Drafting By the Numbers

When I was a graduate student, the common saying amongst Information Technology personnel was “No one ever got fired for choosing IBM”.  Looking back on it many years later, I now realize that there’s a lot of truth in that.  So it was very difficult to watch Bears general manager Phil Emery draft offensive lineman Kyle Long Thursday night with the likes of Alec Ogeltree and Sharrif Floyd still on the board.  Conventional wisdom said to run to the podium and snatch one of them.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Conventional wisdom also said not to go to Canada to hire a head coach who hadn’t been in the NFL for half a decade.  Conventional wisdom said to draft David DeCastro last year over Shea McClellin.

It could be that Emery is simply a lot smarter than the rest of the NFL.  I just wish he didn’t feel the need to prove it with every decision he makes.

In any case, my reaction wasn’t uncommon.  As I went to bed Thursday night, I turned on WSCR in time to hear Hub Arkush say this about his reaction to the Long pick:

“I wanted to vomit but I didn’t want to make a mess on the studio floor.”

I didn’t feel that strongly.  But I’m not happy right now.  Perhaps the reason can be encapsulated by this description of second round pick Jon Bostic from NFL scouts as reported by Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune:

 Jon Bostic, Florida, 6-1, 245: Bostic worked out exceptionally well and opened a lot of eyes. But he didn’t play with the same level of athleticism. “He is a little bit more of an athlete than an instinctive player,” one front office man said. “He has to see it to go get it.” He does not get to the ball as well as some of the top middle linebacker prospects. Bostic can run the defense and play all downs. He makes plays inside and outside of the box. He is a strong player who plays physically. He is a solid leader.”

Worked out exceptionally well.  “He’s a little bit more of an athlete than an instinctive player.”  That pretty much sums up the Bears draft so far.

When Emery was hired, the one thing he said that made me feel that the Bears had made the right choice for general manager was that he was going to go strictly by what he saw on tape when evaluating players.  How much tape could he have possibly seen of a first round pick who started only four games?

Emery appears drafting by the numbers.  Like former Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt in the days when the Bears drafted the likes of John Thierry and Alonzo Spellman, Emery appears to be enamored with measurables that can be derived from workouts rather than what he sees in terms of play on the field.  He’s drafting “traits” not football players.

I don’t claim to be an expert.  But in all of the years I’ve been following football, I have never, ever seen this work.  Inevitably you end up like the Raiders did under Al Davis who consistently drafted “size and speed guys”.

You can’t evaluate a draft the day after a general manager makes his picks and I swear I’m not doing it now.  This could all work out and I’ll be the first in the line to join the Phil Emery fan club if it does.

But I don’t like what I see.

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