The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Top Picks can Actually Hinder Rebuilding

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As long as there's a salary cap, and as long as the guaranteed money for the top 10-15 picks tends to be dramatically higher than it is down the scale, it's not going to make sense to tank a season to get a higher pick. No matter what the major roster deficit may be that you're trying to address with a high pick on a bad team, that high pick will have to work in concert with others. Part of the "Moneyball" mandate used by smarter and more consistently successful teams is that if you do well at drafting players to fit your system as opposed to blindly throwing money at a problem, you'll get far better value for the dollar and for the draft pick.

I always felt that when they drafted Alex Smith in 2005, the 49ers were stuck in a situation where their fanbase was so impatient with the lack of post-Mariucci success, they had no choice but to stick with the number-one pick despite the fact that their bankrupt roster would have greatly benefited from a trade down to acquire more picks.

Bill Walsh was the master of that -- he'd trade down and down, and because he understood personnel and his team's needs so well, he'd get more out of a fourth-round flyer pick than some teams would get out of their entire first day. Had the 49ers team that picked and failed on Smith had the second or third overall pick, the pressure to stay put would not have been so great, and the team could have acquired more draft picks.

And what if you're tanking it to acquire a higher pick in a down draft market? There are years in which the talent simply isn't up to the standard of other years, and it's tough to know how that shakes out until the current college season is over. In that case, you've made your fans even more apoplectic than they already are, simply for the honor of overpaying a possible bust and having that player take your career with him. The 2005 quarterbacks class is only now bearing fruit in a few cases, and the Niners forced themselves to start a shotgun quarterback in a league whose schemes almost guaranteed that he would fail in the short term.

Better to win all you can, get your draft strategy in order, and let the chips fall where they may.

By Doug Farrar  |  October 23, 2008; 11:35 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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