The NFL Draft’s current three-day window currently leaves maximum opportunity to hyperanalyze every single iota of a draftee during the painful wait until the beginning of the next set of rounds. Take the Philadelphia Eagles 2014 first round choice, Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith, for example.
In the months prior to the start of the draft, analysts and fans alike were mocking Smith outside the first round. To some, Smith was a third round pick, and others a slight hair outside of being a first round pick. The most common buzzwords I see among those who talk about the draft while critiquing a player’s draft slot usually ends up in three basic forms:
- Value – The largely arbitrary worth of a player compared to the largely arbitrary worth of the draft pick they were selected with.
- Reach- The largely arbitrary worth of a draft pick greatly exceeds the largely arbitrary worth of the player that was selected there.
- Steal – The largely arbitrary worth of a player greatly exceeds the largely arbitrary worth of the draft pick they were selected with.
Yes, it’s worth excessive use of the phrase “largely arbitrary”, which is essentially my entire point. There’s no proof for either side right now.
Marcus Smith’s selection at 26th overall one week ago prompted numerous kneejerk reactions implying Smith not being a worthy-enough player to pick at that point in the first round. According to who? We (a good amount of those who gets invested in mock draft season) know going in that there’s a greater-than-85% chance that outside of the first three to five picks we’re going to be horribly wrong. We have to be; we don’t have NFL boards to look at and mock from.
Louis Nix III, the “widely regarded” top nose tackle in the Draft, slipped to the third round before the Eagles traded their 83rd overall choice to the Houston Texans so they could take him. Try having Nix as a third round pick in one of your mock drafts in March or April and you’d better be prepared to face the wrath of hundreds, possibly thousands (if you’re lucky enough to have that sort of platform), of faceless internet experts guaranteeing there’s no way in any alternate universe in which that could ever happen.
It goes the same way for the other side too. The Philadelphia Eagles traded up from their 54th pick (with the aid of Round 4, Pick 122) to the 42nd pick (owned by the Tennessee Titans) for former Vanderbilt standout Jordan Matthews. Now, being that Matthews was a big time player within the second tier (again, arbitrarily placed there) of wide receivers, so the consensus that the Eagles were able to get him in the first half of round two is that it was a “steal”. Let’s not look that of the 41 selections prior to the Eagles trading up, six teams decided to take other wide receivers not named Jordan Matthews.
Marcus Smith may or may not live up to his “draft status”, and Jordan Matthews may or may not exceed his “draft status”, but let’s drop the narrative of either player somehow being a reach or a steal at this point. Whether we (as a collective circuit of football diehards who want to believe we are in touch) can agree with it or not, the Philadelphia Eagles (with Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman leading the pack) viewed Smith as a first round pick and Matthews as a second round pick. It’s up to them, not us, to decide how their draft legacy ends up.