by: William P. Tomisser
I'll bet this title will surprise a few of you at least, but, in the interest of unbiased reporting, I ran across an interesting tidbit from WalterFootball.com this evening and wanted to pass it on for discussion.
Over at WalterFootball.com they researched the top three draft choices over the last 11 years from 1998 to 2008 and presented it in chart form. It shows the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices by position (no names) and is being used on that site to refute that the Rams will take a LT with the number two pick or that the Chiefs will take Aaron Curry with the third pick in their mock draft.
They summarize the picks by position and show how many of each position was chosen in the top three over the last eleven years for the 33 players chosen. Here's the breakdown:
Of particular interest is that the quarterback position, although one of the riskiest positional picks as a high 1st rounder, dominates the numbers with 14 picked. Wide receivers, offensive tackles and defensive ends are equally represented next, and except for a couple of running backs that's about it. The article also points out that both the linebacker (LaVar Arrington) and defensive tackle (Gerard Warren) taken were major busts.
To Continue . . .
NFL GMs seem to think quarterbacks, receivers, defensive ends, and offensive tackles represent the biggest value as top three picks, as evidenced by their picks over the last 11 years. I can't swallow that it's just coincidence that those positions were picked over and over again and therefore have to conclude that GMs believe those to be the cornerstone positions to build around.
I would have guessed that cornerback and defensive tackle would also be highly sought after positions at the top of the draft, but the numbers don't bear that out. Salaries also reflect those positions being the most important as they command the most money. I will mention that cornerbacks are actually right up there salary-wise, but that is not reflected in the way GMs draft since none have been taken in the top three spots over the last 11 years.
Of Crabtree, WalterFootball.com talks about the Rams and why they will select him:
"Meanwhile, it's widely known that the NFL is a copycat league. When you look at what Larry Fitzgerald and Santonio Holmes did for their respective teams in the Doggone Playoff, you have to think that St. Louis' ownership wants the "next Fitzgerald." As I mentioned in my last update (below), Crabtree is the best prospect in this class. I don't see why the Rams would take a lesser prospect at tackle in favor of him. Just as many wideouts as offensive tackles were drafted in the top three since 1998 (source: link above), so I don't see how anyone can say that the tackle position is CONSIDERED more valuable."
WalterFootball.com says that the Rams will ultimately rate Crabtree above all four of the top offensive tackles, and after seeing what happened in the Super Bowl and how the Cardinals rode Fitzgerald to the title game they will want the next great receiver--which, coincidentally, is also a position of need for them if they cut Torry Holt. If the Rams subscribe to the best player available philosophy, they'll tag Crabtree with the number two pick after Detroit takes Stafford at number one.
Other mocks have recently begun to show the Rams taking Crabtree, and some show Kansas City taking him. Not that mocks are worth anything, but a month ago the highest Crabtree was being shown taken was 4th by the Seahawks and now it's becoming universally accepted that he's at the top of the list of prospects. If that's true, every team has to ignore that to pass him up and the Seahawks have to hope three teams do just that if they are to have a chance at him.
WalterFootball.com's Mock Draft Database shows most of the mocks out there and the first 5 picks from each mock in spreadsheet format. As you can see, Crabtree is starting to appear as an option for all three teams who pick before us.
Rob Staton over at the Seahawks Draft Blog has already pointed out more than once in both comments on Seahawk Addicts and on his blog that Crabtree is rated as a better prospect than any of the offensive tackles in the draft and so the choice essentially for the Rams becomes eerily like the Seahawk's choice of whether to draft a replacement for their aging left tackle (Pace for the Rams, Jones for the Seahawks) and pass up a potential game changer like we've seen Fitzgerald become for the Cardinals.
I also believe the Chiefs would have to look at their board and what Fitzgerald showed in the playoffs and Super Bowl and decide they wanted to pass on Crabtree before he would fall to the Seahawks. Of even more concern is that a number of other franchises might very well covet Crabtree and try to deal with the Chiefs for their pick, including the Seahawks if he gets past the Rams. The Chiefs are rumored to be entertaining the thought of moving down rather than picking an expensive rookie at number three and Crabtree is probably the best bait to make such a trade happen.
When you look at the draft as it appears right now, Crabtree might very well be the hottest prospect out there and a team will only bypass him if they are already stocked with top NFL receiver talent or have such a desperate need for another position that they just can't justify taking him over their need.
Therein lies the real chance Seattle has to get a shot at Crabtree. Detroit is set at receiver and is probably looking at a QB. Orlando Pace is probably in worse shape than Walter Jones, and while we think we can get another year or two out of Jones (not to mention having young tackles in Locklear, Willis, and Williams who can man the LT position if needed) it's doubtful that either Pace will last as long as Jones or that the Rams have the backups to make do with in Pace's absence.
That makes the Rams need for a LT more acute than Seattle's. If they feel the hurt enough from Pace's decline coupled with the way they coveted Jake Long last year and lost him to Miami even though they were drafting second, they may develop tunnel vision and lock in on the LT they missed last year, leaving Crabtree to Seattle if they want him since Kansas City probably won't impact his fall to the Seahawks.
Kansas City is probably looking at a QB also, and if not it is thought they will go against the historical trend and draft linebacker Aaron Curry at number three. Of most concern with Kansas City is them trading with a team who covets Crabtree if he slips past the Rams on draft day in a last minute deal. That's the one that might tear the heart out of Seahawk followers who really want Crabtree, not to mention Ruskell and Mora if that's who they are after.
Given the historical information WalterFootball.com provided, it would seem that Stafford, Sanchez, Orakpo, Crabtree, Monroe, A. Smith, J. Smith, and Oher are the real prospects for the top three picks that will happen in front of Seattle's pick if we just go by position analysis. According to the previous draft data presented, Jenkins or Curry would be a reach in the top three as a cornerback or linebacker, respectively.
Even if you weed out three of the offensive tackles and keep the highest rated one and drop Sanchez you are still left with four talented players, all of whom are at the "right" positions for such a high pick and only three of them can be gone by the time Seattle picks.
Left tackle (pick the best one), wide receiver (Crabtree), defensive end (Orakpo), and quarterback (Stafford) all fit the profile of a top three selection according to the historical trends outlined in this article. We're going to get ourselves a real player at the fourth pick, but the case for Crabtree may be made for the Rams before us. Holt will free up more money than Pace will for the Rams (see link below) and big game changing receivers are the "in" thing right now in the NFL. Unfortunately for Seattle, Crabtree is starting to look like he makes good sense for the Rams.
Another article from Sando in his NFC West Blog postulates that what the Rams do about Torry Holt and Orlando Pace and their huge salary cap hits may foretell what the Rams may be thinking as they remake their team. They can save $8 million by releasing Holt and $6 million by releasing Pace.
Personally, I do hope that if Crabtree turns out to be who Ruskell and Mora think the Seahawks should draft to make the team better, he'll still be available to us at pick four so that we can get him. Ultimately, I trust Ruskell and Mora to be the only ones in a position to make that assessment and I trust their judgement probably more than most of you guys do. I've seen a lot of comments that say the conventional wisdom is that the Rams will take a offensive tackle to replace Pace with and that's that, but I'm not so sure when I look at all the data.
Okay Addicts, have your say. Examine the information available and then let us know what you think. Is there a good chance that the Rams or even the Chiefs will take Crabtree? Will there be a team that trades with the Chiefs to get him just before us? What should we do if that happens and we're left with making another choice? Should we buck the historical trends and go with Jenkins at corner or Curry at linebacker? If we lose Crabtree, is our best bet to trade down and go with additional players rather than go for a single elite player?