PDA

View Full Version : Why We Don't Need to Spend High Draft Picks on the DL


telluride
01-26-2009, 11:02 AM
For those who don't believe that a good position coach can make a world of difference to a team, here's a great piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/24/sports/football/24steelers.html?ref=football&pagewanted=all) about the Steeler's DL coach.

I'll highlight some choice bits below, but one thing that leaps out is this passage, about how the Steeler's built their line without using high draft choices:

Mitchell, a voracious reader of history who collects fine wine, artwork and vintage jazz music, has managed to get quality results with an assemblage of undrafted free agents and low-round draft picks. Of his top six linemen, only one — Casey Hampton, the starting nose tackle — was drafted before the fourth round, and two were not drafted at all.

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing:

Football Pioneer Builds Big Men for Steelers
By SEAN D. HAMILL

PITTSBURGH — John Mitchell, the Steelers’ defensive line coach, will say again and again that he is no hero, no great man and certainly not worthy of mention as a figure of the civil rights era.

Those who know him, who know what it took to become the first African-American to play football at the University of Alabama, will say he is all of that.

“He had to be pretty strong just to walk in not knowing what was going to happen when he got there,” said Jeff Beard, who played on Alabama’s defensive line with Mitchell in 1971. “And I guess the way integration had gone in Alabama, he would have had a right to be reluctant.”

It was just a little more than seven years after Gov. George C. Wallace stood in a schoolhouse doorway in an attempt to prevent the university’s integration.

Mitchell, who attended segregated schools as a child in Mobile, Ala., said, “When I saw what Wallace did, it made me want to go there even more because I wanted to prove to myself that I was worthy of going to that state institution.”

Mitchell did that and more as a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end who became an all-American, and he has continued to prove himself throughout 36 years of coaching college and professional football with lessons learned, more often than not, in Alabama.

In Pittsburgh tradition, the Steelers’ defense has made all the difference in the team’s march to the Super Bowl. While the Steelers’ linebackers have been the stars, Mitchell’s selfless linemen have added to his reputation.

“When I wonder how good a coach a guy is, I watch his players, watch how they play, watch how they respond to adversity, watch what they do, watch how they play technique wise,” said Clarence Brooks, the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive line coach, whose team lost to the Steelers in the American Football Conference championship game on Sunday.

“And forever his guys are always sound technique wise, always play very hard, look like they’re disciplined in drills.”

It has been that way for virtually every year in his 15-year run with the team. That longevity is a rarity in the N.F.L., and it has made him the dean of Steelers coaches.

Mitchell, a voracious reader of history who collects fine wine, artwork and vintage jazz music, has managed to get quality results with an assemblage of undrafted free agents and low-round draft picks. Of his top six linemen, only one — Casey Hampton, the starting nose tackle — was drafted before the fourth round, and two were not drafted at all.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said that when he took the job two years ago, it was that ability that led him to add assistant head coach to Mitchell’s title.

“John takes a great deal of pride in what he does, the performance of his men, the development of his men,” Tomlin said. “I wanted him to have that same kind of ownership over this football team, and the growth and development of young players.”

Mitchell’s players say it is his attention to detail and an ability to find ways to motivate them that has made him so good at what he does. It is an approach that, as his players know all too well, comes straight from his mentor, Bear Bryant.

“When they come in as young guys, rookies, first-year guys, he’s able to break them down and kind of break them away from what they did when they were in college,” said the backup nose tackle Chris Hoke, who was a raw, undrafted rookie when he joined the team in 2001.

“His technique is really getting on you and being critical of and paying attention to all the little details,” Hoke said. “Because if you don’t do the little things, they turn into big things. And when situations come up, I think he looks back to, what would Coach Bryant do? And then he moves forward.”

He differs from his mentor in one critical way. While Bryant was respected by his players, he was distant from them personally while they were on the team. The 57-year-old Mitchell, who is married but does not have children, is famously involved with his.

“One thing about him is he treats us like his sons,” said Deshea Townsend, the Steelers’ longtime starting right cornerback. “He teaches us about a lot of things. He teaches us about art. He teaches us about wine, even taking us to wine tastings. He does a lot off the field to try to stimulate us and try to make us better people.”

Part of that approach is pragmatic, Mitchell said. “You find out what’s important to these guys, and once you do that, it makes your job as a coach easier.”

But it also is simply who Mitchell is, and all a part of the same personality that made it seem easy to become the first African-American player to take the field for Alabama, then become Alabama’s first African-American team captain and first African-American assistant coach.

“I care for my players,” he said. “They’re not only good football players, they’re good people. With my guys I don’t have to yell. I don’t use profanity with them. They’re men, and that’s how I treat them. I respect them, they respect me.”

Despite the racial animus that defined Alabama in the early 1960s, Mitchell said that after he transferred in, from Eastern Arizona Junior College, there was never any conflict or protest over his presence at the university or on the team in 1971 or 1972, an experience he and others credit to Bryant.

“Coach Bryant pretty much decided what went on with the football team, and everyone respected that,” said Bobby Stanford, a linebacker on those Alabama teams and Mitchell’s good friend and campus roommate.

Mitchell acknowledged catching his share of stares as he and his white teammates strolled into town together and into Tuscaloosa’s stores and restaurants. But, he said, “To most of them, I was an athlete first, and that’s all that mattered.”

Such experiences proved culturally important, said John David Briley, a political science professor at East Tennessee State and author of the book “Career in Crisis: Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and the 1971 Season of Change.”

“The people were ready for it,” he said. “But integrating the football team made it that much easier. John clearly had a role in the civil rights movement.”

By the time Mitchell became an assistant at Alabama after playing for two seasons, a third of the team’s starters were African-American.

Though progress came swiftly, Mitchell, who has never been shy about voicing his opinion, sees more work that needs to be done.

He and many other Alabama alumni have bristled because none of the eight men who succeeded Bryant were African-American. And despite his stellar résumé, Mitchell has never been asked to interview.

“At first it hurt because they hired some people I thought I was better qualified,” he said. “I thought my résumé was better. But now, you know, I’m happy. The Rooneys treated me like part of their family. I work with Dick LeBeau. I’ve got a Super Bowl ring. We’re back in the Super Bowl. What more could you ask for?”

He intends to retire in four or five years — “When this current group of guys with the Steelers leave, I’m going with them,” he said — and he and his wife, Joyce, plan to move back to Birmingham, where he can finally use the four Alabama game tickets he never gave up, and enjoy the results of his pioneering efforts.

“I’m going to drive down there to Tuscaloosa, watch them play, sit in the stands, eat a hot dog, yell and scream,” he said. “It will be great.”

gyldenlove
01-26-2009, 11:11 AM
That would be a great thing, if we only had that defensive line coach. Unfortunately we don't, we have a guy who makes 1st round picks play well, so that is what we need to do.

That is like saying we can retire at age 52 because Bill Gates did, unfortunately we can't all be independently wealthy and afford to retire at 52. The same way not all teams have coaches who are good enough to make late round picks into stars. Some have to keep working to 65, some have to draft talented defensive linemen.

Try again.

HEAV
01-26-2009, 11:13 AM
Well...ya maybe, but it helps selecting at the very least one D-lineman with a high pick.


Casey Hampton NFL Draft: 2001 / Round: 1 / Pick: 19

You need the talent at right spots.

OBF1
01-26-2009, 11:19 AM
We are doomed

Archer81
01-26-2009, 11:28 AM
We needed to hear he went to segregated schools why? What does that have to do with low round/FA 3-4 defensive linemen?


:Broncos:

Kaylore
01-26-2009, 11:31 AM
But I thought we had to lose games because the only way we could get good picks is to draft in the top five?

This is a good example of why its about having a good draft not the "highest" draft.

HEAV is right about needing to hit with your first rounders. Teams like the Patriots and Steelers use their first round picks on the big boys up front and they rarely bust on them.

barryr
01-26-2009, 11:51 AM
What the Broncos could use the most is a playmaker on defense regardless of position.

telluride
01-26-2009, 12:27 PM
We needed to hear he went to segregated schools why? What does that have to do with low round/FA 3-4 defensive linemen?


:Broncos:

Talk about missing the point.

Hotrod
01-26-2009, 12:33 PM
We are doomed

QFT

Either way I think were ****ed

Archer81
01-26-2009, 12:42 PM
Talk about missing the point.


So throw in pointless PR bs because he was the first black player at Alabama. Good for him. What does that have to do with his job now?


:Broncos:

no-pseudo-fan
01-26-2009, 01:13 PM
The point of the matter is this. You don't "HAVE" draft any position in the first round. If there was a blueprint, diagram, etc of how to get the best players from the draft everyone would use it. There are many issues that you have to look at when scouting a player, and even more when trying to translate that players talent into on the field success. How many players can you think of that we should've taken but didn't? Or players that we got, that teams would've loved to have? If we knew who were going to be great and who were going to be nothing, we would really have something. Me, personally, I prefer production to potential. I would love to see us draft players that flat out got it done in College, but even that is no sure shot. TD had a very poor college career, and Tom Brady was a nobody. So go figure.

HEAV
01-26-2009, 01:22 PM
But I thought we had to lose games because the only way we could get good picks is to draft in the top five?

This is a good example of why its about having a good draft not the "highest" draft.

HEAV is right about needing to hit with your first rounders. Teams like the Patriots and Steelers use their first round picks on the big boys up front and they rarely bust on them.


Ravens also have landed some solid first day defensive players.

In my opinion Denver has to land B.J. RAJI in round one or Ron Brace in round two.

One of the two big BC boys to anchor the nose tackle spot.

gyldenlove
01-26-2009, 01:38 PM
The point of the matter is this. You don't "HAVE" draft any position in the first round. If there was a blueprint, diagram, etc of how to get the best players from the draft everyone would use it. There are many issues that you have to look at when scouting a player, and even more when trying to translate that players talent into on the field success. How many players can you think of that we should've taken but didn't? Or players that we got, that teams would've loved to have? If we knew who were going to be great and who were going to be nothing, we would really have something. Me, personally, I prefer production to potential. I would love to see us draft players that flat out got it done in College, but even that is no sure shot. TD had a very poor college career, and Tom Brady was a nobody. So go figure.

That is not accurate, Brady started 25 games for Michigan, winning 20 and set a school record for most attempts and completions in his first year as a starter. He was all big-10 honorable mention twice, and put 370 yards and 4 TD on Alabama in the Orange Bowl in his senior year when he was also a team captain.

The argument that you don't have to draft defensive linemen early to have success if quite flawed, it is based on one team. I give you the Patriots as a counter argument, all of their starters are 1st round picks. So there you go, you have to spend 1st round picks on defensive linemen.

Fact is that if you have a good positional coach who can mold young players into solid performers then you don't have to get players who are highly ranked. The same is true for Bobby Turner, he has made several low ranked players into stars, the same is true for Dennison.

The problem is that we don't have the Steelers defensive line coach, so we can't use their strategy, we have to use one that fits our coaches.

SpringStein
01-26-2009, 01:42 PM
Teams like the Patriots and Steelers use their first round picks on the big boys up front and they rarely bust on them.

Steelers recent 1st rounders:
08 - Mendenhall, RB
07 - Timmons, LB
06 - Holmes - WR
05 - Miller, TE
04- Big Ben, QB
03 - Polamalu - S
02- Simmons - OG

Interesting that a team known for its D only drafted 2 D players in the past 7 years in round 1.

telluride
01-26-2009, 01:45 PM
The point of the matter is this. You don't "HAVE" draft any position in the first round. If there was a blueprint, diagram, etc of how to get the best players from the draft everyone would use it. There are many issues that you have to look at when scouting a player, and even more when trying to translate that players talent into on the field success. How many players can you think of that we should've taken but didn't? Or players that we got, that teams would've loved to have? If we knew who were going to be great and who were going to be nothing, we would really have something. Me, personally, I prefer production to potential. I would love to see us draft players that flat out got it done in College, but even that is no sure shot. TD had a very poor college career, and Tom Brady was a nobody. So go figure.

I read an interesting stat the other day. Every year since 2000 (or something), the Pats have drafted two players from the Senior Bowl. That seems pretty smart to me -- get mature, experienced players who are playing at the top level and can contribute immediately. I hope McDaniels brings some of that approach here. Much preferable to the "but he's got upside" flameouts we've had with projects like Moss

telluride
01-26-2009, 01:49 PM
Ravens also have landed some solid first day defensive players.

In my opinion Denver has to land B.J. RAJI in round one or Ron Brace in round two.

One of the two big BC boys to anchor the nose tackle spot.

Taking an NT in round 1 scares me. I'd much rather grab a player who can be an immediate and vocal leader, and who can infuse a new personality in the defense. That likely means a LB like one of the two USC boys. Then grab an NT in 2 or 3.

Kaylore
01-26-2009, 01:54 PM
Steelers recent 1st rounders:
08 - Mendenhall, RB
07 - Timmons, LB
06 - Holmes - WR
05 - Miller, TE
04- Big Ben, QB
03 - Polamalu - S
02- Simmons - OG

Interesting that a team known for its D only drafted 2 D players in the past 7 years in round 1.

That's a good point. They did get their two team leaders in the first round, though.

My point is that the Steelers frequently draft in the 20's and rarely get and higher than the teens and manage to find key players for their team.

no-pseudo-fan
01-26-2009, 01:58 PM
That is not accurate, Brady started 25 games for Michigan, winning 20 and set a school record for most attempts and completions in his first year as a starter. He was all big-10 honorable mention twice, and put 370 yards and 4 TD on Alabama in the Orange Bowl in his senior year when he was also a team captain.

The argument that you don't have to draft defensive linemen early to have success if quite flawed, it is based on one team. I give you the Patriots as a counter argument, all of their starters are 1st round picks. So there you go, you have to spend 1st round picks on defensive linemen.

Fact is that if you have a good positional coach who can mold young players into solid performers then you don't have to get players who are highly ranked. The same is true for Bobby Turner, he has made several low ranked players into stars, the same is true for Dennison.

The problem is that we don't have the Steelers defensive line coach, so we can't use their strategy, we have to use one that fits our coaches.

When I say nobody, I mean he was an afterthought. We need to find a star with that first pick. That is the plain truth. If we get a star LB in the first and a DL in the second, would that bother anyone? No. No one complains about the Eddie Royale pick, even though it wasn't at a need position. I want an impact player with that pick.

SpringStein
01-26-2009, 02:02 PM
That's a good point. They did get their two team leaders in the first round, though.

My point is that the Steelers frequently draft in the 20's and rarely get and higher than the teens and manage to find key players for their team.

No doubt - and part of that is having a consistent coaching staff, not just HC, and knowing what players fit their system. I think the Steelers have done the best job in their consistency of drafts.

WolfpackGuy
01-26-2009, 02:04 PM
I wouldn't mind seeing them trade down a few spots to pick up something later
They need to draft someone who can contribute immediately on defense regardless of position
No reaches based on "potential"

supermanhr9
01-26-2009, 02:05 PM
REY REY,, you can't get a better impact player than that. Then next year we'll go after Mays. Screw the DL position in round 1. BJ won't make nearly the same amount of impact as Rey Rey would (I have nothing to back that up with, just my own personal hunch. I'm just sick of watching every other team have a impact/maniac, i.e Ed reed, Ray Lewis, Urlacher, AJ Hawk, Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders) We have Champ, but we need a maniac like James Harrison or even Shawn Merriman as Much as I hate to admit it.

Sorry if this is a lame argument, I'm a little tired today

gyldenlove
01-26-2009, 02:15 PM
When I say nobody, I mean he was an afterthought. We need to find a star with that first pick. That is the plain truth. If we get a star LB in the first and a DL in the second, would that bother anyone? No. No one complains about the Eddie Royal pick, even though it wasn't at a need position. I want an impact player with that pick.

WR was a need position last year. You always need to find a star with the 1st round pick, you have the choice of enough players who will be stars. If you look at the last 10 years, only about 60% of the 1st round players turn into good NFL players, so it is very important to be above that curve.

Here is my thinking about DL, you need the DL to be good, if you have a bad defensive line you will give up points and yards through the air and on the ground no matter how good your linebackers or defensive backs are. If you look at the good defenses in the league the common denominator is good defensive lines: Tennessee, Giants, Ravens, Steelers, Patriots...
If you draft a LB you can expect some production right away. If you draft a CB or S you can expect good production a year or two down the line. With DL that is a little different, it can often take 3 years before you get the production you want. So it seems to make sense to draft DL, then a year later draft secondary and then a year after that draft LB, that way you can have solid production from all positions. If you do it the other way around you get solid LB play in year 1 and 2, then you get LB play and secondary play in year 3 and 4, and your LBs will be free agents and want to leave because they get hung out to dry, before your defensive line starts performing and you will be knocked back a couple of years.

We need a couple of players who work, lunchpailers, players who make the players around them better. That is what the defensive line does. If we wait to get those players, we will be waiting a long time for success.

socalorado
01-26-2009, 02:16 PM
I read an interesting stat the other day. Every year since 2000 (or something), the Pats have drafted two players from the Senior Bowl. That seems pretty smart to me -- get mature, experienced players who are playing at the top level and can contribute immediately. I hope McDaniels brings some of that approach here. Much preferable to the "but he's got upside" flameouts we've had with projects like Moss

That IS interesting! I have never heard that one. You know, that is the best post you've ever made. And you are absolutely right. Even if they are not flashy, they tend to make immediate impacts for them.

supermanhr9
01-26-2009, 02:57 PM
Here's an idea, lets have some scientist breed an offspring of Ed Reed/Jackie Joyner Kersey Kid draft him out fo the test tube, then do the same thing with Lawrence Taylor/Liz Diesel and draft him out of the test tube.

Here's a question, what combo of past or present male/female athletes would make the best bronco

chrisp
01-26-2009, 03:09 PM
Most of the top 3-4 defenses have a high-round stud at NT: Casey Hampton, Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork - those guys were all first round picks. After that its a mixed bag - a few stars here and there, but some journeymen too.

I hate to sound wishy-washy, but its a mixture of the two - talent and coaching: bad coaching squanders talent, but even the best coach can't polish a turd - you don't need three of four pro-bowlers, but you do need one or two...

IF we go 3-4 (and that's still an IF in my book) we will have to draft a NT in the first our second round, no question. After that we can play around with what we have and see what happens. Decent coaching will be required, and could make something out of the D-line talent we've drafted in the past.

mhgaffney
01-26-2009, 04:49 PM
It now looks like BJ will not be there at the 12th spot. He will be long gone. So the question of taking a NT in round one is moot.

Fortunately, there might be another way to go. Denver has needs at 5 spots DT, DE, S, LB and RB.

If we could fill two of the defensive needs in free agency -- hopefully by acquiring a DE (Peppers?) and maybe a FS (Atogwe?) -- then I would not be surprised if coach McDaniels goes offense in round one -- and picks Georgia RB Moreno. Knowshon will probably be there for us at the 12th spot.

I know this sounds far out -- and I did not like the idea when I first heard it - -- but just think about it.

If this kid is as good as I'm hearing, it does make a lot of sense. Moreno would be the final piece of the offensive puzzle -- and could make Denver's "O" unstoppable.

A truly balanced offense -- 50-50 run/pass -- would allow Cutler to take it to the next level.

With Moreno and Hillis in the backfield Denver's offense would be electric -- off the charts. Moreno does it all -- runs inside - outside -- blocks and catches the ball out of the backfield. He was great speed and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.

Paired with Hillis -- Denver's running game would be scary. Opposing defenses would have to respect the run on every play -- even third down. This would open up the long pass for Cutler -- something we have not yet seen. Also, Cutler would not have to thread the ball -- risking interceptions. He would have so many weapons -- someone would always be open or in 1/1 coverage. Cutler could mature and play smart football. Wait for the open man.

Nor would opposing defenses be able to blitz Cutler effectively. Moreno can block and he and/or Hillis would always be open. Cutler could simply dump off the ball. The screen would come to Denver in a big way -- with lots of yardage after the catch.

Imagine the Rams in 2000 when Kurt Warner blew everyone away. The Ram offense was simply on another level. No one was able to play with them -- and it could be the same thing here. Denver would also have much greater efficiency in the red zone.

The only concern so far about Moreno is his size -- but heck the kid is only a sophomore. He is still growing and could top out at 215 pounds. Imagine a slightly larger and faster version of T Davis.

The rest of the draft could be about defense.

The other factor that could make this strategy work is the depth in the draft at our positions of need. They say it's the best LB class in history. So there will be LB talent available in the 2nd - 3rd rounds. This is why I think Rey Rey in the first is not the way to go.

The same goes for DT. We might be able to draft Brace in the 2nd or someone who is serviceable in the third. But of course the key is to have success in free agency.

MHG

HEAV
01-26-2009, 08:14 PM
If it's it's round one or round two... Denver needs a solid fatty at the nose to keep the linbackers clean to make plays.

telluride
01-27-2009, 09:56 AM
If it's it's round one or round two... Denver needs a solid fatty at the nose to keep the linbackers clean to make plays.

Round Two, I hope. Get a premier LB in round one.

Also, why the heck would anyone want to be a NT? It seems like an awful position.

Cito Pelon
01-27-2009, 10:21 AM
Round Two, I hope. Get a premier LB in round one.

Also, why the heck would anyone want to be a NT? It seems like an awful position.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$. They shoud start scouting the sumo wrestler circuit for potential NT's. Like HEAV said, find ambitious 'solid fatty's.'

HEAV
01-27-2009, 10:45 AM
$$$$$$$$$$$$$. They shoud start scouting the sumo wrestler circuit for potential NT's. Like HEAV said, find ambitious 'solid fatty's.'

A true nose tackle has to be willing to give up his stats and body for the better good his teammates behind him and the success of the defense.

But ya the money more than makes up for it...that and the ability to eat alot.

Casey Hamptom has a tendancy to ballon up.
http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0048azFdfu9ZD/340x.jpg

But still when these type NT's get older they still seem to produce at the heavier weight. Ted Washington lasted nearly 17 seasons in the NFL and was the key NT for the Bills for years.


Drafting a young NT is the key to the offseason. I don't see any real NT is freeagency and trading for one is just a rent-a-fix.

Kaylore
01-27-2009, 10:47 AM
I remember an article two years ago and the highest average salary possition on defense, and top three in the NFL, was for DT's and not DE's as previously believed. You can make a lot of money playing inside and GM's know they're important to a defense, even if they never get all the stats.