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Peter King Is Skeptical Of The Sean Taylor Draft Pick

Posted by Matt Terl on March 22, 2010 – 10:53 am

There was a while on this blog where it seemed like I was really poking a lot of fun at SI.com’s Peter King, and — honestly — I kind of felt bad about it. He’s an easy target, and he was a genuinely nice and accommodating guy the times I’ve met him, so I tried to dial it back a bit and, I don’t know, write about Fred Smoot being goofy instead.

Still, this was a bit much. For everything that’s gone wrong for the Redskins in the last decade, you would think that the on-field performance of Sean Taylor would be the one thing that’s pretty much beyond reproach. In his tragically shortened three-and-a-half year career, Taylor made two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. (The second Pro Bowl was announced posthumously, but Taylor was tied for the NFC interception lead when he was injured and also had 42 tackles.)

Among NFL safeties for his entire career — so for the 2004 through 2007 seasons — Taylor finished twelfth in tackles, tied for fifth in forced fumbles, third in passes defensed, and tied for fifth in interceptions.

For Peter King, though, none of that is really enough to justify Taylor’s selection at fifth overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. Or, at least, that’s what I’m inferring from what he’s written the last two weeks.In his Monday Morning Quarterback column two weeks ago, King was arguing that perhaps we’re all overvaluing draft picks in this year’s supposedly strong NFL Draft. “The last time I heard so many raves about a draft beforehand was the 2004 crop,” he wrote, “with the three good quarterbacks (Rivers, Manning, Roethlisberger) and rock-solid depth at several other positions.”

Then he lists out the fifth through tenth picks in the draft, starting with Taylor. The idea, of course, is that these guys — Kellen Winslow, wide receiver Roy Williams, our own DeAngelo Hall, Reggie Williams, and Dunta Robinson — haven’t quite lived up to their pre-draft billing. And this is the conclusion King reaches: “Six years later, six of the top 10 picks in a thought-to-be excellent draft are gone, with just traces of the impact they were supposed to have left on their teams.”

Which is accurate enough, I guess, although I would argue that destroying your body by running your motorcycle off a curb (like Winslow) or simply not performing up to expectations (like both wide receivers named Williams) is a little different than being murdered in a botched burglary attempt.

But, whatever, you can see the point he’s trying to make, however clumsy and insensitive it may be. I’m the last person to criticize someone for accidentally being emotionally awkward, and besides: it was only a one-time thing.

Then, this week, he returned to the same theme from a completely different angle. Now he’s warning teams off selecting highly-regarded Tennessee safety Eric Berry too high in the draft, and guess who’s part of the object lesson of why not to use a high draft pick on a safety.

“Berry looks like a top-10 pick,” King writes, “but the team that takes him is going to be picking against history. Of the four top-10 safeties this decade, none has had franchise-player impact: Sean Taylor (Washington, fifth overall, 2004), Michael Huff (Oakland, seventh, 2006), Donte Whitner (Buffalo, eighth, 2006), LaRon Landry (Washington, sixth, 2007). Taylor might have had franchise-player impact if he had not been gunned down three-and-a-half years into his career. But overall, the position justifies the caution lots of teams are taking with it.”

Lest you think I’m taking King’s words out of context, let me re-write and re-emphasize his follow up sentences, the one that’ are clearly supposed to mitigate the awkwardness of his sentiment:

“Taylor might have had franchise-player impact if he had not been gunned down three-and-a-half years into his career. But overall, the position justifies the caution lots of teams are taking with it.”

This is a frankly ridiculous notion. First of all, I would argue that Taylor was already well on his way to being a franchise player. Between his statistics (which I’ve already enumerated), the anecdotal impact he had on his teammates, and his undeniable popularity with the fans, he already was at the time of his death just about everything you want in a franchise player.

Second of all, again, how does his murder in anyway contribute to an argument that “overall, the [safety] position justifies the caution lots of teams are taking with it”? If his on-field performance had just continued at the level he was at, he would’ve more than been worth the number five overall pick; the fact that he died doesn’t change that in any way.

So, again, let me not be sensationalistic about this. This is not “OMG PETER KING HATES SEAN TAYLOR LOL”. Both his contentions are worthy of consideration. In fact, if you leave Taylor out of both arguments, I’d say that King makes some good points.

But he didn’t leave Taylor out. So all I’m saying is that twice now, on consecutive weeks, King has either severely underestimated Taylor’s contributions to the Redskins, or severely overestimated how much “possibility of being murdered” should factor into draft preparation.

But a video is worth infinity-thousand words, so I’ll just shut up and re-post this highlight/tribute video to a guy who was so not worth the fifth pick in the draft that you shouldn’t draft anyone else at his position in the top 5.

http://p.castfire.com/ZoOZ0/video/198545/redskins_2009-11-27-091332.flv

UPDATE: The guys at Kissing Suzy Kolber do their (NAUGHTY LANGUAGE ALERT!) weekly takedown on PK’s MMQB, and absolutely SKEWER the Sean Taylor point much more efficiently than I did here.

KING: Of the four top-10 safeties this decade, none has had franchise-player impact: Sean Taylor (Washington, fifth overall, 2004), Michael Huff (Oakland, seventh, 2006), Donte Whitner (Buffalo, eighth, 2006), LaRon Landry (Washington, sixth, 2007).

KSK: Three of those guys play on horrible teams. And the other guy IS DEAD!

KING: I’m not saying Berry won’t be a great player.

KSK: Just using statistics to show you that he has a 25 percent chance of being gunned down in his own home!

Aside from the implication that LaRon Landry plays on a horrible team (although it’s tough to defend 4-12), well said, KSK.


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