From the Coach’s Office: NFL Draft principles

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Ryan Ramczyk, Mark Ingram
Ryan Ramczyk (#71) became a starter on the Saints offensive line as a rookie in 2017 (Photo: Parker Waters).

When confronted with an important decision, I usually go back to the principles involved in making that decision.  It puts the decision into perspective and gives me a map to evaluate my progress along the way. I don’t want to get to the end of the road to find out I was going in the wrong direction.  In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People this is “Begin With the End In Mind.”

So it is in preparing for the NFL Draft.  You cannot go into it without a clear sense of what is trying to be achieved.  Every possible scenario must be considered and a plan must be in place in order to improve your roster by selecting the appropriate player.  In today’s professional football, the draft has become critical to a team’s success.  That is true not only from a talent perspective but from a financial one as well.

Here are the principles that I have observed that good organizations utilize and bad teams do not.  There is a reason that good teams usually stay near the top and bad teams continue to languish near the bottom.

Violate these principles at your own peril!

  1. Accumulate & don’t overspend.

At best, the draft is an inexact science.  We have seen many times where the “can’t miss” player fails while an unknown player succeeds.  You increase your chances of success by having more picks.

It is also important that you draft a player in the right place – that you get the proper value for the pick.  No matter how much you like a car you don’t want to spend $50,000 if the car is worth $30,000.

  1. Need is a poor evaluator.

Let other club’s needs help you get the player you want.  When you pick someone based on need you increase your chance of failure by taking an inferior player simply because you need to fill a position.

For instance, last year at pick 32 the Saints could have taken a second round edge rusher instead of a high first round choice in Ryan Ramczyk.  Imagine what would have happened if that had occurred?

The exception to this is the quarterback position.  If you do not have at least a high quality QB your really do not have much.  But you have to make sure that you are selecting the right quarterback and not just a QB.

In most cases other teams selection by need will help a superior player fall to you.

  1. Don’t fall in love with a player.

Don’t pick someone higher than their ability because you “love” them.  Take the emotion out of it.  Have solid facts on your side in making the selection.

  1. Let the Board talk to you.

The first round selection should be the easiest one in the draft.  It should happen automatically.  You take the highest player left in your ranking at that particular time.

That is, of course, the adage of “pick the best player available.”  That is easier said than done.  How do you compare a corner back with an offensive guard when their skill sets are so dissimilar?

You have to trust your research.  You need sound criteria in the area of player evaluation and ranking.  This cannot be left to chance by having a flawed evaluation system or you do not trust your own scouting department’s research.

  1. Don’t rationalize.

Rationalize means “rational lies.”  Don’t try to justify a poor pick instead of making the correction.  Don’t let a bias trump facts.

You need to be Joe Friday from Dragnet.  “The facts and nothing but the facts.”

  1. Finally, you have to be prepared for the worst.

Something is going to happen that you cannot anticipate.  If you have a solid plan in place you can easily devote all of your attention to the “curve ball.”  There is no need to panic because you have everything else in place.

Some people may think that planning for the worst is negative thinking.  It isn’t.  You need a plan for anything that may happen so you don’t have to save your butt by flying by the seat of your pants.

Additional Thoughts

  1. Your goal for each round:

1st round must be an impact player

Yet, in the last 4 years, only just over 11% of first round draft choices started all 16 games in their rookie season.

2nd & 3rd round must contribute in some way immediately

4th & 5th round selections will have some short-comings but need to regularly contribute by the second year

The 6th & 7th picks are your projects that you feel can become contributing players through coaching.

You judge a draft by the number of players that you offer a second contract.

  1. Are the Saints going to draft for this year or for the future?

We will know by their first round selection.  Will you pick someone who can help Drew Brees now or his replacement?

Do you really think that the Saints are good enough to pick someone in the first round that will not help them this year?

Remember, NO has only two winning seasons the last six years.

“Never pass up a game changer.” ~Bill Polian

You never have enough good players.

  1. As of today, here are the Saints draft choice positions by round:

first round:  27th overall pick

third round: 91st overall pick

fourth round: 127th overall pick

fifth round: 147th overall pick

fifth round: 164th overall pick

sixth round: 189th overall pick

sixth round: 201st overall pick

seventh round: 245th pick

  1. Sometimes the best deal or choice is no choice.

The Saints were fortunate that the San Francisco 49ers traded up ahead of the Saints to draft Reuben Foster.  From all indications, New Orleans was going to take Foster with the 32nd pick. Although head coach Sean Payton has now publicly denied Foster was the set to be the choice, things worked out best for the Black and Gold. Think what it would have been like if the Saints had Foster and no Ryan Ramczyk.

Later we will discuss how you come to your first round selection.

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Rick Gaille

Rick Gaille

CCS/WGSO Analyst

Rick Gaille was involved in athletics his entire life, first in the arena as a competitor, later on the sidelines as a coach and later analyzing sports for Crescent City Sports and WGSO. As a competitor in golf, Rick was LSUNO’s first athlete, first 1st team All-American (1970) and first three-time All-American (1970, 1971 and 1972). During those years, (LS)UNO…

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