Draft King Analysis|
January 9, 2012
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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Congrats to Alabama for their victory over LSU in the BCS Championship Game tonight. My hope is that frustration about the SEC vs. SEC rematch will put further pressure on the powers that be to adopt a playoff system. The 16-team system laid out in Death To The BCS by Dan Wetzel makes the most sense to me, but something has to be done to fix the broken system we have in place now.
The NFL's Wild Card Weekend quartet of games ended with all four home teams victorious. There are obvious angles that you can expect to be hit over the head with this week (e.g. all things Tim Tebow, Matt Ryan dropping to 0-3 in playoff games, the Saints not having to punt against Detroit, etc.), but there are plenty of other notes and considerations that warrant noting from this past weekend, particularly as they apply to the draft.
The NFL is still woefully slow on announcing its draft slotting, which is odd since the tiebreaker (strength of schedule) is something that can be calculated rather easily. But it took some work last night to figure out the #22 and #23 slots, with the Falcons (whose first-round pick belongs to Cleveland) having a weaker strength of schedule than Detroit, who ended up at #23.
Here's the slotting for the four teams that lost this past weekend:
21. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
22. Cleveland Browns, via Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
23. Detroit Lions (10-6)
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
This draft pick distribution system is an improvement over the old one that locked teams in with their regular season record, save for the two Super Bowl participants. The change meant no more "insult to injury" situations like what happened to the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft. New England, despite losing Tom Brady to injury for the year in week one, went 11-5 in 2008 yet missed the playoffs... and then had to suffer the indignation of having their draft slot end up several slots below 8-8 San Diego, which made the playoffs thanks to winning its division despite having just a .500 record. Ouch.
The NFL wisely changed the draft order rules soon thereafter to ensure that the twenty teams that missed the playoffs would end up with the top 20 pick slots in the draft, regardless of their regular season records.
Colts owner Jim Irsay says his team will draft Andrew Luck at #1 overall, and I believe him on that. Trying to project beyond that is difficult at this point since the Rams still need to hire a new general manager and a new head coach, and the Rams hold the #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The options for St. Louis are plentiful. With Matt Barkley and Landry Jones deciding to return to college for 2012, the volume of elite rookie QB prospects is lower than had been anticipated, and a team wanting someone like Baylor QB Robert Griffin III might be inclined to make a huge offer to the Rams for the #2 overall pick. If the Rams keep the pick, they will have a wide variety of elite prospects from which to choose, including Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, or even LSU CB Morris Claiborne.
Cleveland caught a break with Atlanta losing, as the Falcons' exit from the playoffs means that their first-round pick, traded as part of the deal to move up in last year's draft and select Julio Jones, will be at #22 overall. With two first-round selections in their pocket, the Browns will have considerable flexibility in the upcoming draft.
In short, it's unclear how even the early portion of the 2012 NFL Draft will turn out, in no small part because of how much uncertainty surrounds teams holding high picks and also because of the potential for free agent signings to impact team needs ahead of April 26-28, 2012. But, as more pieces are added to the puzzle (including a full, final list of underclassmen leaving early for the NFL), it should become at least somewhat easier to accurately project how the draft will play out.