Many teams profess to follow the “best player available” (BPA) theory when drafting, but the truth is, player evaluation is an inexact science and even the word science can only be loosely associated with evaluating players.
In science, the thought is to create a vacuum for an experiment so the data is not biased by preconceived conclusions that invalidate the outcome. This may work when dealing with chemicals or inanimate objects, but people cannot be evaluated in a vacuum. Hawthorn said, “subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they know they are being studied.”
Pre-combine draft camps designed specifically to coach players in the proper answers to questions regarding personality traits, lead to higher scores on draft personality and intelligence tests. In light of these camps, a low Wonderlic is perhaps more detrimental to player than when Dan Marino scored a 16 on the test.
The pre-draft game is simple, figure out the test and then coach players in the correct responses. Teams continually change the tests to outpace the coaching, but over time the nature of the tests are the same and the answers become obvious. The camps now coach players on how to take the tests, more than the specific answers.
Even forty times no longer have the meaning they did in the past. Players spend months training in how to increase straight-line speed, without pads. Players never line-up in a sprinter’s stance on the football field and football is not a straight-line sport. Lifting weights rarely determine how a player uses leverage on the football field and never defines how a player responds to contact.
All this leads to pointless testing that does more to deceive than to predict. The combine is nothing more than a media event used to keep the league in the spotlight during the off-season and fuel millions dollars for the league as a showcase that does nothing for true player evaluation. The combine is simply a media event that has spawned thousands of websites and so called experts that have no clue what real football people are thinking.
The internet infused experts look at a pro-day and see Ryan Tannehill completed 65 of 68 passes, which included two dropped balls. He also ran a 4.62 time in the 40-yard dash. The true measure of a QB is on the field, whether that player leads his team to victory. The bottom line is, Tannehill led Texas A&M to a 7-6 record in a season when the team was predicted to contend for the Big Twelve title.
The season included 5 loses by a total of 17 points and led to the firing of Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, who is now the Miami Dolphin’s offensive coordinator. Five losses by an average of 2.5 points could be perceived as a good thing because A&M was in each of these games and defense or unfortunate turns of fate led to many of the losses, but football is not measured in what could have been, it is measured in wins and losses.
The Miami Dolphins understand this all too well, what if Brandon Marshall had not dropped a pass, what if Sean Smith had not dropped an interception, What if Ted Ginn turned out to be a football player and not a straight-line runner. In 2009 Marshall scored 10 TDs, in his other five seasons, he averaged less than 5. The body of work does not equate to a player who wins games by scoring TDs in critical situations. The 2009 season deceived the Dolphins into thinking Marshall had matured into a game winning WR.
The Dolphins made a mistake on Ginn by thinking straight-line speed would equate to a game changing player. Ginn was a colossal mistake that led to Cam Cameron being run out of town. Ginn had 135 Receptions for 1943 Yds, a 14.4 Avg, with 15 TDs in 3 seasons at Ohio State. A look at the numbers coupled with 4.3 forty time and a respectable family led the Dolphins away from what was evident on tape, Ginn shied away from contact. Ginn was not a football player, but a sprinter in a football uniform.
Sean Smith, in contrast was picked number 61 in the draft and the reason was that Utah did not play a major college schedule in the Mountain West Conference. His unique size and speed did not overcome the fact that he did not play in a major program. As a second round pick, Smith was perfectly slotted and a great pick.
This leads back to Tannehill and the reality that he is not worthy of the number 8 pick in the draft. It presents a huge problem for the Dolphins, a team that has not drafted a QB in the first round in 28 years. By not landing Peyton Manning and not offering Matt Flynn a starters contract, then signing aging free agent David Garrard the Dolphins have led the fans to believe Ryan Tannehill has been the objective all along.
Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross are the object of scorn as a once admired franchise descends to the bottom of the NFL. Not picking Tannehill could lead to a mutiny among fans, even if Tannehill is not worthy of the pick. Miami is in a bad place, but it may be time to abandon the normal misinformation associated with the draft process and begin feeding the press with the reality that Tannehill will not be the pick.
It could not be a bad thing even if the true intent is to pick Tannehill, by feeding the information the Dolphins do two things, they lower fan expectations and throw other teams off if Tannehill is truly the pick. With this in mind, expect information to shortly hit the media knocking Tannehill down the draft ladder.
In the end, the Dolphins will trade down with the eighth pick to the Browns at number 22 and select, you guessed it… The best player available!