Last week, I got a little cranky when Peter King included Sean Taylor in an argument against taking a safety early in the NFL Draft. The next day, I failed to get un-cranky when King offered an unsatisfactory explanation of his reasoning. Some people seemed to get the impression that I was upset that King was speaking poorly of the deceased, but that was really not what it was about.
Here is my point, much more concisely: the reason that Taylor did not make the contribution you would want from a top 10 pick is because he was murdered three and a half years into his career. Therefore, including him as a datapoint in your analysis of ANYTHING from a football standpoint — not just the 2004 draft or taking a safety in the top 5, as King discusses — is pretty much pointless.
What happened to Taylor didn’t happen because he played safety. Or because he was drafted in 2004. Or because he went to Miami, changed his number, played for the Redskins, or because he didn’t always answer questions from the media, or anything like that. So it probably shouldn’t be factored into conversations about those things.
That was one point that I was trying to make that got a little lost. But another point, and the one that most of the people who emailed me agreed with, is that Taylor was well on his way to being EXACTLY the kind of franchise player that you would want to draft at fifth overall. And it’s not just fans saying that.
Matt Bowen played for the Redskins for three years, overlapping with Taylor for two of them. He saw Taylor’s rookie campaign, saw him change his number, and saw him start to develop into a Pro Bowl player. (That’s him in the background of the picture above, wearing number 41.)
Now Bowen writes for the National Football Post, and today he addresses the same topic that set Peter King off: is Tennessee’s Eric Berry worth the fifth overall pick, where he is widely projected to go. He reaches part of the same conclusion that King did — that safety can be a risky pick in the top 10, although unlike King he believes Berry might be worth the risk — but with one glaring, glaring difference.
Here (one final time) is what King said about the safeties taken top 10 since 2000:
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.
And here, by contrast, is what Bowen has to say:
Going back to 2000, only five players who entered the draft as safety prospects have been top-10 picks: LaRon Landry (Redskins) in 2007, Michael Huff (Raiders) and Donte Whitner (Bills) in ’06, Sean Taylor (‘Skins) in ’04 and Roy Williams (Cowboys) in ’02. That’s it. And of those five, we can only point to Taylor as a player who had the type of impact you’d expect from a top-10 pick.
But Taylor was a rare athlete and, in my opinion, was the best football player I have ever seen from a size/speed impact on the NFL game.
Watching from the sideline as Taylor made hits like this one probably reinforced that impression.
Anyhow, acknowledging Taylor’s success makes a huge difference in Bowen’s argument, and it actually doesn’t make the it’s-a-risk position any less compelling. An 80% fail rate is still pretty disastrous. But it makes Bowen seem much less inclined to include unrelated factors in his analysis, and like a much more accurate judge of the situation.
When I was writing about King last week, I noted that “if you leave Taylor out of both arguments, I’d say that King makes some good points.” Reading Bowen’s piece just demonstrates that all the more clearly.
And, after saying all of that, I’m still not really convinced that Eric Berry’s worth a top 5 pick.
Tags: 2010 nfl draft, Matt Bowen, Media, nfl draft 2010, Peter King, Sean Taylor
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