws of other mocks in that it leaves out trades, is based on voices/opinions from outside team compounds, etc.  But at least the people involved are intimately familiar with the teams they are representing.  That puts it a step ahead of anything we might hear from Todd McShay, Pete Prisco, Don Banks, Peter King, or Darth Helmet Hair this week.

Spoiler alert...   Lindsay Jones of the Denver-Post saved us by taking D-Led's man-crush away from him at #11...



Here are the picks:
1. Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. (pick by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch) "They're doing everything but stitching his name on his jersey."

2. Lions: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska. (Nick Cotsonika, Detroit Free Press) "Suh is the smart, multidimensional and productive player the Lions want."

3. Buccaneers: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma. (Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times) "If McCoy or Suh is there, the Buccaneers will run to the commissioner with the card."

4. Redskins: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State. (Rick Maese, Washington Post) " Donovan McNabb will have someone to protect his blind side, a luxury Jason Campbell didn't often have."

5. Chiefs: S Eric Berry, Tennessee. (Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star) "It's been close to 10 years since the Chiefs have had a playmaking safety in the secondary."

6. Seahawks: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma. (Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times) "His athleticism makes him a better fit than Iowa's Brian Bulaga for Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme."

7. Browns: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame. (Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer) "The Browns could try to trade the pick, draft Clausen and trade him or draft him and keep him. They also like Colt McCoy."

8. Raiders: OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland. (Jerry McDonald, Oakland Tribune) "There's a 50-50 shot they take Campbell, but they'd probably take Trent Williams over him."

9. Bills: OT Brian Bulaga, Iowa. (Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News) "The left tackle position torpedoed the entire team last year. The Bills would be happy to get any of the top guys."

10. Jaguars: ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama. (Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union) "The Jaguars are short on linebackers. Question is, is McClain better than the best defensive end on the board?"

11. Broncos: C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida. (Lindsay Jones, Denver Post) "This is a bit high for a center, but the Broncos don't have one. If they were to line up today, they'd have nobody to snap the ball."

12. Dolphins: WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. (Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun Sentinel) "Dez Bryant is looking for a father figure, and Bill Parcells wouldn't mind being one. The Dolphins need a difference maker at receiver."

13. 49ers: CB Joe Haden, Florida. (Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat) "The 49ers need help in the secondary, and their corners aren't great. Haden would be a good pick at a high-profile position of need."

14. Seahawks: RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson. (O'Neil) "Seattle is one of four teams not to have a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the past four seasons. Spiller would be an instant upgrade at the position."

15. Giants: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida. (Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News) "He's a freakish athlete, and the Giants have some uncertainty at the position, especially with Osi Umenyiora unhappy."

16. Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. (Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean) "The Titans are in desperate need of an impact player at the position after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency."

17. 49ers: OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers. ( Dan Brown, San Jose Mercury News) "The 49ers sorely need offensive line help, and Mike Singletary's presence will help allay concerns about Davis' character."

18. Steelers: G Mike Iupati, Idaho. (Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) "The Steelers need to start getting some studs on their offensive line, and Iupati certainly is that. He's a safe pick for them."

19. Falcons: OLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri. (D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) "With Mike Peterson turning 34, the Falcons need a run-and-hit linebacker who's adept in coverage."

20. Texans: S Earl Thomas, Texas. (Jerome Solomon, Houston Chronicle) "The Texans really need some help in the secondary, and Thomas has the type of ballhawking skills they could use."

21. Bengals: TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. (Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer) "Tight end is a real weakness for the Bengals. They need a guy who can both block and stretch the field."

22. Patriots: OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas. (Karen Guregian, Boston Herald) "Kindle fits the physical prototype the Patriots like for an OLB/DE. They also like Michigan's Brandon Graham."

23. Packers: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State. (Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) " Al Harris is 35 and coming off reconstructive knee surgery; Charles Woodson is 33. Robinson fills a real need."

24. Eagles: CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State. (Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer) "With Sheldon Brown gone to Cleveland, the Eagles need a cornerback who can step right into the starting lineup."

25. Ravens: DT Jared Odrick, Penn State. (Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Sun) "The Ravens need youth on the defensive line, and Odrick would fit right into their 3-4 scheme."

26. Cardinals: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee. (Kent Somers, Arizona Republic) "The Cardinals have been searching for a 3-4 nose tackle ever since Ken Whisenhunt arrived. They need somebody who can hold the middle."

27. Cowboys: OT Charles Brown, USC. (Clarence Hill, Fort Worth Star-Telegram) "With Flozell Adams gone, the Cowboys have a hole at the position. Brown not only fills an area of need, but he fits in that draft slot."

28. Chargers: RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State. (Jay Paris, North County Times) "LaDainian Tomlinson is gone, and the Chargers have a void at running back. They'll hope to get Alabama DT Terrence Cody in the second."

29. Jets: DE Brandon Graham, Michigan. (Rich Cimini, New York Daily News) "One of the problems the Jets had on defense was they had to blitz a lot of guys to get pressure. They need a pass rusher."

30. Vikings: CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers. (Judd Zulgad, Minneapolis Star Tribune) "Depth at corner is a problem for the Vikings, who have had health problems at the position. They really like McCourty."

31. Colts: DT Brian Price, UCLA. (Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star) "The Colts failed in their attempt to get better on the defensive line last offseason. The bid continues this year."

32. Saints: OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU. (Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune) "Hughes might be a 'tweener for a 4-3 defense, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will find a way to fit him in."


Posted on: March 29, 2010 2:18 pm
 

2005 draft in review

Now that the 2005 draft is five years behind us, I did a Casserly-style review of all 256 picks from that draft class.  But there's no way to cover the details and keep it from getting way too long.  So right up front, here's the executive summary: 

The 2005 draft class was a very weak one. 

The Falcons had eight picks, including an extra fifth rounder from trading Ellis Johnson to the Broncos in 2004.  They came away with a strong group of prospects in spite of picking late (they made it to the NFC Championship game with a record of 11-5 the year before). 

Bottom line:  the Falcons picked late in a lousy draft and came out of it very well.  While the "instant" grades were typically in the B / B- range, the Falcons get an outstanding final grade for that draft. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I'll have to hit the details in bits and pieces.  But before I get into the boring statistics, here's a quick look at the top ten overall picks just to refresh everyone's memory on the 2005 draft:

#1 =  49ers, QB Alex Smith
#2 =  Dolphins, RB Ronnie Brown
#3 =  Browns, WR Braylon Edwards
#4 =  Bears, RB Cedric Benson
#5 =  Buccaneers, RB Cadillac Williams
#6 =  Titans, DB PacMan Jones
#7 =  Vikings, WR Troy Williamson
#8 =  Cardinals, DB Antrel Rolle
#9 =  Redskins, DB Carlos Rogers
#10 =  Lions, WR Mike Williams

In retrospect...   ouch.  If you were building a mock NFL roster from scratch, none of these guys would be among your top 50 choices. 

Smith is finally breaking through for San Francisco, but they've had to wait out his entire rookie contract for that to happen.

Brown has over 4000 rushing yards, so he has obviously "made it" in the league.  Cadillac has over 3200 yards for the Bucs, and Benson has rebounded with the Bengals to surpass the 3500 career yard mark.

But keep in mind that these were top five overall selections.   Meanwhile, Frank Gore (3rd round) has over 5500 yards, and fourth rounders Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs have 3984 and 3455 career yards.  So it's tough to say these first three RBs off the board have justified their ultra-high selections, especially considering that Benson was released outright by Chicago after three seasons.

He wasn't the only one to get the axe...  Adam "PacMan" Jones is trying to work his way back into the league. Never mind his the legal issues - the reason why the Cowboys aren't keeping him is that he's only a mediocre defensive back.  

The Vikings gave up on Williamson, trading him to the Jaguars for a mere sixth round pick.  Tenth pick Mike Williams washed out with three different teams and has been out of the league since 2007.

And these guys were the top ten overall selections, the alleged cream of the crop.  You get the idea...

The next three picks were DeMarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, and Jammal Brown, so it wasn't all a horror show.  But it certainly wasn't the hit parade you'd expect from the first round of ANY draft.

More details to come...



Posted on: January 2, 2010 1:05 pm
 

1974 - The Curse begins...

The Falcons open 2010 with a chance to make franchise history and wipe out the notorious streak known as The Curse.

For anyone who hasn't heard it countless times before, the franchise has NEVER had consecutive winning seasons.  We've had some good teams, such as the 14-2 bunch in 1998 that went to the Super Bowl, the 12-4 team in 1980 that appeared to be the best in the NFL, and the 11-5 team under rookie head coach Jim Mora that made it to the NFC Championship game after the 2004 season.

But every step forward has been followed by two steps back, and no matter how strong the team appeared one year, the next year resulted in an implosion to .500 or worse.

The team's first winning season came in 1971.  It was a mere 7-6-1 thanks to a fluke tie against the Rams in the second week of the season, so it was no real surprise that the team went 7-7 the following year. 
The first time something happens doesn't constitute a trend, and dropping from 7 wins to 7 wins isn't exactly grounds for calling it The Curse.  So personally, I let that one slide.  I claim that The Curse begins the next time the Falcons had a winning record - and the first time they appeared to be stepping up to elite status.

That was the 1973 team, which went 9-5 and was one game shy of making the playoffs with the 5th best record in the NFC.  (In those days, there were three divisions per conference and one wild card, which the Falcons missed by just one win.)

The Falcons had one of the top defenses in the entire NFL that season, featuring Pro Bowl defensive ends Claude Humphrey and John Zook, Tommy Nobis and Greg Brezina in the linebacking corps, and a pass defense that racked up 22 interceptions on the year.  Dave Hampton had his infamous almost-1000 yard season (he made it to 1000 yards, then lost yardage on his final carry to drop back to 997), kicker Nick Mick-Mayer had a career year and made the Pro Bowl, and the team went on a mid-season seven game winning streak to show they were a rising force in the league.

But the seeds of destruction had already been planted, in one of the worst trades of franchise history.  Before the season began, the Falcons traded starting QB Bob Berry and their future (1974) first round draft pick to the Minnesota Vikings for QB Bob Lee and linebacker Lonnie Warwick.

To this day, I still can't find a reason to justify this trade for the Falcons.  Lee had attempted just 6 passes in 1972 as backup to Fran Tarkenton.  He did get a little playing time in 1971, before the Vikes got Frantic Fran back from the Giants and were doing their own scrambling to find a starter.  But even then he completed 45 of 90 passes, with 4 interceptions to double his 2 TDs.  (He was primarily the punter for the Vikings that season.) 

Lonnie Warwick was one of the more intimidating linebackers of the 1960s.  He was the starting MLB through 1970 and a core member of the original Purple People Eaters.  But he was only a backup afterwards, appearing in just 4 games in 1971 and 6 in 1972.

Meanwhile, Bob Berry wasn't exactly Pro Bowl material as the starting QB for the Falcons, but he threw for over 2100 yards and 13 TDs in 1972, notching a QB rating of 78.5.  (By comparison, Matt Ryan's rating this season is 81.1.  Michael Vick's rating in his 2004 Pro Bowl year was 78.1, and his yards per game, completion percentage, TD and interception figures were all comparable to Berry's stats in 1972.)

Would you trade that kind of QB *PLUS* your first round draft pick for an unknown backup QB/punter and a 30-year old backup linebacker?  We obviously wouldn't, but Norm Van Brocklin did. Ironically, Van Brocklin was the head coach that led Tarkenton to demand his trade away from Minnesota to the Giants in the first place.

Bob "General" Lee managed to put up respectable numbers while leading the Falcons 1973 campaign.  He completed 52% of his attempts (compared to Berry's 55.6% the year before) for 1786 yards (compared to Berry's 2158) and 10 TDs (vs Berry's 13).  And while Lonnie Warwick didn't start, he was a useful backup linebacker behind Atlanta's trio of Nobis, Greg Brezina, and Don Hansen.

And so the Falcons, led by their intimidating defense, went on a rampage in that 1973 season and were on the verge of becoming something special.  A few good players from the 1974 draft would be all the team needed to vault themselves to greatness.

Alas, that draft under Van Brocklin may have been the worst in NFL history.  (Are there any fans of other teams reading this blog/message board?  Please share your team's all time worst if there's one to top the Falcons Class Of 1974.)

The first round pick, which became #17 overall, had already been lost to the Vikings in the Bob Lee trade.  Coach Van Brocklin's top draft need was a wide receiver.  When the #17 came up, the top WR of the draft class was still on the board.  But Minnesota had the pick rather than the Falcons, and they used it to select linebacker Fred McNeill.

Instead, the Pittsburgh Steelers took that WR four picks later.  His name... Lynn Swann.

Van Brocklin got his wideout with Atlanta's first pick, which was #44 overall in the second round, by taking Gerald Tinker.  Tinker was a good athlete - he was a member of the gold medal 4 x 100 relay team in the 1972 Summer Olympics.  But the Kent State receiver wasn't a particularly good football player.

He did some PR/KR duty that first year but notched a mere four receptions (total) in two seasons on Atlanta's roster.  He went on to spend one more season with the Packers before disappearing into obscurity.

That was how the Falcons used the #44 selection.  The #45 was Dave Casper.  The #46 was Jack Lambert.  Ouch...

Atlanta had two picks in the third round.  Van Brocklin used the #69 overall to get a QB to groom for the future.  His choice was Kim McQuilken from Lehigh.

Every now and then we'll hear Falcons fans complain that Joey Harrington was the worst QB they have ever seen.  Well, for those of you not old enough to remember the 1970s, let me assure you that the Falcons have seen MUCH worse than Harrington or Byron Leftwich or D.J. Shockley or John Parker Wilson.  Third round choice McQuilken completed 39.7% of his pass attempts in his career, which featured a staggering 29 interceptions and 4 touchdowns, giving him a mighty 17.9 career QB rating.

Pause for a moment and let that sink in... 4 touchdowns... 29 interceptions... completed less than 40% of his throws...

Van Brocklin followed that gem by taking cornerback Mo Spencer two picks later.  Spencer never played for the Falcons.  (But he did go on to make the roster in New Orleans and was their starting right cornerback in 1978.  So it could be said he contributed to the Falcons that season - he was in the secondary for "Big Ben".)

Fourth round pick RB Vince Kendrick lasted just one season on the roster.  He had 17 rushing attempts for 21 yards.

Fifth round pick TE Henry Childs appeared in only six games for the Falcons and had no stats.  He eventually went on to make the Pro Bowl in 1979 with the Saints.

A second pick that round produced RB Monroe Eley, who did not play in 1974, had one rushing attempt in 1975, did not play in 1976, and finally had 97 attempts for 273 yards in 1977 to wrap up his career.

Sixth round pick RB Doyle Orange (yet another RB) never played a game in the NFL.  Neither did seventh round pick T James Coode.  The next pick, ninth round DT Larry Bailey, appeared in 1 game.

C Paul Ryczek (10th round) stuck on the roster as a backup and special teams player for six years and even started 4 games in 1976.  But he was the high point of the rest of the draft.  16th round RB (yes, yet another RB) Sylvester "Molly" McGee had 7 rushing attempts in his 10 game career.  None of the other six players taken in that draft played a single game for the Falcons.

So while the Steelers recorded the best draft class in NFL history and went on to win their first championship, the Falcons (who drafted AHEAD of Pittsburgh) racked up what might be the worst draft the NFL had ever seen and self destructed.

The Falcons started the season 2-6.  Bob Lee was horrid, completing less than half his passes, throwing 14 interceptions and getting sacked 31 times.  After a 42-7 embarassment to the Dolphins in the eighth game, Van Brocklin was fired.  Incoming coach Marion Campbell (hardly an improvement) dropped Lee from his starting role.

Atlanta finished at 3-11 and followed with a pair of 4-10 seasons in 1975 and 1976.  Campbell was fired five games into the 1976 season.

While we grimace over the Jimmy Williams trade and the Jamaal Anderson selection in the 2006 and 2007 drafts, those draft classes are still among the better half of draft classes in Falcons history.  The 1974 draft wrecked the team for years to come and launched The Curse.    

The one shining light...  that 3-11 record gave Atlanta the #3 position in the 1975 draft.  The team traded up with the Colts to gain the #1 pick and landed future franchise QB Steve Bartkowski.



Category: NFL
Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am
 

The list of affected free agents

The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped.  The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.

The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time.  For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency.  Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents.  Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents.  But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.

The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year.  And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency.  So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.

Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts.  There are several levels of tenders.  If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away.  At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.

Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player.  It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.

According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected.  These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal. 

Here's the list:



Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.

Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.

Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.

Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.

Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.

Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.

Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.

Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.

Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.

Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.

Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.

Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.

Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.

Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.

Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.

Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.

Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.

Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.

New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.

New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.

New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.

New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.

Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.

Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.

Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.

San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.

Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.

San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.

St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.

Tennessee Titans -  DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.

Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Posted on: October 5, 2009 5:54 pm
 

Tracking the draft picks, part one

Before the salary cap system began, players didn't become unrestricted free agents until after they had reached six years of league tenure.  With the salary cap, that time dropped to four years.

Also, the maximum length of the rookie contract for all players drafted after the first round is four years.  (For guys in the first half of the first round, it's six years.  It's five years for the back half of the first round.)

Put it together, and it means that the initial contract is the maximum length of time you can count on keeping your drafted prospects.  Dealing with that is an interesting aspect of personnel that teams approach in different ways.

One ramification is with the draft itself.  Many teams passed on drafting Curtis Martin because the scouts at the time said he'd probably only last a few seasons before wearing out.  That didn't stop Bill Parcells from selecting him in the third round for the Patriots.   Parcells explained that it didn't matter, because four years was as long as you could count on keeping the guy anyway.

The flip side is that top draft prospects now receive contracts out of proportion with the rest of the league.  If the kids need more than average development time, it's a disastrous use of a high draft pick. 

The obvious example for the current Falcons roster is Jamaal Anderson, who is in his third season and has yet to show anything to prove he was worth a first round pick.  An even better case is Brady Quinn, who is also in his third season.  He was selected in the back half of round one (#22 overall), so the Browns only have him for two more years before he's a free agent. 

Likewise, Tarvaris Jackson and Brodie Croyle were second and third round selections by the Vikings and Chiefs.  Both are still works in progress - but they were both drafted in 2006, so this is year four for both of them.  They're free agents at the end of the season, so those teams may end up with very little total return for their first day draft picks.

The other ramification is that since the specific players won't necessarily remain past the first contract, the draft pick should be treated as an asset unto itself.  Whether the player ultimately makes it in the NFL is one thing, but if the team can get ongoing returns through trades or free agency, then the GM has done a fine job of asset management.

For now I'll just hit one example, but it's a pretty good one since it ties together the personnel moves of Dan Reeves, Rich McKay and Thomas Dimitroff:

Ellis Johnson was a first round selection by the Indianapolis Colts in 1995.  He played with them for seven years but was released in the summer before the 2002 season.

Dan Reeves needed another DT to help rest Ed Jasper.  He scooped up Johnson, who then racked up 7 sacks in 2002 and 8 in 2003.  (By comparison, all Falcons defensive tackles combined had only 6 in 2007 and 6.5 last year.)  Note that Reeves got him as an off the street free agent - picking him up did not cost the Falcons a draft pick or anything in trade.

But Johnson wasn't sure he wanted to play for a rebuilding team under Jim Mora in 2004 and talked about retirement rather than playing another season for Atlanta.  New general manager Rich McKay traded him that summer to the Denver Broncos for the ever-popular "unspecified" draft pick, which turned out to be a fifth rounder the following year.  (Johnson appeared in 13 games for Denver in 2004, making 16 total tackles with 3 sacks and an interception - and then retired at the end of the season.)

McKay used Denver's draft pick to select linebacker Michael Boley.  Boley started 53 of the 64 games of his four year rookie contract and played in every game.  He was a defensive star of the horrid 2007 team, racking up 109 total tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 passes defensed. 

He fell out of favor with the new Falcons coaching staff last season and was allowed to leave via free agency.  But the story doesn't end there.  The Giants signed him to a big enough contract that the Falcons will receive a compensatory draft pick in the 2010 draft.  That pick will likely come at the end of the fifth round.  (It may end up at the end of the fourth round, but I'm not getting my hopes up too high on that one.)   Compensatory draft picks can't be traded, but the team is allowed to trade its own fifth or sixth round picks while keeping the compensatory pick.

So for now, Atlanta has the extra firepower to trade for additional personnel if necessary, and Thomas Dimitroff will have an extra Falcons player in the draft next April.  And it all goes back to Dan Reeves scooping up a guy released by the Colts plus Rich McKay talking the Broncos out of a fifth rounder for a guy who was ready to retire.


Posted on: February 21, 2009 2:36 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2009 8:21 pm
 

The Chart - part two (2008 draft day trades)

Okay, last time we saw the actual numbers of the standard NFL draft pick point value table, commonly known as The Chart.  A quick recap:  I want to stress that the chart does NOT try to say whether a team should make specific trades or what specific players are worth.  It is simply an index to help us all understand what kind of market value teams have put on specific draft picks in the past, based on all pick-for-pick trades over many years.  It tells us what is, not what is right or wrong.

The version of the chart that I posted was the copy that the NFL sent to every team in the league before the 2007 draft.  To get an idea of its ongoing accuracy, let's look at the trades that teams made during the draft in 2008. 

The short version is that there were 23 trades that were strictly pick for pick within the 2008 draft (no future picks, no players).  Of those, only one broke from the chart by more than 10% (for early round trades, where the numbers are big) or 11 total points (for later rounds, where the numbers are smaller).  And that one trade was a four for one deal, with the one pick carrying the higher point value.  Seven out of the nine first-day deals were within 5%.

For those who want the details (or want to see the proof), here's the list of first-day deals...

The Saints moved up from #10 to #7, also giving #78 to the Patriots and receiving #164 in return.  Looking at the chart, the Saints received 1526 points worth of picks in exchange for 1500 points.  That's a difference of only 1.7%.   (New Orleans selected Sedrick Ellis.  The Patriots selected Jerod Mayo.)

The Ravens broke from the chart in the day's second trade, moving down from the #8 pick and receiving picks 26, 71, 89, and 125 from the Jaguars.  They gave up 1400 points and received only 1127 in return, and the 273 point imbalance (or 24% of the 1127 points received) was the farthest any deal broke from the chart during the entire draft.  But note that it was a four for one deal, which might have made it a little more enticing for Baltimore.  The Jags made the deal to select Derrick Harvey

The Chiefs moved up in a deal with the Lions, giving Detroit picks 17, 66, and 136 in exchange for picks 15 and 76.  That's a 1248 for 1260 deal, with the mere 12 point difference representing less than 1% of the point total given by either side.  Both teams used the top picks to select offensive linemen, with KC taking Branden Albert and Detroit selecting Gosder Cherilus.

The Ravens moved back up to draft Joe Flacco, giving the Texans the 26 and 89 they had received from Jacksonville plus the 173rd pick in exchange for pick #18.  That's 867 points given up to receive a 900 point pick.  The 33 point difference makes a 3.8% windfall for Baltimore.  

The Falcons moved up to draft Sam Baker, giving the Redskins picks 34, 48, and 103 in exchange for picks 21, 84, and 154.  Atlanta did pay a premium of 8.8%, giving 1088 points and receiving 1000.  That was the second highest differential of the draft. 

But it wasn't as bad as initially reported - ESPN originally announced the trade as a 3 for 1 deal, saying that Atlanta had only received pick #21.  GM Thomas Dimitroff emphasized that evening that the TV reports were incorrect and that it was a 3 for 3 swap.  The team was willing to pay a slight premium (the 88 point difference is exactly the value of the fourth round pick #103 that the Falcons gave up) because Baker was the last of the top-tier offensive linemen on their board.  The Carolina Panthers had just moved up to #19 to draft Jeff Otah, giving up their 2009 first rounder as part of the deal, so the Falcons knew they couldn't wait to get a top lineman.  And considering Atlanta selected Harry Douglas and Kroy Biermann with the other two picks, Falcon fans probably shouldn't be upset with the results.

The always trade-happy Cowboys made their first deal of this draft by giving picks 28, 163, and 235 to the Seahawks for pick #25.  Based on the chart, Dallas gave up 687 points (assuming a 1 point value for #235) for a 720 point pick.  That's a 4.8% differential.  It could be argued that Jerry Jones made the deal just for the sake of making a deal, but the Cowboys theoretically made the trade in order to get DB Mike Jenkins.  Seattle used the #28 to select Lawrence Jackson.

Seattle moved down again with the #30 pick, sending it to the Jets for picks 36 and 113.  That's a mere two point difference, with 618 points received for a 620 point pick.  New York made the move to get TE Dustin Keller.

Baltimore and Seattle were the most active dealers of the day.  In the second round, Seattle moved up to #38 (to select TE John Carlson), sending the Ravens picks 55 and 86.  The 20 point differential is 3.9% of the 510 points Baltimore received.   

Philadelphia and Minnesota also made a second round deal, with the Eagles sending picks 43 and 152 to the Vikings for picks 47 and 117.  That's 511 points for 500, or a 2.2% differential.  The Vikings selected Tyrell Johnson at 43, while Philly picked up DT Trevor Laws with the 47th pick.

There were three other trades that involved picks from #1 to #64.  The most significant was that Carolina sent the Eagles picks 43, 109, and their first round pick of 2009 in exchange for Philadelphia's pick #19.  The catch is that the major pick that Philadelphia received was the future first rounder. 

The key question is how much to discount a future pick.  For the sake of demonstration, I'm going to assume that the Philly braintrust used a 50% discount factor as their guideline.  Neither side knew exactly where that pick would fall, but both likely anticipated that it would be a later pick.  From Philadelphia's perspective, the pick received would be no worse than #32.  That pick rates 590 points on draft day.  Applying a 50% discount factor for the one year wait, the Eagles were receiving 295 points or more for that future pick.  That would give Philadelphia at least 851 points for their 875 point pick.

Obviously, the team giving up the future first round pick is taking a risk, not knowing where that pick will fall.  If Carolina also used a 50% discount factor and had confidence that they would draft no earlier than #22 in 2009, then they would value that future pick at 390 points or less.  For them, the deal would be at most 946 points given away in exchange for the 875 point pick, for a premium of 8.1% or less.   

But there's one other important note here -  when a team moves up the way Carolina did (or Atlanta did two picks later), they aren't acquiring a draft pick.  They know exactly what player they will select with the pick they acquire.  So the other major factor is how the team values that specific player.  I'll cover that in more detail in the next post...

The Buccaneers and Jaguars swapped second rounders, with Tampa sending pick 52 (at 380 points) to Jacksonville for picks 58 and 158 (348 points combined) plus Jacksonville's 7th rounder in 2009.  It's hard to imagine any team putting much value on that particular future pick, but the 32 point difference is within 10% even if it carries no value at all.

And finally, the Miami Dolphins traded pick 64, acquiring picks 66 and 176 from the Lions.  That's a 4.1% windfall for the Fins based on the chart.  I mention it because even though it was the first pick of the third round, that pick would ordinarily have been the last pick of round two.  (There were only 31 picks in the first round, as the Patriots forfeited their own first rounder over the videotaping incident.) 

Posted on: December 21, 2008 7:53 am
 

The OTHER Falcon memory of Minnesota

The classic meeting was of course the NFC Championship ten seasons ago, but the last time Atlanta played Minnesota was in week 1 of last season...  the debut of Bobby Petrino as Falcon head coach.

Our alleged offensive genius had known for most of the summer that he'd be without a particular left-handed QB at least for the first four weeks of the season, yet Coach Booby never altered his protection schemes. 

With a left-hander taking the snaps, the blind side would have been in the hands of Todd Weiner and Kynan Forney, two veterans with considerable pass blocking skills.  But with a right handed QB, blind side protection fell upon a first game rookie at left guard and the oldest man on the roster at left tackle.

Minnesota had a field day, logging SIX sacks on the way to an easy win.  (But don't get big heads, Viking fans.  The Jaguars outdid you the very next week, racking up SEVEN sacks.) 

But the overhaul of Atlanta's front line was well underway even then, and a lot of good young prospects got valuable playing experience during the horror show of 2007.  It's paying off this season, as the Falcon O-line is deeper than it has been in decades and is evolving into an elite unit.

The left side now features a rookie and a second year player.  The right side consists of a pair of undrafted 27-year olds that bounced around the league, went to NFL Europe and spent time on practice squads before getting their chance at full time starting positions in Atlanta this season.  Center Todd McClure is the veteran presence that holds the unit together. 

This no-name group had some communications issues early on, but they have steadily improved all season.  They have allowed only 14 sacks all season, only 7 in the last 10 games, and only 2 in the last 6 games.  They're also powering a rushing attack that is tied for the league lead in yardage.

All the media attention will be on that classic from a decade ago, but only Keith Brooking remains from that 1998 roster.   It will be interesting to see how the others, especially those on the offensive line, fare when they return to the scene of that first-week disaster from last season.

 

 
 
 
 
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