The Life-Line of Winning

Without question,”The Life Line of Winning” in professional sports is the drafting of players. Let’s contrast the different approaches taken by the MLB & the NFL.
…Let’s start with the MLB. Of all the professional sports, this is a really tough one. You can draft a player, if he doesn’t sign, he’s back in the draft again the following year. Players are drafted directly out of High School, or while in college (by players consent) or after college. But, the MLB skill level is far beyond college play. A player drafted in the first 3 rounds will spend, normally, 3-4 years in the minor leagues. This year the MLB & MLBPA agreed to “cut back” to 20 rounds in the draft. When the MLB draft began in 1921 the players were primarily high school players. Even as recently as 1967-71, only 7 college players were chosen in the 1st round. By 1978 the majority of draftees had played college baseball and by 2002, the number climbed above the 60% mark. However, only 10.5% of NCAA seniors drafted by the MLB ever reach the MLB. For high school players drafted, it’s 0.5% reach the MLB …or 1 in 200 HS players drafted! ….Despite those numbers for HS players, currently in any given year, there are about 35% High School players drafted and 20% of International Players drafted. Sending scouts around the world to see the International players is yet another challenge facing the MLB teams.
….the MLB must use a different time-table for college v HS draftees development. Obviously, the college product is more mature physically, has gained more skills by competing against top level competition experience and is much closer to the finished product. Must they be in the same draft? Couldn’t you have a college draft and a HS draft separately?
…success isn’t guaranteed for the 1st round pick of every team. Look at the Cardinals who have produced several 1st round picks. Their first round picks from recent years—starting in 2011 have really been successful in choosing MLB players. You’ll recognize many of the Cards 1st round picks: 2020-Jordan Walker (HS) -3B; 2019-Zach Thompson (LHP)-U of Kentucky; 2018-Nolan Gorman (HS); 2017-no 1st round pick due to penalty of stealing info from the Asstroes; 2016-Dakota Hudson(Miss St) & Dylan Carlson (HS) & Delvin Perez (Academy); 2015-Jake Woodford(HS) & Nick Plummer (HS); 2014-Luke Weaver(Fla St) & Jack Flaherty (HS); 2013-Marco Gonzalez (Gonzaga U) & Rob Kaminsky (HS); 2012-Stephen Piscotty (Stanford), Patrick Wisdom (SM college of Cal)-very brief MLB stint and Michael Wacha (Tx A&M); 2011-Kolton Wong (U of Hawaii). Btw….the MLB now assigns a signing value for early round picks. Clearly this is an incentive for the player to sign. For example, Thompson signed a $3m signing bonus!
…. The Nearly Forgotten League (NFL) has a ready-made “farm system” in the NCAA D-1 football. Hence, their draft is totally different. In the NFL draft, pre-draft combines are utilized to measure accurately the physical attributes of the player…not just the size but the strength, speed, agility, mental acuity. That information is shared by all the teams. Players from the highest level of NCAA D-1 teams have excellent coaches..often with successful collegiate and/or professional experience. Sooo….some of the players have received terrific coaching that makes the transition to the professional level a bit easier.
….The NFL clearly owns the spotlight in promoting its draft. It’s now dwindled down to 7 rounds (it was 30 rounds at one time). It’s a real “event”! If you’re drafted in the 1st round in the NFL, you’re almost guaranteed of making the roster in your 1st year. The MLB needs to move the draft date. Right now its some obscure date in June…does anyone know it? Why not make it the day before & the day after the MLB All-Star game? There are no MLB games on that day so the DRAFT would be the feature MLB news of the day. Some of the interviews of the draftees could be shown during the All-Star game.
…. Every 1st round has several QBs drafted. However, QB drafted in the 1st round, and even the 1st OVERALL PICK often don’t always succeed…in fact, many flop. Ultimately, the QB is assessed by some with a simple factor…does he lead his team to victories, especially in the last 2 minutes of a game. Sure passing yards are important but the ability to lead their teams to victory in “big games”, avoid sacks (by reading the defenses- especially the blitz), throw TD passes, and avoid interceptions are some of key components. Look at the NFL passing leaders in 2020
Pass yds TD pass Int SACK yds outcome
DeShawn Watson 4823 33 7 293 no 2021 playoffs
Patrick Mahomes 4740 38 6 147 Reached Super Bowl
Tom Brady 4633 40 12 143 Won Super Bowl
…of course Brady & Mahomes led their team to the Super Bowl…the ultimate goal. Now what are the percentages of drafting a QB who’ll throw for 4000 yards (like all 3 of these QB)? The #1 overall pick of the draft will do it at least once in his career 67% of the time. A top 10 pick-50% of the time and a 1st rounder, 43%. That means that teams that draft a 1st round QB outside the top 10 have less that a 50% chance that their QB will ever throw 4000 yards!!
…a “contrary” approach would be that of George Allen. Allen was a successful NFL coach who abhorred the draft. He wanted experienced, proven players NOW! After a successful stint in LA, Allen was hired in 1971 to rebuild the Washington Redskins. He traded away every one of his draft picks for proven players using the mantra, “the future is now” In his 1st year the Skins went 9-4-1 and reached the Playoffs for the 1st time in 26 years! The next year, 1972, the Redskins went 11-2 and reached the Super Bowl. Allen brought in veterans from winning teams and they won for HIM! AS a Head Coach, Allen held a 116-47-5 record! His future was ALWAYS NOW! Surprisingly, we seldom see MLB trading draft choices like the NFL despite the slim odds of making the MLB. Wonder why? …Statistically, only about 15% of the draftees actually make the big leagues! Further, for some, it’s a short lived couple months and then off to MLB exile. Most MLB players take 4-6 years to reach the highest level. I’d sure be tempted to trade away, at least some, of my draft picks for proven players with the extremely slim possibility of ever reaping any benefits from the draftees.
….from my lounge chair scouting system through television, I thought that it was very interesting that Bill Belichick drafted Mac Jones of Bama. Generally, Belicheat seems allergic to young, rookie QBs! But when I saw Jones play, he seemed like a younger Tom Brady to me. Read defenses well, poised, unruffled when rushed (of course how much does a BAMA QB EVER really get rushed?), directed the team with a firm, steady but not suffocating hold. He isn’t overly animated but seems cerebral. Jones looked to me like the same style as Tom Brady…and maybe he looked that way to the Pats too! At least, that’s what they’re hoping 😊 Keep an eye on him.
… Your thoughts are ALWAYS welcomed—put them directly on my Facebook page (Bob Ryan) or send to me & I’ll publish using your initials. I won’t be drafting you to do it…just asking…the more the merrier. No ONE’s comments are wrong…everyone has their OWN thoughts. Bobryansportsblog.com is always there to “catch up” on any blogs that you missed. THANKS for the read!

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