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The Folly in Losing for a Draft Pick: A Draft Review

Every season in the NFL, a sizeable portion of the thirty-two teams find themselves out of the race for the championship and looking forward to next year. The excitement of getting an elite college prospect gives a glimmer of hope to many fans for the future of their teams. Some fans, in their desire to improve, even prefer that their team loses more in the end so that they have a chance to get a “better” college prospect. This year because of the expectations for Andrew Luck, the idea of losing for draft status went to a whole new level, even becoming embodied in the catch phrase “Suck for Luck”. Sometimes these picks work out, sometimes they don't. With our #1 pick last year of Cam Newton we struck draft gold, and are finding out that we may have a once in a generation prospect that has the potential to revolutionize his position. To be honest, I did somewhat pull for us to end up with the number one pick in last year’s draft. It appears to have worked out for the Panthers thus far, but how often is this the case around the league?

I wish to briefly examine the top five picks in the NFL draft over the last few years, and view the effect said picks or players have had on their respective teams. The question is: How often does a losing team getting a high draft pick achieve success (think playoffs) in the near future? Bonus question: Have the Panthers been able to find quality player s in the first round outside of the top 5 picks? We all know about last year’s draft, plus it was only last year, so let’s start off with 2010.

2010 Draft

1 St. Louis Rams- Sam Bradford QB: after some mild success last year, this year’s Rams will again finish in the bottom 3 of the NFL. They have not reached the playoffs in 7 seasons in the relatively weak NFC West.

2 Detroit Lions- Ndamukong Suh DT: potential HOF player, team will finally make the playoffs this year for the first time in twelve seasons

3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Gerald McCoy DT: the Bucs looked pretty good last year, but will likely finish in the bottom 5 of the NFL this year

4 Washington Redskins - Trent Williams: Washington is again at the bottom of a mediocre NFC East this year. They have finished last in the NFC East in 5 of the last 6 seasons.

5 Kansas City Chiefs - Eric Berry SS: KC made the playoffs last year in a weak division, but seem to epitomize the idea of a "up and down" team. They have finished with a winning record only twice in the last 6 seasons. This year their head coach lost his job.

Panthers First Round Pick: None

2009 Draft

1 Detroit Lions- Matthew Stafford QB: potential Pro-Bowler, repeat offender, see above comments on the Lions

2 St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith T: repeat offender, see above comments on the Rams

3 Kansas City Chiefs- Tyson Jackson DE: repeat offender, see above comments on the Chiefs

4 Seattle Seahawks- Aaron Curry LB: this team infamously made the playoffs last year (and won) by winning their division with a record of 7-9, however this player is no longer a part of the team

5 New York Jets- Mark Sanchez QB: the Jets traded up to this spot, so they do not evaluate into the present exercise

Panthers First Round Pick: None

2008 Draft

1 Miami Dolphins - Jake Long T: another "up and down" team that has lately been more down. They have had only one winning season in the past six.

2 St. Louis Rams- Chris Long DE: a repeat offender, see above comments on the Rams

3 Atlanta Falcons- Matt Ryan QB: Ah, a team that struck draft gold. The Falcons have been solid playoff contenders for the last few years, making the playoffs three of the last four seasons.

4 Oakland Raiders- Darren McFadden: though they have a shot this year, it has been almost a decade since the Raiders have made the playoffs. This year they have the chance to finish with their first winning season in the past nine.

5 Kansas City Chiefs- Glenn Dorsey DT: repeat offender, see above comments on the Chiefs

Panthers First Round Pick: #13 Jonathan Stewart , #19 Jeff Otah

2007 Draft

1 Oakland Raiders- JaMarcus Russell QB: a variety of jokes could be inserted here, but I’ll just say that he had a love for what’s known in the south/southwest as syrup (aka codeine) more than studying his playbook

2 Detroit Lions- Calvin Johnson WR Georgia Tech: monster talent, see above comments for the Lions

3 Cleveland Browns Joe Thomas OT Wisconsin: The Browns will go nine seasons since last making the playoffs, compiling a winning record in only one of the last six seasons

4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Gaines Adams DE: tragically, this young man had an untimely demise

5 Arizona Cardinals Levi Brown OT: The last two seasons have been rough, but the Cardinals made playoff runs in the preceding two, including a Super Bowl appearance

Panthers First Round Pick: #25 Jon Beason MLB

2006 Draft

1 Houston Texans- Mario Williams DE: the Texans have finally clinched a playoff spot this year for the first time in the franchise’s eleven seasons. Williams has missed a good portion of this season.

2 New Orleans Saints- Reggie Bush RB: the Saints bounced back from the bottom and won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Bush is no longer with the team.

3 Tennessee Titans-m Vince Young QB: Young is no longer with the team. They have reached the post-season twice in the six seasons since the Young pick was made.

4 New York Jets- D'Brickashaw Ferguson T: the Jets have been enjoying some success, and have reached the playoffs in three of the past five seasons.

5 Green Bay Packers - A.J. Haw k: In the six seasons since making this pick, the Packers have won the Super Bowl and only missed the playoff twice

Panthers First Round Pick: #27 DeAngelo Williams RB

In closing, I am not trying to make an argument that top 5 draft picks absolutely do not make a team better. With the talent level that a top picks brings in, the potential is always great. Many of the teams on the 2006 list are actually having good success. However, many of the teams bad enough to end up with a top 5 pick continue to find themselves bad enough to remain in that same situation. As evidenced by some of the Panthers picks, draft picks later in the first round can oftentimes be just as good. Draft picks anywhere in the first round are important building blocks to make a championship team.

In some aspects the draft can be the most exciting part of the season. Each year the rise and fall of prospects, potential stars, potential busts, and potential trades weave a story to which I look forward to and greatly enjoy. However, after reviewing the drafts over the past few years, I was actually a little surprised to find that the difference top five picks make in terms of a team’s overall success may be somewhat overrated. As a result, its best to win out, since difference making talent is infused throughout the first round…except for maybe when you have a once in a lifetime prospect waiting for you at the top of the draft.

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