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On Rooting For Draft Picks, And Other Links

Posted by Matt Terl on December 29, 2010 – 6:00 am

For the last several weeks of the season, I hosted a show on Ustream called Redskins Fan Zone. Basically, it was me moderating a panel of fans, asking them questions and generally shooting the breeze about the Redskins the way Redskins fans do. (Also, wearing dumb hats. I did a fair bit of that as well.) Anyhow, one of the questions I’ve been asking a lot is if rooting for the Redskins to improve their draft position — i.e., to lose — is acceptable. And the answer is almost always an emphatic no.

But there’s a school of thought that disagrees, as Rick Snider of the Washington Examiner demonstrated yesterday. “Even in victory the Washington Redskins lost,” Snider begins, and, yes, he’s referring to their draft status. Here’s an excerpt:

But the payoff for another crummy season was lost when they beat the Jaguars. Not that anyone is saying they should lose to improve the draft order, but the Redskins’ typical luck just saw that happen. They’re currently No. 14. Finishing 7-9 might move them to No. 16. That’s just past an immediate impact player like Brian Orakpo and probably someone like Tennessee reserve defensive end Derrick Morgan, last year’s 16th pick.

I’m not really sold on the idea that, at 14, “they’re past an impact player like Brian Orakpo”. That’s fairly peculiar on the most basic level, since Orakpo himself was the 13th overall pick (just one pick earlier). And Houston took Brian Cushing at 15, and Green Bay selected Clay Matthews at 26, both of whom are impact players – Pro Bowlers, in fact — at the same position Orakpo plays.

And all of that is just in the 2009 Draft alone. In 2010, here are a few of the first round guys taken after pick 14: Dez Bryant, Mike Iupati, and Tim Tebow — which doesn’t even mention Pro Bowlers Maurkice Pouncey and Devin McCourty.

But it’s not just me and the fans on Ustream who don’t agree with the idea that improving draft position is an inherently good thing. Here’s John Keim, also writing in the Examiner: “Yes, winning drops them lower in the draft, but picking high doesn’t guarantee success. Otherwise, the Browns and Lions would be perennial Super Bowl contenders. The key isn’t drafting high; it’s drafting smart. Just look at the New England Patriots. There’s no doubt the Redskins could use a high pick, but they also needed wins.”

Here’s Dan Daly’s lede over at TBD.com: “Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much that the Redskins’ latest win might hurt their drafting position. As the Patriots are showing, you don’t need a pile of first-round picks to be successful in the NFL. You just have to make intelligent use of the picks you have.”

And Kevin Ewoldt at Hogs Haven — a regular sparring partner of Snider’s — puts together three excellent reasons why winning is more important than improving draft position, but his most compelling argument is this graphic showing the top five players in every statistical category this year and where they were drafted. (Brief summary: they are not all, or even mostly all, taken in the top 14 spots.)

The winning — knowing how to win, learning to come together as a team, seeing young talent perform — is unquestionably more important than moving a few spots either way in the draft. If I were still hosting that Ustream show, I think I’d retire this question for good. And the stupid hats. I think I’d ditch those as well.

Other notable links….

  • USA Today takes a look at teams that “erred” by not drafting Tebow this year. Somewhat astoundingly, almost a thousand respondants say the Redskins are that team. That is completely insane, and I say that as someone who believes he might be successful in the NFL. Trent Williams is just fine by me, thanks.
  • Carlos Rogers may not have made the Pro Bowl, but he posed in this stylish photo shoot for SidelinePass.com.
  • ESPN.com’s Matt Mosley named Kevin Barnes as his High Energy Player Of The Week for his game against Jacksonville.
  • And here, since I’ve been talking about it anyhow, is a picture of me in a Redskins-colored sombrero from Monday’s Fan Zone. [UPDATE: Rick Snider good-naturedly responded to this post by sending in a picture of himself — and John Keim, also quoted above — wearing sombreros in San Diego back in 2001. See below.]

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