The NFL season has finally come to an end. The Seahawks trounced the Broncos in the Super Bowl and now all of us NFL fans are left to watching Sports Center and ESPN’s First Take and wondering where the drama we crave will come from now that our beloved game has come to it’s sadly anti-climactic close. Who will be our next Richard Sherman? What will we talk about now that we can’t spend two weeks being wrong about what will happen in the Super Bowl? Will we get to pretend that Peyton Manning has anything less than a near-perfect legacy for one more season?
The obvious answer is the NBA-at least if you’re NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. But we all know the real answer lies in the coming NFL Draft (May 8th-10th). The added benefit for our endless debates and ESPN’s drama-cycle created paychecks being that it’s three entire months away! That’s almost ninety days of shows practically written for them, and, yes, I am going to watch every one.
The central debate to this year’s draft is very similar to one we saw a few years back in the 2006 NFL Draft where Defensive End Mario Williams was taken first overall by the Houston Texans over the Texas native quarterback, Vince Young-just to essentially take a year off and eventually leave the team for the Buffalo Bills.
This year the Texans again have the coveted Number One Pick. They have a chance to rewrite history, a chance to remedy old mistakes by taking the “right” person in the draft. A possibly daunting task, considering that very few Number One Picks end up being anything like Peyton Manning-it would be nice to even get an Andrew Luck. More number one’s end up being like Matthew Stafford and Robert Griffin III (who went #2 to Andrew Luck in the 2012 NFL Draft), good players struggling to become great players. And that’s assuming your team is one of the relatively few teams that drafts a QB in the first round. Most teams look to solidify their defensive lines, backs or offensive lines in the draft process. However, the Number One pick itself consistently seems to be a quarterback.
Widely held NFL wisdom would suggest that the best way to build a team is to draft a possible franchise QB and then pray that he ends up actually being a franchise QB. Teams look to build around that possible franchise player, which makes sense, considering that the quarterback is involved in nearly every offensive play.
A lot of analysts, including the ever-wise Todd McShay believe that Jadeveon Clowney is a shoe-in to go as the overall Number One pick. I understand that drafting Clowney would greatly enhance the Texans pass rush. Adding him to the defensive line with the now-superstar J.J. Watt would be a coup, and it would certainly make the Texans one of the most relevant front-sevens in the sport, arguably on par with juggernaut defenses such as the champion Seattle Seahawks and NFC runner-up San Francisco 49ers.
Mel Kiper Jr., McShay’s age-old Draft Rival, believes that the Texans will decide to take Johnny Football to fix their ongoing troubles at the quarterback position. It is widely held that the Texans made a massive financial mistake when they passed on Vince Young. Now as we all know, Young has not shaped up to be the NFL QB that everyone thought he would, however, as a business decision, Young was the clear Number One to many fans and analyst alike.
I think a few things are important to remember when we look at a Draft Board and make judgements about the people with the task of deciding on a number one pick (or any pick, for that matter.)
- Who has the power in the decision making process? Is it the Head Coach? Or the General Manager or even the Team Owner? This balance of power in an organization often effects the direction it’s team moves in. The dream is for the Owner, GM and coaching staff to be on the same page at all times.
- What goals does the team have? For example: is this a rebuilding year? Or does the franchise feel like it has legitimate playoff hopes–as the Texans feel they do.Obviously, no team wants to admit to a rebuilding year. But the fact is, Head Coaches are getting fired and hired faster than they ever have before. Coordinator jobs are lucrative, an Offensive Coordinator that has earned his stripes can move to a new team, doing the same job, but double his salary. This kind of movement limits what players can learn and causes a lack of solidarity in planning and execution. This personnel carousel is one of the many reasons the age of the Football Dynasty died.
- What are the teams most vital position-based needs? Like any question in regards to a professional sport, team needs can really only be assessed by the organization itself. We, looking in from the outside, can say, the Texans absolutely need a quarterback. But they may feel that their defensive needs outweigh last seasons failures on offense.
- What other teams feel they need the Number One pick to address their needs? This entire conversation could be a lot of chatter and nothing more if Cleveland trades up and picks someone like Manziel for themselves.
The Texans are, in reality, a viable playoff team. They compete in a division that, outside of the Colts miraculous playoff comeback against the injury-depleted Kansas City Chiefs, has underperformed in the past two or three seasons. The question should obviously be: which pick is most likely to help Houston reach the post-season? Short of being a psychic, there is no real way to be sure which player will most effect the record of his NFL team in his rookie season.
However, the Texans must be acutely aware of their draft sins-past. The Mario Williams as the number one overall pick was an incontrovertible disaster, especially considering that Texas hometown hero Vince Young was passed over to get him.
From a financial stand point I, personally, believe that Johnny Manziel has to be the Texans pick this year. I’m coming at this from a business stand point, and my reasons are as follows.
- When we look at how NFL teams make money, we factor in television deals, ticket sales (concession and seat prices) and jerseys and other memorabilia. However, it is probably wise to consider the fact that most NFL owners are wealthy outside of their NFL teams, hence having had the funds to purchase said teams in the first place. (This may minimize the financial angle for certain owners–in the vein of the NBA’s Mark Cuban.)
- Of the top five most valuable teams according to Forbes, only two have been relatively recent Super Bowl winners (the Patriots and the Giants.) If one really analyzes the Forbes list, we find that being a Championship Franchise has little, if anything, to do with the overall value and annual income of a team. In fact, the Houston Texans are currently ranked as the fifth most valuable team in the NFL. This being said, is the owner (Bob McNair) relentlessly pushing for a Super Bowl, or is he about building a bigger business?
- Jersey and ticket sales almost always help the three major entities important in the NFL: the player, the team and the league itself. With this in mind, seven of the top ten best selling jerseys of 2013 were those of quarterbacks (and two of the ten were the recently retired linebackers, Urlacher and Lewis.)
- Despite not having a relevant season, in BCS terms, Johnny Manziel and his Texas A&M Aggies had the second highest T.V. rating of any SEC team, the SEC of course being the most watched conference in all of college football. People just love to watch Johnny Football play the game. This may or may not factor into the Texans Draft-Day dilemma–considering that the T.V. ratings would likely hold true, for at least his first couple of seasons.
I feel that Johnny Manziel is by far the best financial decision for the Texans to make, and there are at least three relevant defensive-end Free Agents that will be up for grabs in the 2014 Off-Season (Jay Allen of the Vikings, Michael Johnson of Cincinnati and Anthony Spencer out of Dallas.) if the Texans feel they need to shore up their defensive unit at that position.
Of course, I have to remind everyone, including myself, that teams have skipped over seemingly-clear financial opportunities like this before. I’ve already talked about the Texans and Vince Young, but it’s even harder to look past the Jacksonville Jaguars pass on Tim Tebow, arguments about his capability as an NFL QB non-withstanding. Tebow has become a nationally popular man, a figurative real world Money Tree that Jacksonville decided it would rather not plant. I think the Texans have an opportunity to electrify their team and fan-base with a Manziel pick. As always, we’ll have to wait for the draft to see.