Monday, March 20, 2006

The John Abraham Saga

The latest question is whether the Falcons should trade their #1 pick (#15 in the first round) for Abraham. For comparison's sake, here are the last ten players to be taken #15 in the Draft:

2005 - Derrick Johnson (Kansas City)
2004 - Michael Clayton (Tampa Bay)
2003 - Jerome McDougle (Philadelphia)
2002 - Albert Haynesworth (Tennessee)
2001 - Rod Gardner (Washington)
2000 - Deltha O'Neal (Denver)
1999 - Booger (I refuse to call him Anthony when he has such a great nickname) McFarland (Tampa Bay)
1998 - Anthony Simmons (Seattle)
1997 - Yatil Green (Miami)
1996 - John Mobley (Denver)

Out of those ten players, only Deltha O'Neal has made a Pro Bowl, although most of the players on this list are productive starters. NFL teams tend to overvalue their Draft picks and John Abraham is almost certainly a better player than whomever the Falcons will take with their first round pick, especially since he's entering his prime and the team would not have to worry about a learning curve with him.

On the other hand, one has to factor the salary cap into the equation. Is it better to have Abraham making star money or a good, but not great player like Tamba Hali or Mike Kudla making significantly less. The role model franchises in the NFL right now are New England and Pittsburgh and neither of them break the bank for free agents. Rather, they have a few stars, most or all of whom came through the Draft, and then they fill in around them with cheap, young players. The key is that they don't overpay for stars and they get rid of players without sentimentality before they start declining. If the Falcons sign Abraham to a deal that is hard to get out of after 2-3 years, then they'll be paying for his decline phase, as well. The Falcons also have an iffy history with big contracts. Peerless Price pretty much defines the word "bust", although the current regime can't be blamed for that colossal mistake and there's no reason to think that Abraham is analogous to a second receiver making first receiver money. The team is currently overpaying for Keith Brooking and Mike Vick; they are not overpaying for Patrick Kerney. The Rod Coleman and Warrick Dunn signings were both good ideas, as they were the best players on their sides of the ball for the past two seasons. OK, that last sentence convinced me that going after Abraham isn't a bad idea, even if it isn't something that the Steelers or Patriots would do.


LD said...

I worry about trading that 15th pick because I feel like this year's draft is deeper than normal. The mock drafts I've seen have me pretty excited about where the Falcons are picking. I think they'll be able to pick up a starter at 15th (Justice would be a nice fit), and in the even that someone ahead of the falcons reaches for need (I could see a run on RBs with LenDale White and DeAngelo Williams going around 10-11 and someone trading way up to reach for Laurence Maroney). If that happens, a top 10 talent could drop in the Falcons' lap (Michael Huff or Jimmy Williams).

I keep racking my brain about this, thinking maybe the Falcons could swing a couple of picks or a first rounder in 2007 (I'd bet a worse pick) to the Jets.

Michael said...

It's always easy to get excited for a Draft beforehand, which is why you need to look back at previous drafts and realize that #15 picks can be hit or miss. In your head, you're imagining the college versions of Winston Justice and Tamba Hali. They were both stars on that level, but the chances are good that they won't be stars in the pros. Abraham is a star already. To me, the only question is whether he can be had for a reasonable salary.

The one other question is why the Falcons would agree to give the #15 pick in the Draft when the Jets agreed to trade Abraham to Seattle for the #31 pick. Surely we could interest them in our second round pick, plus some spare part like Bryan Scott. (If we're re-doing the safety corps, then why not use a young, cheap safety as bait?)