It’s The Draft’s Holy Grail

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December 31, 2002
It’s The Draft’s Holy Grail
by Keith Weiland

NFL fans make it their sacred task to seek trade down scenarios for their favorite team on draft day. It’s a great way to maximize the acquisition of talent for one’s favorite NFL team, nabbing their prospect of choice plus an extra pick or two to boot.

In a draft class where there hasn’t been a single non-quarterback establish himself as a fool-proof top-five pick, this year, more than ever, will have Texans fans seeking the draft’s holy grail.

The quest sounds simple enough. Jimmy Johnson, moonlighting on ESPN’s 2002 draft day telecast, pulled out a Ross Perot-esque compensation chart and made the art of trading picks into a science, looking and sounding like someone who worked at the foreign exchange.

Every pick in each round has an assigned value, you see, so if our pick is worth ‘X’, then all you need to do is find the team with ‘Y’ and ‘Z’.

Well, geez, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s not, so it helps to have someone who knows the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow and a little more than basic arithmetic to nab the holy grail.

As Texans fans, we are lucky, because we have a general manager who’s already got a grail or two, most notably one from the first round of the 1999 draft, so we know he’s capable of doing it again.

First, to find the right situation, it might be helpful to know when to start looking. NFL teams don’t start getting publicly serious about the draft until January, especially around the time of the Senior Bowl workouts. Second, the things to watch for post-Senior Bowl are teams showing legitimate interest in the same player at high profile positions.

Let me break that down a bit. By legitimate, I mean to be wary of the smoke and mirrors teams employ to throw their peers and the media off the scent. As for high profile positions, I include quarterback, running back, offensive tackle, and this year in particular, wide receiver, since Charles Rogers could also fall into that group.

Recent years have provided us with plenty of examples of this type of trade, including 1998 when the Chargers bought huge… tracts of land for QB Ryan Leaf. It happened again in 1999 when the Saints suffered more than a flesh wound for the chance to select RB Ricky Williams.

So, if Texan fans are seeking first round trade down scenarios, look at what teams like the Bears, Cardinals, and Panthers are saying about quarterback prospects like Byron Leftwich, Dave Ragone, and Carson Palmer. Listen for what the Cowboys and Lions are saying about Rogers or running back Willis McGahee. If more than one of those teams falls in love with a particular guy around Senior Bowl time or later, then the bidding is on.

The wildcard here is the Bengals. The Bengals own the top pick in the 2003 draft. Nearly every early mock draft out in cyberspace has them selecting Leftwich or Palmer first.

It makes sense on paper. The Bengals have an obvious need at the position, and Leftwich and Palmer are generally regarded as the top prospect at the position. But these are the "Bungles" — tiny-brained wipers of other people’s bottoms, not to be confused with some other intelligent, rational franchise.

There’s no guarantee that the Bengals will ever do the smart thing on draft day. Hell, for all we know, they may pass on the first selection in the draft and hope for the best with their second round pick.

Even if the Bengals are leaning towards a particular player, it is quite possible that the player himself may force the issue of a trade, sorta like Michael Vick did with the Chargers a few years ago.

And whaddya know? Leftwich has already grumbled about playing pro ball in Cincinnati. Not that anyone should blame him, but I think you can see the violence inherent in the system.

Which brings me back to my first point. Trading down in the NFL draft is easier said than done, especially when you’re amongst the dregs of the league, so be perilous of false hope. I know as fans we would like a little peril, and it’s our duty to sample as much peril as we can, but it’s much too perilous.

If the right scenario is there, however, be confident in knowing that the Texans will choose wisely and trade down for the right price.

A witch once turned Keith Weiland into a newt. He got better. Byron Leftwich Byron Leftwich Home

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